Archive for January, 2007

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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That before 43 opens his sniggering pie hole Wednesday night, the following is almost certain to happen in the weeks ahead. He will ask for about 20,000 (30,000 tops) more troops to be sent to Iraq soon. His lies about not wanting to reveal vital intellingence to the enemy because then they could prepare for our action and kill more of our dedicated soldiers nothwithstanding, that’s what he will ask for. It will be a request for action he KNOWS will be a losing proposition for the cause of freedom, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Experts who know the truth understand that sending less than 60.000 more troops for the purpose that will be stated by 43 Wednesday is like putting a Band-Aid over the incision your cardiologist makes when going in for open heart work.

He knows our country doesn’t have 60,000 more troops to send to Iraq. Perhaps we could have had the numbers we need today if we treated the war like a war and not like a punitive spat with a toothless old codger back in 2002 and actually prepared for a long fight. But as we know too well today, that wasn’t Rummy’s way.

43 will emphasize the importance of the contribution of Iraqui soldiers who, he will say, will do the really important and dangerous combat while we provide mutual support. It’s really mostly in THEIR hands anyway, he will say, and besides, this is only a surge. Our brave soldiers will be back almost before they arrive — just two or three years tops! (if they come back alive at all)  So don’t y’all not worry none. Everything is g’wine to be just fine.

Democrats and other non-sectarian politicians will fight 43’s ongoing antic the way we might talk a man with a rifle and no future down from an open window at a book bindry. We owe it to the country and the cause of freedom that we fight 43 as though we care. And if we don’t, we will still be mourning our needlessly sacrificed heroes in two years, and 43 will emblazon his alibi on every campaign ad. It will say: “We told you that if the Iraquis wanted their freedom enough to make the democracythingee happen, we would not have fought in vain.”

What a shame, what a tragedy, that 43 won’t tell us the same thing today.

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June’s Cantaloupe
In June last year,  I became seriously reaquainted with a cantaloupe. When I was a child, visiting Mon’s sister, my Aunt Estelle Anderson (a wonderful lady) and her hub, my Uncle Turner Anderson in Leavenworth, Kansas, Uncle T would start each day with half a cantaloupe. I tried a few bites, decided I didn’t like the flavor and texture, and avoided them for the next 50 years: the cantaloupe; not my aunt and uncle.

I didn’t give much thought to cantaloupe over the years. There were other things — airplanes, girls, poetry, women in that order — that got in the way. But on a lark, or perhaps a red-wing blackbird, I tasted cantaloupe for the first time in a looong time at an arts reception and discovered — dicksovered if you’re into rap, or is it par? I can never remember! — and I liked it. Even purchased a party tray of it a few days later, and over the course of the next week, enjoyed every morsel! Then I went long and purchased an actual whole cantaloupe, placed it in my refrigerator . . . . . .

and have not touched it since last July. About a month after bringing it home, I realized it was too late to eat it, but it looked okay in the back corner of my spacious refrigerator, and I decided to leave it alone. Over the months, the entertainment value in watching it change has far surpassed the nutritional value I might have gained from eating the thing, and I’m okay with that. Anyone who has visited my crab — make that crib — has probably seen my collection of dried fruit in a large wooden bowl my one of my stereo speakers, and I’m planning to put the cantaloupe to that array. Mind you, it’s not artificial or even fruit simulated in wax or silly putty; the bowl contains actual fruit that has dried to whisps of their former juicy selves. So the incredible shrinking cantaloupe will fit right in by the time I move it from frig to bowl, say in May.

In a way, the incredible shrinking cataloupe is a metaphor for my love life. I must say, I’ve been my share of lucky in love though not life. And with time, my dreams of lasting amore have gone the say of the refrigerator conversation piece. It bothers me immensely, but as long as there is a drop of juice in my dream-bound heart or a lower extremity, I’m all right. Don’t nobody worry ’bout me.

Live long . . . and proper.

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Everyone Loves Kitty

Tabb’s Cat
(no pun intended) Really though, I want to be sure I’ve mastered the art pc picture posting here. The animal was the pet of my f
riends David and Jeanette Tabb who moved to Indiana a few years ago. We were talking in his back yard when his cat scurried up a nearby tree and kindly posed for a candid snap . . . . or the photographer as the case may be. David liked the picture, and I hope you do too.

