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It’s the upstairs half of my duplex which long-term renter Shannon Smith turned into a disaster zone and a lying thief of a handyman who stole $600 of tile and tongue-in-groove imitation-wood flooring I paid for. You wouldn’t believe  what I’ve paid over the winter to keep the thermostat at 55 degrees and prevent the pipes from freezing. I’ve resented the upstairs for the same reason I don’t observe dates of national infamy. I recognize victories; not humiliations, and I have felt no greater humiliation (with the possible exception of last summer when two of my most cherished friends walked out of my life) than that which happened last October and November upstairs. Today I have no friends; only acquaintances . . . but I have many acquaintances.

Folks wondered why I didn’t try to rent the upstairs the day after she caved me in.The answer is best explained in the cat urine odor which permeated the carpet and led me to replace it with the wood veneer living room floor that’s about 80% finished. It is explained in the 10 or 15 broken areas of tile and linoleum flooring upstairs and the stolen materials which would have allowed to 70% finished renovation of those floors to be completed. I could not expect a renter to occupy a duplex that was not ready for new residents. No one looks for a new apartment in winter except evicted people, and I could not justify advertising a place in that condition anyway.  I decided to TRY to renovate the place when the market was better. I  almost called a property management company to see if they were interested in renovating and managing rental of the upstairs for a part of the income. Then I realized I’d likely be better off by hiring a home renovator first and then a property management firm second. Why should I pay property management an additional fee they would likely charge me to work with a renovation company?

Then came cataract surgery for my left and right eyes. The cataracts could have been addressed and fixed in July if my “employer” had provided information the charity aid people asked for in May. Instead I visited my eye doctor and aid  people seven times after December, and my cataracts were taken care of March 10 and 24 . PROGRESS! But it’s not over. Two more weeks and two more visits to the eye specialists after which I  will have prescription eye glasses that allow me to read close in without a hand-held magnifying glass.

As a result of all this and the lingering snow and chill, I have fallen WAAAAAY behind on the book I am writing about Springfield World War II liaison John Thornton Walker. I can’t take days away from work when the doctor action is already costing me a day, sometimes two days a week away from my employer. I need to work to eat and pay bills. I don’t have to work a lot, but the 30 hours a weeks I’m working are essential, and I’ve not been getting them.

Even so, I’ll be talking to a property manager this coming week to learn more. They might not even want to bother with a solitary upstairs duplex. I’ll know more later.

And starting Monday, I’ll be looking for a renovator.

. . . and a renter.

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

Since 2012, I’ve known my vision was failing because of cataracts in both eyes. Prescription eyeglasses helped but they didn’t help enough, and in 2013 my eye doctor would not report to state authorities that my vision was good enough to allow me to drive.  At the time, it seemed a little silly. After all, I could read most type in magazines and newspapers. During the day,  I could drive with no obvious problems. I’m sure distant details were beyond me, and that was important for a valid drivers’ license. At night, however, every light I looked at directly had halos around them — what you see around the full moon some nights — and these were BRIGHT GLARING IMPEDIMENTS to my night vision. I’ve known older people who could not drive at night because of their cataracts; nice friends who could not and would not drive after dark.  With me there was no choice. If I didn’t drive at night,  I could not keep my job. During winter, the world turned dark at  4:00 in the afternoon, and I had to lock up the store of my employer at 5:00. I must confess that sometimes I had some FRIGHTENING EXPERIENCES.   Most of the time I got by. Other times, especially  during high traffic I was CHALLENGED by the horrible circumstance,  not clearly seeing the centerline of the road and other times not seeing the line on the right side of the lane. I still almost quiver thinking about some close calls. Often when the oncoming headlights were REALLY BAD, I’d slow down so I could pay more attention to staying in the lane, and people would pass me like I was driving five miles an hour though I never did. On the belt line around town I never drove less than 30 in the 55 mph zone — and I admit, that was damn stupid of me — but it was the only way. In the city, going home from the airport,  facing occasional long strings of headlights coming toward me on dark streets, I sometimes  dropped to 20 mph. By the grace of God, no one touched me during the winter of 2014/2015 which was the WORST.  During the darkest time of the year, I even stayed at my employer — not on the clock so there was no pay for staying — so I could allow  the rush hour traffic to pass and dissipate before I departed  to volunteer work at my AeroKnow Museum at the airport, 10 minutes from my employer,  and  eventually to home for dinner and bed.  I seldom  left the airport until 9:30 so the streets would be relatively clear from people driving home after leaving their employers at 9:00.  The eye glasses doctor passed me “by a hair” the winter of 2013/2014, but refused when I returned in November of 2014  with another report for her to send to the authorities.  During all of 2014 and 2015, I’ve been an outlaw.  I  HAD to get those cataracts fixed and become street legal  again.  In APRIL of  2014 I began that process.

