Archive for January, 2007

It’s hard to see the target in the haze I’m in. It’s hard to lift the gun. Taking aim? That’s for the professionals. It’s Tuesday morning, and I REALLY need to resume poppiing off the assignments I’ve had for the last three weeks, but didn’t devote serious time to until Monday. Everyone I talk with over the phone is happy to hear from me. Even the esteemed editor’s emails reflect unmistakable hints of cordiality. But knowing I’m so far behind makes it hard to get back on the range and step up to the firing line.

Declined an opportunity to sub teach today so I could give it all to the writing assignment. And true to the promise made earlier in the day to assignment HQ, I advised the sub line to take me off their list until next Monday. I BELIEVE I can complete this absolutely cherished writing project by then if I can get my head out of my hindwuarters and see the sunshine. On NPR this morning a famous writer was quoted as saying (I’m paraphrasing) writers spend their lives in a state of mind the rest of the world tries its best to escape from. And I believe her. It’s true with bush-leaguers, including moi, as well as those who interface with the majors.

I suck (mentally, metaphorically) on the solace from the success of my brush with joy over the weekend: my visit to the Springfield Art Association reception for the opening of their new exhibition: Nellie Knopf: A Life in Full Color. I KNEW I could not mope my way out of attending this event because even though a did attend Writers’ Bloc Saturday morning and had a great time, I still needed to get the heck out of the house for awhile.BTW, thanks to D&SP for their gift of CIVAG support! I do take my visual arts sites seriously and to elicit the support I need to keep them going, the enterprise benefits from my simply showing up at arts events. Besides, the SAA receptions have the best finger food and libations of any arts socials in this city.

Had a great time at the reception. Some people actually approached me to say hello and chat. This NEVER happens at poetry events anymore.

(And that’s one reason why I’m trimming my commitment to attending the open mics. I can watch atrophied aspirants charading through familiar motions on late night television infomercials. But I don’t watch them on TV, so I’ll be danged if I’ll leave the house and buy food to do it. And I have not been the poet I used to be, and I wish I were. I find it hard to appreciate roses of poems when I’m slogging shoulder deep through the unsavory muck of my own making. I have let poetry down. But really, I digress.)

So I took all the pictures I needed to take, talked with many good, convivial and intelligent people and true to form, as I breezed into the living room shedding coat and camera, turned on the TV to watch the last 10 minutes of Cops on Fox on my way to the office to start the computer.

Didn’t return to the livingroom for two and a half hours. Instead, downloaded the pictures from SAA. I had almost forgotten the joy of seeing images well-considered and composed during the event, appear on the monitor screen. It was like opening presents. I knew that with the happy, loose echoing of Chardonnay in my veins, I wasn’t going to do any serious work until Sunday, but it was still amazing to see results I knew I could finess into decent pictures!

<>So the finessing of the pictures is what I did after Meet the Press and This Week With George Stephanopoulous, to be referred to hereafter in this blog only as Goodhead Greek because it’s easier to spell. He is an excellent moderator and fine reporter, all kidding aside. . . . . . Finished up the editing about 3:30. Cleared my head with a few hours in the model airplane workshop and returned to the office to post the pictures at


There’s a link from that page to pictures from the SAA and other recent receptions I’ve attended.

So at about 10:30 Tuesday, by the time I’ve finished tweaking the typos out and rephrasing a liner two. I’m re-constituted enough to engage what I truly love: to be a journalist for six or seven hours today. Honest to gosh, I do feel better about life and the day ahead. Thanks “you all for kindly dropping in.

“You’re all invited back next week to this locality.
To share a heapin’ helpin’ of our hospitality.” — from the Beverly Hillbillies Theme

Live long . . . . and proper.

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A lesson most folks learn before turning 16 is this. Never leave your house wearing yesterday’s underclothing. Because if you get hit by a truck on your way to wherever, when they wheel you into the emergency room, you don’t want to embarrass yourself in seasoned boxers or briefs. We also learn it’s wise to “get your own house in order” before you start sniping at how others live their lives. Good advice times twice.

