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It’s This or Go Nuts

I turned 70 September 5. It was an important day for me. Probably my last “milestone” event if you don’t count my death, and I don’t expect to count my death.I am a pathetically lonely married mother’s lucky son. I see and talk with at least six people every day but I’m still lonely. I interface with the people I encounter the way I interface with the nice barn I see when driving 55 over to Jacksonville. I see them, maybe I say eight words or so to most of them, and life goes on.

In recent moths, and with increasing frequency since my 70th birthday, I’ve come home tired, durn-near shuffling-my-feet exhausted, from a day  at the airport where I’m developing a small aviation museum, then from  a part-time employer and perhaps three or four more hours at the museum. I eat a light dinner and nap. Often  I pirouette from my computer in my bedroom to my bed, and fall asleep in then minutes. I awaken, usually between 2:30 and 4:00, and spend an hour or two in silence, sometimes reading aviation history, trying to get back to sleep.  Tonight I drank two beers to help me get sleepy, but though it took the edge off my anxiety, it hasn’t helped me or motivated me to return to sleep. The last of the two I started about 4 am today will be finished when I conclude this post, turn off the computer, pirouette and return to bed.  I have thought about resuming regular posts here on Honey & Quinine, and that appears to be where I’m going.

A few weeks before my birthday party at my home I recognized alcohol “is not my friend,” and vowed not to keep any in my house. It was a noble idea and I stayed true to it about a week and a half, then found a way to be “true” to the vow on a technicality.  I began bringing home two “tall cans” of beer, one night a week and consuming every drop before going to bed, thus to “consume” without “keeping.”  There were benefits. Surfing the internet porn sites ceased without regret or frustration. I didn’t crave it when drinking beer, didn’t need it, and I felt better about myself as a result. For my birthday party, I purchased 48 cans of 12 oz beer, and the night of the party, guests drank four of them. They were “wine people;” not “beer people.” I am a wine person when I can afford it, but I’ve become a beer person since the party. I’ve consumed all but two of the 44 since the party, two or four every evening, usually two with dinner and the other two in the early morning hours as I’ve done this morning. I’ll finish the last two  Wednesday night after a model club meeting, and I won’t buy any more beer or wine to keep in the house.

I’m going to TRY to blog more regularly to induce sleep. I have a lot to say “for the record and to no one in particular.” Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. But the way I feel tonight at 5:10 am Wednesday morning, it’s either this or go nuts.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Seventy Status Report

About a month ago, I reached out to people I consider “friends” in a way that most people I know would probably consider illogical and hare-brained. On my Facebook account I invited those friends to a party I would have at my home on my 70th birthday. Because I am not a cook, I announced I would by the Kentucky Fried Chicken, beer, plates and plastic cups and forks. I suggested that all who wanted to share a dish at the party were welcome to bring something.

My current way of living limited my invitation to people I like and respect via Facebook. I have ZILCH social life except for my appearances at poetry “open mics”
and the art gallery receptions. I’m on friendly terms with many people I encounter beyond Fb, but I rarely see them, and all are, at best, benign, respected acquaintances.

In the month before the party, things which hadn’t mattered to me for TEN YEARS, suddenly mattered very much because people I like were going to visit my house (!!!), and I was determined to not let them see the empty, neglectful, shell of a man I had become. For the first time  in probably 20 years, I vacuumed my house. The upright vacuum I had bought ten years ago was broken (it was broken when I bought it from a low-life acquaintance, but I didn’t realize the beater brush had ceased to function until September 2, so I cleaned the carpets, loose debris in kitchen and bathroom on hands and knees with a small hand vac with a long power cord. I trimmed branches . . . took junk that had accumulated under by back porch deck and in a distant corner beyond the line of sight to my  storage shed to my employer’s dumpster and deposited it there with his permission . . . cleaned up the basement, washed walls, doors, most of the dribbled liquid stains from walls of stove, refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. I didn’t get to all the dribbles cleanup. Somehow I thought it “in-authentic” of me to give the impression that I was/am a better housekeeper than I really am. If a few people deduced that I was having a hard time with life, that’s what I WANTED them to think, and if  they didn’t that was okay too.

