Almost 20 years ago I signed a contract with the representative of a local roofing contractor to replace the roof on the duplex I had recently purchased. It was easy to make regular payments when times were good, but the past nine years have been difficult for me. They are worsening precipitously for the past year.The letter to my incredibly patient and deserving of better payment making from me took about an hour to write this morning.  It is shared verbatim here with different names that are not the real ones.

Monday, April 9, 2018


I apologize for taking so long to send you even token payment for my long-past-due debt.  I want to get back on track with regular payments. First I want you to know the situation at 428.

I have had three renters in a row, starting with Sharon, then Darla and Bob  Joke and now with Larry Smith and his family who have significantly damaged the upstairs and (thanks to a major water leak upstairs during the Sharon ordeal) my bathroom. Materials have been stolen. The situation with current residents Larry Smith is the longest-lasting . I will be years recovering from all this after Larry and his family leave, and that is likely to happen reasonably soon.

In June 2017, Larry, at the time a friend of mine for 25 years and an excellent home repair man, told me he could not continue repairing the vacant upstairs left a MESS by the Jokes, because he was being evicted from his home. It would be some time before he could resume. His family had to be vacated in a few days. If offered to let him and his family move in upstairs if he would finish the repairs, and then move out to another place. I would even discount the rent to  him (from $700 a month to $600 a month) in payment for his restoration. He agreed. After a week of moving family possessions to 428 and nearly filling my basement with what there was no room for upstairs, the trouble began.

As long as I have known Larry and Darla, both have worked for a living. I didn’t ask for employment information because there was no reason to believe EITHER was unemployed. THAT was my BIG MISTAKE. A week after they moved in I was told Larry was NOT working, but he was looking for work. He didn’t have rent for July but he would pay some of it. When I  asked him if he had had the utilities switched over to his name, he said he had no contact with CWLP because he had lost his right to their services due to his earlier incapacity to pay those bills. I agreed to pay his water and electricity bills. He could add them to his rent payments.

Then  a month later, their red car you might have seen curbside at my house was repossessed by the “loan sharks.”

Then his wife lost her job at Love Burger restaurant.

Darla found a new job a month later.

Then her employer fired her after she complained about a co-worker.

Then Larry told me he has some medical disabilities that had required hospitalization and subsequently prevented him from doing manual labor and lifting heavy tools. He said he was still looking. He was also looking for rental payment help under Section 8. (I said I’d sign whatever I needed to sign.) Then he told me there was no Section 8 funding money left. I gave them a month to find new employers in September  because if they didn’t they’d have to vacate. A week before the end of August, Larry told me he had been interviewed for a job. At the end of September, he told me he did not get the job.

At that point, I considered that with winter approaching, my interests would be better served by them staying upstairs instead of being  evicted and having the utilities disconnected and the threat of burst water pipes and flooding. I told him they would have to leave at the start of spring.

Then I saw my first utility bill from the  upstairs after the cold hit, and I almost passed out. I’ll  show you a CWLP print of what I’ve been paying for THEIR utility bills. You won’t believe it. Since February, I’ve been paying  $200 WEEKLY on their utility bill and mine combined. The  people at City  Hall sympathize and they are keeping things connected with Larry and me. I live on the ground floor.

I FINALLY filed court papers and they were served an eviction notice by the Sheriff’s department. I happened to be talking with a friend at his truck curbside when the officer gave Larry the summons.

They should by law be gone from upstairs and cluttered basement sometime in  May. I want to HIRE someone to repair the damages they will no doubt have done to the place and RENT it A S A P.

I’m fairly sure  you have experience with  property management. If you are willing to manage 428 for payment that would include payment of part of rent revenues from the  upstairs, I want to discuss possibilities with you ASAP. I am confident what needs to be done to start generating revenues from upstairs will happen faster with YOU directing it than with me.  I can talk with you  if you have interest and time to visit me at (my employer) or whenever, wherever you want to  meet me. It’s that job and a modest Social Security payment that generates dollars for food and bills.there.

In the meantime, I am eating  very little so I can pay bills.  The medical professionals are waiting for dollars I have not paid THEM for years either. I  am losing weight.

This $100 check is every penny  I can share right now.  I  am ashamed to go on food stamps. I’d rather be hungry.  I can’t get utility payment assistance because 428 is “income property.” I dispose of my garbage in my employer’s big dumpster with his permission. Since last fall, I have showered every month and a half to save water. I don’t  get close enough to people so they might notice.

