Archive for April, 2007

Doing My Way Out

Return to Oit.
Today’s picture has nothing to do with the rest of this report. I needed to make a positive statement today, the start of a new week, a macro-re-birth, a new slate. I took the it from the back of a French-built trainer at Springfield Air Rendezvous 2006 during a VIP/volunteer flight (Thank you again, KC). I have been privileged to fly in some terrific airplanes with terrific people, soaring above life as I often soar in poetry and song. Flying and poetry will always be two flavors of the same dessert.

It’s been a productive Sunday. Mowed front and back lawns, got the trash to the alley, took a bunch of pictures for eBay (selling a bunch of model airplane kits) and started a new page at my Vachel Pages. It consists of pictures of books by Vachel I’m putting up for sale. These were donated to me by a friend, I already have other copies of the books, and I’d rather have the dollars for food. You know what food is: you just open up your mouth . . . . and chew.

Here’s a poem I wrote April 7, 1996 and published in my first book of poetry Minstrel’s Ramble: To Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois. You can by the book by sending me $10, though now that you have the poem for free, you probably can’t imagine why you would. (Clue: there are other nifty poems in the book.) The first time I recited the poem in public, at Barnes & Noble, I checked with Marcellus Leonard, whose dignified, tempered countenance graced many B&N readings in those days, to be sure “tookas” was acceptable in a family bookstore. I don’t have the genetic chromosome for ejaculating righteous indignity over “bad words.” I didn’t ask Marcellus to censor me; I just wanted to be sure the word meshed with the fleeting consensus that defines good taste. Barnes & Noble was a tasteful place; the people there merited tasteful language — a consideration missed by enough local poets to result in the later banning of all poetry open mics there. Dang, jolly shame, that..

Tuff Tookas

You have a gift and the world doesn’t give a damn?
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas.
You feel lost, and you hardly know where you am?
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!

When you’re altogether twisted down and feelin’ blue.
When your friends are moving upward and you’re stuck like glue,
There’s a message that the world wants to say to you:
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!

Yes, you told me that you loved me when my kisses were sweet.
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!
Now you tell me that your world seems in com plete.
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!

It’s the fate of everybody that we crash and burn.
When we reach a point of panic and there’s nowhere to turn,
There’s a moral to the story that we all must learn:
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!

The nice thing about age is there are fewer surprises.
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!
We still hurt like hell, but we know what to be wise is.
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas.

Now’s the time to get you working up a new head of steam.
Find an on-ramp to tomorrow and an open dream.
Say goodbye to pain and sorrow with a primal SCREAM!
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!
Tuff tookas. Tuff tuff tookas!

—– Job Conger

Thanks for reading this.

Live long . . . . and proper.


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Cutting Back

The April 28 Time included an insightful essay by David von Drehle which packs a real wallop dollop of reality I recommend to poets, perverts and the family and friends who shape their lives. He states at the start, “We should stop explaining killers on their terms. It’s not about guns or culture. It’s narcissism.  As an extroverted hummin’ bean with the ability to read about nose cancer and become convinced I have nose cancer, I worry about the truths I see in the essay, and am chagrined by how much of myself I see in the points made.

Throughout elementary school, I enjoyed every teacher I encountered. In junior high, I began to allow myself to be peeved with some of the teachers; names not important here. I’ve forgotten most of them by now anyway. My problems began with math teachers, mostly, seen in sub-par grades launched litanies of lament. My grades suffered because I didn’t like Mr. Sewinso. The parental advice — If you don’t study hard, you’ll have to repeat the subject. Is that what you want? — didn’t motivate me to do better. My  incapacity to find a logical, practical magic formula to overcome my problem with problem people would  never go away. It would become more manifest by the year.

Having acquired passions for aviation, guitar, songwriting and poetry led me naturally into being a sociable fellow. Initially, there were always folks with enough similar takes on life that I could enjoy their fine company and conversation without becoming bitter over not connecting with others. But over the years, the circles have shrunk due to forces I could  not inflence, and the stakes have become higher and higher. Little showers that brought no rainbows were easy to forget in youth. There would always be another rainbow around the bend. And I chased them through many a tempest.

