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Keeping Up Appearances

There was one reason to attend the first Springfield Classical Guitar Society concert of the 2016-17 season last Saturday night.

It wasn’t because I had time to attend.  I should have spent the time repairing and cleaning the upstairs duplex which two former friends had left is flagrantly despicable condition  after not renewing their lease. To protect their real names, I will refer to  them here and in future Honey & Quinine posts as the OINKS. They hadn’t removed all the light bulbs (just a few) so it wasn’t that I couldn’t see after dark. But it was important to attend the concert. I had never heard the featured guest, Matthew Fish,  from San Francisco who would also be selling his first Cd “From Her Source to the Sea.”

It wasn’t because I looked forward to photographing the artist during before, during and after the  concert as I have for more than 10 years as a volunteer. The change from the original concert venue, First Presbyterian Church, first to Faith Lutheran Church, to Grace Lutheran Church had brought significant dimunition in the quality of lighting of the performer. Organizers, or perhaps just the concert-hosting church coordinators, did not understand the importance of directing light to the front of the artists; not behind them. The reason has to do with why theatrical productions devote at least some of the illumination on the audience-facing fronts of the characters in motion.
I had wearied of photographing seated silhouettes playing silhouetted guitars in front of commendably lit proscenia, backdrops and choir lofts. I resolved to take a seat up  close, from which I could see and hear Matthew Fish. My hearing is not as good as  used to be. 2016 is the year I began wearing hearing aids. There is special capability that allows me to select a “music mode” that maximizes reception of that range of sounds.

It wasn’t because I remembered to wear my hearing aids Saturday, I had rushed to get out to the airport to work on my AeroKnow Museum which is my raison detre in recent years. Typically, I’m conscientious about remembering, but somehow I somehow slipped up. At least I’d still sit up front and enjoy what I could. The acoustics of the sanctuary are good. Regular people sit twelve rows and more away and they’re fine.

It wasn’t because I had stayed too late at the  airport, and by the time I arrived, the front rows were almost filled to capacity, so “up close” was not in the cards.

It wasn’t because I’d have a clear view of the guest performer. The church had removed several pews at the front left side of the aisle and installed a grand piano and chairs for what would, the next day, be an instrumental ensemble and perhaps a small vocal group. The audience necessarily  was seated toward the center aisle. I sat in the closest empty pew which row three behind the  clutter. My view of Matthew would be  between heads in the two rows ahead.

When he was playing, my woeful hearing scored minor triumphs when I could recognize a rhythm in 3/4 (waltz) time instead of standard 2/4 and 4/4 signatures.
Jeff gave commendably pleasant introductions to most of the tunes he was about to play. I could tell this much from how he sat with his Kenny Hill Signature model guitar, his gestures and how the audience responded. During the evening   I distinctly heard about 1o words.

It was because the organizers of the concert include some of the most respected friends I have. They are long-time friends. When I fell on ice a few years ago, these friends were INSTRUMENTAL (no pun intended) along with  some friends in making my recovery much easier than it would have been without them. It was because some of them have helped with materials for my aviation enterprise and gave me food that helped sustain me when I have experiencing  some financial “trauma”  last year. It was because some of the regular attendees at the SCGS concerts have become my friends, all intelligent, well-tempered, gentle-humored ladies and gents.

During intermission,  one of those friends bought two of Matthew Fish’s premiere CD and gave one to me. I’ll listen to  it later today.

I knew my attendance Saturday would be an act of likely futility, but a  gesture worth making. I did it to demonstrate my  support for my friends. Sometimes it’s important to “arrive late instead of skipping” a banquet knowing full well your arrival won’t be in time for with the main courses, but if you’re lucky,  you’ll be in time for  pie. There are considerations that transcend Veal Scallopini. Sometimes  it’s just a matter of  keeping up appearances.

Live long . . . . . . . . . . .  and proper.

Ballad of the Bitter Loner

This song is based on my Ballad of the BOF which I included in my third book of poems and song lyrics Bear’ sKin. The refrain is improved over the earlier version, written April 23, 2002 but the tune is the same. I sang it one time in public.

