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Still Craving After All These Years
by Job Conger
written 6:42 am, April 16, 2014

When he was 15, he thought
he’d have an ulcer by his 18th birthday.
and he thought he’d take his own life
by the time he turned 25.
Later he thought he’d have to
get serious, I mean really serious,
about life by 27, and he did.
He wore his father’s shoes.

Hysterical romances, duets in the sun
He had his chances, and he blew every one.

Today, the eyes are going south on him
the hearing too.
I said the hearing too.

He is an acquaintance to everyone he knows.

Sustained by memories of what he had,
he’s running low on dreams
in search of song,
a life of days so short
and nights so long.

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I’ve decided to spend more time in “poet mode” and vowed to write a new poem to share at every poetry event I attend –mostly open mic nights, but sometimes I’m a featured “performer.” There’s a third Wednesday’s open mic I’ve returned to after obsessing with development of my aviation museum most of the last year, and the poem shared here is the one I will read tonight. I wrote it as a “vehicle” for two lines that have been buzzing around my head for more than a week. I also “borrowed” two lines from a song I wrote some years ago and will sing at the “drop of a hint” when I have my guitar. I was able to really hunker down to the task of CREATING (beyond the two borrowed lines) the POEM this morning at my airport office about 6 am. Tonight I’m also reading a poem about air mail pilots, written in 1925 by a farmer near Kearney, Nebraska, and discovered, reprinted in an aviation history magazine published in 1977. The last poem I share will be recited; not read from a piece of paper: Vachel Lindsay’s wonderful poem that reads like a short movie: “The Ghosts of the Buffalos,.” If you live near Springfield, IL and have a mind to, please come down to Robbie’s restaurant on the south side of the square for this event about 6 pm, share the creations shared from a microphone (more or less) by some dedicated poets.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

A group of visual artists in Springfield, Illinois transformed a former Watt Bros. drug store I used to visit as a kid on a bicycle to a studio and performance venue, appropriately named The Pharmacy,  where I used to recite poetry and play my guitar on special occasions.
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When another force in my life drew me away from poetry and song, I stopped attending events at The Pharmacy and was sad to see less-frequent news of events there. Little did I know that behind the scenes, a METAMORPHOSIS was quietly in progress, the caterpillar, under cover of a cocoon of silence (actually the group of talented artists who are part of The Pharmacy, but I like this analogy) was renovating and expanding the building, cleaning it up a LOT, polishing floors, adding studio space upstairs. When I was invited to The Pharmacy’s EIGHTH reception, I took a break from other passions and attended the April 5th event. I believe the thumb-nailed pictures which follow, all of which I took that night, tell the story better than a jabbery narrative. So with great delight and appreciation, I share these photographs.

POST PICTURE POSTING THOUGHTS
I’m still groping my way in the darkness when it comes to posting many  pictures at Honey & Quinine. Despite my best effort, I could not place each one where I wanted it, though I succeeded sometimes, and I don’t know why. I totally enjoyed the reception for “METAMORPHOSIS” and intend to spend more time with this part of the local visual arts community. Thanks to all for a most memorable evening!  

 

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first picture taken on entering, artist and Pharmacy member James T. Elliot worked the wine table and did a terrific job!

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closeup of the south east entrance: new paint on cleaned, original drug store bricks (Val Watt, one of the Watt Brothers. would have smiled to see this.) and a touch of the original corrugation on the right.

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The music was instrumental bass and simple conga drum percussion and was perfect for the occasion. MODERN, ACOUSTIC, WELL PLAYED, and PERFECT for this event

”   TPhar-g

 

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looking in

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looking out

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Keely Mills (left)                    and Amy Henske

 

 

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Here’s the entrance from Pasfield. The main entrance,pictured earlier, is at the northwest corner of South Grand at Pasfield.

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Inspired by the E.T. movie poster, James T. Elliot extends his hand ‘n’ wine to a thirsty guest.   fsssss

Friends (left to right) Mark Russillo, artist and local art icon William Crook, and the goddess of cookies and wine, Thea Chesley.