Now I’m cutting back on the chasing. Why? Because I grow weary of slogging through the poo. I’m not attending an arts reception tonight because I believe there is no salvation to be harvested from my love of local art. Absolutely there is no salvation from the local poetry scene. I am not attending a party I was invited to tonight (“Be sure and bring your guitar!”) and I appreciated the invitation. But they promised me a recording session more than a year ago and didn’t deliver. Neither will I . . . . any more.

I’m cutting back. Less time with Writers’ Bloc on Saturday mornings and more time taking pictures at Washington Park  No more seeking support for Central Illinois Visual Artist Galleries and AeroKnow. Will I send support back to new contributors? Hell no, they just might change my mind. Wouldn’t that be incredible if people beyond me could effect positive outcomes to my dreams? Like how un-life-like would that be?

And if it doesn’t move my buggy of life up the hill, I won’t point fingers. A living continuum of holy consensus trumps a pointed digit every time

I’m cutting back. Less web work and more reading.

I’m cutting back. Less time with thin-lipped pontificators and more time with black Labradors who don’t know how to fry my soul with their silent insolence.

I’m cutting back. Somewhere is the sun which brought joy and predictable gratification: childish pursuits, perhaps. Less time with Poetry and more time with buildings model airplanes. More time savoring proven pursuits and less herding kitties on moonless nights.

Live long . . . . . and proper. .

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If #43 wanted to throw Democratic politics into a Keystone Cop antic which would draw attention from his two and a half terms of insidious deception, he and the rest of his coven would bring 3,000 troops home as soon as charter carrier contracts could be arranged for their transport. Politicians and news media are fouling the air with meaningless rhetoric –boogieman farts, if you will, over the YESTERDAY debate about withdrawal deadlines.  WHY? Because the posturing and counter-posturing simply delay the inevitable end of US relevance in that scarred, blighted part of the world. The ultimate end is a given. What we don’t know is how many more US citizens, mostly military, will come home in “dust league mode” and how many will live to kiss their loved ones on their return.

Nothing would put an end to the Texan spin Libras like ACTION from the Ivory Tower, formerly known as the White House. Once action — if not 3,000 troops returned next Tuesday, 1,000. If not 1,000, 500. If not 500, the entire kitchen staff that insists on serving wallpaper paste instead of oatmeal at the enlisted mess in the Baghdad green zone, all 33 of them! Expand the officers’ mess and start serving real chow to everyone.

Did you grow up in a family where Mom repeatedly told you “Wait ’til your father gets home!” and you misbehaved anyway, pinning your hopes on her merciful clemency as you heard “the executioner” turn his key in the front door about 5:30?

If we can accept #43 in the role of “Mommy” — which is what Ronald Reagan called his wife Nancy, so don’t come cross burning to me — as he postpones his legal and morally rightful accountability until Daddy Dems arrive on scene to mete out justice to the nearly departed war criminals, thinking hummin’ beans must wonder why he doesn’t simply act. Does he think he will become magically INNOCENT after he returns to his ranch? Must brave men and women die because “timing is everything?”

DON’T tell the enemy your intentions. Don’t say “Wait til your Democrafts get home.” Act resolutely with more than empty threats which foool no one.

Bringing our troops home, even a few at a time would do more than put an end to the pointless palavering over withdrawal deadlines.It will save lives. My question to the zealous theorcrats who care more for zygotes than patriots is: Why not save brave men and women (which you can do now if you decide to act now) and let Yaweh deal with the rest, as He will someday deal with me; as He will someday deal with you?

Thanks for reading this.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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MS-tical Franklin

My love life skipped three about years between Blackhawk School and Ben Franklin Junior High, what is now known as Franklin Middle School. Though I had a major crush on Linda Walden in 5th and 6th Grades at Blackhawk, I was almost totally distracted by schoolwork and airplanes at Franklin until half-way through 9th Grade when I was totally smitten by J.W. (I say J.W. because the last time I heard, she’s still in Springfield. I encountered her at a Jewel Supermarket back in 1988, we had 45 seconds of polite pleasantries, I picked up my bread and baloney and went home. Linda emailed me from Arizona about six years ago after she encountered my name on the internet. Following the three or four emails in which we shared what we cared to share of our lives, we stopped writing, and that’s okay. She would never be as beautiful as she was in 6th grade at Blackhawk School, and equally important, I will never be as handsome as I was then, those halcyon days of puberty before pimples.

