Long-overdue Update

For the past few months I’ve been concentrating on my book about John Thornton Walker and neglecting the rest of my life, blog-wise and beyond. It’s not been a happy time, mostly hot, anti-social in the main — though I “turn on the charm” when I’m working (volunteering) at the airport museum, and on many days out there, 90 percent of my time has been related to John Thornton Walker, the Hero Who Never Came Home. I have not opened and read about two months of regular posts from cherished e-correspondents including PetPer, PacPar, NewZea, but I have not deleted those posts, and I do look forward to reading them in the next week. I still have not found a renter for my vacant upstairs duplex, but a terrific local carpenter/electrician/plumber has worked a miracle up there, and I’ve placed the FOR LEASE sign back into my front yard for the first time since former renter Shannon Smith of Springfield, IL TRASHED it last October when she broke lease.and moved out. During the renovation, I realized why she broke her lease. She had BROKEN EVERYTHING. Nothing was working. She had told me nothing, though there were clues I should have recognized and resolved if I weren’t so wrapped up in aviation and poetry. In essence, I’ve surrendered my “man card” so I could appear to others (who really don’t give rat poop about me) a peaceful, average fellow.

I’m still running pretty hard here. I must get the final proof of the Walker book to distant Walker family members for them to read closely and correct factual errors. When I make the inevitable corrections I will find a local printer and produce 200, maybe 300, copies of a “first edition.” Where I get the money for that is anyone’s guess. One thing at a time around here. There are other items to mention soon, but I am STILL RUNNING but glad for the time taken to share this much with you.

Thanks for reading this. Be nice to each other. Have a great day!  :)

On this Memorial Day May 25, 2015, I’m working on my book about a Springfield liaison pilot who never came home. Among the wonderful collection of documents Connie Ann Walker, his and wife Geraldine’s (Gerri’s) only child  shared with AeroKnow Museum was a scan of the letter JTW’s commander, General Mark W. Clark wrote to her following his unexpected death. This transcription will be included in my book “Story of a Hero Who Never Came Home.”

Headquarters 15th Army Group
Office of the Commanding General
APO 777, U.S. Army
February 23, 1945

Dear Mrs. Walker:

It is with deep sorrow that I write you of the death of your husband Lieutenant Colonel John T. Walker. I know you will have received the telegram from the War Department now.

As you know, Jack had served as a member of my personal staff as my pilot for seventeen months. He had told me so much of you and your daughter that I feel I was acquainted with you both, a fact which makes this letter even more difficult to write. He had made many plans or his homecoming; plans that were about to be realized, when destiny intervened.

As a reward for the superior manner in hwich Jack had performed his duties with me, I had arranged for him to return to the United States on a twenty-three day leave of absence. He was to make the trip by air. Jack boarded the plane, a twin motored bomber, on the morning of February 19th, on the first leg of his journey home. The plane took off from the field, then, when  only five hundred feet above the ground, was seen to shudder violently and go into a spin.  It crashed about half a mile from the field, instantly killing all aboard. I went immediately to the scene of the crash, but nothing could be done except mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and comrade.

No definite cause for the crash has been established. However, from the reports of several of Jack’s friends who were at the field to see him off, it is believed that one motor failed, the resultant drag on the other motor causing the plane to turn over.

Funeral services were conducted on February 20th at an American cemetery near here, and a memorial service was held at my headquarters at 11:00 A.M., February 22nd. I attended both services, along with  his many other close friends on my staff. I know how much it would have meant to you, had you been able to be present. As this was impossible, I made arrangements to photograph the ceremonies. The photographs are enclosed with this letter.

I am also enclosing a photograph of Jack receiving his Legion of Merit, awarded in recognition of this outstanding service with me, on February 10th. As far as I know, it was the last photograph taken of him.

I know that there is nothing I could say that would in any way temper your grief in your great loss. Knowing Jack as I did, however, I can more closely share your grief. He was one of my finest officers, loved by all who knew him. His memory lives on in the hearts of his many friends.

Please accept my most heartfelt sympathy.

Lieutenant General, USA,Commanding

FOR SOME NUTTY REASON, I CANNOT re-format this text to standard; not italics. When I highlighted a title to change to italics, the title changed, and so did the rest of the blog.

Tuesday May 19th I decided to push past a feud with a friend and return to a regular “all poets and songwriters and essay writers open microphone (open mic)” at a favorite restaurant in lyrical downtown Springfield.  On Wednesday, I did.

