Here’s a poem I wrote this morning, October 19,  and will read in public at an event sponsored by Springfield Poets and Writers at Robbie’s Restaurant on Adams Street in lyrical downtown Springfield Wednesday, October 21. Following the poem is an update about my life over the past week or so. I plan to post here at Honey & Quinine once a week, part of my plan to be one of two things I professed to be in my post here at H&Q last week.

Joshua Tinkham
by Job Conger
written 7:40 am, Monday, October 19, 2015 at home

Above I hear, do you hear
the sweet children singing?

I am Joshua Tinkham
from old Ramsgate in England
and I came to your town called Springfield, Illinois
with my mother and father
and settled in rather
rudimentary circumstance when I was a boy.

I pounded red-hot steel as
a black smith’s apprentice; was
no better trade for a young man alone
‘Twas in 18 five 0 when
a tornado blew in
and transformed my dear Springfield to splinters and stone.

Above I hear, do you hear
the sweet children singing?

I died — it was God’s will —
and was buried on the hill
west of town, two feet deeper than most planted so.
But that grave yard was changed:
moved far north, re-arranged.
Oak Ridge now is the place where the dead people go.
I remained, undiscovered.
The ground over was covered
with a beautiful school which was named Springfield High.
Mouldering on is my essence,
an unheralded presence.
As a spirit immortal, I know of school and sky.

Above I hear, do you hear
the sweet children singing?
How the town where I knew
mostly horses and flames grew
through the times good and bad, vibrant with hope and glee,
years of tears and of laughter,
ringing forever after
in the place o’er my grave, how they still comfort me!

Above I hear, do you hear
the sweet children singing?

The two articles I wrote and submitted to Springfield Business Journal were accepted. The editor, a trifle cryptic in his email since he took his well-deserved place at the helm of that fine business monthly, surprised and delighted me with “Great to have you back, Job,” or words close to it.

I  write when I know I have a reason to write. That’s why I enjoy journalism. As deadlines approach, when words and pictures promised must be DELIVERED, I get smarter. I know this, I should be at peace with this and not have to beat myself up when impediments get in the way. It all worked out fine last week, and the bonus of appreciation from editor was the icing on the sweet cake of “mission accomplished.”

So it was with the new poem. When a model building club my aviation museum helps with began meeting  every Wednesday I decided to skip attending a model club meet when  the local writers’ club met on third Wednesdays. Later, an experience with the writing club convinced me I should never participate in the writing club events. In late September, I decided to attend the writers’ club every OTHER month, and October was the month I would attend. After i wrote Joshua Tinkham, I decided I shall attend every month. Why?

It’s not because I feel closer to the people who attend. It’s because I will feel closer to whom I profess to be: a WRITER. Who knows? Maybe this change will foster warmer ties with those who used to be among my closest friends. And if it doesn’t that’s okay too. The creative POET CREEK in me needs an outlet. Third Wednesdays  will be that outlet. I will share the new poem I wrote, a Vachel Lindsay poem called “Simon Legree,” and a poem by Patrick MacGill entitled “The Conger Eel.”

I need to write more for dollars than I’m doing. If I could earn dollars consistently, I  could part company with my current part-time employer.  Ideas?

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

True to Forum

I have come to peace with two facts since my new friend Jean Clinton from New Orleans, Louisiana visited last month. Fact #1: I am a writer. I’m sharing this post at Honey & Quinine because I AM a writer. If I weren’t a writer, you would not be reading this post. Knowing I’m a writer, and vowing today to write much more than I have in recent years, doesn’t make it any easier to be a writer. I read that writers are paranoid, dangerously hypersensitive, procrastinators with suicidal thoughts .

Yes I am.

Earlier this year I advised the well-respected editor of a local business monthly that I was too busy fending off slights and errors of outrageous fortune to continue contributing to the paper. Shooting myself in the foot would have been a more productive option, Those slights and errors took me as close to the precipice of incipient dust as I expect to go to incipient without crossing over. For the last few months I’ve resumed contributing to the publication, thanks to the editor who understood and welcomed me back.

