Unopened Letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading this post.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading this post.

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

It’s the upstairs half of my duplex which long-term renter Shannon Smith turned into a disaster zone and a lying thief of a handyman who stole $600 of tile and tongue-in-groove imitation-wood flooring I paid for. You wouldn’t believe  what I’ve paid over the winter to keep the thermostat at 55 degrees and prevent the pipes from freezing. I’ve resented the upstairs for the same reason I don’t observe dates of national infamy. I recognize victories; not humiliations, and I have felt no greater humiliation (with the possible exception of last summer when two of my most cherished friends walked out of my life) than that which happened last October and November upstairs. Today I have no friends; only acquaintances . . . but I have many acquaintances.

Folks wondered why I didn’t try to rent the upstairs the day after she caved me in.The answer is best explained in the cat urine odor which permeated the carpet and led me to replace it with the wood veneer living room floor that’s about 80% finished. It is explained in the 10 or 15 broken areas of tile and linoleum flooring upstairs and the stolen materials which would have allowed to 70% finished renovation of those floors to be completed. I could not expect a renter to occupy a duplex that was not ready for new residents. No one looks for a new apartment in winter except evicted people, and I could not justify advertising a place in that condition anyway.  I decided to TRY to renovate the place when the market was better. I  almost called a property management company to see if they were interested in renovating and managing rental of the upstairs for a part of the income. Then I realized I’d likely be better off by hiring a home renovator first and then a property management firm second. Why should I pay property management an additional fee they would likely charge me to work with a renovation company?

Then came cataract surgery for my left and right eyes. The cataracts could have been addressed and fixed in July if my “employer” had provided information the charity aid people asked for in May. Instead I visited my eye doctor and aid  people seven times after December, and my cataracts were taken care of March 10 and 24 . PROGRESS! But it’s not over. Two more weeks and two more visits to the eye specialists after which I  will have prescription eye glasses that allow me to read close in without a hand-held magnifying glass.

As a result of all this and the lingering snow and chill, I have fallen WAAAAAY behind on the book I am writing about Springfield World War II liaison John Thornton Walker. I can’t take days away from work when the doctor action is already costing me a day, sometimes two days a week away from my employer. I need to work to eat and pay bills. I don’t have to work a lot, but the 30 hours a weeks I’m working are essential, and I’ve not been getting them.

Even so, I’ll be talking to a property manager this coming week to learn more. They might not even want to bother with a solitary upstairs duplex. I’ll know more later.

And starting Monday, I’ll be looking for a renovator.

. . . and a renter.

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

Since 2012, I’ve known my vision was failing because of cataracts in both eyes. Prescription eyeglasses helped but they didn’t help enough, and in 2013 my eye doctor would not report to state authorities that my vision was good enough to allow me to drive.  At the time, it seemed a little silly. After all, I could read most type in magazines and newspapers. During the day,  I could drive with no obvious problems. I’m sure distant details were beyond me, and that was important for a valid drivers’ license. At night, however, every light I looked at directly had halos around them — what you see around the full moon some nights — and these were BRIGHT GLARING IMPEDIMENTS to my night vision. I’ve known older people who could not drive at night because of their cataracts; nice friends who could not and would not drive after dark.  With me there was no choice. If I didn’t drive at night,  I could not keep my job. During winter, the world turned dark at  4:00 in the afternoon, and I had to lock up the store of my employer at 5:00. I must confess that sometimes I had some FRIGHTENING EXPERIENCES.   Most of the time I got by. Other times, especially  during high traffic I was CHALLENGED by the horrible circumstance,  not clearly seeing the centerline of the road and other times not seeing the line on the right side of the lane. I still almost quiver thinking about some close calls. Often when the oncoming headlights were REALLY BAD, I’d slow down so I could pay more attention to staying in the lane, and people would pass me like I was driving five miles an hour though I never did. On the belt line around town I never drove less than 30 in the 55 mph zone — and I admit, that was damn stupid of me — but it was the only way. In the city, going home from the airport,  facing occasional long strings of headlights coming toward me on dark streets, I sometimes  dropped to 20 mph. By the grace of God, no one touched me during the winter of 2014/2015 which was the WORST.  During the darkest time of the year, I even stayed at my employer — not on the clock so there was no pay for staying — so I could allow  the rush hour traffic to pass and dissipate before I departed  to volunteer work at my AeroKnow Museum at the airport, 10 minutes from my employer,  and  eventually to home for dinner and bed.  I seldom  left the airport until 9:30 so the streets would be relatively clear from people driving home after leaving their employers at 9:00.  The eye glasses doctor passed me “by a hair” the winter of 2013/2014, but refused when I returned in November of 2014  with another report for her to send to the authorities.  During all of 2014 and 2015, I’ve been an outlaw.  I  HAD to get those cataracts fixed and become street legal  again.  In APRIL of  2014 I began that process.