It was a poetry-event-thing-feud, details of  which are not important now. Friends not connected to it had urged me to put it behind me and by last Tuesday, I knew it was time.  People I hadn’t seen for several months confirmed with their smiles and warm greetings that I had made the right decision. Only when the enjoyable evening was almost over did I come to realize it had not been a FEUD had touched me off like a rocket last August; it was a misunderstanding. The difference is important.

A major challenge to emcees at open mics involves dealing with new, aspiring communicators, some young and inexperienced behind a microphone and some old and inexperienced behind a microphone; some who have learned their craft and some who are essentially the same wordsmiths they were in 1993 when the local literary community began coalescing into an active organization which is, today, known as Springfield Poets and Writers. Many writers of all stripes have come and gone over the years, but three of us have remained, more or less, coalesced. Some of the newer participants — even a few of the long-timers — regard open mic nights as their opportunity to rehearse their one-person show they imagine is destined to play  at Carnegie Hall. During the early years, we who learned as we loped along came to be cool with the notion that three poems or songs were a fair way to share, as a set, behind the microphone. Many newcomers noticed this and caught on, gladly. But some, newcomers and long-timers, did not.

Since most of my time behind the microphone since day one has shared poems and songs I had memorized, I had become well and happily acquainted with a little thing called PRACTICE. That’s how we memorize and maximize impact of what we say with appropriate projection of our voices, pauses, steady and changing tempos. I always been aware of how long each poem or song I intended to share took. I was not as aware of the time I intended to spend introducing content. My proclivity for happy  banter when introducing poems, songs, was sometimes longer than what I had practiced. Even so, if my poems took a little longer than planned, thanks to my pausing for people on the far side of the microphone to finish reacting, no one seemed to mind. Other participants who went on and on and on and on and on and on . . . . disappointed some of the audience. It made excellent sense to draw a line in the sand of time allotted for each participant — I mean EVERY–  open mic participant. Those of us who planned ahead would not mind adjusting our content. Sharing shorter poems and  less banter made sense. People had come to share art; not ad-libbed quips from a second-string Rodney Dangerfield. Longer poems require less banter, but all “art” stands best that stands alone, does not require a map before beginning to reveal it.

If I am compelled to share a longer poem, the best way,  at some open mics, is to share a sample of it: an excerpt, a taste. Listeners can offer me a dollar for a copy (I will bring copies to future open mics) or buy my books. When an open mic emcee/coach announces a time limit. . . . . . it makes good sense that this is how I will play the game in that ball park.

After the microphone was put away and we were saying goodbyes, getting ready to head home, I apologized to my friend for what was my misunderstanding. I said that I,  NOW, better appreciate how it works to the benefit of us who do what we do reasonably well AND for those who are still learning . . . and those who will never learn.

She thanked me for attending and participating. That meant a lot to me.

We wh0 do what we do reasonably well may consider developing other performance opportunities, perhaps inviting two or three poets-songwriters-essayists who KNOW HOW to use a microphone, who KNOW HOW to recite or read a poem or essay without stumbling over and repeating every eighth word, can speak clearly and be understood, who KNOW HOW to and WANT TO engage the audience to DO IT without the line in sand of  time. Nobody gets to Broadway without knowing how to use the voice and how to deliver lines clearly.  It’s not about technique or persona behind the microphone. Not everybody wants to be Rod McKuen or Boxcar Willie. Variety is wonderful.

We in Springfield are lucky to have Robbie’s on third Wednesdays and an intelligent, disciplined emcee/ringmaster whose devotion to good writing is evident and appreciated.  Robbie’s owner and area writers have supported third Wednesday open mics for several years.

Most of my day at work before heading downtown was spent selecting two poems appropriate to share. I knew I would recite TWO. If I did well, the folks would look forward to my reciting poems again. If my poems were recited poorly, at least there was no major investment of time in prepping only two poems.  I did not expect to do poorly and I didn’t. My view of the audience told me I did fine. Traditionally I “opened” with a Vachel Lindsay poem “Niagara.” Before the first word of the poem, I invited anyone who knew about Vachel and wanted to talk about him to talk to me after everyone had shared their writing. The poem I wrote, that after considering every poem in my first book “Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois” I thought appropriate to share, was “I Want to be Sedated.” That poem follows this pre-poem ramble.