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A Day in the Life

job107.jpgI dread the news today. . . .
Oh boy . . . . .
. . . . It’s been too long since my last post. During the two weeks of life sans substitute teaching, I’ve discovered my circadian rythu, a natural sleep cycle which, if I didn’t have to work for a living (as I have not had to do for more than two weeks, would permit me maximuum productivity with Aero Know, Central Illinois Visual Artist Galleries and even an occasional creation of a gnu poem or zong. My day (if in Eden land) would start at 9:00, I’d work until 7, eschewing breakfast and lunch if I was on a roll as I happily am maybe twice a week, do the dinner thing and nap until 10. Graba cupu coffee, watch the Charlie Rose Show, return to the office and work until about 4 a, read an hour, hit the hay and arise at 9 a to start it all over again. I explained to Jack Kriel while we both were helping at First Night Springfield how that was my dream day, and it still is. But I’m happy to compromise that dream for a pay check, and I’m already scheduled for some sub teaching later this week, THANK GOD!

I’ve been on a tear, updating some information sharing pages at AeroKnow. The dust STILL hasn’t settled since separating the aviation web from the arts web, and I’m committing to consistently formatting data previously posted and reposting it. THEN I will add new content. I’m also re-organizing the airplane photo galleries later this month, inspired in part by a new supporter from Florida.

THANKS TO MARK & CHERYL PENCE for being the first CIVAG supporters to contribute significant support for the second year in a row as the new year begins. Their kindness will pay the web presence bill through March, and it could not have been better timed!

A poetry event happened last week which struck me with the joy and satisfaction of a train wreck. I need to talk it over with other witnesses before I describe it in more detail. Suffice to say for now that what appears to be a collision may be just an extremely passionate confluence of heavy metal. Intended to talk about it with the gang at Writers’ Bloc last Saturday, but I’ve been in a “May the devil trim your nose hairs with a blow-torch” kind of mood, darn it. I don’t like being an old fart. It doesn’t take much to bring my head out from my hindquarters, but sometimes that’s just where it needs to be: warm and quiet and safe from intrusive cacophonies from the life infernal. Besides, I didn’t get to bed until about 6:30 after darkly obsessing with the seamy side of the internet for about six fripping hours, and I didn’t arise until 1 p.m., the latest I have ever arisen from under a quilt to face the day in my fripping life!

A nutty afternoon it was. For the first time since I arrived in my present domocile about 10 years ago, I cleaned every square inch of my counter space, rearranged a few appliances and washed every dirty dish in the house. It took me from just after 1 to just before 4 . . . . and I didn’t even start to clean the kitchen floor. I’m in a “Let’s make perfect what I can make perfect in my house” state of mind.

The reform even made it through to Sunday morning. Friends from First United Methadone Church — make that Methodist Church and I had a restorative three minutes of convivial repartee at Tim Sheehan’s party between Christmass (hey, if Kwanzaa can have an extra appendix-letter, so can fripping Christmass, okay?) and I vowed I would attend the first service of the new year. Frankly I was surprised to learn they were still conducting services there after the fripping FOR SALE sign went up. How would you feel kissing your girlfriend if she wore a “FOR SALE” button above your favorite geography of affirmation, HEY? So I told them I’d attend and I did. It made my day. The preacher was good, the chorus good, and I’m recommitting to attending until the lock the fripping doors. Thank you Tim and Melody Sheehan for the infusion of resolve.

And then I came home and took the self portrait which I hope you will see with this entry.

It promises to be a good week. By the grace of God and some good people I yam a writer in deed again. The editor of a local publication e-d me an assignment. Don’t want to say more than that for fear of jinxing the gig. But manomanalow, I’m glad to get it. Will let you know when the articles appear at your local news stand.

Looks (no pun intended) as though I STILL haven’t mastered how to post a pitcher. I’ll come back to that later.

And I’m going to spend the rest of this day in the model workshop and catching up with filing aviation data in the basement.

Until next posting .. . . . thanks for looking in on your old pal.


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