In mid-summer I told the emcee of a local writers’ monthly open microphone event that since I had another time commitment on Wednesdays, I would resume attending her event (which I had avoided for some months) on alternative months. That was a move UP for me. Some may suggest I should never return, considering the bounty of slights and errors I have harvested from it in recent years, but a larger force prevails today. Most social groups have participants who share culinary delights of words that nourish the heart and soul, and most social groups have participants who share, knowingly or innocently, what comes out the other end. I wish I knew a group comprised only of the former, but that would require a larger circle of friends, and I have many fewer than the requisite required for that kind of bliss. The alternating month third Wednesday event downtown is my only chance to show what I am. I would be less than I am if I stayed away. Between today and next Wednesday, I will write two poems or maybe a poem and a song, select a poem by Vachel Lindsay to recite (not read to a piece of paper), and I will be what I am.

My hearing is going south on me. Most of those who come to the microphone will share words I will not hear because they don’t know, or don’t care to know, how to use a microphone . . .  or because my hearing stinks. But regardless, I will be what  I  am.

This week I began Monday with a respectable start on two articles promised to the business monthly. I had two major interviews taped during personal visits and another slated for Tuesday. Logically, I should have spent Monday in my airport office reviewing the two interviews, making notes, transcribing “quotable quotes” from them. Other priorities prevented me: photographing that incredible helicopter, visitors coming through my OPEN office door to talk about the museum and flying, incredible people, piloting airplanes, professionals whose careers required them to fly as passengers to earn a living all over the world. Not all visitors were convivial, impressed by what they saw here, but most were, and that was enough: almost-instant gratification and affirmation for the piece of me that has given my life to aviation. HOURS of this kind of interfacing happened Monday, and I neglected my articles. Driving home Monday about 8 pm, I hated myself for allowing that neglect.

Tuesday went like clockwork:  precisely, on time. Had a terrific interview, arrived on time at a seminar about drones I planned to report about in the December issue, Chatted with several aviation pros I know as valued acquaintances, took some pictures . . . good time. Back at my office I processed pictures I had taken for the articles, celebrated by purchasing a delicious chicken teriyaki submarine sandwich from the Subway restaurant in the airport terminal (dined back at my office desk) and almost-instantly was trounced upon by serious lethargy and the feeling that an adult-size regulation bowling ball was transiting through my gastro-intestinal tract. It hobbled my ability think clearly as a writer. I don’t know that for certain (and if a person doesn’t know for certain — let’s be real here — he or she doesn’t know it at all) but I thought that I knew it . . . and that was all I needed to do something I  could do with one half of my cerebrum tied behind my back: process airplane pictures. Yes, I was very sleepy, but YES, I was determined to do productive work. I made some progress. (YIPEE, I guess) and in late afternoon I went to a room upstairs. . . . . and took a nap for 90 minutes. I have an inflated air mattress  intended for camping, a few pillows and quilt from home, and slept on the carpeted floor. I awoke refreshed and returned to the office darn-near invigorated.

But I processed airplane pictures. It was after 5:00 pm, and my “journalist” hours are 9 am to 5 pm. My poetry and song writer hours are . . . . well, there are none. When it’s time for me to “arts write,” I  arts write. I was miles from that mode Tuesday night. And I went home at 7 after dealing with a few more pictures VOWING I would “write what needs to be writ” all day Wednesday. I hated myself for the rest of the night, but I slept okay.

The next day I got as far as finding my interview files on the digital recorder, I had plugged it into the USB port on the computer to save the battery and transcribe notes from the computer speakers instead of recorder’s ear buds. . . . . . then museum visitors began wandering in through my open office door, and I could not say “no.” It was like that the rest of the DAY! I’ll spare you the details. And then I had to be present for the weekly model club meeting. Again, I felt my back was against the all and I ate myself up and spit myself out (metaphorically) several times going home. What a perfect time for a fatal accident in transit! I could imagine a minor headline: Springfield Native Son/Writer Dies in Collision with Runaway Truck on J. David Jones Parkway, Misses Springfield Business Journal Deadline . . .  Truly I anticipated I was going to be late with my articles, though I knew that I could complete them over the weekend. I didn’t want to do that
because I consider myself a writing pro who respects — and makes  — deadlines. I poetize in color but as a journalist, I work with black and white.