The eye surgeon’s office recommended state help. They scheduled my first cataract operation for July 2014. The state helpers told me they could not help me until I tried to get help from the county. The  county gave me a form to fill out that required answers from my employer. The positive outcome of the surgeries was predicated on the fact that I HAD TO WORK to LIVE. That was absolutely true. Even with Social Security income, I HAD TO WORK to LIVE.  My employer did not take my request for answers  seriously, but I could not dare quit my job in frustration. (During this stupidly protracted time I was sometimes LIVID with frustration, but I was determined I would not quit, and he was determined he would not fire me. If he did, he would have to pay unemployment compensation, and that was not an option for him.

July came and went with no surgery. August, the same. September, the same, despite my repeated requests for answers I could share with county who would then work with state and resume toe charitable aid process. In October, employer responded with answers. I hand-delivered the completed forms to county and was told I had waited too long. I would have to re-submit the paperwork, in updated form! So I did.

And I waited.  I let my new friends at state know what was going on. Finally, one of them told me in so many words, “Job, we’re not going to wait for county. I’m going to talk to my supervisor. I THINK we can expedite help through a program that provides assistance to the blind. There is no question that your vision qualifies you for it.”

In the meantime, I also could not work when there was significant snow on the streets. I could not risk an accident and have a police officer discover me driving without a license! So I missed four days’ work this winter : $240 pre-tax down the drain.

On December 4, 2014, I had a minor stroke that put me into a hospital bed dor almost three days. Later in the month I talked to my eye surgeon’s office and was told the doctor was on vacation. I would have to have my eyes examined again by the surgeon when she returned. My eyes had surely degraded since May of last year.  I had the exam and learned the eyes were worse.  Surgery on both eyes would  be scheduled for March because the surgical center had access to the Laser equipment they would use for my more critical eye, and all of my charity aid paperwork could not be completed in  time for February surgery.  (“Job, you have a cataract in your right eye the size of MILWAUKEE! I don’t know how you can see with that eye,” the surgeon told me.)  I could see with my right eye, but thanks fo the cataract, I could not read with my right eye.

In February I was notified by mail that I an not allowed to drive. I called the appropriate office to explain I had received the notification and that I was having cataract surgery on both eyes, and that soon I would be “street legal” again. I was told all that doesn’t matter. I MUST submit a report from a medical professional that I am qualified to drive. I will have to wait at least another month — until late April — to have the surgeon or another appropriate person submit that report. That’s because it takes the eyes about a month to recover from the surgery.

I had to get a clearance from my “home physician of record” that stated I was physically okay for tthe surgery: good blood pressure, heart condition and the rest of it. Thanks in part to my new dietary regimen since my stroke (NO more salt for ME! Lots of fruit and veggies;  I  ate more fruit in the month following the stroke than I had since 1973, I think. I still eat a lot and stilll enjoy it.  I passed the pre-surgery  physical with flying colors.  The cataract operation March 10 on my left eye was a breeze. The difference my my sight before and after is astounding!  My left eye technically qualifies me to drive. On March 24  I return for cataract surgery with the LASER on my right eye. I will  share an update re how that  went later this week.