With a major writing deadline immutably fixed at the end of this month, and after two days of sub teaching at LHS and DS, the most obvious task at hand on Wednesday was GETTING THE HELL TO WORK ON THE ASSIGNMENT! But I didn’t get to work on it. I followed my disintegrating sense of true north to any task BUT the assignment which, when completed will unload some serious, overdue debt.

Parts of the house which I’ve not touched in years were cleaned up. Books moved and rearranged. A walk in closet cleared of everything I won’t reference again in six months. Conger genealogy publications and correspondence removed in storage boxes to basement shelves no visitor will ever see. Files relating to my former role with Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association De-freaking-LETED! (I had already given copies to the continuing powers that be at the helm today. God save the queens! Even a small box of pictures of poetry open mics at Kanes and Capitol Caffe, taken 10 or more years ago, set aside to donate to Poets & Writers Literary Forum of Springfield, Illinois and duly donated Saturday morning, the 27th. A lot of this was simply myopathy at play. optimising arrangements to they are as I’ve wanted them to be subconsciously for years. I even brought ArtsLinks http:..www.civag.com/artslinks.htm up to date for the first time since November freaking NINTH!

I had promised myself to get started on the MAJOR WRITING ASSIGNMENT, but a part of me (the BIGGEST part since it inflenced the rest of me) has felt anxiously, woefully incapable, of completing it by deadline. So why the pathological procrastination? I didn’t want to rush into swimming in my incapacity. Wednesday, hoping for a sub teaching assignment on Thursday, I showered, hoping like the fellow who washes his car in hopes of rain coming the next day) that the desired undeniable impediment to my writing would come with a call from the sub teacher line.

It didn’t come and I was a bitter fart until Thursday afternoon when I FINALLY began work on the writing project. And I absolutely enjoyed the effort! Didn’t do a lot because I was also determined to finish that article culling project with surplus flying model airplane magazines, and I FINISHED that project, by the grace of God! Another distraction fro WRITING ASSIGNMENT! alayYIPPEE!

Friday I hoped the sub line would not call me and this time my hope was granted. And I completed the first part of WRITING ASSIGNMENT and sent it to the editorgod. I say “editorgod” because without his favoring my froggy countenance with honest work assignments, I risk another week of Dinty Moore Stew and Chilli Man Chilli, and like most gods, I never see him; only the happy effects of his beneficence to moi. As a result of the paltry portion of effort given to esteemed weekly publication, I was assigned more writing. EXCELLENT.

I never share what I’m doing before the event because I don’t want the criminal element who peruse blogs to know I’m going to be away from my orifice — make that office. But I ga ron tee you this. I’m accepting no sub assignments next week because I’ll be here working on the WRITING ASSIGNMENT, “all de lib-long dei.” GLAD for the work, being in the grove that comes when everything else is off the agenda, and dancing my fingers across the keyboard like the engaged, writing hummin’ bean I was born to be.

And in the meantime, my house is in order. If the floor were vacuumed and I had wine and cheeze, I’d invite you over this minute. And from my prespective (as 43 might gurgitate), the condition of my underwear doesn’t matter. If I get hit by a truck before my financial dire straights are successfully navigated to safe harbor, the last thing people will care about is the condition of my underwear.

BTW, about the picture if you can see it at the top. It was taken last fall during my friend John Winterbauer’s guided Springfield ghosts walking tour. Unlike some local citizenry, I celebrate the coincidental tie to Abe. Why not be happy with a fellow citizen who did many things RIGHT? Are you ashamed of your successcul brother or sister? No you say? Then why not take pride in this man and his accomplishments as well; aye?

Live long . . . . . and proper!

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Wuth malice toward none,
Stick a fork into 43.
He’s done.