The party exceeded my hopes. I didn’t drink a lot of beer and wine, I enjoyed talking with everyone. I recited some of my favorite Vachel Lindsay poems and sang a few of my songs — fewer than most folkss might have expected. This was no night for serious performing; not a “concert night” which would have arrested the repartee in motion. Many friends attended, those who did not because of unforeseen circumstances : well, that was okay. Those who made it showed me what I wanted to know. That I AM a man with some redeeming qualities, and good people, treasured friends, cared enough to demonstrate their shared affinity for me, at a time when dire circumstances, which I shan’t describe now,  impede my own affinity for me.

And on balance, this is a much better start to my new year than the hellish anquish that visited this house in early September, 2016. Fiends (I call them The OINKS) had vacated the upstairs duplex, stolen significant possessions of mine in the process, damaged the living quarters so there was no way I could rent it to new residents without major, EXPENSIVE  RENOVATION.  They left behind deep ruts in the front yard they promised to repair but  did not,  a basement full of household trash that I disposed of over months this past spring. For the first time in my ownership of my home, I endured a winter with no income from renters. The blistering disappointment from The OINKS was worse than any aftermath from any former residents. My standard of living and outlook on life in general, which had been “going south” over the past three YEARS began to improve as the weather warmed.

For the first time in years, I don’t have to carry jugs of tap water from my bathroom to my kitchen sink when I need to wash dishes. For the first time in years, my bathroom toilet can be FLUSHED. (I’ll spare you details, but it was not a pretty picture.) A 70th birthday party here last week would have been OUT OF THE QUESTION without a flushing toilet!  It appears I’m rising from a horrible run OF YEARS into a better future.

The party will take awhile to pay for with some help with a home equity loan from the bank. . . . . but it  was NECESSARY to, at least, delay an undesirable inevitability.
I am determined, and focused, as never before, to get my nose above the stench of yesterdays and into air where I will never find myself  immobilized in de-facto catatonia.  I feel mentally heathy — nobody’s out to “get me.” Unlike many, I speak and  write frequently with  forethought and complete sentences. I feel I am in almost-amazingly good physical health.

As the dust from the 70th birthday party continues to settle, I intend to post more frequently here at Honey & Quinine and write poetry  and songs more often. We shall see . . . .

Thanks for reading this post.

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

I’m not going to shoot myself.  I don’t own a gun. If I did own a gun, I would not have lived so long. I don’t intend to buy a gun.

Four days ago I lost my prescription eyeglasses, and though I can “get by” without wearing them, I have engaged a precarious balancing act as I lurch along dealing with my incapacity to afford replacement glasses. My eye doctor has explained my sight malady is not correctable with better glasses offering more magnification. The condition is macular degeneration. The most I  can do to delay further dimunition of my sight is to take an over-the-counter “vitamin,” which I’ve been taking twice a day for the past year, and it is sustaining sight. I recently passed my eye exam, and am “street legal” for driving day and night.  But pervading my life for four days is an “overtone” like a constant ringing in my ears (though my ears don’t ring) of shame for losing the glasses and failing, over the passing of the days looking everywhere under the sun for them and not finding them. And with that overtone has come growing incapacity to think rationally and positively. This blog post is an example that, I feel, confirms my incapacity for  rational thought.