Ladies and gents, if you’re younger than 30 and reading these words, remember when I tell you it’s better for everyone if you try EXTRA hard to KEEP close to the love of your life today than it is to jettison “love in hand” in the belief that something better is waiting for you “in the bush.” Don’t believe the lie: for some, there are no better “fish in the sea.” All of which is preamble to Harrilyn Hart; the reason why I was so touched when I looked in on the gymnasium when I sub taught Band today. That was where, during one after-school activity involving a tame kind of spin the bottle, I was very lucky and to this day, I can see her smile. All I have to do is dream.

Franklin Junior High in 1961 was a mecca of sock hops, a thriving PTA, and music music music. I danced with many girls and enjoyed every one 3.5 minutes at a time. Away from school, Harrilyn and I went on one date: a movie I think. I remember nothing but picking her up and walking her to her door. Dad drove the car. Harrilyn lived in a duplex on the southeast corner of Seventh at Governor. Her family lived upstairs and her dad — Dr. Harold Hart was her dad; I never met him, but from her fine name, I’m guessing the fam was expecting a boy when Harrilyn arrived — had his office downstairs. I cannot drive by that duplex today, 46 years too late, without wanting to ring her doorbell and ask if Harrilyn’s home.

At Franklin today, I looked form the band room windows to where I amd maybe 60 other bike riders parked our bikes every day. In bike racks, even. Today I saw no bike racks, no bicycles. Only cars and cars and cars of faculty.

During teacher prep time, alone in the band room, I turned the electric piano volume down and spent more time playing piano than I had before Mom sold the family Chickering uprights, soon after she and Dad divorced in 1967. I was astonished. Do you remember the Beechnut Peppermint Gum Song? I do. (“Beechnut Peppermint Gum. The pep-pep-peppiest one. Pep-pep-peppiest. Pep-pep-peppiest. Beechnut Peppermint Gum.”). After five minutes of practice I played, tentatively to be sure,  the arrangment I made when I was in 9th Grade at Franklin in 1962. I also played the first song I ever wrote with lyrics — and I remembered most of the lyrics too! I played melodies I sang for the first time in Miss Broche’s 7th Grade Choir class when I decided to take music seriously for the first time in my life in 1960, the arrangement of Blue Moon I learned from Mr. Tom Patrick whom I idolized in 8th Grade Choir, who spent one year at Franklin before getting a new job in Arizona. I practiced the boogie-woogie base hand and a song called Chop Suey that choir teacher Bob Nika taught me in 9th Grade, the year I sang in boy’s choir from 7:30 to 8:15, the school choir, a barbershop octet and mixed ensemble. Franklin was a great place for music. It was where I played the first songs I learned on guitar from a Mel Bay beginner’s book. I still remember the lyrics to the first song I played (Undecided) and Nancy Rose’s obervation — “Job, I could not understand a WORD you were singing!” (That’s okay; I got better.)

This week, fighting a MAJOR head cold and sounding — and looking with my cold sweating and coughing — like I had come through a coffeegrinder a student asked me, “Mr. Conger, have you served in a war?” No, I have not served in combat with a military enemy. I have merely served in combat with society that seems bent on forgetting I’m alive.’El NO, I didn’t answer him that way! I simply, politely said I hadn’t, but my head cold just makes be look that way.

Another student, observing my new mustache asked if I were a Hell’s Angel. I am not now, nor have I ever been a Hell’s Angel.

Two students remembered my visits to Iles Elementary School during their Poetry Weeks in 2004 and 2005 where I recited Vachel Lindsay’s poetry. They are exceptionally bright students!

I’ve wondered what ever happened with Harrilyn: probably kids, grandkids and, I hope, a life of many joys and few heartaches. It would make me happy in a small way to know she stands on top of the bulldozer of circumstance, rather than under it. And it makes my life a little more bearable believing it is true.

Thanks for reading this.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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I can’t observe the woeful dimunition of East Side language skills, based on a higher collective norm in the United Snakes of America without noting, to my profound regret the pathetic parallel on WRSP Fox Channel 55’s 9:00 pm news Sunday night.