I look forward to your suggestions. I agree TOTALLY with you. It’s time to start getting something done. THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE.


Job Conger


Live long  . . . . . . . and proper.


The Folksinger

The best evening I’ve experienced as a songwriter/poet/folksinger in 10 years took place at The Pharmacy, an art gallery in Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, March 24. I’ve made a promise to anyone who will read or listen, that I will write a new visual arts-related song for every gallery event that invites me to play and sing. I find validation playing at gallery receptions because I believe most of those who attend these events are as intelligent as I hope they will be because they are more likely to understand what I write and share than most audiences.  Being understood matters to me.  The reception delighted me to my core. Here are the lyrics I to the song I sang Saturday.

How I Paint
by Job Conger

In the light of dawning morning
With a palette on my knee,
I engage a primal passion
That’s as old as history.
To a dry base coat on canvas
Strokes come slowly at the start.
Realistic and abstract they flow.
I paint with my heart.

How I cherish pensive hours
When the world does not intrude
With its angry, brash cacophony
Into my interlude.
Shaping colors of my visions
From the honey-sweet to tart,
Brushes are my soul’s extensions.
I paint with my heart.

When I feel persistent calling
To reveal what burns within,
I return with glad alacrity
To my easel once again.

Blessings from the gentle journeys
From an idea to a frame,
Give a sense of satisfaction.
Nothing else is quite the same.
And the gallery visitors provide
With smiling eyes their part
Of the jubilee of worlds on walls
I paint with my heart.
– – – – – – – – – – –
A stranger, a violin player of traditional east-country mountain songs, called it a poem as much as a song. I am validated by remarks like that. I am MADE by reciting my poems, Vachel Lindsay’s poems, singing my songs and other good songs. I hope you liked this sharing also.
Live long . . . . . . . . . . . and proper.


Thanks to a persistent, anonymous friend whose recent encouragement inspires this update.

Last June, a long-time friend (I will call him Al) explained he was being evicted from the house where he and family had lived for 11 years. He could not continue repairing damages to my upstairs duplex made by previous residents because they were rushing to find a place to stay. I invited him to occupy the vacant upstairs while looking for another place. I would discount his rent in trade for his contributions with hammer, saw and etc. He agreed and in less than a week moved in, not only to the upstairs, but to my basement which he filled almost to the hilt with 11 years’ accumulation of possessions. I was aghast. I should have invited them to find another place before the week was out. My likely-fatal (to me) error at this early stage was my assumption that Al and (I will call her) Di were employed. As long as I had known them, Al had worked for a living, but he wasn’t working last June. He said he was looking. Given his consistent work history, I anticipated a month — MAX — before he reconnected with a regular paycheck. It didn’t happen. And then Di quit her job!  They also were unable to establish utilities because their name was no good with CWLP the local water and electric company. I would pay for those services. NO ONE was working as winter approached to Al/Di said they were looking for work.  Two months after moving in, their car was re-possessed “by the loan sharks,” they said. I could not — as a man with a humanitarian sense of conscience — FORCE them into the street with winter on the way.  Since they moved in, I have lost more than the discounted rent they promised to pay. I have lost THOUSANDS of dollars in utilities I’ve been forced to pay because I needed a warm upstairs to prevent the water pipes from freezing, bursting, and flooding the house.  Nine months into this debacle, I informed Al/Di that they MUST vacate the premises. I CANNOT AFFORD to pay their utilities and to deal with my many overdue bills without the income previously provided by upstairs residents. After deducting the few hundred dollars they’ve paid me since last June, they still owe me almost $8,000! Their electric bill for January alone was $500! And not a whisper from a dollar to me since mid-January!  I would more productively benefit from farting into the wind than asking them to pay for some of what they have taken from me with sullen impudence. They’re still there. They’re not violating a contract. We HAD NO CONTRACT. They were my friends. We NEEDED no contract. My basement and storage shed are as full of their untouched, unused possessions today as they were last September! I have lost 20 pounds since they moved in, mostly because I spend almost nothing for food.  Lunch is a sandwich and dinner is a can of soup with bread mixed in. I drink coffee, sometimes instant iced tea and often Carlo Rossi Burgundy which I buy by the gallon and it usually lasts a week. I’m not going nuts with boozing. I can’t AFFORD to! Is there any mystery regarding why I can contemplated exiting this excruciating WOE by eating a bullet or drinking poison? I’m a long way from doing either one.