Over the weekend I metaphorically shot myself in “the future” as I departed an arts fundraising event in which I had been a featured, named, participant. It was an event which I thought, at first, would be a long-hoped for boost for my efforts (over the past 20 years) to earn significant recognition. I believed, as the event concluded, that I would have come home more satisfied with myself and the support shared by the few acquaintances I knew at this event, if I had performed one hundred forward somersaults in fast succession on the lawn at the event. As a result of my disappointment there, I  walked away from a new acquaintance, a professional, positive thinker whose friendship I had earlier vowed (to myself) to nurture. In doing so, I wrote the “death sentence” to my 20 years of aspirations and the likely end of my efforts to recite my favorite poems written by internationally acclaimed poet Vachel Lindsay.  Leading up to that “shot,”  for a full half an hour, I pondered my  intention to go home sadder, more disappointed with that person,  than I imagined I would leave, literally an hour earlier.  I understood that I had the power to leave bitter or affirmed. I could “board the peace train” or I could hurl myself onto the tracks as it departed, and leave the bloody mess of my wrong decision on the tracks for all to see as I dove home.

In the brief face-to-face with new acquaintance — no harsh language, no gestures with arm or finger, no raised voices  — for the duration of the encounter, I shot myself in the future.

I drove home with no rushing, used my turn signals even for lane changes, even though traffic was sparse at 9:05 in the evening. I didn’t lurch the vehicle into turns, and I didn’t slam the door after I entered my living room from my front porch.

This morning I awoke with my mind and heart awash in a tempest of sorrow.

I considered my options, probably could have found a way to “leave the shambles” if I had thought that was what I should do. There was some wine left from last night, but I’ve not touched it; don’t intend to touch it this evening when I return home from a day at the airport.

What comes next I don’t know. I am determined to spend time productively at the airport museum today. The “closed” sign will be posted in the lobby of the business which hosts it so I can concentrate on making the day worthwhile. I believe my time with Lindsay is over. So is my “arts presence” on Facebook. Anything I share about the arts with be shared here at Honey and Quinine.

Life goes on.
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Live long . . . . . . and proper.

No Next of Kin

I’m feeling as low as I’ve felt in my life. Every thing is about dollars that I don’t have. Because I’m not mad at those whose conduct — misconduct is more correct — I have allowed to steer me to this, I’m not going to describe that misconduct, and I’m not naming anyone; not even with a pseudonym. I’m going to describe what I’m doing and how I feel.

A few days ago, I visited  the eye  doctor I’ve been checking in with every six months since my cataract surgery a few years ago.  He was not the surgeon; he’s the follow-up fellow. The reason I’ve been seeing him periodically — not the usual routine following cataract removal — is that an evolving  degradation of visual acuity was discovered soon after my first followup:  It’s a force that I can’t keep at bay with eye glasses, even eye glasses with  prescriptions updated periodically. The condition is macular degeneration.  Every year information about symptoms I experience (allergies, broken bones. medications) is updated. When I visited last week, I was asked to update my information, and I was doing okay until two  questions lit a fire in my  head and heart that simmers as I write this.  Question 1. “Who is to be notified in case of emergency?”  “That’s easy,” I said to the receptionist. “Notify the coroner!”
I blurted a bitter “Ha-ha!” and continued to question 2. Next of kin? I didn’t have a snappy response. I  wrote “none” on the blank space.

Probably my most unexpected short-fall at my age is that I  am close to no one. It’s been three years since I’ve had “friends” or acquaintances to my home for conversation, a meal and drinks. I’ve walked away from everyone who might have considered me a friend, people I truly considered my friends for years. Now I’m at arms’ length with everyone I know. I KNOW a LOT of PEOPLE.  Many of that “lot” are friendly.  We get along okay for the perhaps 30 seconds of exchange over exceptionally rare phone conversations and short exchanges of typed text over Facebook .  I have no romance. One must have money to sustain the possibility, though even rarer, the POSSIBILITY, of a kiss or better. Yet I fall for pretty faces and dreams almost as often as I used to, just to prove to myself that I’m not becoming a better recluse,  though it sure as hell SEEMS that I am.