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Food in the Door

With the turmoil of an overdrawn checking account behind me (only temporarily, as I would discover the following Tuesday afternoon) I was still uncertain about (NOT “as to” mind you. Who the hell started saying “as to”anyway? My GUESS is:  a lawyer who eats grass all day; not that there’s anything wrong with them.) whether or not to attend the first UIS Visual Arts Gallery exhibition reception of the new year. From my perspective, with a car that runs on the power of prayer as much as motorfuel, the prospect was equivalent to going rabbit hunting in grizzly territory during mating season; not my mating season; grizzly matting season. Even so, it was important for me to show the fine people who support these events that I’m still on the map, so to speak.

And, just more than two hours after deciding to go, and safely returned to home and hearth, I was glad I attended. Michellle Coakes is a competent, interesting artist; her creations of pottery and digital photography engaging and pleasing to the eyes, and the interaction at the gallery affirming and restorative. To see pictures from the evening visit my Visual Vibes website and look for the link to the new page —     www.civag.com/vv.htm

I felt so good about attending I even decided to return to Writers’ Block in lyrical downtown Springfield. As I opened mon front door, I almost stumbled over a bag of foodal provisions, accompanied by a card, signed by “a friend.” It was as obvious who the friend (actually, probably friendS) was/were. There are only two people in my world who know of my devotion to crunchy Cheetos and a certain “flavor” of Campbell’s Select Soup. But they/he/her wanted to be anonymous, and I respect that. That doesn’t keep me from zaying             THANK YOU!

Monday, instead of taking Poetry (the fab magazine of that title) to LHS where I spent a pleasant day with some advanced math students, I took Lee Gurga’s new book entitled Haiku for Poets — a fab read. Will tell you more about it after I’m finished reading it. Suffice to say for now that if you consider yourself a poet — and BEING a poet is not a requisite for considering yourself a poet — you should boogie to your local book merchant and order the book! By gorry, the Gurga-meister even includes a Corrine Frisch-authored haiku in it!  I bought the book at the Vachel Lindsay Association meeting last fall where Lee was reatured epaker. I still consider every paragraph in it to be a gift from the author!

Final thought for today:

There has been no time in my life
when I have avoided, so resolutely
the solace of the cultivated grape and/ barley,
yet wanted to embrace them more.
But now, becoming reacquainted with these old friends
is out of the question.
Not even help from friends who care
will permit such a reunion. It would insult
their/his/her higher hope for me,
and more greivously,
it would insult my higher hope for me as well.

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

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Ice Storm 1-7-007
Pictured above, a glimpse of front yard ice at the peak of the ice storm Saturday, January 6. I state January/ 7 007 in the caption, but if memory serves (better) it was Saturday. While preparing this picture for this blog, I tried different color treatments which one can do with Corel Photo Paint and other programs. I decided I can’t gild the color nature has provided in this picture. I’m not making a political statement with it, endeavoring to embellish it into “art.” I like it as nature shared it with me, and I hope you do too.

Nothing says “I’m not ready for a refrigerator crate condo!” more than a baked chicken. I’m dodging the bank until I can deposit dollars into my overdrawn checking account AND eat twice a day. Thanks to helpful innocent conspirators who care, I found a way to enough dough-re-mi to purchase a Shop’N’Save baked bird, a jar of Peter Pan Crunchy a loaf of Bunny Whole Wheat nd another can of iced tea mix.

I won’t have to look a can of chilli or Dinty Moore in the eye for at least four days.

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Books for $ale

If sharing this information with you is illegal or inappropriate for a WordPress blog, please let me know.

I need to lighten my book collection to add substance to my kitchen pantry. I won’t attempt to prey upon your head with the tawdry details. If you want any of the books on the list at the link I’m about to post, e me. My book list may be found at


It’s been a ragged week. I finished proofing the American Aviation Historical Society Newsletter.


The issue features my first article published therein, and it was amazing to find so many things lurking in that article worthy of my red pencil. I’m happy with the piece and the rest of the newsletter as well. I was even mentioned in the annual January President’s Message. Seems I’m the only member of the editorial staff who’s not a board member. Believe it or not, I’m happy with that. Most of the association management (all volunteers) are California people, and I have to say the commute on the transportation I can afford would take longer than tolerable. I figure at least four pairs of hiking boots for each round trip, plus hard tack and Gatorade.

