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.

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.


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

pantsAbout 14 months ago, my employer gave me five pairs of wash-and-wear polished cotton everyday pants to wear. Every pair had a hole in the back left pocket, not large enough for my wallet to fall through, not worn through the back of the pocket to reveal skin or Fruit-of-the-Looms, but if you glanced at my backside as I walked away, you might have been tempted to say, “Hey Pedro, are you as devout as your holey  pants?” People didn’t say that, but I’m sure some wanted to say it.

I was grateful to my employer 14 months ago and early  on as some of the holes grew in size. Spilled paint here, scuffs and new unsightly wear in front took their toll. I think they were Wal-Mart pants. All but one pair became unwearable at my work place where my  hours were reduced to five a week, and especially at my aviation museum. I continued wearing them because eating regularly, if not well, was more important to me than new pants. They had become a political “statement” for me, a railing against unkind FATE, the way a bloody, unchanged bandage might be after a minor accident, shared in public to proclaim my discontent with the world.

Even my employer noticed the holes and mentioned them to me. I reminded him the holes had been there when he GAVE them to me. He offered to give me more used pants, but I declined. I had determined to purchase new pants from JC Penney in late May. My protest would be over.

Then I fell at my employer, broke a tooth from a decade-old partial lower dental plate and required a new, complete, lower dental plate. Replacement cost $900. I took a home equity loan extension.  Then the central air conditioning I provided to the upstairs residents broke. In addition to more than $1,000 due for real estate taxes, I owed the central air repair guy more than $1,000. I was morally compelled to reduce the rent for July to compensate the renters for going without coolness in half their residence.  The new pants from Penney’s would have to wait.

I had to have pants I could wear in public, say downtown during lunch hour, without risking being detained by local gendarmes and deposited in a holding cell on suspicion of vagrancy. After most of a year neglecting them, I turned my attention to a corner of a closet where I recovered two pair of dress slacks, DRY CLEANER type. To the corner dry cleaner I went, a step in the right direction. I had also noticed a pair of blue dress pants still on a hangar, protected by a light, clear plastic bag with another dry  cleaner’s logo on it.  Like the pants I had taken to the cleaners, this pair had belonged to Dad. Somehow, they had moved with me to the home where I live now, about a year after he died in December 1994. Five days ago, I took off the plastic bag, unpinned the dry cleaner’s tracking labels and tried them on. They fit just fine.  I’m wearing them now. I just took a picture of them.

Dad died after bringing the recently recommissioned blue pants back from the cleaners. That could have been in 1993 but more likely 1994.

It amazes me how so much of my life still touches things I obtained from my parents’ dying and earlier good will: my  desk at home, a cookie jar I had known as a five-year old, a winter coat, two pair of shoes (no holes in soles) my dishes and most kitchen utensils, forks, spoons, knives, bedroom chest of drawers and a few other things I’m sure. I still owe them for all this. I’m sure they never IMAGINED that in 2016 I would be keeping clothes and things in the chest of drawers I had used as a teenager in the 1960s when we were living on Whittier Avenue as a family! After they were divorced in 1968, mom continued living at the house until selling it and moving to Florida in 1979. That’s when I brought many items over to my then-apartment.

I have three pair of WEARABLE pants for the first time in almost two years, thanks to kind FATE and a father who picked up some blue pants from the dry cleaners in 1994.

I WILL BUY some wash-and-wear pants — and soon, I hope.

All in good time, friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . all in good time.
Live long. . . . . and proper

And so

And so
I lay
back down
to bed.

I’ve become an early riser. That makes it easy for me to be working at my airport museum frequently at 6:30 am; occasionally as early as 5:15 or 5:30. The downside is that I have to wait “forever” to run errands before going out to the airport.  This morning, I was awake about 6:00, savoring the morning light sifting through the partly-opened blinds on my east-facing bedroom window. I knew I had time to spend, as I sometimes do, picking up things around the house that would be better-put away elsewhere, cleaning the top of my stove, the kitchen counter, bringing mail from the table just inside the front door to my bedroom desk, Today, everything was pretty much in (uncommon) order.

I checked Facebook and email, found nothing I could not better-address at my airport office.  Wandering into the kitchen for a rare cup of kitchen-prepared store-label instant coffee, I decided to turn the water to my kitchen sink back on. (See earlier post Carrying Water to the Kitchen for background here) I had turned it off last November because it had a slow leak, and even though I caught a lot of dripping water in a large mixing bowl during the early weeks of this travail, I didn’t recover and re-use all of it. Better to just turn off the bleeping water to the kitchen sink. And I hardly missed it. I don’t dirty dishes, I’ve not had a friend over for a visit since 2014 (not having a working toilet helped guarantee THAT as well.). I’ve used five dishes, including my coffee cup, not including forks, knives and spoons, since last October. STILL, I thought it would be nice — rich, even — to have the kitchen water flowing, and even if the drip continued, this time I’d use a larger mixing bowl and be more conscientious about using the collected water.

So I reached down under the sink where the cleaning and anti-fly-and-roach spray are, and turned the handle to return water flow to the faucet above.

Nothing happened. No water flow. DANG!  DAMN, EVEN!  Such  a modest expectation. Such a sub-nominal outcome! I was a little bit crushed, but not bitterly or hurled into the wretching woes of anguish. I’d still bring water to the kitchen. I decided that a friend of a friend who fixed a burst frozen pipe in the basement last December had shut off the flow to the kitchen sink from down below in the crawl space next to the laundry  room. But it was 6:55 am.