Early arrival Thursday and shut the office door after getting a first cup of coffee and LOCKED it behind me. There would be no visitors, no music. I told the co-owner of Horizon Aviation (where my office is) that I was not going to photograph ANY airplane that arrived on the parking tarmac even if it was a B-52! He understood. Good man, Rob Fisher!

I did what I had to do. I complete the MAJOR article and emailed it to editor by 5:15. The other article was ready to write from the interviews during a personal visit and phone calls made Thursday.

The drive home was almost bliss. As pilots say when descending to the airport after a flight,  I had the field “made.” I knew I could glide the rest of the way to the targeted runway and “home.” In novel and short  fiction writing terms, I had completed the climax; all that was left on Friday morning was the denouement!

So it was. The shorter article was written with office door shut but unlocked and emailed to the editor by 10:15. I can truly relax a little despite museum tasks tapping their figurative feet,  reminding me it’s time to pay attention to them again.

I will after a nice lunch.

The other thing I am? Remember I mentioned two epiphanies? That ramble will have to wait for Saturday. But I’ll tell you now, the other thing, Fact 2, that I am.

I am a Southern man.

Live long   . . . . . . . . and proper . . . . . . . . . y’all.

Keeping What Matters

It’s been a month of high highs and low lows. The highest high in a long time arrived with Jean Clinton who agreed to take charge of the Conger family history publications and correspondence which I “inherited” from Maxine Crowell Leonard of Iowa many years ago. since I was a dreamer looking for love 20 years ago. Details of the visit and the loading of her vehicle, ultra-fast tour of Springfield (including AeroKnow Museum) will be shared soon at my “Do You Know a Conger?” blog when time permits. It was a joyful encounter from start to finish.

At the other end of the spectrum of glory and damnation is the severing of employment with my salvation for the past several years. Weeks ago, with the customer action clearly far short of what George needed to justify keeping me, he began cutting my  hours. AeroKnow Museum was taking more and more of my time — 10 hours, seven days a week on average — and this was during the same time I was working for The Granite Guy 30 hours a week, a significant reduction from 40 hours a week which I had been working at this time last year. The year since last September has been the most challenging of my life: major falling out with the local poetry community, the upstairs (of my duplex) resident breaking her lease  and moving out after nearly destroying the interior with cat odor, ruined appliances and destroyed plumbing, a minor stroke (hospitalized two days), surgery to remove cataracts in both  eyes, further reductions of hours at my employer and complications a plenty for the unhappy duration of it all.

Things began to improve when a kind home improvement expert agreed to repair the upstairs with the understanding that I would pay him as I could, once the place was rented. After I posted pictures of the repaired quarters, a friend in the visual arts community signed a lease. THANK GOD.  I’m back to paying bills, though with the drastic loss of dollars following loss of employer, the net benefit to my income is far less than if I still had a job! I still haven’t been paid for the last month I worked for him!!

All of this nuttiness has affected how I feel about the rest of my life.

I resumed writing (freelance, of course) for a local business monthly. I could very gladly contribute five or six articles to it and anyone else who wanted me to write and photograph for dollars. I love the process of producing the articles almost as much as I enjoy the paychecks. My darn-near ecstasy from producing something pretty light,  news-wise, disappeared a few days ago when I was told unexpected space limitations in the October issue prevented the inclusion of the article they asked me to write, but it WILL make the next issue. I replied to their e-mail advisory with “No prob.” because there’s never a bad time to be paid, and I will probably need the $100 more near the end of October than I need it now. Maybe I can reap an additional assignment or two, or three, from the publication after the October production cycle begins.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about my legacy. Things that used to matter a lot to me when I was 40 matter far less today. Last Tuesday, while waiting for a phone call from Jean that she was on her way to my home so we could fill it with Conger family material, I began examining my vinyl record and CD collection and decided to give away every one I didn’t really want to keep. I reduced my collection by a third. At the end of the Conger family loading, I gave all but one LP and all the surplus CDs to Jean, and she was delighted, thus making me even more delighted.