The eye surgeon’s office recommended state help. They scheduled my first cataract operation for July 2014. The state helpers told me they could not help me until I tried to get help from the county. The  county gave me a form to fill out that required answers from my employer. The positive outcome of the surgeries was predicated on the fact that I HAD TO WORK to LIVE. That was absolutely true. Even with Social Security income, I HAD TO WORK to LIVE.  My employer did not take my request for answers  seriously, but I could not dare quit my job in frustration. (During this stupidly protracted time I was sometimes LIVID with frustration, but I was determined I would not quit, and he was determined he would not fire me. If he did, he would have to pay unemployment compensation, and that was not an option for him.

July came and went with no surgery. August, the same. September, the same, despite my repeated requests for answers I could share with county who would then work with state and resume toe charitable aid process. In October, employer responded with answers. I hand-delivered the completed forms to county and was told I had waited too long. I would have to re-submit the paperwork, in updated form! So I did.

And I waited.  I let my new friends at state know what was going on. Finally, one of them told me in so many words, “Job, we’re not going to wait for county. I’m going to talk to my supervisor. I THINK we can expedite help through a program that provides assistance to the blind. There is no question that your vision qualifies you for it.”

In the meantime, I also could not work when there was significant snow on the streets. I could not risk an accident and have a police officer discover me driving without a license! So I missed four days’ work this winter : $240 pre-tax down the drain.

On December 4, 2014, I had a minor stroke that put me into a hospital bed dor almost three days. Later in the month I talked to my eye surgeon’s office and was told the doctor was on vacation. I would have to have my eyes examined again by the surgeon when she returned. My eyes had surely degraded since May of last year.  I had the exam and learned the eyes were worse.  Surgery on both eyes would  be scheduled for March because the surgical center had access to the Laser equipment they would use for my more critical eye, and all of my charity aid paperwork could not be completed in  time for February surgery.  (“Job, you have a cataract in your right eye the size of MILWAUKEE! I don’t know how you can see with that eye,” the surgeon told me.)  I could see with my right eye, but thanks fo the cataract, I could not read with my right eye.

In February I was notified by mail that I an not allowed to drive. I called the appropriate office to explain I had received the notification and that I was having cataract surgery on both eyes, and that soon I would be “street legal” again. I was told all that doesn’t matter. I MUST submit a report from a medical professional that I am qualified to drive. I will have to wait at least another month — until late April — to have the surgeon or another appropriate person submit that report. That’s because it takes the eyes about a month to recover from the surgery.

I had to get a clearance from my “home physician of record” that stated I was physically okay for tthe surgery: good blood pressure, heart condition and the rest of it. Thanks in part to my new dietary regimen since my stroke (NO more salt for ME! Lots of fruit and veggies;  I  ate more fruit in the month following the stroke than I had since 1973, I think. I still eat a lot and stilll enjoy it.  I passed the pre-surgery  physical with flying colors.  The cataract operation March 10 on my left eye was a breeze. The difference my my sight before and after is astounding!  My left eye technically qualifies me to drive. On March 24  I return for cataract surgery with the LASER on my right eye. I will  share an update re how that  went later this week.

I am far less anxious about the coming operation than I was about  the  first . The major adjustment since the first operation has been learning how to give myself  eye drops three times a day. THAT took some practice. I WISH someone at the doctor’s office had taken ten minutes and a dropper with sterile water to instruct me. It didn’t happen, but it should have happened. I’m not angry, and I’m ALMOST comfortable doing it since the 10th.

So cross fingers, world. I am eagerly looking forwrard to resuming life as a legal driver, and it will happen not a moment too soon!

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

pre-poem ramble —
TO ALL WHO ARE NEW FOLLOWERS OF HONEY AND QUININE: I have a feeling you don’t particularly READ this blog. NOT even ONE of you has shared comments, and WordPress with their avatar business prevents me from knowing YOU. Please  COMMENT about Honey and Quinine and tell me a little about yourself. In recent months I have discovered ONE BLOG I REALLY like among all you new “likers.” That is the blog entitled “Yeah, RIGHT.” NICE writing, whomever you are. I mean that truly. I do like  some long time followers of H & Q. Ladies and gentlemen, you know who you are. Thanks to all who follow H & Q.