Some days, I am curious about how people who have no next of kin are dealt with when they die.  My sister has distanced herself, vowed never to speak to me for the rest of her life because of “slights” I committed against her storybook-perfect family.  I came along 12 years after she was born. I don’t even know if she’s alive. I hope she is. I adored her. Always did until she “lowered the boom” on my our relationship. My younger brother died about five years ago.  We were starting to reconcile after decades of estrangement

A barely functioning “gutter denizen” who begs in the street for food and wine, who finally dies in a dark alley from congestive heart failure or liver poisoning is no further distant from a better fate (What boyhood dream might he have as he exhales a final sigh and does not INhale?) than I am as I live, simply to prove I do not want to die.

I have no interest in burial.  What happens to the body (my own) where I will cease to “be,” is of no  concern to me.

So for now I consider myself lucky to sustain my breathing. I’m engaging activities and tasks I want to engage and ignoring MANY tasks that cause me anguish. When a person in deep water starts behaving as though there is no tomorrow, odds are good that as he plays the blubbering iconoclast, he has given up swimming. He believes he will never reach the shore line. He will never transit from the storm-tossed sea — in which he treads water — to the firmament of resolution beneath his feet and sunshine to warm his future.

“What’s the use of worrying?
What’s the use of scurrying?
What’s the use of anything?””

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Live long . . . . . . and proper

 

Demo Project is a small gallery in a small residential house  next door to the Springfield Art Association’s offices, gallery and restored mansion, popularly known as “the Old Edwards Place.” Demo features single artist and sometimes multiple artists’ work, welcomes the public to opening receptions and in recent  months, has invited poetry feedback from local poets, of which I have become a “”regular.” The feedback follows visits to the gallery the week or two following the opening and a subsequent sharing of poems inspired by the visual  art.  Pictured below are pictures I took during my Saturday afternoon visit.  The one pictured at the top of this post inspired the poem  I wrote an following my visit and read at the reading event which took place about a week later.


The creation  of the “ensemble”  (which are a single product like The Beatles — left to right: John, Paul, George and Ringo) inspired the poem that is shared below.

Black in a Box
by Job COnger
the weight of woe
that hangs on walls
in frames, if lead,
would crush through floors.
The futile flirt
with nothingness
impedes sweet dreams
and bars the doors.

Far more than op-
posites of o-
timistic, hopes
that rise with ev-
ry new day’s dawn
they smite inci-
pient dreams with
dark devil spawn.

The colored frames
imply eigi-
timacy to
the lie, the void,
They foster death
that lies in wait
to pulverize
the paranoid.

So I shall scoff
contemptuous to
the grim tableau
that oozes dread
and celebrate
rainbows of joy
that sing to us
with glee instead.

— written at 9:25 am, March 29, 2017.

The idea of four-syllable lines came  as I wrote the third or fourth tentative line. I  knew at the start that I wanted to describe the empty BLACKness of the “ensemble” and play off the  shiny, bright frames. As I began to write the fourth stanza I knew I wanted to resolve my reaction in a positive direction. . . . and I’m satisfied with the result.

Below is an example I created with Corel PhotoPaint to suggest whimsy in the direction of color. I like the result of this whimsy as much as I like my poem.

Demo310-3.jpg
Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

 

 

Coming Clean

In is my nature to be illogically logical when it comes to considering my life in recent years. I think I am learning why people who have been important to me through the years — Jeffrey Halden, Hunter S. Thompson, Robin Williams, Dennis Camp, Vachel Lindsay,  — have taken their own lives, and believing that I understand why they’ve taken that final recourse, I have used that empathetic connection to prevent, or delay, mine. Another significant insight to the malaise came with David McCullough’s wonderful, highly recommended biography of Harry S. Truman entitled Truman. In it McCullogh explains how Secretary of Defense James Forrestal died, falling to his death at Bethesda Naval Hospital  after checking himself in for treatment of severe depression.  The author describes symptoms of self-destructive behavior that preceded his death, and that led me to consider some of my own. In one of his hit songs, Billy Joel sings, “I know there is no one who can save me from myself.” I believe that. But knowing that line that “the piano man” wrote to be true, does not help, or lead me, to feel better.