I am far less anxious about the coming operation than I was about  the  first . The major adjustment since the first operation has been learning how to give myself  eye drops three times a day. THAT took some practice. I WISH someone at the doctor’s office had taken ten minutes and a dropper with sterile water to instruct me. It didn’t happen, but it should have happened. I’m not angry, and I’m ALMOST comfortable doing it since the 10th.

So cross fingers, world. I am eagerly looking forwrard to resuming life as a legal driver, and it will happen not a moment too soon!

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

pre-poem ramble —
TO ALL WHO ARE NEW FOLLOWERS OF HONEY AND QUININE: I have a feeling you don’t particularly READ this blog. NOT even ONE of you has shared comments, and WordPress with their avatar business prevents me from knowing YOU. Please  COMMENT about Honey and Quinine and tell me a little about yourself. In recent months I have discovered ONE BLOG I REALLY like among all you new “likers.” That is the blog entitled “Yeah, RIGHT.” NICE writing, whomever you are. I mean that truly. I do like  some long time followers of H & Q. Ladies and gentlemen, you know who you are. Thanks to all who follow H & Q.

Holy ka-LO-nee it’s been a busy cupola weeks! I finally obtained financial help to pay for my years overdue cataract surgery that will restore my vision so that I will be able to drive without breaking the law. On March 3, Dr. Sandra Yeh at Springfield’s Prairie Lasik and Eye Center operated on my left eye. As predicted, the improvement was amazing! The hardest part of the process (AFTER almost a year of major hassles obtaining necessary information from my employer) has been eye drops three times a day (three different prescription medications to prevent infection and other avoidable troubles if correctly administered), which I MUST give myself since I live solo. I regret PROFOUNDLY not compromising more with some wonderful women when I attracted wonderful women and they were happy to attract me . . . and married when I had the chances. Nobody showed me HOW to administer eye drops before surgery, and I didn’t learn how until days after. That resulted in several times not doing it right and wasting very expensive medicine. I’m getting the hang of it now. Visits to the eye doctor and hassles with prescription post-December-minor-stroke medicine refills have further discombobulated my life. Cataracts in my right eye will be “blasted” with major Laser treatment March 24. THAT will be the easiest part of the equation for me. It will take about a month after the 24th for the improved vision “recovery” to transpire. I can say this: I feel like a new hummin’ bean one day short of the first one. THANK GOD for Dr. Yeh, Kathy and Margie at the state financial aid office and all the staff who allowed this miracle to happen!

The poem is from my first book of poetry Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois,  available for purchase ($12 postpaid or $10 when and where I recite my poems). I wrote it October 10, 1995.  I hope you like it.

Strangers’ Smiles
by Job Conger

Musing over distant  loves in my head . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
I have been lucky in bed . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
yet, during times of unwelcome solitude,
the cherished memories, in pensive interlude
are not the under cover wild gyrations
that came with sharing passionate sensations.
Though I’m grateful to the warm sweet hearts who cared
I miss, the most, the smiles that strangers shared.

Exquisite eyes met in a glance . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
a nod, a grin, a laugh, but not a chance . . . . .
occasionally.
Not even an exchange of names
nor sparks on kindling hopes for flames.
No kiss of heaven’s mandate to us all:
“Surrender to true love’s redeeming call.”
Apocalyptic release to nature’s strident plea
denied
to fast-scanned souls throughout eternity.