Wheels are in motion with the courts system to repossess my house. But because the way the courts system works, I will not be don’t with Al/Di until late May at the earliest. THIS is why I’m not “the man I used to  be. There’s a shadow hanging  over me.” (Thank you Paul McCartney.)

I  am NOT doing well. I make eye contact and smile and speak with fewer than three people most days. I am not confident this will all work out, but to opt out of the effort is also out of the question. As I told a distant friend a few weeks ago, “I am made of sterner atoms.”



Bear With Me

I’ve intended to post updates three times since the last one, but promised and therefore expected glimpses of light at the end of my tunnel did not happen. A kick to the heart, hope ground to dust like a smoldering cigarette butt crushed under a thick boot heel.

On new year’s eve, at an event called First Night Springfield, a celebration of arts and performing arts in lyrical downtown Springfield, I recited three of my poems and two of Vachel Lindsay’s poems at Hoagland Center For the Arts: Serenading the Wind,  Guns And Drugs, Send in the Cows, plus Vachel’s On the Building of Springfield and his What the Sexton Said.  It was my best “performance” of any poems in more than a year. After the event which lasted an hour and included other good poets who read their creations very well — they were top echelon local talent — I  decided to savor a drink and snack in the Hoagland’s lobby/bar. Since First Night is a non-alcoholic event (no booze available from participating venues) I had a cup of hot chocolate and a Reese’s double Peanut Butter Cup.  As I sat on a stool at an elevated table for two in this area, a woman who has shared her poetry at other venues on other nights, came up. introduced herself (I vaguely remembered her and her solid talent as a fine poet and excellent reciter) and joined me. We talked about poetry.  She pulled a small chap book (she had published) from her purse and read a poem she had written about her watching ME recite a few years ago. I was truly touched by the poem.  It was clear we were of one mutually respectful, appreciative mind regarding sharing poetry via spoken words.  I recited, at the table, reasonably quietly to avoid bothering others at tables nearby, a Vachel Lindsay poem and one of my own, and I gave her one of my poetry books (Confluence of Legends: Vachel Lindsay and Johnny Appleseed) which she did not have. As great a thrill as it had been to have recited, darn near flawlessly, poetry in a gallery room on the third floor of The Hoagland, I was thrilled twice as much to have shared time with a COMPETENT RECITER of HER POETRY in the ground floor lobby who remembered and appreciated ME. We bade each other fond goodbyes,  I returned to my vehicle on a bitterly cold and windy new year’s even, drove home on almost-traffic-less Springfield streets and talked into my house at 6:57, less than an hour after the third floor event at the Hoagland had concluded.

I’m not a heavy boozer, but my heart was awash in fond appreciation for what had just transpired downtown. On my most recent birthday (I hesitate to say “my last birthday” though I believe it was — more about that in a future post –) I had a birthday party for myself and invited friends at my home. A friend I had met on Facebook, who had visited me at my airport museum and had videotaped me singing some of my songs and posted them on the Internet, came to the party, arrived early and gave me a bottle of premium-quality red wine. “GREAT,” I said. “I’ll share it later with the guests.”. . . “Don’t,” he suggested. “Save it for yourself, later.” And I did. I had briefly considered deinking it Christmas eve or day, but I didn’t . I drank part  of a gallon jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy, and I was fine with that: appropriate for my ultra-modest special day. So on this special night after a life-altering experience downtown, I drank the excellent red my friend Matthew Penning had given me last September. . . . . . I resolved to send him a note of thanks for the excellent gift, and I kept procrastinating, not taking time to say THANKS.

Two days ago I learned Matthew Penning had just died. It was sudden, no hint of it coming in his Facebook posts.  I was FLOORED,  CRUSHED. I posted my memory of his giving me the birthday wine that I drank new year’s eve.

What I didn’t post was this: Between Christmas and new year’s eve I was INCREDIBLY DESPONDENT. I shared a fraction of my woe on Facebook indicating my genuine intention of checking out of this thing called LIFE. Only one person responded tot hat post. At the time I had 120 friends at my “arts presence” name of Conger Job. He was the only one brave enough, considerate enough, kind enough to respond.

He wrote “Please don’t.”