I’m having trouble getting started with my paying writing assignment, due in about two weeks. It was wacky this morning when I received an e from the local daily publication asking me to confirm info for a local museum. I wanted to tell him how interestingly coincidental that we’re working on the same assignment: him for a daily and me for a weekly.

Did get a call from an international aviation web site owner. Unfortunately my voice mail fielded the call, and he was just getting into an airplane when I returned his call this morning. I had sent him my resume, and he wanted to talk to me about possibilities . . . . after the flight. So I’ll call him back late this morning.

Am pouring most of my time into the AeroKnow action. Am not even attending the Dan Guillory reading tonight at Poets & Writers, Gallina’s Pizza extremeganza. I’m going nowhere (figuratively and literally) until I sell some books or find a job. It’s amazing what a steady diet (since last Friday) of Chilli Man Chilli, Dinty Moore Stew and all the Folger’s Instant I can swallow will do to a person’s outlook on frikking life.

Live long . . . . and proper!

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There are few moments homeside, when I’m away from the shower and computer, when I don’t have pages in my hands and words before my eyes. Take Sunday afternoon . . .

Of COURSE I was watching the Bears defeat the other team. “Enraptured” is not a word I use in connection with football; I think the other team was from Washington. It’s been 45 minutes since the game winning kick by number 9, and most of the game is faded already. But I watch football, usually a quarter or two; sometimes more, to NOT work on aviation history, model airplanes, poetry and web pages. Today, I combined the entire game with an ongoing project of culling articles, covers, cartoons and photographs I want to keep, to read for the furst time and then save or discard when I have time to concentrate on content.

Esteemed acquaintances DandSP generously gave me several years’ of New Yorker magazines they no longer wanted around their fine home. At first I savored them one at a time before setting each aside so I could go back and save afore-mentioned content which matters to me. WHY?

In part so I can go back to it years later and enjoy second encounters with the articles, so I can extricate special cartoons from whole pages and add them to a growing collection of humor from New Yorker and other magazines.(Don’t know why I’m still in italics; I hit the right keys to return to regular, but it’s not working.)

In part also to leave behind a collection of reportage art and humor that shows the living what mattered to me, perhaps a hint of the man I was despite a career that brutally suggested something far different. Let others collect paintings on walls for that purpose. The collected articles, including Playboy interviews, articles, etc, like art, like the books I keep, are the world’s clue to me — as though the life I’ve lived is not clue enough!

I call this process “pre’ading” — short for pre reading. Synonyms: scanning, glancing at, I don’t have to give my entire attention to the process. A few key words, mostly relating to politics, the arts, even authors’ names including Angel, Auletta, Hersh, Sedaris, Trillin are all it takes to cull the piece for later second-looking. Not all cartoons that bring a chuckle are worth saving.
By the end of today’s Bears game, I was done with my pre’ading. Finished during the overtime. In the name of “waste not want not,” the discarded pages are being neatly stacked to be placed into boxes of solid volume I intend to place in my basement crawl space, where the coal bin used to be, for extra insulation. I’ve noticed some potentous daylight down there over the last year and to save the expense of real insulation (due to the rising priority of buying FOOD), I’m going with boxes of unread pages. The process began about two months ago when I launched a similar project with aviation magazines with only limited content relating to my interests. The only thing keeping me from working on the insulation installation instead of yammering on at this keyboard is the fact it’s so fripping COLD down there. It seems I’m just going to have to wait for decent weather before I can begin pushing ahead down there with this project.
Maybe by April . . . . .

Live long . . . and proper!

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A Friend at the Bank

Friday morning, as I sat in the quiet of my adopted workplace, a math classroom at a Springfield middle school, during my teacher prep block, I approached to within a stone’s throw of departing that life infusing amalgam to face certain hellfire. The moderately testy time I had had with the same classes the day before was a walk in the park compared with a gross encounter with an overdrawn checking account I experienced 40 minutes after day’s end dismissal, and life had been an almost non-stop careening downhill ride from there. The only saving grace was a conscious, rule-breaking, humanitarian act by my new friend, a bank teller.