Holy ka-LO-nee it’s been a busy cupola weeks! I finally obtained financial help to pay for my years overdue cataract surgery that will restore my vision so that I will be able to drive without breaking the law. On March 3, Dr. Sandra Yeh at Springfield’s Prairie Lasik and Eye Center operated on my left eye. As predicted, the improvement was amazing! The hardest part of the process (AFTER almost a year of major hassles obtaining necessary information from my employer) has been eye drops three times a day (three different prescription medications to prevent infection and other avoidable troubles if correctly administered), which I MUST give myself since I live solo. I regret PROFOUNDLY not compromising more with some wonderful women when I attracted wonderful women and they were happy to attract me . . . and married when I had the chances. Nobody showed me HOW to administer eye drops before surgery, and I didn’t learn how until days after. That resulted in several times not doing it right and wasting very expensive medicine. I’m getting the hang of it now. Visits to the eye doctor and hassles with prescription post-December-minor-stroke medicine refills have further discombobulated my life. Cataracts in my right eye will be “blasted” with major Laser treatment March 24. THAT will be the easiest part of the equation for me. It will take about a month after the 24th for the improved vision “recovery” to transpire. I can say this: I feel like a new hummin’ bean one day short of the first one. THANK GOD for Dr. Yeh, Kathy and Margie at the state financial aid office and all the staff who allowed this miracle to happen!

The poem is from my first book of poetry Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois,  available for purchase ($12 postpaid or $10 when and where I recite my poems). I wrote it October 10, 1995.  I hope you like it.

Strangers’ Smiles
by Job Conger

Musing over distant  loves in my head . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
I have been lucky in bed . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
yet, during times of unwelcome solitude,
the cherished memories, in pensive interlude
are not the under cover wild gyrations
that came with sharing passionate sensations.
Though I’m grateful to the warm sweet hearts who cared
I miss, the most, the smiles that strangers shared.

Exquisite eyes met in a glance . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
a nod, a grin, a laugh, but not a chance . . . . .
Not even an exchange of names
nor sparks on kindling hopes for flames.
No kiss of heaven’s mandate to us all:
“Surrender to true love’s redeeming call.”
Apocalyptic release to nature’s strident plea
to fast-scanned souls throughout eternity.

Yet, to the hollow place . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . .
comes the memory of a face . . . . . .
occasionally . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
and women I have hardly met
have given gifts I won’t forget:
the timeless, reflected return
of my unconscious essence burn
and sustained my dreaming wandering long miles
with the hope and strength that come from strangers’ smiles.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
as I have said at the conclusion of my Honey & Quinine blog posts for years before Leonard Nimoy died, and gratefully acknowledging his words which shared before I modified them to a form I call my own . . . . . .
— Live long . . . . . . and proper.

pre-lyric ramble . . .
Over the past few months several new “followers” have begun following Honey & Quinine. I don’t know why. But I thank  EVERYONE for following this blog. I have tried to learn more about the followers by trying to view their profiles, but this crazy AVATAR business has prevented me from connecting with most of you. I have begun following only one other blog in recent week. It is “Okay, You’re Right” and I can tell you the author is fascinating, clearly a world thinker who knows how to write engagingly. If you can find her, read her. You will be glad you did.  I am; that’s for sure.  :)

I’ve fallen behind posting at H&Q, and I’m wondering if my very (ULTRA, even) minor stroke last December left more of a mark on me than I first thought. I’m a mite hobbled by my belief that yammering about what’s going to happen, including news media analysis of speeches the day before they’re uttered,  isn’t news; it’s cheap cereal filler to insert between real news (HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED and MARK YOUR CALENDERS FOR. . . ), advertising and fund-raising drives for public radio stations. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been wanting to share the news that I would be having operations to vaporize my cataracts in March. There will be two operations, one per eye, spaced a little more than a week apart, but before that I must have a pre-operations physical examination by a physician “or nurse practitioner” (can you BELIEVE that? I sure couldn’t, not that there’s anything wrong with nurse practitioners) March 3 and if I get the green light, surgery follows. While the fact I’m finally “in the stream” for this treatment, which is about two years past due, seem “it’s going to happen” irrelevant to NEWS, my  success in navigating a series of impediments that included my employer being almost criminally negligent in not responding to my repeated requests for information (not money, you understand; just information about what I’ve earned) until he did and my own laxity in expediting after I had what I needed from him IS NEWS to people previously aware of this ongoing distress. The nuttiness is that when I’m disappointed, I’m also depressed. When I’m depressed, I feel there is no point to life, and therefore there is no reason to sustain life by “doing what needs to be done” <– thank you Garrison K.. I’ve not been suicidal. I’ve just been frozen in near-catatonia. This has affected my work all around: the book about a local Springfieldian (John Thornton Walker) I’ve promised and want very much to complete, work at the aviation museum; even activity at home: letting the clutter and disarray build until I straighten up things, put things away. I did today. The point of this ramble is my recent understanding of how even ULTRA minor strokes affect those they visit as I was visited December 4, 2014. A few days ago I read the material given to me by the hospital when I was released. So there is my latest self-serving rationale for doing darn-near nothing with life for almost two frikking months.