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DSC09473My Empty Room
by Job Conger
written March 19, 2014 at 6:45 am

I have created a plain, empty room
that has nothing but everything in it:
everything made of memories,
everything made of ghosts,
everything that is called “what might be,”
and they share it in dissonance and harmony.

The world I possess here in my empty room
is all mine, only mine, for the taking.
Neither friend nor lost lover can rudely deny me
the pain and the pleasure to sense and to savor
the moments I knew — nothing much, not long gone –
as the days of a century and more linger on

I do not have to enter my stark, empty room
to be there and to behold its ambiance
resonating from walls all the lives it has shared
with the families and all that took place here:
a child’s bed, a place to sew, a rubber ball. . .
With my mind and my heart I acknowledge it all.

As I ponder the future of my empty room,
I declare it: “Shrine To The Departed” –
the dreams nurtured by folks’ loving hopes and long labors,
the sparks fanned, oh so gently, to bright-blazing bonfires
of lives lived. . .  I will leave the room alone.
They had their hallelujah moments. I will have my own.

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It’s honest, but it’s an angle. I read the poem without showing the pictures at a poetry and song open mic hosted by Springfield Poets & Writers, March 19, 2014 at Robbie’s Restaurant on the south side of the square in Springfield, Illinois. I wanted to see if the poem works without a picture. The poem is so different from most of my poetry and song lyrics, and the tone of the poem doesn’t deliver much “Rah Rah Rah” to the audience, so it was no surprise that the reaction returned what the poem delivered.

The “angle” is that of my honest sense of wonder at what has taken place in this second, smaller bedroom of the house in which I live. I’ve used the room for many purposes since moving into the house in 1997, but the ways I’ve used it comprise another honest angle. The whole spectrum of a poem that deals with why the room is empty and what led to my clearing it out will probably never be written. At this point in my life, it seems to mean more to my life as an empty room, token symbol of the emptiness of my life, waiting to welcome a new element into my life, like a piggy bank placed on a table that sits by the street curb and the hope that money will somehow find its way into the piggy. The totality of that the empty room means is to MUCH to pack into a poem. I promised myself, committed myself to write a new poem to read on my return to the open mic after staying away for most of a year, getting tired of focusing on developing my aviation museum and having time and interest in little beyond it, and determining to write poetry again. The empty room has been on my mind a LOT lately, I knew I could not share all I felt about it in a poem, and the angle I selected is the angle I shared. I told the audience before I read the poem that I had thought about bringing pictures but decided to leave them. A poem must stand on its own. I also said I’d include them when I shared the poem at Honey & Quinine. It’s important that YOU, the WORLD know the empty room is a real room. And I am a real, honest, angled, poet.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

CRAZEE DAZE

The following is excerpted from my AeroKnow Museum blog and shared here because a lot of it has nothing to do with the museum and more to do with my state of mind which is not exactly “sunny side up.”

Friday, March 7 –  Spent early morning arranging bedroom into bedroom/office. Into the aviation museum at 7:20, sunny, clear and calm. Three airplanes were on the ramp: a King Air,  Citation II and Citation VII. TOURED the Citation VII at the invitation of the pilot of the charter flight for some medical administrators. Nice fellow. Processed photos and worked on American Aviation Historical Society blog for The Answer Man. Departed 10 am to PC Doctor to pick up repaired laptop. For the second consecutive visit, I had to wait, 10 minutes for them to OPEN, even though posted hours claim 10 am is the start of the day. For the second consecutive visit, I called the owner’s posted phone number and and explained I had intentionally arrived at 10:10 because the place was closed fr0m my 10:00 arrival until the associate arrived to unlock at 10:10.  So I stood waiting by my truck until she arrived at 10:20. Once THERE, she was smiling and courteous . . . . and so was I until realizing I didn’t have my checkbook with me. When I  explained I’d have to go home, get checkbook and come back, she explained they don’t accept checks. Not a big deal; my bank’s two blocks from my home. Departed to get checkbook to take to bank and write a check for cash and also to pay insurance bill I’d forgotten about, but was due. Could not find my current checkbook so took a pack of the next set, wrote a check at home for cash. On way out of house decided to visit bathroom, and on entering, found my current checkbook on the floor. Wrote another check and VOIDED the first. To bank for cash, to nearby insurance agency and paid bill, to PC Doctor, picked up laptop and went directly to work which went okay. Culled more clippings and articles from aviation magazines for AKM between employer-related activity. Was tired on arrival at museum after work but U did a first sort of clips and looked for info requested from AAHS’ The Answer Man. Went home at 6:40. The truck ran rough, and the fuel gauge told me I’d need fuel FIRST THING Saturday morning after leaving home. NOT a good sign.