And I didn’t. The day before new year’s eve at the Hoagland, I decided to make the most of my strictly enforced 10 minute slot at First Night (thus allowing other poets to share for 10 minutes; nothing wrong with that) by PRACTICING what I intended to recite. I knew it would be a major opportunity to connect with people who has not see/heard me recite. I was confident going into the event – not so hog-tied by worries about exceeding the STRICTLY ENFORCED time limits — and I decided what even if I didn’t get to recite the eight poems I practiced, I would DEMONSTRATE MY HAPPINESS at being allowed to share whatever I was given time to share.  And  I was.

Life the first week of 2018 went incredibly well in ways I’ll explain in a future post. Since the end of the first week I’ve felt a moderating “return to earth”. . . . . no joy, but no bitterness and moderate anxiety.  I’m okay with that.  I’ll catch up with you in a week or two with details.

Thanks for reading this post.

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

Late Late Update

An anonymous friend shared some positive feedback a few days ago: said my poems and observations about my life are missed, hoped I would resume posting after the hiatus of three months. The comments revived me. I promised I’d post an update here by December 31. At the time I promised, I was expecting some positive news from friends: renters upstairs who had promised me a partial payment of the thousands of dollars I have lived without because of their dire circumstances. That payment — might have been $20, might have been $100 — surely no more than that —  would have improved my attitude toward my future. The promised payment didn’t come. It may come in the next few days — Heck, I  even wished him a “happy birthday” a few days ago. I’m determined not to be a grouch over the $5,000 he owes me for rent and utilities.

my pantry of jars
of dreams that motivate me
will soon be empty

I wrote and posted the three lines above a few days ago on Facebook. Not ONE reader responded in any way. True, it’s a glum prediction.  What were people going to say? “Gee, sorry you’re feeling sad. I hope things  get better.” I was happy with the creation, the words shared, the  metaphor, the originality.  I’m was aware that the point — the message — was not “RAH RAH RAH” but I posted it because I wanted readers to know how I was feeling.  Songs are written for that reason. They are called blues. What the hey did I  do that was offensive? I put those who know me into an uncomfortable corner from which they could offer no encouragement (as Honey &  Quinine commenter did a few days ago) so, not bearing witness to those three lines took them out of the “scene” and allowed those who contributed to it to say “I know about the car crash at 5th Street and Vine, but I wasn’t there when  my friend was hurled out of his car’s open door and into the tree. If  I had been I might have been able to help.  My point here is that I feel no  rancor to anyone I know about my present circumstance.

I am 99 percent estranged from poetry and the arts.  As recently as five years ago I considered myself a friend or supportive acquaintance of more than 10 Springfield area painters, poets and musicians. My focus on the aviation museum I was developing at the airport led to me neglecting the arts. A monthly “open mic (microphone)” event downtown has been my ONLY interface with anyone in the  arts scene for years, and that has become such a challenge and  disappointment for me as an  artists that I  probably won’t return for this January’s event.  The actions of others involved with the monthly gathering have not been the prime source of my irritation and growing  resignation. My hearing  is an issue.  I can’t hear most of those who share behind the “mic.” Wearing my hearing aids doesn’t help.  I don’t even wear them more than a day or two in a month because I get by almost as well without them as with. I don’t maintain them as instructed by the hearing aid doctor on my city’s way west side.  If I really cared, I’d try harder. This whole estrangement saddens me. I THOUGHT I WAS  a BETTER POET THAN THIS!  And as the days go on (not necessarily “dwindle down”) I  am less inclined to try to prove I am.

The aviation museum has no heat, and it’s not likely to have a future because the airport administration is going to tear down the building and replace it in 2018. My museum will not be part of the future there.  When the weather warms into the 20s again, my small space heater will permit me to engage tasks in my office and welcome visitors.  In the meantime, there is no rent to pay. I visit once a day in the mornings to take aviation projects to work on at my part time employer and to  work on at home when I’m not so depressed that I do nothing constructive after dinner.

So now my life is a routine of days without saying more than five words at a time in the course of the day to anyone. There are some two or three days in a good week when I do converse with strangers and acquaintances. It’s not that I’m hiding in a dark room and not answering the phone. I post often in Facebook banter and news.

That’s my status report for this last day of 2017. I will TRY to post more often in 2018. Best wishes to you for reading this ramble. I hope you are blessed with a  satisfying year.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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.

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.