I am to check book balancing what 43 is to winning Libras and influencing Arabs. When a pay check (or donation for stem cell research — just kidding)  comes in I write as many checks as I can to creditors after estimating from memory, the checks I’ve written and the chances that the checks I write will be covered, if not by what I deposit today, at least by what I deposit when the next anticipated check comes in. It’s  “leading the inflow,” like shooting where you believe the clay pigeon will be. Normal folks look at the numbers they’ve written in their accounting software, but the process is something I could do with a dull pencil on a paper sack from Aldi’s. And the time I’d invest in the pencil pushing would be a FRAC/tion of the time I spend wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth. Numbers intimidate me like Ethan Lewis across the table armed with the complete works of John Donne. Truth and I are reluctant allies. I prefer blind hope to reality, but that doesn’t make for a tidy checking account. I prefer idealism to pragmatism — Heck, doesn’t my love of Gerald Ford count toward balanced plus and minus numbers on my bank ledger? Usually, I get by, even though I probably paid $270 in overdraft bank fines in 2006. Yes, it’s a frikking avoidable shame; $270 will buy a lot of “In Your Time of Sorrow” cards for Betty, Jack and Linda Ford or gallons of Campbell’s Fajita Steak Soup (deLIScious) for me.

The bank has rules. One is this. “If #5744-075399452-9087438043290-4480651 (not my real name) asks for money back when he deposits a check, and his account is overdrawn, don’t give him money back. The entire deposit belongs to the account.” But my new friend has seen the abject anxiety in my eyes when I visit some days, and on Thursday, she shared more benevolence than protocol.

Circuit City had called me about my account. Even though I had sent a check the week before, it had not been posted. And even if it did post later in the week, that wasn’t enough. They wanted $12 more by closing Friday. THEY believe in numbers, cozy hope be damned.

The bank teller didn’t know it when I asked for $20 back, thatt more that half of that cash would be delivered to CC Friday. And the rest? Well, I might buy a cup of coffee at Writers’ Bloc on Saturday morning (Didn’t go because of the weather.) and I might just buy a loaf of Bunny Whole Wheat and a big ol’ jar of Peter Pan Crunchy instead. Who knows what a guy with $8.00 in his pocket and a song in his heart might do? The way she greeted me and wished me a good day as I departed had the same edge on it that prisoners of war had when they made propaganda tapes for Ho Chi Minh in the ‘Nam days; the same kind of edge 43 (another “prisoner of war”) had in his Wednesday night gurgitation. It was an edge in the voice that told me I should come to a complete stop at all stop signs between bank and home and that I should not change lanes impulsively just to run over a squirrel.

That’s why I didn’t look at my bank receipt until I was home with the front door locked behind me. Then I understood the edge. I was overdrawn BIG time. DANGIT! So that plunged me into my Thursday night maelstrom. Without any booze in the house — not since January 1 — my only refuge was sleep. But not before a panicked email to my attorney asking if he’d like to buy another one of my guitars. This is the fellow who produced a $100 will (his stated billing fee) for the trade of a $400 guitar I owned. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a nice fellow. I told him I was in deep poo and needed a fast ticket out of it. He called back at 9:30 Thursday night and offered to meet with me Saturday, but I should call first.

That was all it took to convince me I would slog my way through this self-made swamp (It’s MY stupidity and incapacity; no one else’s) and keep my frikking guitars, but I had not reached this conclusion at 9:10 in a quiet middle school class room during teacher prep time on Friday. At least, the teller’s beneficence soaked in deeply enough to convince me to stay where I was, “carpe diem!”, “grab the fish” . . . . make that “seize the day.” I stayed, and I’m glad I did.

The kids knew me better, and I remembered at least eight of them by first names. The classes were a breeze, so much so that an assistant principal, who had surreptitiously opened toe door and listeened to the noise level (a low murmer, totally acceptable) returned and gave Hershey chocolate kisses to all the students; even to the substitute teacher! And it occurred to me that for the time being, I am not the low-life with no hand for the tiller, and being overdrawn is not an indictable offense.