Saturday, March 8 –  Up later than planned because I wanted to be sure the nearest fuel station would be open. Out the door at 6:15. It was obvious from the sound of the engine when I started it that I would NOT make it to the fuel station five blocks distant. I Facebook messaged my neighbor across the street asking that if he was awake, I needed to come over and borrow the lawnmower gasoline in his backyard shed to have enough to get to the station. He called back in less than two minutes that he was in Downers Grove, IL and the gas can still had some.I was welcome to it. Started looking for my checkbook in the rearranged bedroom office that was a pathetic, disorganized mess. Checked all my pants and shirts. No luck. Finally saw it in a corner of my desk. Then I looked for my partial denture and could not find IT. It had fallen off my desk while I was looking for the checkbook and I ALMOST STEPPED ON IT!  –   CHEESES!  –. Brushed teeth and went over to neighbor’s across the street, got fuel jug, back to truck and emptied it into truck’s tank. It was enough to get me to Air Jiffy by the airport. Almost filled the truck tank and refilled the gas can to take back to neighbor at end of day today. As I was paying for fuel, I was recognized by a fellow who had seen/heard me recite poetry at Lincoln Library years ago and heard me play guitar at Jimmy’s Sub Shoppe. He told the clerks I have a great voice for poetry. I realized that THIS is about as famous as I’m ever going to be. Locals will sometimes remember me from 1o or 15 years ago, but that will be the zenith of my success . . . . . . . . . and that’s okay . . . . . . . I guess. He was a NICE GUY. He REDEEMED my morning. Driving to the nearby museum, my “redemption” peaked and descended toward my earlier hopelessness,  sense of impending doom and regret. I MISS reciting poetry and singing.

 

On March 1, 2014, Springfield Classical Guitar Society (SCGS) presented classical guitarist John McClellan in concert. I am happy to present pictures taken before and during the most memorable evening. John arrived in Springfield the day before to practice without the distractions he would have had at his St. Louis home.Normally, life at home is pretty routine, and distractions are no bother, but his appearance in the capital city was arranged without lots of advance notice. The guitarist months ago slated to appear March 1 suffered a significant debilitation which required surgery and forced him to cancel the Springfield engagement. John — whom many fans know as half of the amazing Hanser-McClellan Guitar Duo from their regular SCGS concerts in years past — has recorded CDs with Kirk Hanser and as a first class soloist in his own right. John, recently returned from a series of concerts in France and Germany, was a real “trooper” in generously accepting the SCGS invitation to play.
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As usual, I arrived with camera well in advance of the 8:00 pm start so I could (with his permission) photograph John during his warmup time before the audience entered the sanctuary of Faith Lutheran Church, Whittier at Outer Park, the performance venue. Below, John talks with SCGS founder, classical guitarist Russel Brazzel . . . . . .
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and SCGS board member Mark Pence.
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The usually warm warmup room was not warm, so to minimize the temperature change that affects the sound of the guitar and the artist’s ability to play it, John sat in a front row and warmed up in the comparatively warm — but still unexpectedly chilly sanctuary. Here, Russel chats with him as he warmed up and a few audience new arrivals watched.
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A few minutes later, Russel introduced the guest of honor to the audience.
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The following pictures were taken during pauses in the concert. I’m privileged to enjoy SCGS concerts from the front row and do not use flash with my camera.  I also do not snap pictures when the music starts.
JohMcC-f JohMcC-g JohMcC-h JohMcC-j JohMcC-k JohMcC-m JohMcC-n JohMcC-p JohMcC-Q JohMcC-r JohMcC-s

From the front row (less so from the back rows), John’s repartee with the audience that could hear his voice was unmatched by any other performer I’ve seen in years of attending SCGS concerts. He talked about what he was about to play, sometimes in detail, and parted from the program notes to play tunes more fitting to his downright convivial demeanor. It was a terrific last concert of the four presented during the 2013/2014 season. Kudos and thanks to John McClellan for some terrific classical tunes plus the theme from the movie “A Man and a Woman” and two unforgettable compositions by Nashville’s Jerry Reed. Thanks too to Springfield Classical Guitar Society for another terrific season of marvelous music!