Ballad of the Bitter Loner
by Job Conger

Have you met the animated guitar-whacking folk singer,
The crusader with a cross attitude?
The picky nit pick picker with an upturned middle finger
For the world which he considers gross and lewd?
While the others with engaging smiles
Singr toasts to sweet tomorrows,
His sparking wine of yesterdays  drinks sour, flat,
Yes, there’s only one conclusion
One can reach — at cordial distance —
From a dull and droopy countenance like that:

What a hastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a bore.

With  his melancholy melodies’ long loose
Rope — entwined with fibers full of unforgiven wrongs —
Which he knows will soon or later be his hangman’s noose,
He is lashed to prophecies of his own songs.
And despite the damnably  infrequent hope and sense
Of coming sunshine in a life of dreary night
He’s resigned to the inevitable truth and consequence
Of being so screwed, though he thought he was  so right.

What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
Hear him roar.

Yes, remember, for the record, that an eager active brain
Doesn’t mean an easy ticket to success.
It takes more than witty aphorisms to sustain
A bright patina over hidden, grim duress.
It takes building friendships,  being patient, nice
To the flitting souls who share your storm-tossed sea.
If you aren’t you will discover you must pay the price
When you become the man you never dreamed you’d be.

What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
Nothing more.

==========================
Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

The Shoes Worn Least

Dad was alive when I bought them, sometime around 1992 or 1993. On at least two occasions when he saw me wearing them, he made it clear he didn’t care for them at all. And that was okay, I didn’t cringe or get angry; I wore them anyway.

My friend David MacLaren and I often had lunch at Old Country Buffet at White Oaks West, a shopping center across Route 4 from White Oaks Mall, and occasionally we’d visit a few nearby stores afterwards. I believe I bought the shoes I would wear least of any shoes I ever bought at a Payless Shoe Store. On the occasion recalled here, I also bought some dedicated walking shoes because I had concluded that I needed something more utilitarian than the street shoes I’d been wearing to the first several local airshows I attended. (Springfield Air Rendezvous’ “run” lasted from 1983 to 2006.) I wore them annually to the air show (a three day event, counting “media day” and seldom between airshows. The just didn’t look like legitimate street shoes.  The shoes I would wear the least were purchased for another special purpose: parties.
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I  liked the formality of the wingtip treatment with the informality of the thick, informal (non-dress shoe) laces. As a child of eight or nine I had worn “white bucks,” and with their thick, white topped leather and thick, red rubber soles, they were unique.

The did make a “statement” at parties. I wasn’t trying evoke anything approaching sexuality with them, I knew they weren’t fashionable. I had always been a Florsheim shoe  man so I knew formal shoes. I’d never wear these new shoes in daylight or to a job interview, but I LIKED THEM. They were left and right fortresses of leather, conspicuously heavy. The soles were only nominally flexible. I didn’t WALK when I wore them; when striding over a hard surface floor, I  ka-LUMPED!  And that was okay; I liked the new shoes anyway. And I moderated the ka-LUMPING by taking shorter strides.

Some years have passed by completely without my even touching these shoes. I don’t  attend parties much anymore, but I usually wear “the whites” when I do . . .  for the same reason I wore them when I  had a more satisfying social life. But last week I began doing something I would not have  considered when I had money for shoes: I wore them to “work” at a part-time employer and also to my airport aviation museum.

The decision to bring them out of “retirement” did not  come easily. They had always been “Christmas shoes” to me, similar to a special sport coat or a special-occasions-only party dress with some women friends. On the other hand, I was down to just two nominally-wearable pairs of shoes and wanted to have a third  pair to wear. I’m afraid (and regret this terribly) that my party days are over. I will probably never love another woman (though I would love to) and I will probably never buy another pair of shoes.

To paraphrase from the  ancient philosophers . . . . “I felt sorry for myself because I had no Florsheims. Then I met a man who had no Keds.” (once-popular rubber-sole sports shoe manufacturer).