McCullough wrote that Forrestal picked at his scalp until it bled. There were spots of no hair on his because of this scratching.  I’ve picked at my scalp  until it has bled, but not significantly, and  I still have re respectable spread of my original hair up there.  But, motivated by unhappy  challenges to keeping a  positive balance in my checking account, I  have done my best to keep my household water bill to a minimum. For most of 2016 after a water pipe in my basement crawl space burst and renters upstairs enlisted the free help  of one of their friends who  stopped the leak, but in so doing, he also stopped the flow of water to my kitchen sink. That brought a new challenge.  For 11 months last year, I carried water from my bathroom  bathtub spigot to my kitchen to wash dishes. Dirty dishes ddd not pile up often because it was easier to rinse off dishes and use them again. Early this year, the pipe fixed last year burst AGAIN in the basementsoon after the first major frost of this winter. It led to  an unimaginable water bill because I hadn’t been doing laundry  in the basement for weeks  at a stretch. There was no water damage because it had been flowing out through  the basement drain.   The plumber’s repair bill plus the water usage bill were astro-freaking NOMENAL! The city  water utility subsequently reduced my bill since the reduced water flow registering with the utility proved I had had it repaired, but the total bill still took my breath away. Thanks to home equity loans  I have paid most of the plumbing bill and part of the utility bill by  this time. In the meantime I’ve  avoided showers and baths since about Christmas of 2016

To be sure, I’ve occasionally washed areas usually  kept covered by pants over the months. I’ve become haunted by the hear of unknowingly bothering associates with what I call “old man odor.”  No one has complained but I’m pretty sure that’s because I’m seldom close so close to other people who might NOTICE. There may be some who have noticed and been too polite to tell me about my “problem.” Instead, those people hardly ever communicate with me.

At night in bed I have often scratched dead skin from my face, especially around the eye and nose, behind my ear lobes sometimes the skin  under my beard.  It comes off into my fingernails. When they’re full of dead skin, I clean them  with a tooth pick or piece of card or folded paper, and continue to scratch — not because anything itches, but because  I don’t want people to see my flaky skin and my dandruff in my bushy eyebroows. The positive side from not washing my scalp is that it stays in place, though it was becoming hard to keep in place with the accumulation of whatever was accumulating topside. It did have a matted down look to it and though it wasn’t pleasing, it was tolerable to me. I was saving some dollars.

Saturday afternoon I took a shower for the first time since last December, a nice, long, hot shower. I had been invited to a party, the house was tolerably cool from the uptick in weather late last week.  That was “divine coincidence.” My furnace broke a few weeks ago and I’ve decided to “tough it out” until next fall. Thank GOD the water heater works!

Last night during the gathering at a friend’s house, I noticed how much cleaner my hands feel: not exactly “softer,” but smoother . Another plus is how much better my clorhes feel on me: no hint of chafing binding. And the scalp is the major improvement. a little breeze outside can muss it a mite, and that’s okay; I have air brushes in my car and office desk. I can get things neat when it’s important; not a big deal.

So now that I’m  “clean for a day,” I’m in no rush for my next shower. I’m guessing I’m going to shampoo every two weeks, and until the weather warms into the high 70s, I plan to try to go a month before my next shower. I’ll have to see how it goes. If i’m invited to another party, I probably won’t wait another month.

I am not trying to behave like a petulant 10 year old who doesn’t want to take baths or showers. I OLVE  showers. Iast night I actually sat down in my slow-to-drain bath bub and washed/scratched a TON  of dead skin off my feet, ankles and between my toes. I was amazed!  There was so much dead white skin on the top of the dirty water,  it looked like a light blizzard had passed over an asphalt parking lot. Of course after I stood up I thoroughly rinsed and wiped ever inch of my lower torso and legs that had been iimmersed in that fetid brine. I was also amazed how much my toenails had grown since Ii had most-recently taken off my socks.  I had to darn-near peel  the bottom of my socks off my feet. It had been at least a month since I had changed socks.