It was a syndicate-fed story about how presidential hopefuls stayed off the campaign trail in the days right after the tragic Virginia Tech murders. I say Virginia Tech murders because I can spell Virginia Tech. The story was nicely reported until the Channel 55 editor missed his cue to pot down the volume for the final two sentences. The first of the sentences featured the voice of the reporter saying words to the effect, “How the campaign will intensify this weekend will be known . . . .” fast fade out. The botched production spared viewers from the final sentence which would have been something like, “Reporting from New Hampshire for ABC News this is Lucy Duc.”

It also revealed that the story had been produced probably Thursday, but not aired on Channel 55 until Sunday night!

If this finger-fornicating news on the cheap riles you, welcome to the fripping club! Until Fox affiliates hire producers who understand what NEWS means (not to be confused with two-day old HISTORY), I’m not going to sully my eyes with the immaculately coiffed, talking heads on Fox, rhymes with Sux TV from the Channel 20 studio. I will spend more time with NBC, the State Journal-Register, Illinois Times (of COURSE) and PBS. I hope you will do the same.

I even hope those who don’t have a clue or a care for this rant will learn to do the same.

Thanks for reading this.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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If you didn’t read UPSTR#4, that’s okay. No need to back track. Suffice to say here that I was bemoaning the lack of incentives substitute teachers have to encourage students they encounter for (typically) one day in their lifetimes to settle into the program groove and focus on the words “belched to the wind” (as Whitman said) from the sub. One of the better full-time teachers told me, “If you ever find such an incentive, be sure and let us (full-time teachers) know!”

Put your head into the heart of a pubescent middle schooler, into the culture which provides the greatest challenge to caucasian (if I had wanted to say “white” I would have said “albino”) substitute teachers to understand the total lack of incentive for you to respond as directed by whatever transiting countenance pontificates to you for all of 55 minutes, tops, one day of your life. You have no stake in the sub teacher. He or she will be out of your hair soon. There are no consequences you can’t handle, the way some of your brothers and sisters (who have beautiful hair) wear their jail time as a badge of honor. What can the sub do to hurt you? Generate a day of detention for 45 minutes after seventh period? Good practice for what you’ll encounter later on; right? You have no stake in the substitute teacher’s society. If you are not committed, on a visceral level by the time you enter your freshman year at high school, you will be on the outside looking in; signifying you’re one with your posse while breaking wind into the face of the rest of American society. It’s not your game. You’re beyond the American game. You’re in a game of your own.

In middle school, I learned that properly timed, the promise of holding the class five seconds after the dismissal bell for every demonstration of disrespect for the class or the teacher had the desired effect. There I found that after four delays, 20 seconds, the class settled down. In high school, the class reacted to five second delay increments the way you might respond to an an agressor throwing cotton balls at you: with disdainful laughter.

The students believe they are looking through the substitute teacher, that the attitude the show as though baboons in spring will embarrass the sub and give them another reason to giggle en mass. Fact is, they students aren’t seeing through you at all. That’s because they don’t see you, the point of the lesson you are teaching. They don’t see you at all.  This happens when you’re the teacher and they’re the students.

Two high school students responded defiantly to delayed dismissals on a testy Wednesday at SpriHi. One because she was black with beautiful hair  and would not see the sub, following the end of second period.  I didn’t exist, my words didn’t exist, and she determined she would walk through me to her next class when the bell rang without delay. The other student, following the end of fourth hour,  was a white with incredibly faultless hair. She was determined to walk through me. She said fuve inches from my nose, I had no right hold the ones who had behaved well (she had behaved well up to the moment of defiant impasse) . By the time I explained, in a nutshell, why I held the entire class, the promised delay had run its course, and every student departed as though inspired by ants in their pants.

The point I intended to make was this: until the class unit AS A WHOLE is so bothered by the price to be paid for blatant disrespect too many students display, the behavior of the recalcitrant offenders will nver change. One factor accounting for relatively few muggings of students in the area surrounding area schools is the certain knowledge that fellow students highly discourage such antics. The will of the whole student body politik guides the inflamed blind to see the errors of their ways and to adjust their behavior to serve th good of the collective whole.

 That is my hope for the classes I sub teach. If the caucasoid young lady with beautiful hair had been forced to write “Disrespecting the substitute teacher and my classmates is 100 percent uncool.”  on the blackboard, she might have had her point. If I had written a referral to keep the entire class 45 minutes after 7th period dismissal, that would have been unrealistic as well. But it wasn’t about that. It was holding them over 30 seconds.