I believe myself fortunate that I have three pairs of shoes. There were times when some of the dress shoes I was wearing (three or four pairs at a stretch some decades) had holes in their soles the size of half-dollars and nobody knew this but me.

So if you see me wearing “the whites”  sometime,  don’t imagine I’m going to a party in these things . . . . .

I AM THE PARTY!

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.

I was born September 5, 1947, 69 years ago. My life and outlook, on “lesser days” (as I live THESE DAYS) are hobbled by circumstances not to my liking. Yesterday I went through about 500 pictures of places I’ve traveled, events I’ve attended, friends gone by the wayside, girlfriends who dazzled and delighted me and disappeared.  I sometimes looked at those pictures over the years, sometimes letting 10 years go by between visits.

Every time before yesterday, I decided those pictures were there so I could share them with others, new friends, that I might write about those people; tell the world how and why they were dear to me. I thought the world should know those people and places when I become famous and someone writes my biography.  Yesterday, I looked and every pictures and separated the pictures which no longer meant what they once meant to me from those , most of which at any rate, will remain for the “clean up people” to discover along with what remains after the life in me ceases to be. (I have no living next of kin, no “person to notify in case of emergency.”) Yesterday I delivered to the dumpster, behind the building that hosts my  aviation museum, 380 pictures (prints)  and several hundred slides I didn’t bother counting after briefly looking at them with a lighted magnifier.  It all made an impressive mess at the bottom of the dumpster. I was impressed. Last week I decided that pictures are like angry horses. If they try to bite your fingers when you approach with an extended hand, it’s time to get rid of them. The reward for your attention must be more than regret.

The almost 120 pictures I kept for future reverence and future reference, collectively are  a “Job’s Life ‘LITE'” record that matters a lot to me.   Maybe I will scan them and write about them.

I’ve decided that memories should be allowed to die natural deaths by fading away. The pictures from the past,  SUSTAINED woe that would eventually die naturally. I have enough already. There’s nothing to gain by going back and reprising more of it.

The uncounted many thousands of aviation-related pictures I’ve taken remain on hand. They will be my legacy to fate because aviation enthusiasts have netted far greater benefits from knowing me than the parade of acquaintances and friends and lovers who have come into my life and passed (some, too DAMNsoon) through the window, out the door, down the road . . . .from it.

Anyone reading these words, men and women younger than me as I live my first day as a 69-year-old should understand a few things. If you are younger than age 65, if you imagine you will be even slightly “famous” some day, you will find personal comfort and saving of time from believing — as I do on this day — that if fame is intended for you, other people will take the pictures of you that need to be taken for your future biography and memoir. When friends hurt you and disappear, deposit the pictures you took of them into the nearest dumpster so they will be out of your life for GOOD and for goodness’ sake.

So goes this man’s life on his 69th birthday.

Live long . . . . . . . . . . . . and proper.

When I moved into the “estate at 428” it was obvious from the wallpaper that this room had once been a child’s bedroom. One of the first things I did as I moved into the house from a newer duplex on Sprngfield’s west side was take off the closet door and store it in the basement. For a few months after I moved my double-size mattress into this room, it was my bedroom. It allowed me to keep my huge collection of aviation history in the larger room down the hall. But that didn’t work. The mattress was as wide as the room was wide and almost as long as the room was long. There was no space for anything else.  For about a year, my bed occupied the “front room,” close to the front door in the large parlor. I used this room as a model airplane workshop, later as my office.  All material aviational was moved out to the airport when I was given space for AeroKnow Museum, and for a couple of years I returned model building materials (kits, paint, glue, shelves)  to it so I could build here at home as well as at the airport. Today I use it for nothing.

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After returning the model building material back to the airport, I considered using it as a literary  room for keeping my writing (from the past 30 years)  and collection of memorabilia about Springfield native son, internationally acclaimed poet Vachel Lindsay. Storage boxes of articles, poems, bank receipts and writing correspondence were moved from the humid basement to  this room, and there they remain today. I find that with so much to do with the airport museum, returning home as late as 10 pm for dinner (soup sometimes, some fruit, a sandwich maybe, always some Burgundy) and right to bed, I have no time and no passionate interest in writing any more. This saddens me.