Yet, to the hollow place . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
comes the memory of a face . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
and women I have hardly met
have given gifts I won’t forget:
the timeless, reflected return
of my unconscious essence burn
and sustained my dreaming wandering long miles
with the hope and strength that come from strangers’ smiles.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
as I have said at the conclusion of my Honey & Quinine blog posts for years before Leonard Nimoy died, and gratefully acknowledging his words which shared before I modified them to a form I call my own . . . . . .
— Live long . . . . . . and proper.

pre-lyric ramble . . .
Over the past few months several new “followers” have begun following Honey & Quinine. I don’t know why. But I thank  EVERYONE for following this blog. I have tried to learn more about the followers by trying to view their profiles, but this crazy AVATAR business has prevented me from connecting with most of you. I have begun following only one other blog in recent week. It is “Okay, You’re Right” and I can tell you the author is fascinating, clearly a world thinker who knows how to write engagingly. If you can find her, read her. You will be glad you did.  I am; that’s for sure.  :)

I’ve fallen behind posting at H&Q, and I’m wondering if my very (ULTRA, even) minor stroke last December left more of a mark on me than I first thought. I’m a mite hobbled by my belief that yammering about what’s going to happen, including news media analysis of speeches the day before they’re uttered,  isn’t news; it’s cheap cereal filler to insert between real news (HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED and MARK YOUR CALENDERS FOR. . . ), advertising and fund-raising drives for public radio stations. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been wanting to share the news that I would be having operations to vaporize my cataracts in March. There will be two operations, one per eye, spaced a little more than a week apart, but before that I must have a pre-operations physical examination by a physician “or nurse practitioner” (can you BELIEVE that? I sure couldn’t, not that there’s anything wrong with nurse practitioners) March 3 and if I get the green light, surgery follows. While the fact I’m finally “in the stream” for this treatment, which is about two years past due, seem “it’s going to happen” irrelevant to NEWS, my  success in navigating a series of impediments that included my employer being almost criminally negligent in not responding to my repeated requests for information (not money, you understand; just information about what I’ve earned) until he did and my own laxity in expediting after I had what I needed from him IS NEWS to people previously aware of this ongoing distress. The nuttiness is that when I’m disappointed, I’m also depressed. When I’m depressed, I feel there is no point to life, and therefore there is no reason to sustain life by “doing what needs to be done” <– thank you Garrison K.. I’ve not been suicidal. I’ve just been frozen in near-catatonia. This has affected my work all around: the book about a local Springfieldian (John Thornton Walker) I’ve promised and want very much to complete, work at the aviation museum; even activity at home: letting the clutter and disarray build until I straighten up things, put things away. I did today. The point of this ramble is my recent understanding of how even ULTRA minor strokes affect those they visit as I was visited December 4, 2014. A few days ago I read the material given to me by the hospital when I was released. So there is my latest self-serving rationale for doing darn-near nothing with life for almost two frikking months.

On the other hand, it may be just the winter weather.

The poem is one of four I’ve written on occasions where I’ve been invited to play guitar and sing at visual arts gallery receptions. My smartest visual artist friends understood it at first listen. I am confident YOU will understand it at first read . . .

Picassong
by Job Conger

Red pretauge on canvas white,
Streaks of saffron center-right.
From left corner sprouts a plem:
Floral posti quodeum.
Kladar races neck-and-neck
With the banyae bisolek.
Orange discs in motion glurge,
Toward the fading dree converge.

(chorus)
Lift your eyes and voices too
To the mellow illusdrew.
We shall cloy mo talikong:
Celebrate an abstract song.

Hut in shadow on a rise,
Fucia nordank mystifies,
Over deep cerulean blue:
Stolden pax kalam pocue.
Creatures dance hodaigren lape
While the natives flir kanape.
Volpan is the chanter king,
Verdant, wise and breysaling.

(chorus)

Joined in warm melodic hues:
Catholics, Protestants, Jews
Celebrate in sweet delight
Wonders of the Shenegite.
We’ll connect to what we can
Through the palette’s laudigan.
Symbols can be what ye will:
Cat upon the window sill.