I had a fine time the evening of May 19 and look forward to attending the next open mic there. June 17, starting at 6 pm and concluding about 8 pm.

I Want to Be Sedated
by Job Conger

This world, it seems so topsy-turvy,
hell-bent for Armageddon soon:
too many creeps passing for prophets,
and mystics baying at the moon.
It’s hard to find a lucid stranger
and make it past the surface smile
in an age that’s sadly superficial;
a litany of bitter trial.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
Don’t want to feel so mad and mean.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
I’m even swearing off caffeine.

The many demons in my closet,
they shake the door, they yell and scream,
and though the door is double-bolted,
the noise is curdling my cream.
And noise from demons all around us
contaminates the life once sweet.
It’s getting louder by the minute.
I need to make a swift retreat.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
Don’t want to hear your angry bile.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
The sound of music’s more my style.

Some people flirt with boozy weekends
and chug the their drinks like popcorn shrimp
while others ride passionate hormones
and get their jollies from a pimp.
The chemistry from basement gardens
will never see this body through,
but if you have a good solution,
I sure could use a dose or two.
I-I-I want to be sedated
with more than nods and knowing grins
I-I-I want to be sedated
and find the road where hope begins.

written July 24, 1995

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

pre-poem ramble:

I’ve been better.

When I had cataract surgery a few months ago, the prognosis from the good doctor was that after conventional, less expensive, treatment of my better left eye and the Lasik, high priced spread, laser fix of the right eye, both involving corneal implants, I’d be issued eye glasses in early April  for close-up vision and my longer range sight would be much improved. n, It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

The cataract “the size of Milwaukee” which had prevented the doctor from even seeing the back of my right eye, also prevented accurate diagnosis of the condition of that eye. Post Lasik examination revealed my right eye is slightly smaller and not as well-developed as assumed. Nothing is going to improve the vision in that eye. Vision in the left eye has improved in a major way: no more halos around oncoming lights. Things I see are brighter than they were and . . . . well, not so fast.

The doctor assigned to me by the clinic after the operation is not a surgeon doing post op evaluation, he is an optometrist — or at least something like that — doing evaluation of resulting condition, preparatory to the providing of prescription eye glasses. For weeks I self-administered three eye drop medicines intended to complete the healing of the eyes so that glasses could be made and worn. Two of the prescriptions were discontinued after a month. The third continued. The anticipated progress did not happen, even after two weeks between optometrist visits instead of what had been almost a three-month routine of weekly visits. My vision in my left eye is LESS than it was before the cataract removal, and he doesn’t know why.

So it’s “back to the  drawing board.” I’ve been scheduled to meet with a new member of the clinic staff for some serious “look see.” I know this because I’ve been told I’m going to  have to take a cab home after the visit. That’s no big deal, I’ll drive to the doctor, cab home, cab back the next day for follow-up and drive to work. That’s the plan. All I really want to do is get a certificate from “a qualified treatment professional” that tells the Illinois Secretary of State’s people I am legally qualified to drive. And please get some eyeglasses made for me so I can read smaller type.

The optometrist wants to be sure the great clinic staff (and they are; just terrific people) has done all that can be done to maximize my vision before they release me. I appreciate that attitude. I shall stay with this. No pain is involved; just SIGNIFICANT cost, even with Medicaid, and time away from earning a living.

Other factors in my life are contributing to a sense of near-constant hopelessness. Still no progress repairing the upstairs duplex so I can find residents for it; suffocating under the daily thinking and communications incapacities of my employer, too much to do at the museum where I’m investing 90 percent of my thoughts and 50 percent of my activity in a 24 hour day, no time to catch up with blogging, taking care of my finances, yard work that I’ve much-too-long neglected! . . . . . I’ll jabber more, but for now, you’ve suffered enough.

September Trees
by Job Conger

Where are songs
of robins warbling in the park
in late September?

Could it be
that there is nothing left
to sing?

The mates have found their mates.
The un-mate-able are resigned
to their loneliness and sublimation.

The fledgelings have flown away,
and with those young
have flown the dreams.

There is nothing left to learn,
nothing left to prove
that can be proven.
No one left to love
who can be loved.

