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.
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?””

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.

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.


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.
. . . . . .

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.
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.

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.
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.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

Behinder Update 2-18-17

Thought I’d be back to update before now, but it has been a nutty month.  I continue slogging through the mire of my incompetence while observing; deriving satisfaction from improvements in my life here and there.

For one thing, I can close my bathroom door so that it latches. That means, one would surmise, that I can welcome guests over, knowing that they can use my bathroom with some sense of security, knowing that no one’s going to hear whatever’s going on in there even if they’re standing next to the door in the hallway. On the downside, I still can’t flush the toilet. On the positive side, I learned recently that feces do break down and emulsify in the water at the bottom of the bowl. A very slight stream of water comes into the bowl and carries the well-emulsified, stirred (with a toilet bowl cleaning brush) “brown” liquid and eventually the water is clear again. So dispite the happy news about the door and the eventual clearing of the water, I don’t dare invite friends over. That and the fact that I have nothing to offer but conversation (no money for wine and munchies) limits the sense of accomplishment from this minor improvement in my “quality  of life” to only what I am privileged to share with myself.

I ran my first load of laundry in the basement about a month after the plumber fixed the water leak — still no working drying since previous upstairs PIGS, the Hamiltons, broke MY dryer — and my practice of letting my clothes dry on hangared and closet door knobs continues. I’m amazed how nice and unwrinkled my shirts and wash & wear slacks look when they’re dry. But I know I will never be able to RENT my upstairs which has been vacant, not producing the $700 monthly income it produces when people live upstairs, until the bleeping dryer is fixed. I’m lucky I was able to cut back on expenses, including FOOD for the past month and a half. But that water leak was WAY MORE SERIOUS THAN I IMAGINED it would be. The bill from water usage alone was just more than $700! HOLY CALONEY! They’re giving me an adjustment since  I had it fixed but still it’s a WHALE of a BILL. My second of promised $740 payments to the plumbing company is due February 21, and I KNOW I’ll have to get another loan to pay that payment. A final $740 payment will be due March 20, after which that debt will be paid, and I can fix the floor upstairs in April in the hope that I will find new renters for the upstairs. I can’t sustain my high falutin’ lifestyle (Ramen noodles and half a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup  for dinner most of the week) if I can’t find upstairs renters.

Life goes on at the airport, though my museum is not getting the attention it merits since I’m so depressed with the rest of my life as well as the lack of progress with the museum.  I’m still working part time at my employer, and that means grocery money; average grocery expenditure:  $50 a bleeping week.  And I’m not living as lavishly as that figure suggests. I had been taking two peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to work with me Tuesdays through Fridays, but I’ve cut that back to one sandwich.  Most nights for dinner it’s the half can of soup stirred into drained noodles with instant iced tea or wine (cheap Carlo Rossi Burgundy by the gallon jug).  A gallon lasts about a week, though on the seventh day, its paucity is felt. I need to cut back on the wine. It’s not helping, I think.

I’ll continue this blather in a few days.

Thanks for reading it.

P.S. This blog has picked up some new “followers” over the last few weeks, and I’m truly grateful for that. I wish you all lived next door so I could SEE YOU AND TALK WITH YOU. A long-time friend and follower,  a nice LOCAL gentleman whom I’ve not seen in more than TWO YEARS, sometimes comments words to the effect, “Hang in there Job. I hope it all works out.” I post Honey & Quinine to leave tracks; NOT TO ASK FOR SYMPATHY or even DOLLARS. It’s important for me to leave a record of what is happening to me, something to share with the infinite life of the Internet.  Footprints in the snow.,

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

Late Late Update

These days (since after the big election but before the coronation) I’ve been pessimistic about my life for a year I imagine I will not see through to the end. I’m 69 and in the best physical shape I’ve been in since my 20s. Yes, my hearing is  not as sharp. I miss 60% of what I hear on the radio sometimes. If I am five feet or closer to the person speaking to me, I usually don’t ask the person to “say again, please?” And often it’s easier to nod my head and say “wow” or “oh, right” if I’ve  heard enough to suppose that’s all that’s appropriate. I have two expensive hearing aids which I’ve not worn since before Christmas because: 1. I misplaced them and didn’t find them until I found them in a shirt pocket a week ago. I know the batteries are dead. I have batteries at my airport museum office, but I’ve not bothered to put new ones because they won’t help matters much. 2. I think my hearing will be okay until it’s time to “go.”

My eyes are okay. In November when I got around to renewing my drivers license, I passed the eye exam at the license bureau, I passed by a hair. I’m “street legal.”

For the past year, I’ve not had a working kitchen faucet. I’ve carried dish washing and coffee water from bathroom to kitchen in gallon glass jugs (washed, of course) that once contained Carlo Rossi Burgundy, the least-expensive wine I can find.
— I had new year’s resolved to stop buying wine, but a depressing encounter with a new friend Sunday led to my “re-thinking” of that vow. I bought a fresh gallon going home from the airport. —
Things were okay with the “krippled kitchen” arrangement, but it was depressing. Just before December 31 of 2016, I discovered a water pipe in my basement crawlspace had burst from the cold weather. To avoid paying for an emergency call to a plumber I trust (Mike Williams Plumbing) I waited until January 2 to call to get it repaired. I also did something I should have done after the first time the pipe burst several years ago: had the man wrap the problem pipe with heating tape. I could have bought heating apparatus (tape) at the hardware store, but I didn’t think I could successfully install it. That’s something of an un-truth; I didn’t consider looking into what I’d have to do to do it myself. Even though friends told me I could do it, I didn’t even try. While the plumber was here, after he fixed the leaking pipe he also turned on the water line that went up to my kitchen. That line had been turned off a year ago by a friend of a friend who stopped an earlier leak on the same pipe.  While plumber was in the house Jan 2, after he turned on the kitchen faucet and I discovered the return of running water to my kitchen (Huzzah, Huzzah), we also noticed the faucet was worse than I remembered, and he replaced THAT as well. All of this to save the expense of another service call. It made sense. I’m glad I took the flying leap. It will all be paid for by the end of March. All that crazy progress January 2 without residents living in the upstairs of my duplex (I live on the ground floor). It made no sense at all, but I had access to capacity to  pay, and even though I’m paying interest on the loan, I’m also enjoying water that comes from my wonderful new faucet.

I’m ignoring MANY other bills beyond utility and telephone during this time. I am eating exceedingly modestly, but I’m not going hungry. I don’t resent people who eat more than a meal a day regularly. I’m glad to be losing some weight. I’m a long way away from “thin city.”

I have much more UPDATE to share and will try to do that later this week. In my next post, I’ll include pictures from home.

Thanks for reading this.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.