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

 

American Aviation Historical Society is a world-wide organization dedicated to what its name suggests: American aviation history. The Society publishes a quarterly of in-depth articles, photographs and correspondence. Its FlightLine newsletter focuses on recent events of interest to today’s aviation enthusiasts and tomorrow’s historians, member advertisements of wants and disposals, a President’s Message and much more. I am privileged to serve on the Society’s Editorial Committee. I carry a red pen and know how to use it. In early January correspondence with the Society’s president, I wistfully mentioned that if I had a way, I would attend the organization’s Annual Meeting — coming up at the end of the month and the start of the next — in a heartbeat.

A heartbeat later, I was informed that people who cared, who were grateful for my help over the years, were arranging for my  airline transportation and  lodging to the meeting. I might even see. You could have knocked me over with a feather!

I packed a carry-on bag with a few changes of clothes, the AeroKnow Museum (AKM) file about Porterfield aircraft, pictures and information about AKM and  two cameras. Original plans were for me to board an early Thursday afternoon flight on United Express (flown by SkyWest) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD), catch a Spirit Airlines flight that would deliver me to a few hours’ stopover at Las Vegas International Airport and then into Los Angeles International (LAX) about 9:30 Pacific Standard Time (PST) My United Express flight for early afternoon January 30 was cancelled.  In my e to my host I explained I still wanted to come out to LA if I could spend at least most of Friday visiting the city. I was game for a long layover anywhere along the route west if I could arrive by noon Friday.  I REALLY wanted to visit AAHS Headquarters. The rest would be gravy, icing on the cake.AAHS President Jerri Bergen, who had invited me out, hustled a new arrangement in which I would leave Springfield late Thursday afternoon and spend the entire night at ORD before boarding a Spirit flight direct to LAX about 7:00 Central Standard Time (CST) that  would deliver me late Friday morning PST to LAX. I was delighted!

I carried a small book of lined blank pages in which I would note the details  of the visit as they happened. The rest of this post is based on those notes, begun after leaving my office about 5:05 and walked to the terminal of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, about 300 feet away.

The weather was chilly, in the 20s, with moderate wind but not bad. This would be the first time I had flown commercially since 1979. The key to happiness, as I followed the lead of the passenger in front of me  — taking off his  shoes and belt, emptying pockets into the plastic bin and setting baggage and bin onto the conveyor wheels — was showing a straight face: neither happy nor sad or even confused because anything obvious would be suspicious. I felt George Orwell,, author of the prophetic novel 1984 would have understood how I was feeling. Even so I could not suppress a smile, happy to be.a man in motion. I sat down in the secure waiting area at 5:17 after TSA screening. They had to send my bag through twice; don’t know why. Many people were in the waiting area. An American Eagle Embraer ERJ arrived. I wanted to take  pictures, but I didn’t want to be conspicuous, make travelers wonder and be uncomfortable. At 5:32, the Dallas, Texas-bound flight began boarding.  When all had passed through the check in and disappeared I stood, walked over to the window and took some pictures.
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He departed ramp at 5:52
A-9and was into the air from Runway 22 at about 5:58.
Another plane I couldn’t see arrived at 6:00. Arriving passengers came into the secure area and  exited into the terminal where family and friends awaited. It was United Express that I would board soon.

As I approached the entry, I asked the flight attendant if I could take a picture, and he, smiling, gave permission.
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Then he asked if he could take my picture, and I gladly handed him my Sony Cyber-shot.