—————————————- written 10:10 pm, October 3, 2002

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

Unopened Letters

In 1992, I welcomed my father back to Springfield. Since leaving the family in 1967 to work in management for a clothing store up north in Rockford,  he had done exceptionally well for himself, but he was recently retired, living alone and wanted to come back to be close to his first son. My younger brother Bill was divorced two or three times and living way south in Florida, and my older sister Dorothy had not spoken with him since about 1965 — totally written him out of her life. I had always felt some modest pride in being named after him, and though our relationship had suffered over the years, I welcomed him back, visited him often in a house he rented less than three blocks from the house where he and my mother raised our family. This post is about unopened letters, beginning with one I wrote to him after he moved back.

I had an opportunity to buy a duplex house where I thought I would enjoy living, but I had some concerns about the neighborhood. Since Dad had some real history in Springfield, I wanted his feedback to my concerns. We drove by the house, got out, showed him the nice front porch. He would live on the ground floor and I’d live upstairs. We’d build a ramp to the porch because he was getting older, and wouldn’t want to deal with the four steps leading up to it. I explained that his thinking about my purchase of the house would determine my buying it or forgetting the idea. Dad didn’t respond. A few months later I bought the duplex but continued living next door to Dad, visiting him every day, making sure he was okay. There were no problems with my purchase. About a year later, over coffee in his kitchen I asked him what he thought about my purchase of the other duplex. He responded with “Job, I never read the letter you gave me. You told me what it  was about. I just didn’t read it because I thought your purchasing of that house was the stupidest idea I had ever heard of. The whole neighborhood was declining. It was obvious. I didn’t even bother opening the letter!” His reaction disappointed me horribly.  Our relationship continued under heavy tension until he died December 12, 1994 and I saw the world without family for the first time in my life. My sister Dorothy had disowned me, wouldn’t speak to me because of my support of our father. Brother Bill and I were occasional callers over the phone, but he remained anguishingly remote.  Less than a year before he died, he called me on my birthday, and we reconciled. I called him on his next birthday, and soon after he was gone.

A few years later, I had a major disagreement with a person I served with on a historical Society board. In my letter of resignation from that board, I explained why I was resigning, citing my conflict with the root of the problem: Nancy C.  and never returned to the board or attended a historical society event. I’m still a life member. Nancy wrote a letter back to me. I never opened it. I still have it.

One of my best friends and I met after I put on a program at Vachel Lindsay’s restored historical house in Springfield. He invited me to Chicago, and I visited twice over weekends via AmTrack in the following two years. He and his terrific wife hosted me in a guest bedroom. It was wonderful. Pete arranged for me to speak to a terrific “thinking persons’ club” in his city where I talked about Springfield poet Vachel Lindsay, recited several of his poems. Also recited some of my poems and with my guitar, sang some of my songs. Pete visited me twice over weekends, happy to sleep in a sleeping bag given to me by a visiting friend from Kings Cliffe, England some years ago. Here I did the driving and showed him a lot of MY city. I LOVED/LOVE Chicago. But I began having some challenging circumstances in Springfield, and our friendship suffered. Over the course of the last year, Pete wrote me three letters. The first was very encouraging. Pete thought I could have really done something with poetry and song up there. But I’ve not opened the following two letters he sen, though I’ve not thrown them away. They’re around here someplace. I have had no time to spare in my life since I began developing an aviation museum at the local airport. I’ve lost almost ALL contact with some wonderful people in the local visual and poetic and songwriting/performing arts community.

Last summer my best friend in the poetry community and her paramour, also a talented poet , disappointed me MAJORLY at two poetry events, and I’ve not spoken a word to either since. When I suffered a very minor stroke, she emailed  me offering to help me during my subsequent recovery from a brief stay in a local hospital.  I was totally surprised, heart-warmed, flattered by the email but early last December, anticipating a very lonely Christmas after a very lonely Thanksgiving and a very lonely rest of my life, instead of thanking her for her concern, I brainlessly, BITTERLY responded with a note saying how disappointed I was over what happened last summer. I should have thanked her and moved forward with her generous interest in helping.  She responded to my e with one of my her own that began with something like “just like you to look for reasons for everything. . . .” — I never read the rest of it, but I SAVED her email. It’s still here.