And the bank where I HAD to deposit a pay check would not be open to the public downtown until 8:30. After depostitng, I’d have some cash for a long overdue haircut, some new hearing aid batteries (no functioning hearing aids for the past week and a half, and I’ve been okay without) and some decent FOOD (I’ll spare you the details)

I KNEW I was done sleeping. I knew I was in no mood to organize my Vachel Lindsay correspondence and loose papers in the second bedroom which I’ve not touched since 2012 and probably with never touch again. (again, a long story; I’ll spare you) I would arise at 8:20, brush my teeth and drive to the bank. Turned on the local public radio station to hear the same news they had broadcast from 6 to 7 am.  I was set.

And so
I lay
back down
to bed.

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

Pr’ample. I flatter myself believing I’m a berter songwriter/guitarist/”folksinger” than poet. But my legitimacy I milk from comments and the apparent public esteem for my poems — They could all be “just being nice.” How the hay would I know? –is more important to me than words wrapped around a catchy melody. If you want to read the following as a poem, simply skip over the refrain that follows the second verse and  go directly to the last verse. If you  like the refrain, consider this a song  lyric; food for thought. Either whey, I hope you like it. It’s one of my favorites, I hope I’ve not posted it here at Honey & Quinine recently. If I have, I apologize for the unintended, redundantly  redundant redundancy — or as slick wordbrafters say . . . for doing it again.
DISCLAIMER: Otis Redding had absolutely no part in the writing of the following.

Watching The Tide
by Job Conger

You’re contemplating.
Life passions fading.
No one to love and less and less anticipating.
Can this be what life after 50 is about?
It’s lonely watching the tide go out.

You’re burning bridges
And digging ditches
To bury dreams destroyed by loathesome sons of bitches.
Green fields have turned to sauerkraut.
This grim tableau: watching the tide go out.

They try to distract your heart with happy songs,
But lilting melodies just make you cry.
They feed you cliche: “Tomorrow’s a day away.”
You better jump back into the swim of life
or they’ll leave you high and dry.

Your future’s clearer
as night draws nearer.
If Lady Luck is calling,
you wish you could hear her.
How can you be so cock-sure and still so full of doubt?
You’re busy watching the tide go out.
It’s nutty  watching the tide go out.
I wrote the the first draft of the above (which I transcribed from my third book of poetry  Bears’ sKin)  at 7:50 pm, May 24, 2000.

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

Regular H&Q readers know of my woes as a poet/guitarist and songwriter/performer. I wrote a few posts here about “almost becoming an ‘also-ran.” For years I’ve been bittersweet over these frustrations: without a doubt, I have seen “approval,” and “enjoyment” and “laughter in all the ‘right’ places ” when I’ve played and recited. Recently, I’ve rejoiced in less sweet, and been slowly rotting my insides out, wallowing in more bitter.

I have not seen enough sweet for the past year. There was an event that broke my heart. You will not read about it from me. If I mention it, more people will only hate me more, and I want to avoid that. It zapped me. It sapped me. I hate to share my poems and songs when people would rather talk to each other. The only time I feel this way is when I try to share.

Talk to me about aviation history, and I’m fine. Talk to me about life in general and I’m okay. Stop me before I’ve finished reciting a poem or singing a song, and I’m crushed. So I’ve decided to start closing the doors that deliver me to Crushville.

Last night I burned my most-recently-acquired guitar: an Ibanez I bought a few years ago from a guitar store on west Jefferson.  I bought it for the looks as much as the sound. Sometimes I’d take it along to a performance and display it but not play it. I loved the way it looked.  The owner of the music shop where I bought it had  written  my name on a tag for the month or so he held it until I made the final payment. That tag remained attached to the guitar, just in case people might see it and not know it was mine.

I had considered selling it, but I believed no one would want to buy it for what I’d want for it: say $100. I considered giving it to a stranger after I played it at an open mic performance in town. But I BELIEVE I will never attend another open mic. Early yesterday, I decided to  burn all but one of my then-five guitars. By mid afternoon I had decided to burn them one at a time over a few months and take pictures. The first to go would be my Ibanez because I knew I could lose it and not miss it.

I left the guitar case inside. I’m considering using it as a faux-brief-case when I have things to bring to the airport or take to a meeting. I had a sturdy, metal fire pan in the back yard storage shed. That would keep things tidy.

I had to bring  sections of The State Journal Register with me from my museum office when I left for home about 7 last night. I felt like I was executing a friend, a dream, and that I absolutely had to do it. Maybe it was a pagan sacrifice to the Clapton god or the Jerry  Reed god or the Chet or Tommy Emmanuel gods. I was not happy. I was determined. I felt it had been “written in the stars” that I should do this.

I was alone in my back yard for the duration. I sensed that there were eyes on me, perhaps from Judy next door or the fine residents upstairs. I was so busy with my camera, kindling and fire stoking I didn’t mind. Let them watch. Let them not watch.

And it didn’t take long. There was almost no smoke. After a while, the only recognizable part was the top of the neck with my  name tag almost untouched. I decided to keep it. When there were no flames left, the daughter of my upstairs neighbor came out and we talked as I stirred the last of it. I even tried to light some remnants of  un-burned newspaper and spilled my box of kitchen matches in the effort. I explained I had burned one of my guitars because I didn’t want it anymore and didn’t want to sell it. We had a nice visit. Then I took the upper part of the neck and went inside, had a nice salad for dinner, read some of Volume 1 of Simon Shama’s three volume tome about the history of England and went to bed.
This morning I photographed the upper neck on my dining room table where it had spent the night.

I am having a lot of issues with life. New hearing aid, new dental plate for my lower jaw, major solitude despite being in close proximity to many people every day. It’s like they’re on their planet, and I’m on mine. Lots of doctor bills going back for years. And no relief in sight.
And so it goes.

Thanks for reading this.

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

new haikew

poet’s old age fears
that he’s going to die soon
that he won’t die soon

by Job Conger
written April 22, 2016

live long . . . . . . and proper


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