The next day, I considered a collection of cartoons I had saved after removing them from years of Playboys (circa 1968 to about 1980) and The New Yorker magazines (circa 1981 off and on until this year, and I’m not renewing that subscription.) About 10 years ago I had begun trimming them and placing them into 3-ring binders. Four binders full are on the top shelf of a book case in my living room. Over the years, I clipped and trimmed probably 200  more, letting them accumulate. Over the last year, I have pitched a lot of what I once thought “valuable papers” into the trash bin. Wednesday morning I took down the stack of loose ‘New Yorker cartoons, and I made one step toward the trash can with them and stopped. I considered WHY I want to keep them. At one time, when I imagined I would become a better-known and successful writer than I have proven myself to be over the years hence, I considered that after I die, those who came into my quiet, unoccupied lower half of my duplex might find, appreciate and keep the bindered cartoons and better understand the man I was. It might work to the benefit of my reputation. The more I think about keeping them, the more I realize that collected cartoons don’t matter a bit. I didn’t write them;  I just LIKED them. I thought they were smart and funny. Last year I pitched away all the articles I had saved from the same magazines. I knew they would be neither seen nor appreciated by strangers who found them. So they’re landfill. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the cartoons . . . . I really don’t.

There are drawers in chests of drawers in my house, once full of articles, correspondence greeting cards, clothes,  that are empty now. There will be more. Dishes and kitchen gear I’ve not  used in five years is going too, to the Salvation Army or friends. Maybe I’ll offer some of it for sale, cheap at my “surplus room” at AeroKnow Museum. A man has to eat. I know I’m  never going to make a pizza at home, Maybe someone can use the cast iron skillet I’ve had but never used since mom gave it to me  when she was getting ready to retire to Florida in 1979. I’ve bought my last coat. Those I have today will be fine for years to come. I’ve probably bought my last pair of shoes.

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

Yesterday, my nephew — my brother and his mother named  him Job — sent me a nice note after reading — for the first time — a Honey & Quinine post I wrote about him in 2009. I was in something of a tailspin after unhappiness with a friend I will always remember as the woman “whom the angels named Lenore, nameless here forevermore” (thank you E. A. Poe). For the first time since both of us had been born, I found myself talking to my nephew, and the conversation really settled the maelstrom in my mind that night. On September 6, my nephew thanked me for posting that post in 2009. Today, I responded to his comment, and I’m sharing it with you.

(to Job, V:)
. . .  “I’m glad you found the post, nephew. From the traces of what I’ve read of your life on Facebook — beyond the words of wisdom from others you’ve shared — you’re doing okay, and that’s excellent. I always enjoy reading your posts. If you’re walking a rocky road these days, I hope things improve for you soon. If it’s any comfort to you, I hope you understand that nobody escapes heartbreak and travail on this earth, not the happiest person you know, not the richest person you know, not the most admired person you know. It’s all part of the package called “coincidence,” or the God who espouses hate as much as love. We all make mistakes too; people we consider wise and those we consider not wise. But if we are smart — and I believe you are very smart — we land on our feet and climb another mountain after we fall. You will too, good nephew.

“You will too. :)”

I will too, friends and strangers. You will too.

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

Catching Up Again

What a year! I’m almost out of one bramble bush, but my path through what’s left of my life necessarily takes me to another one, leaving little time for relief; only regret, as I lurch, inexorably toward the next one..