 
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The door was closed about 6:35 and we took off on Runway 31 minutes later. Rode with a gent in the aisle seat, a fellow doing oil company work in Macomb, Illinois. He had driven to Springfield to board this flight and connect at O’Hare to home and  family in Madison, Wisconsin. The crew on this flight, announced on PA system aboard, was 1st Officer Dean Warning and Captain Don Anderson. Until we descended the flight was over solid cloud. As we approached landing . . . . .
A-14We arrived at O’Hare 29 minutes later, cruising at 15,000 feet. Taxied about 20 minutes to the United Express  terminal.
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I was one of the last to leave the CRJ that had delivered me to ORD.
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It was a long, exhausting walk with my hard-shell briefcase and carry-on bag that must have weighed 50 POUNDS. At least it had been approved for carry on when I checked in. I’m sure it came close to the weight limit. The hike was at least half an hour from United Express in Terminal 2 to Spirit in Terminal 3, Concourse L. The Spirit waiting area was packed; It took five minutes to find a place where I could sit down without sitting right next to anybody. I was sweating as though I had finished a marathon. There had  been no need to rush. My connection was not leaving for at least 11 more hours! But I wanted to BE where I needed to be for that connection. I wasn’t thirsty or hungry since finishing lunch at my museum office about six hours earlier — a Subway chicken teriyaki salad with honey mustard dressing (DELICIOUS!) from the terminal but very unhappy from the labor of the looooooong walk. It would be even worse coming home in three days.

There were two women across the aisle from me where I semi-collapsed in the Spirit waiting area. One in her late 20s sat with an older woman, I took to be her mother. They  were of Middle Eastern heritage and both seemed to be, clearly, not living in the USA. I spoke to the younger, asked if she spoke English and she said she did. I asked if they were mother/daughter. Yes. The daughter went after food and coffee twice as we sat. The second trip she was gone very long  – 20 minutes about – and her mom stood up and searched for her, obviously concerned. I learned the younger lives in London, District 3 The city has circular zones that expand out from the heart of the city. She owns a coffee house where they bake their own bread and pastry. Her mother was visiting from Dubai. They were flying together to Phoenix, Arizona on the next flight, due to depart soon. I got the impression they connected at O’Hare to fly there together.for a vacation or visit with other family. The hour from 8:15 to 9:15 dragged like an eternity. Most of the passengers packing the seats around me were boarding the Phoenix flight. Many people, many others were in motion going everywhere. Things picked up about 9:20 when people began boarding for the Phoenix flight.  When it was complete about 9:35, the area was emptied except for a few Spirit people and me. I arose and walked around at 9:50 and took a few pictures in a different part of the waiting area and talked with the gate agent.
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I learned the Phoenix destination (flown by an Airbus A320) is one of their most popular flights along with New York city and Fort Meyers, Florida. An Airbus A319 will fly me to Los Angeles (LAX). I asked if I could have my boarding pass for the Friday morning flight and was told that everyone was leaving, but the gate check-ins would re-open about 4 am, and there would be plenty of time to get a pass then. No rush, no worries. The two women were very convivial and professional. I sat down in the better lit part of the waiting area near the check in counter.
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Arose after awhile and walked around, leaving my baggage. No one was going to steal anything. By 10:15, after walking around the entire outer part of the Spirit waiting area, and seeing a small group of people – a Spirit gate agent, I think and his visiting family and occasional janitors and security people strolling unhurriedly down the main hall between waiting areas, I returned to my baggage. At 10:37, Jerri called from LA to see how I was doing. I said I was a little tired and a little hungry but okay. All the food shops and other businesses apparently had closed about 10, and that was okay. I wasn’t REAL hungry anyway. It was very quiet. At 11:15 I asked a security man if there was anyplace I could lie down and catch a few winks before 7:30 flight. He walked with me back up the L concourse to an array of folding cots set up just off the main walk area. Each has small pillows, and I was told there were blankets. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to get one though I saw many on unoccupied cots. I guess I thought I wouldn’t need a blanket. I was wrong. It was hard to get to sleep with the nearby activity, no privacy and worries about someone stealing my bag. No one was going to steal my bag. There must have been 15 security people in sight walking around or standing and talking with each other. About 40 minutes after lying down I was asleep and awakened about 3 am, wandered down to the men’s room and back to my cot. Noticed workers were removing pillows and blankets from empty cots, folding the cots and depositing them on wheeled carts.  Minutes later a man in blue came around telling us it was time to arise to the new day. I walked back to the Spirit area; arrived there about 4:00. I was the only person there until 4:15 when the first of many passengers began arriving for a 5:57 flight to New York city. Once they started coming, they came fast and many. The tarmac appeared very wet but I saw no rain drops. Maybe it was just thawing snow. The area had obviously been hit with snow, maybe Thursday. It was incredibly dark with lots of vehicles in motion, ground crew near the A319 on A320 that had been there all night beginning to prep the bird to fly. At 4:37, a push bar is attached to the nose strut from a push tractor. The LaGuardia flight was booked full. A fellow approached the counter and asked if there were any seats left. “No.” What a crazy way to travel!