On the other hand, it may be just the winter weather.

The poem is one of four I’ve written on occasions where I’ve been invited to play guitar and sing at visual arts gallery receptions. My smartest visual artist friends understood it at first listen. I am confident YOU will understand it at first read . . .

by Job Conger

Red pretauge on canvas white,
Streaks of saffron center-right.
From left corner sprouts a plem:
Floral posti quodeum.
Kladar races neck-and-neck
With the banyae bisolek.
Orange discs in motion glurge,
Toward the fading dree converge.

Lift your eyes and voices too
To the mellow illusdrew.
We shall cloy mo talikong:
Celebrate an abstract song.

Hut in shadow on a rise,
Fucia nordank mystifies,
Over deep cerulean blue:
Stolden pax kalam pocue.
Creatures dance hodaigren lape
While the natives flir kanape.
Volpan is the chanter king,
Verdant, wise and breysaling.


Joined in warm melodic hues:
Catholics, Protestants, Jews
Celebrate in sweet delight
Wonders of the Shenegite.
We’ll connect to what we can
Through the palette’s laudigan.
Symbols can be what ye will:
Cat upon the window sill.

(chorus which I sing twice, the second time after inviting the audience to sing along with me. By that time they are with me in this song. It’s incred-amazing!)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Representative abstract paintings inspired me to write this song. It was my goal to place understandable phrases with those which are not understood at first listen and may not be understood at all. That’s okay. I hope you liked it.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

pre-poem ramble: I visited the local drug store to renew my monthly (slight) stroke medications for the second time. POP QUIZ: How many times have I BOUGHT my prescriptions there? Too many people I know will answer “twice” . . . because they don’t know the difference between buying and buying again. The answer, of course, is three. . . but I digressed.

When I purchased and renewed the first time, I purchased the PRESCRIPTION baby aspirin, noted on the typed label. Today I asked the pharmacist if there was a difference between the baby aspirin he would soon count (30) into a prescription jar from behind the well-secured counter and the baby aspirin I could purchase from the publicly accessible shelf 10 feet behind me. He said “No difference at all. In fact, when we run out of them back here, we refill our supply from the bottles you saw on the shelves. ” I asked if the prescription baby aspirin would cost me more than the over the counter equivalent behind me. He said, “I don’t know. Let’s go see.”

He courteously came out from behind the preparation area to the shelves with me where we found a 120 low dose, safety coated aspirin for $6.49. It was not Bayer; it was the “drug store brand.”

The total for today’s medication was $170.13, including the 120 tab OTC baby aspirin. Total for my first refill January 5 was $169.24, including 30 baby aspirin. For 89 cents more, I took home 90 more aspirin, and the next two prescription-only refills (since I’ll already have the aspirin) will cost $163.58.  There is a reason I twice paid prescription price for a medication I could have purchased OTC if the thought had come to me. The reason is that BIG PHARMA is the health care provider’s FRIEND. My ignorance was BIG PHARMA’s bliss. I’m not mad over this. I’m better informed. I’m healthy, and as they used to sing in the TV comedy “The Jeffersons” theme song . . . “There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.”  :)

Here is a poem I wrote the morning after. Since that occasion, I published it in my third book of poems Bear’ sKin but have not shared it once, with or without voice, since. What can I say, but THIS IS YOUR LUCKY DAY!  :)

From a Cup of Coffee, Neat
by Job Conger — 7:45 am, January 18, 2001

Panoply of darkly hues
a see of animated anti-freeze
the sweet cacophony of talk
in warm retreat from blustery winter freeze

Embracing choices like a song
behind the counter, temptingly
“My advice is chicken and not the tuna
salad, but you didn’t hear it from me.”

Seen backwards, window sign reads
something like SLEGAB SYBXIB
reflected  reads BIXBYS BAGELS
Take my word, I wouldn’t fib.

Tenuous, ragged telegraphed syllables of words
off high-strung lines: “da dit dada dit-dit-dit”
abandoning rhythms, lost to the sense of time
hurling the dis engagingrag gedflow of it.

Still-in-utero thoughts remembered:
chaos outside; inside merry
Buxby’s Cafe Open Mic Night, seven
teenth of January.


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


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