In early May 2014, knowing I had serious cataract problems with my eyes, a condition that prevented me from driving legally with a valid drivers’ license, I consulted an eye surgeon, someone who removes cataracts. For more than a year I worked to arrange the procedures. When an agency wanted verification of my employment and pay history, my employer took not days or weeks but  MONTHS to provide them. A county medical assistance agency consulted with me over months as I waited for my employer’s information, and while waiting, last August or so, depressed as hell, I GAVE UP trying, even after I had received what I had asked for in May. I didn’t go to a scheduled appointment at the county agency, and soon after, I received a notice from them that I had missed the appointment, and that I would have to re-apply. In November I changed my mind about giving up, wrote the local agency whom I visited on time and followed their advice to contact the state agency.  I didn’t. I was miserable. In late April 2015 my case worker at the state agency called ME, asked if I was okay, wondering what the situation was with the eye doctor. After I explained SHE performed a minor miracle that re-connected me to my eye surgeon. She said the funding would come, but we’d have to wait another month because the Lasik surgery apparatus intended for my weaker eye, the right one, was available only one day a month, and we’d missed it for the current month. The surgery on the right one, and a month later on the left one (didn’t require the Lasik apparatus) was completed as scheduled. The operations were complicated, requiring pre-surgery preparation on my part and lots of self-delivered eye drops medications on schedule after. But the operations themselves were almost JOYOUS experiences for me. The medical people were friendly, professional, knew what they were doing, and my discomfort level during both was no worse than a pin prick. The business of post surgery eye exams by another eye doctor was less than happy, but he seemed to be competent, and I decided the Prairie Lasik and Eye Center would not have hired him if he was not. I kept my frustration with him. He was as warm as a cucumber, I got my glasses, and that was that. Not quite.

I find I STILL NEED to use a magnifying glass to read small print in some books. THAT BOTHERS the BEJEEBERS out of me! I had not expected THAT!  I’m disappointed. When my finances allow, I will visit another eye glass business — after I’ve paid the bills for the past year of treatments — and see about getting the glasses I thought I would get the first time. Even so, there is a sunny side to the outcome: I have a doctor’s statement to take to the drivers license facility. It says the condition that prevented me from a license has been remedied, and that my eyes are now of acceptable acuity to permit me to drive on Illinois streets. One would have expected that I would have rushed to the licensing people and obtained my new drivers license the day that statement was handed to me. I haven’t gone yet, but I plan to this week if I have the time. My outlook on life is still sub-nominal.

As the eye situation evolved some other events took place. Last October, the person who rented my upstairs duplex for four years broke her lease and moved out over two days, leaving a litany of broken fixtures, cat urine-stained carpeting and more. She had promised not to leave until spring since nobody wants to move into a new home after school starts and Chiistmas is around the corner. Even if the place had been left in perfect condition,  I knew chances were slim that I could get it leased before spring. Even so I put my rental sign into my front yard, and that later that week was called by a fellow who wanted to see the place.

I showed it to him and his pregnant girl friend. They loved it. He said he was an experienced renovator and he’d gladly fix it up if I’d discount the rent for a few months. So we agreed. And then I began writing checks and eating like a bleeping hobo. First to go , upstairs, was the cat-stained carpeting. The woman said the odor was dangerouts for pregnant women. They replaced it with hard surface wood veneer flooring that looked fine. He started to re cover the floors in two of the three bedrooms with new tiles but didn’t finish them after I purchased all the tiles he needed. Then I told me he could not lease the place because he had just been transferred to a job in Chicago, but he promised to finish the renovation before he had to move in January. In the meantime, the couple would stay at his dad’s house where they had lived for several months. Then they left and never came back. The next day I had the locks re-keyed. And the duplex remained vacant all winter. And it was a very hard winter with the loss of that rental income and having to drive at night (home from work) with cataracts in my eyes that were getting worse.