Drove out to CC, paid the $12, learned that the earlier check had cleared, and that Circuit City still wants my business at interest rates and service fees any organized crime syndicate would love, and came home with a load off. Yes, I’m STILL overdrawn, dangit dangit dangit. I would not have made it to this transiting eye of my financial hurricane without my protocol-busting friend at the bank. Her kindness is what inspired this posting. She taught me an important lesson.

You don’t have to win every battle; just the one that has captured the cockles of your heart today.

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‘Boarder on a Run

‘Boarder on a Run
I took this picture of Meryl Streep (yes, I do know howta spell her first name, but I’m kidding: he isn’t Meryl) at Centennial Park’s terrific skate board facility last summer when I was working on a story for the BEST NEWS WEEKLY IN ILLINOIS.

It helps explain why I love photography. The skateboarder is actually in the air, going ballistic with the energy acquired earlier in the ride. I was shooting with my Canon EOS 20D, a wonderful camera from the get-go, shutter at 1,000th of a second and letting the camera manage the aperture which, in that sunlight must have been about F/11.

During the shoot, I did something stupid for a fellow older than 40 . . . okay, older than 50 . . . . okay older than 55, but I swear that’s all you’ll get from me: that and Meryl Streep’s phone number which is . . . . Oh forget it! I slid down into the pit, and and someone handed me my camera. Took a few pictures; nothing to write home about. THEN when it was time to extricate my lumpy self from the pit, I discovered the angles of bank were too steep and the surface too smooth for me to just  climp up and out of! It appeared someone would have to call Wilkerson Shell to tow me OUT of the frikking placej; either that or be there for the rest of my life or until I learned out to friking skateboard out the way everyone else does!. . . .  Happily, I was in better shape than you might suspect — or supsek if your name is 43.  After giving my camera to a well-wishing stranger, I made a mad dash for the rim and connected with enough concrete to successfully hoist myself the rest of the way out with my arms! That was close!

The vunderbar thing about photography is that the finger on the shutter release can save 1/1000th of a second which was seenj without being seen during the event. Yes, the eyes saw the skateboarder, but they didn’t see him the way we see him now. It’s analogous to other things which happen which we wish we could capture: the time my well-remembered E.M. decided I was worth her time and attention.. . . . . . .

Come to think of it, we can and often do capture moments like that, and we can hold them close to our hearts whenever we like. We call them memories. And like pictures, if we’re lucky, it’s possible, we can stack up more memories, like photographs, than we can handle. That’s how it is with me, at any rate. I can pitch the skateboarder pictures, any time I like, to free up (I hate “_____ up” phrases, including add, bring, deliver, feel, screw serve, and the immortal fuc_ and use free up only under duress because I’m not smart enough to think up a better term) more “memory.” Dang shame I can’t do the same with real memories. Wait a minute, maybe I can. Where did I put that half bottle of Wild Turkey?

Some people drink to remember. Others drink to forget. I drink to forget. I have a LOT to forget. By the grace of God, I am not by nature a dangerously thirsty photographer.

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Thelonius Dog
Pictured above: Thelonius Dog, Texan spin Libra.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . photo by Jab Conker
. . . .(see if you can pronounce that name correctly, spots phans)

Now that 43 has impe4riously pomped his way through his Wednesday charade, we who romp in a more rustic recipie of domestic feces extend our condolences to Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow who will face an increasingly rabid media corps nipping at his feet during future media briefings. I fear the sanguine Mr. Snow will follow in the footsteps of the now-departing commander of US military forces in Iraq, not because 43 asks him to go (as he did with the outgoing general) but because he can’t take the heat. One can almost hear the bleat from 43 as Mr. Snow, man, hurries on his way. And he waves good-bye, he will ‘xplain just why:. . .

Because too many Texan spin Libras hate sychophantic pedagogues, purine simple!

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