I would like to donate what I’ve collected about Vachel Lindsay to a person or collection where the material would be preserved and appreciated: anywhere but the Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site on Fifth Street. After several years of mildly “testy” interacting with that site, I departed and expect that I will never return for a visit. I consider the Vachel Lindsay Association the greatest disappointment of my life as a creative writer. When I’m even more depressed than I am now, I will probably take the poems and song lyrics I have written, my materials about Vachel, and eventually, probably, my collection of Vachel Lindsay  books, including some rare first editions,  to the Sangamon Valley Collection of local history at the main branch of our municipal library. They can do whatever they want with it. For now, it all remains in the room where nothing happens.

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Also part of the room are articles written about me by now-retired State Journal Register columnist Dave Bakke, including “People don’t seem to get Job.” It describes my almost life-long discontent with the city where I was born. I feel as I know Vachel Lindsay felt regarding the anguish of frustration living in Springfield. The media have walked away from me since I began devoting body and soul to the airport museum. The silence of media locally and nationally to  the museum is DEAFENING! I’m even writing this  Honey and Quinine post at my museum office.

The acoustics in the room where nothing happens are terrific. I should set up my notebook computer to record videos of me reciting poetry and playing songs on my guitar. That would be an ideal “something to do” here. But I don’t have the time or the passion now.
The upstairs is being vacated and real estate taxes are due in three days. If I had passion for sharing, I would find the time to share.

Life goes on . . . . . . . except in the room where nothing happens.

Live long . . . . . and proper..

 

On January 16, 2016, I picked up 200 copies of my most recent book John Thornton Walker, Story of a Hero Who Didn’t Come Home from my friends at Capitol Blueprint (printers) in Springfield and delivered review copies with notes explaining author, book sysnopsis and how to purchase. I visited the offices of Springfield Business Journal/Illinois Times, the State Journal Register,  and mailed six copies to my friends at American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS)  Headquarters in California. I explained to AAHS, which had offered to sell some copies at their coming convention, that one copy was for them to keep in their collection after reviewing in their FlightLine quarterly, and send any unsold copies back to me.

You can imagine how I felt when all FIVE copies came back to me!  I’m looking forward to their review. I’m also looking forward, on August 2, 2016, to  reviews from the other recipients of my book. At this point I think it would be easier for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to march through the eye of a needle than to maintain my  expectation of a review from Springfield media.THIS after also giving a copy to  now-retired columnist Dave Bakke, whom I had chance-encountered at the local airport a few months ago. I have been absolutely CRUSHED by all this.  It appears that my days as a writer in  Springfield are OVER. I do have  another employer and Social Security, I’m not hungry. Recently, I considered how this woeful reversal of fortune has occurred.

Lesson 1 — Over the years, I learned that the State Journal Register could  not share archived copies of material they had published with other journalists.  So when John Thornton Walker’s daughter Connie and her family donated original newsprint copies of Thornton Walker’s aviation columns he had written for the then-Illinois State Journal, it seemed to  me that since I scanned hard original newsprint, there was no need to request assistance or permission from the  current management of the publication. I am GUESSING that. I have read or heard not a word from the publication since January 16. Maybe their in the process of launching legal action against me. Next time, I will quote excerpts from his columns. I will not scan and include articles published by the  paper during the war.

Lesson 2 — Since all references to sources and dates of original publication were includes on the pages that displayed them, I did not include a list of credits with page numbers at the beginning of the book or as an appendix. I should have.

Lesson 3 — I didn’t obtain an ISBN number for the book. That was a costly procedure, and I didn’t have the resources. Maybe, in the course of obtaining the ISBN number, someone would have noticed the afore-mentioned faults and directed me, mandated me, to correct them. Who can say? No body in local media is talking to me anymore!

Lesson 4 — I also didn’t send copies to other state and national publications. I gave up!