Thanks for reading this.

Live long . . . . .  and proper.

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Did you gnow (the “g” is silent, as in know) a substitute teacher is entitled to work only 90 days in the nine-month school year for Springfield School District 186? Subs may work morer days if they sign up with school districts beyond Springfield and with parochial schools. I figure if a teacher can afford a car that will transport him/her beyond Koke Mill and Dirksen, he/she probably doesn’t need the work that much to begin with, but that’s parbably just gme (the “g” is silent as in nome). My heart belongs to Springfield public schools, so that’s where my motley countenance trots all too infrequently when I answer the calling.

Monday was one of my most rewarding days in this 90 day avocation. Mr. H’s English class at SoEa High truly impressed me with his rapport with his class, his enthusiasm for the finer points of grammics (as #43 might say) and his welcoming the news that I’m a Vachel Lindsay semi-scholar and complete reciter. When I told him about Vachel’s poem Simon Legree, he asked me to recite it to every class. I had arrived in time to watch him teach half a period (which is how I came to be so impressed with him) and he stayed as I recited the poem.

Call me a simpletune, but I THOUGHT the poem (you should Google it) SPOKE to a class of mostly black ladies and gentlemen with terrific-looking hair. I even made them listen to my mini-lecture that encourages students NOT to base their opinion of poetry on their experiences of hearing grownups read it aloud. I also pointed out how THEY should find a poem they like, memorize it and recite it when they want to impress their parents and recite it when they want to drive their friends into Macon County. (ha ha ha — they GOT it! Sharp students, these.) Then I recited the poem. If you’ve ever had Wayne Newton sing Dankashoen directly into your eyes as a live TV broadcast camera focused just on the two of you (and by now, what woman over 70 has not?) you will understand the reaction of most of the students as I recited the poem. And that’s okay. I did what I wanted to do, what Mr. H. asked me to do, bless him, and every student in his classes now lives, marked for life, and for the better, from the experience. Yes, there were some marmbled remurks, during those roller coastering 4.39 minutes of actual reciting time, but I stayed in character, and taught myself a few things while teaching them. I HOPE I am privileged to return to that terrific class room again.

No poetry disrupted life as SpHi science students have come to slouch through it. If poetry isn’t relevant, I don’t bring it up. But still I learned, I learned, I learned. (with apologies to Maya Angelou). Iin the 32 minutes I sat munching, lunching with some other science teachers, I asked for their advice. My new tactic of threatening delayed dismissal was not working out as will with the more worldly-wisely highly school students as it had with the middle schoolers. My mention of delaying dismissal by five seconds brought sardonic laughter instead of the anticipated brief return to quiet study. I said I am tired of having only putative threats to make; not promises of positive outcome. There was no POSITIVE incentive I could offer them. Just punishment. So what techniques to these experienced hands use in their classrooms. A friend, wife of a neighborhood association associate laughed, “When you find something, Job, be sure and let us know!”

Of the five classes, I kept two late, supported 100% by the school management. The first time, a black young lady with beautiful hair rose from her seat and approached me as though she had the pigskin and 30 yards and me between her and the end zone. When I physically blocked her, and adjusted as she tried to go under my arm, she returned to her seat. I thought she was learning something. Turns out, the security person I had called to come to my room (because I anticipated such a confrontation) arrived and stood with me at the door until I dismissed them. Second time, a white young lady with  wonderful hair emulated her schoolmate. She explained to me (as most of the rest of the class remained seated) I had no right to punish the whole class because a few had misbehaved. I had not anticipated trouble with this class, so I had no reinforcements, but I engaged her in conversation after determining she would NOT return to her seat, and after the 30 second delay had elapsed I dismissed the class. I should have written referrals for both of these young ladies, but at times like these, I was in no mood for taking names. I do look forward to returning to that class, however, not because of the prideful malcontents . . . . but because of the prideful contents which 90 percent of them are. There is pleasure to be reaped from the good folks. That’s why I’m so glad to be in this line of work until I can find a full-time job.

I’m not done with this subject. But I’m running out of space and can’t share the universal lesson learned in science class. That’s in my planning book for this weekend. Stay attuned.

Thanks for reading this.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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