On Wednesday night, December 3, 2014, I decided after work to skip the Illinois Pilots Association meeting I had planned to attend and work in the museum I’m developing at the local airport. It was a lucky decision. Two hours into the evening the museum was visited by an impressive group of US Air Force Academy administrators who had landed at the airport to refuel their airplane so they could continue their home-bound flight to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Leading the group was the  superintendent of the Academy. We had a WONDERFUL visit. I get along well with aviation people. I took pictures. I promised to stay in contact with the superintendent’s aide de camp. It was a knockout terrific encounter of the best kind.

The next day after a lunch of coffee and peanut butter and strawberry preserves sandwiches, I had a minor stroke.

To be continued. Thanks for reading this.

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

So Many Strangers

Last night, for the last time, I attended an arts event where I always enjoyed sharing my poems and songs and poetry and songs of others. The last song I sang is one I wrote on March 31, 1991. Here are the lyrics . . .

Bullet in the Back

Have you ever prayed for a bullet in the back
That will kill you when you’re crying,
That will end the rain and agonizing pain
That you feel when you feel like dying?
Do you wait for the runaway truck in the street
To snuff away that last heart beat
As you wallow in a whirlpool of defeat
And memories of days that were sunshine sweet?
Have you ever prayed for a bullet in the back
That will make your life complete?

He’s a man who prays for a bullet in the back,
Who has lost his zeal for living,
Who’s ashamed to share the hurt that’s deep within
And is damned if he’ll try forgiving
Of his parents who did the best they could
Though he felt they  never really understood
Of his friends for offenses, though intentions were good,
And himself for not doing as he should.
He’s a man who prays for a bullet in the back
As he always feared he would.

There’s  a problem that comes with a bullet in the back
To a person thinking through it:
How to fabricate some morbid twist of fate
That will make some bastard do it.
Not a Buddha or a Christ will take the aim
Though a devil might relish assuming blame,
But an East Side demon with an alien name
Might send you back to where you came.
There’s a problem that comes with a bullet in the back
When it’s more than just a game.
When it’s more than just a game
When it’s more than

Two months ago, some listeners I’d never met at Joe Gallina’s Pizza Restaurant in lyrical downtown Springfield, suggested I should sing my other songs (including some better songs) while sitting on a bench on the restored Old Capitol Square with an open guitar case. That is a greater shame than playing for the three people who I sang for last night. I love to sing and recite for people I’ve never met, but only when there is at least one friend present. Last summer I played during a festival or a sort at a restored stage coach village west of Springfield. The sound system was superb, there were many strangers, and there were three friends. Not close friends, maybe well-liked and respected acquaintances . . . and that was close enough. They had no clue how important their presence was to me. One had invited to play at this event.

I have read of so many artists who died penniless, friendless, and by their own hands, and I stand starkly, amazed and sorry about circumstances I wish I could understand.  Springfield poet Vachel Lindsay is a favorite. Lindsay scholar and a brilliant gentleman who had been good to me, Dennis Camp,  “went west” in his own way at his own chosen time. WHY?

If you are NOT sans friends — and not many of my acquaintances are NOT sans friends — (lucky bastards) you’ll not likely appreciate the comfort zone created by sharing your perhaps-inaccurately-perceived incapacities  and sins with strangers . . . so many strangers. We craft our joys and sorrows, We make soup into a steak dinner on a framed canvas, into a poem on a page or a song shared alive and evermore (as Fate permits) in recorded sound. Lots of artists have lots of friends. Deservedly so.

I wish I knew more about people who read Honey & Quinine. To understand that sometimes you ascribe “value” to what I share here with so many strangers . . . this is not working well for me. The time to hang things from the clothes line for passing, curious, readers to engage with eyes and hearts is AFTER they come, from the Whirlpool or Maytag, after the last spin cycle, from the laundry room in the basement. Some things will dry with wrinkles even after soap and sun. That’s okay.

In the meantime, I’m treading water. . . swimming when I have the hope that drives the swim . . . in strong current and a long way from the shore. And since sharing with so . . . many . . . strangers keeps my head above water — as it has for some years now — I will continue until I don’t. Thanks for being out there.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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!  :)


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