WHY did I give up? It does seem “premature” doesn’t it? When the family visited Springfield in 2012 and donated a treasure trove of John Thornton Walker material to my AeroKnow Museum so I could amplify the “story of the hero who didn’t come home” to museum visitors, I promised them a book that made maximum  use of those materials. They had been the only respondents to my widely circulated request for anyone who had information to  share about Springfield citizens who had been gained some fame as aviators. What they had initially contributed to my book Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing was pure gold, a big help for that book.  As I began producing the book devoted exclusively to Walker’s exemplary and tragic life, I doubted the book would be little interest to aviation enthusiasts beyond central Illinois, so I didn’t try harder to tailor it to the expectations of a national publication. If I knew in 2012 what I know today, I would have tried harder, acquired the ISBN number and reached out to national media. The few copies that have found their way to purchasing readers have generated unanimously favorable responses! Local media have turned their collective back on me.

I’m no longer as devoted to poetry and song either.

This is  a dip in the road of life.

If I rise again, you will know about it here.

Live long . . . .  and proper.

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I  can’t remember the last time I bought shoes with laces. Both of the two pair of shoes I still have are laced. Pictured here is the right left the better pair. Soon, if treating the shoes normally, the lace on the left or right shoe appears certain to break soon. Who  knows? Another week? Another month? The those laces occupy too much of my heart’s mind in quiet times when I’m not  busying around with the rest of my life. I’ve considered visiting the shoe repair shop five blocks from me to buy new laces. Total cost would probably be less than $5 for this shoe. But how would I know? These are the original laces. I can’t remember the year I bought them, but I remember the place: a nice shoe store at White Oaks West on the city’s west side. Over the course of about three years, when I had dollars for shoes, I bought three pair of shoes. The two pair of loafers which I wore every day, one pair at a time, lasted a few years (I got my money’s worth) but I hardly ever wore this pair with the laces. I intentionally purchased a style I would not have to  polish. They suggest to me a style Springfield poet Vachel Lindsay MIGHT have worn on his final tramping hike out to California in 1912. (I  have no clue what style he wore. I’ve seen no pictures.) It was a smart move. Every time I’ve recited his poems or my poems or played guitar and sung my songs or other peoples’  songs at a public event I wore these shoes. Now I wear time every other day.

To lengthen the utility of these laces, I rarely tie them tightly. I don’t want to be around when a lace breaks, though I know I will be. Sometimes I  tie them in a loose double knot, but they’re harder to untie at the end of the day. I’ve never had to re-tie a double-knot-tied shoe. Conventional single-knots, reasonably tightly tied, I have to re-tie two or three times a day for each shoe. Besides being embarrassed if  friends or strangers see me in untied shoes, there’s the danger of tripping on a loose lace. Even though I seem to stagger and almost lose my balance and fall when that happens, I know some day I won’t . . .  and I may get hurt falling into a wall or chair.

I’ve discovered that the tied laces are not required. The shoes are not going to part company with my feet if I  don’t tie them. I could remove the laces and get along fine, given how I locomote through the  day.  Even so, appearances are important to me. People expect to see tied laces on shoes intended for laces.

Appearances are important.  (Here comes the promised metaphor.)

Anyone who looks at me — especially under my chin — knows that a soul has walked more than a few ragged miles. If I  dressed the way I consider my life at this stage, I’d be wearing torn jeans and shoes from the Salvation Army Store. Actually, the shoes might be better looking than the ones I’m wearing now. All the pants I wear, my  father purchased and wore himself before he died in the duplex we shared in 1994. My shirts are mine. One way I  keep up appearances is by behaving as though I am what I like to call “a civil hummin’ bean.” I believe in civility.  If there’s anyone I’d want to punch in the nose, it would  be me — for allowing myself to decrepitate and disintegrate to the  state I’m in.

Today, my clothes are clean and my shoes are tied. When I’m driving I try to smile a lot because I want those who see me to see a smiling hummin’ bean.

My life is a frayed shoe lace. I show some wear and tear, some white beneath the outer fabric of the lace. They’re okay, those frayed laces. I appreciate them for staying with me, frays and all. I (SLIGHTLY) worry about one of them breaking soon.

I wonder if I will break as well.

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Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.