I’ve been meaning to become more involved with the local arts community which I almost totally walked away from so I could pour my SOUL into the aviation museum. I’ve been intending since March to write a Honey & Quinine post about unopened letters. On April 18, I returned to Vachel Lindsay’s historic home for the first time since walking away from IT in 2013 following a disappointment with the site director. The Lindsay house is suffering from reduced state funding, the former director of the site retired and hasn’t been replaced, open hours have been almost totally cut. The house was open the 18th for a special reception for a talented local artist whose illustrations accompany a new book of Vachel Lindsay poems intended — they say — for children. When I announced my intention to attend the event on Facebook, a friend — the rare kind: someone who still interfaces with me regularly — responded to the post, approvingly. I attended with camera, bought the new books by my visual artist acquaintance, and will post a Honey &  Quinine review of the event  later this week.

After I close this post, I’m going to return to the email from my poet friend and READ all of her response to my bitter note. I need to do that because I respect her talent, and our long friendship has benefitted me GREATLY over the years. No one I know (who’s alive today) has been nicer to me. If she tells me to go to hell, I will live with that. I will try to put it all behind me. . . . . . I need to show her the same respect and appreciation she showed me over the years. If I can digest what she said and take her words as a big pill I must swallow to digest  and continue healing from this past winter of horrible anguish, I will do that.

Thanks for reading this post.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

I’m giving away a lot of books starting April 5, 2015. Because I don’t want to make trips to the post office and mess with stamps, all the books will be kept at my aviation museum at the Springfield, Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport to look them over and take them away.

I’m not planning to die soon; not gazing wistfully at tall buildings or deep water.

Included in the give away are anthologies of poems, particularly the great  poems, the volumes in which my poems do not appear, though I’m happy that mine have appeared in a few, and those few will be sent to the area dumpster, and no one who enters my house will know my poems are in those few because I expect that no one who enters my house when they have to will so much as glance at a title or open a book, not even a chap book. But you never know . . . . someone might.

Among the books they will find in my home are books by and about my favorite nationally-known writers: Woody Allen,Carl Bernstein,  H.W. Brands, Randy Brooks, Billy Collins,  Robert Frost, Lee Gurga,  X.J. Kennedy,  John Knoepfle, Anne Morrow Lindbergh,  Vachel Lindsay, David McCullough, Robert Pinsky, Sylvia Plath, Ron Powers, Carl Sandburg, Robert Service, Anne Sexton, Hunter Thompson, Bob Woodward. Yevgeny Yevtushenko, William Butler Yeats . Also, on a special shelf, are books by talented writers (besides me, Job Conger) whom YOU deserve to know: David Bishop, Thea Chesley, sam B. davis, Corrine Frisch, Siobhan Johnson, Jim Osborn, Joseph Kozma and “Kit” Stokes. The visiting strangers will see anthologies from American Tanka Scciety and Haiku Society of America, the locally produced Brew’s Muse. The “lessers,” based entirely on my objective perspective of memorable poetry as I understand it,  will go to the free room April 5. Curious to see who they are? Come out to AeroKnow Museum, take the tour and then be welcomed to the free literature collection.

In the course of the daylight hours today, I have worked diligently, non-stop to do what I should have done since 2009. I know “diligently” because my back hurts. Though I’ve sipped a few cups of coffee while sharing a few things on Facebook  I’ve not eaten a think since last night except prescription medicine. Now that it’s been sundown for awhile, I’m going to eat a salad from the grocery store and drink some instant iced tea. (Ahhhhh the GOOD life!). Poetry, and other aspects of my life as a creative hummin’ bean, have been sacred to me.

The books strangers find in my home after I die will be the books I want them to find. I delivered all my pornography videos, some classics that I will miss, to a dumpster last week. All I can say is “Thank you, internet!” I’ve not touched a Playboy since 1992 or something like that.

An unexpected benefit to this day: I discovered some books by poets that I’ve purchased over the years, but never taken the time to READ: James Whitcomb Riley, Edward Arlington Robinson and Wallace Stevens and a few others. I’ve found some poetry anthologies that merit  my writing if I ever slow down again, including Contemporary Poetry (published by The MacMillan Company in 1930, one year before Vachel Lindsay’s death) edited by Marguerite Wilkinson. In intend to write a little about that in a future blog. Included were three poems by Robert Frost, Vachel and Yeats had four each, and Sara Teasdale had SIX! I also intend to write about the first issue of the magazine Poetry edited by Harriet Monroe. We know that that issue put Vachel truly “on the literary map.” What about the other poets in that issue: believe you will be surprised.

I will be jabbering more about those topics AND in a series of posts here at Honey & Quinine called Vachel Lindsay Rambles #1 — #50.  Look for it, aye?

Thanks for reading this post.

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

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.


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