5:19 – Passengers began lining up to board and 5:25, they began.
5:37 — The last passenger boarded at Gate L-7.
5:40 — The A320 was pushed back.
5:58 — I visited the check-in counter and got my boarding pass from the woman at the check in counter I was in the system, thank God!

coming \ in PART TWO of
VISIT to AAHS:
A Long Morning’s Journey into  Day

I continue to be true to the spirit. To understand what I mean, read my Honey & Quine post for January 1, 2014. I am true to the “spirit” because when I let go of the spirit, I figuratively leap into the jaws of the tiger of hopelessness, and when do that, I surrender everything.

January has been the coldest month I can remember — down to minus 14 a few nights and consistently closer to ZERO than it’s ever been. The renter upstairs continues to not pay her rent, but I tolerate her because she pays to keep the water pipes from freezing, and that’s more than I could do if I evicted her and she moved out. Nobody’s going to rent when it’s winter and kids are in school. I have been lucky. There is enough heat (thanks to a space heater) around the plumbing in the basement to have kept my pipes from bursting. And I have allowed myself to be warm, thanks to a working thermostat and furnace. I”m totally moved into the smaller bedroom that I use as my home office. I sleep in the La-Zee-Box recliner, eat at my second desk and read there. It’s cozy, and that’s okay. I haven’t had a working television since last September, and that’s okay too. I don’t miss it. I’d rather read.

My life is a routine of working (volunteering) at the AeroKnow Museum  — www.aeroknow.com  — aviation museum and work at my stone fabricator employer, The Granite Guy, where I manage the showroom floor. I am most comfortable driving in daylight, thanks to cataracts degrading my night vision, and with the employer’s full permission and understanding, I am not driving to work or to the museum when there is more than an inch of snow on the streets or the forecast for more than an inch of snow. So, I’ve missed about four days of work plus the week off during the holidays when the employer was closed. So the loss of that pay and no rent, have helped make January the coldest month.

Even so, I’ve not gone to bed hungry. Sometimes a museum visitor buys a copy of my book Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing or a surplus model kit from the collection. I’m eating incredibly modestly, but I am eating consistently.

I have devoted not a minute to poetry and song writing this month. I can’t write when I am dark inside, colder than I wish I were and damn near catatonic — despite the furnace and peanut butter — because the “tiger” in his closeness, depresses me.  Why write poetry to a world that will not read it? songs to a world that will not hear them? I expect this to change when the rent gets paid and I earn a few paychecks for a full two weeks’ employment.

For awhile, I was making good progress with my book about John Thornton Walker, a Springfieldian who flew “grasshopper” spotter planes for the ground army in Italy and died in a plane crash en route home on leave. I’m not focusing on the book in the last two weeks, and I MUST. Walker’s family has been incredibly generous with donations of pictures and memorabilia of his life to the museum, and I owe them; I OWE SPRINGFIELD, I owe POSTERITY the written record of a good man’s life. I need to re-connect with local media to get the word out about my search for people still alive who knew him. I need time off from employer so I can visit Walker’s high school, the local fire department where his dad served as a chief.  Maybe, spreading all my concerns out in this blog post will help steer me toward renewed progress. Maybe starting today January 20 I will resume that process.

January is the coldest month, but there are only 12 more days of this . . . . . .month.

We shall see.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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