(chorus which I sing twice, the second time after inviting the audience to sing along with me. By that time they are with me in this song. It’s incred-amazing!)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Representative abstract paintings inspired me to write this song. It was my goal to place understandable phrases with those which are not understood at first listen and may not be understood at all. That’s okay. I hope you liked it.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

pre-poem ramble: I visited the local drug store to renew my monthly (slight) stroke medications for the second time. POP QUIZ: How many times have I BOUGHT my prescriptions there? Too many people I know will answer “twice” . . . because they don’t know the difference between buying and buying again. The answer, of course, is three. . . but I digressed.

When I purchased and renewed the first time, I purchased the PRESCRIPTION baby aspirin, noted on the typed label. Today I asked the pharmacist if there was a difference between the baby aspirin he would soon count (30) into a prescription jar from behind the well-secured counter and the baby aspirin I could purchase from the publicly accessible shelf 10 feet behind me. He said “No difference at all. In fact, when we run out of them back here, we refill our supply from the bottles you saw on the shelves. ” I asked if the prescription baby aspirin would cost me more than the over the counter equivalent behind me. He said, “I don’t know. Let’s go see.”

He courteously came out from behind the preparation area to the shelves with me where we found a 120 low dose, safety coated aspirin for $6.49. It was not Bayer; it was the “drug store brand.”

The total for today’s medication was $170.13, including the 120 tab OTC baby aspirin. Total for my first refill January 5 was $169.24, including 30 baby aspirin. For 89 cents more, I took home 90 more aspirin, and the next two prescription-only refills (since I’ll already have the aspirin) will cost $163.58.  There is a reason I twice paid prescription price for a medication I could have purchased OTC if the thought had come to me. The reason is that BIG PHARMA is the health care provider’s FRIEND. My ignorance was BIG PHARMA’s bliss. I’m not mad over this. I’m better informed. I’m healthy, and as they used to sing in the TV comedy “The Jeffersons” theme song . . . “There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.”  :)

Here is a poem I wrote the morning after. Since that occasion, I published it in my third book of poems Bear’ sKin but have not shared it once, with or without voice, since. What can I say, but THIS IS YOUR LUCKY DAY!  :)

From a Cup of Coffee, Neat
by Job Conger — 7:45 am, January 18, 2001

Panoply of darkly hues
a see of animated anti-freeze
the sweet cacophony of talk
in warm retreat from blustery winter freeze

Embracing choices like a song
behind the counter, temptingly
“My advice is chicken and not the tuna
salad, but you didn’t hear it from me.”

Seen backwards, window sign reads
something like SLEGAB SYBXIB
reflected  reads BIXBYS BAGELS
Take my word, I wouldn’t fib.

Tenuous, ragged telegraphed syllables of words
off high-strung lines: “da dit dada dit-dit-dit”
abandoning rhythms, lost to the sense of time
hurling the dis engagingrag gedflow of it.

Still-in-utero thoughts remembered:
chaos outside; inside merry
Buxby’s Cafe Open Mic Night, seven
teenth of January.

——————————

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

pre-poem ramble — I continue to wallow in the woe of winter. I seem blessed with the capacity for mature relationships one would expect to find in a four-year old. I can’t remember the last conversation I had with a hummin’ bean that lasted more than five minutes, and I don’t expect that to improve when weather warms. It’s just that I seem entombed in permafrost. Oh blah dee, oh blah dah, life goes UN.
. . . . This doesn’t prevent me from celebrating a poem I read about a month ago at Amanda’s gallery event at Gallina’s Pizza meeting room in lyrical downtown Springfield. Between tunes, I read YEApetite, which I wrote on July 5, 1999 and published in my first poetry book — Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois — still available for purchase, by the way: $12 including postage. It was well-liked by an audience member, NOT to the extent he was willing to purchase my book, but the fact he well, liked it was good. I hope you like it as well.