I HOPE that my plumbing bills will be paid in full by the time I take another shower. I do intend to wash my face  with soap and water more frequently.  That’s one area of demonstrable act of self-respect that  I really intend to make a habit, at least every second or third morning.

Last night’s “coming  clean” seems to have been a sellf-baptism or a sort. My burden of guilt and shame seems palpably lighter.  A new week began today. Perhaps a new life began as well.

– – – – – –

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

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Pre-ramble:  It’s been a crazy-cold winter, the worst I can remember (remembering, of course, that the older one becomes, the less one can remember) and the cold has badly bent my  attitude about life, what there is left of it, anyway. I’ve wanted to post about it, but I don’t want to be a whiner. We all have our “off days.” I’ve had a winter of them. But in a small way my attitude about life was affirmed with the news that another reader (and a blogger in his own write) has become a “follower” of Honey & Quinine. So my attitude is beginning to thaw a mite. For the time being I have resolved to post at least a picture  and a blog every time I learn a new follower is aboard H&Q. Every three times someone “likes” a post, I will also post anew. Sometimes, I feel most of the people I KNOW are betting against me, and it looks  like THEY are going to win those bets. So you strangers, out in Blog-Land, may be the  most important part of my life at this “partickler” time.  FRIENDS, if you’re for me, thanks for being friends, too.
. . . . . .
bppts-1

One of my dearest memories of growing up with my parents at my childhood home at 2016 S. Whittier Avenue, Springfield, Illinois (about two blocks from my own house where I live today) is finishing my breakfast and watching my father put on his rubber boots before leaving home on  a snowy day to walk half a block to the nearby bus stop to ride to  work downtown. It seemed a manly thing to do. After mom and dad divorced, he left his boots behind, and as a 19-year-old, I  adopted them. I wore them probably 10 times — always when shoveling snow from sidewalk and driveway — and when I moved to my first apartment, and every residence that came after. When I moved to my current home about 11 years ago, dad’s boots came along. It was summer, and I put them into a small closet where I forgot about them. When I needed to shovel snow I wore my old shoes, not a big deal. Last week, I began throwing away things that no longer mean as much to me as they did in earlier years: pictures  of people and places that no longer matter, books I’ll never read again, thousand of business cards I kept as a record of people and places I  had written about for publications, possible contacts, places that existed and went out of business . . . and dad’s boots. When I discovered them, it was obvious they weren’t “winter-worth y because the rubber has split and the buckles were rusty. And my memories of dad are not, at my tender olding age, what they were in years of yore. So today, they are residents of a bag I’ll be discarding into a dumpster Thursday morning. Good bye, Dad . . . . .but not quite.
ChvS10-3
When dad died in 1994, I sold the car I was driving at the time, and drove his Ford Escort for a few years. As I was cleaning the detritus from under the seats,  I encountered a rumpled canvas “fishing hat” he wore when he was driving the Esort and I placed it under the front seats of the next two vehicles I owned. When the 1995 Chevy S10 caught fire a few weeks ago  (I  wasn’t nearby when it happened; long  story.) it was towed to a junkyard, a total loss. The engine compartment forward of the  almost-undamaged cabin was a  mess. I had  to return to the junk yard to traa the truck documentation to  them, and when I cleaned out the cabin I found dad’s hat.
snow-2

Of course I have placed his hat in the vehicle I drive today, pictured here in my driveway at home. For now, the crumpled hat, too  small for me to wear, rides next to me on the passenger seat.
dadshat-1
Here it is. I’ll move it out of the way if I ever find a living passenger for that seat. I don’t believe I ever will, but one never knows.  Having “dad” present and visible it’s a good thing; not sad. I somehow feel his watchful, loving presence as I drive. I DO love this vehicle, and it’s a good match.
. . . On rare days when he and i could day 20 words to each other without one of us  starting to argue with each other, I loved him a lot. Loved mom too. His presence is an invisible hand on my shoulder, keeping me paying attention to traffic, checking the rear view mirror before changing lanes. I’m glad he’s there, wherever he is.

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Live long . . . . . . and proper.