YEAHpetite
by Job Conger

When I feel a growing HUNGER
for a juicy piece of
MEAT,
When my tongue begins to TINGLE
for a taste of something
SWEET,
I go looking for the WOMAN
who can make my life com
PLETE:
food HOOKER

When the fire of DESIRE
rants at apathetic
FATE
When answer and fine SUBSTITUTE
converge at restaurant’s
GATE,
Appetite of mine is SERVICEDwith salvation on a
PLATE
food hooker

She sells me what she will not give.
I buy what I don’t
NEED
in distracted sublimation
to appease a moral
CREED
as I search for the connection
that compels my heart to
BLEED
food hooker

With a sated smile and fast goodbye
I leave two bucks’ gra
TUITY
and return to the world to joust with hell
in soulful ambi
GUITY
Wayfaring knight errant reviles
transaction’s incon
GRUITY
food hooker.

– – – – – – – –

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

Keep Them Squirming

—> pre-poem personal
I believe poets get smarter over the years. Maybe everybody do (rim shot! :) ) and that’s why a few words in my original which appeared in my first book Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois are different here. The poem was intended to be a song, and that’s why I use my “song format” here. Every line begins with  an uppercase  letter. I will still sing it acapella if asked, but since I was never confident with the best I could do when accompanying with my guitar, I recite it mostly. My poems don’t begin each line in uppercase when a thought from the previous line carries over into the next. That’s how YOU know my poems from my songs.
I wrote the song 10 years and one day ago. I was at the height of my “local fame” time and reaching for my “fame beyond central Illinois” time — STILL AM — when I recited it for the first time at a gathering at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore coffee shop. Those were my best years as a poet because I was reaching ears of customers interested in books and coffee in addition to my friends. Over the course of those years, many customers came to my table and thanked me for sharing. Often I responded by giving them printed copies of the poems they liked. Those were the days of wonderment and delight. I miss those days.

My circumstance re dollars is still damnably static. I’ve not touched the upstairs duplex the former renter, Shannon Smith  trashed after reneging on her promise to lease it through winter. The loss of that income is a pain, but I’m not hungry at all, I’ve kept the upstairs plumbing from bursting by keeping it well heated during this terrible cold and light -but-long-lasting snow.  And I’ve not run out of fuel (my absent-minded negligence at its distracted worst) in a few months. I continue to contribute to Springfield Business Journal every month. Also on the positive, I met with some “aid agency saints” last week, and we appear to be maybe a month away from the Lasik cataract surgery on eyes that have cobbled my visual acuity, especially at night. By  late February, I expect to sing “I can see clearly now . . .”
I DO want to write more new poetry/songs . . . . if not for Springfield, then for you! Stay tuned.

Keep Them Squirming
by Job Conger

George and Melissa were a storybook couple
Til Melissa heard a terrible tale
That George’s cousin, long removed
Robbed a bank of her great grandfather’s
And wound up doing time in jail.
Now she thinks that Georgie owes her
For some craven, gross indignity, and so he plays a losing game
Of repaying her for losses that will never make them equal
And will never lift the stultifying shame.

Keep them squirming, keep them squirming
It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or who’s right
When myopia means a good fight
Keep them squirming.

If you behave like the victim, they will always owe you something
For the dignity they stole from sinless cogs
By choosing their crimes carefully, you always will have company:
A chorus of self-righteous underdogs.
If inflated sense of self is what it take to make you happy,
Just go out and grab your demons by the ears
And blame the rest of yourb humanity, entrapped by their banality
Their sense of truth and justice . . . and their fears.

Keep them squirming. Keep them squirming.
The paper tiger of your cause can be real
With teeth of vengeaance and your pompous zeal.
Keep them squirming.

Compromise is uncommon. Give an inch and they’ll get greedy.
Reason is unreasonable today.
Folks with steady moral compasses aren’t all Forrest Gumpasses
And wailing like a banshee will make some of them look your way.
Common sense isn’t common. If it were you’d lose your ticket
To the train where polar differences thrive.
And the truth that’s in the middle wouldn’t be the long-lost riddle
In a world of crazed gorillas  talking jive.

Keep them squirming. Keep them squirming
To atone for the life that you live.
It sure beats learning how to forgive.
Keep them squirming.

written January 17, 1996

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

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