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Archive for September, 2007

STOP Hunter Lake

“Dear Friends:

“On October 8, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. at Lincoln Library’s Carnegie Room, Citizens for Sensible Water Use (CSWU) presents a detailed and compelling case opposing the construction of Hunter Lake. We invite you to join us.

“City officials at City Water Light and Power are plunging ahead with their plans to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, despite overwhelming evidence that no new water supply is really needed, and even if one was, that Hunter Dam is by far the most expensive and most environmentally disastrous alternative. Only a well-informed citizen opposition can stop this fiscally irresponsible, destructive project that will double our water rates, inundate 1500 acres of forest, eradicate many acres of valuable natural wetlands and ruin historic sites.

“We support securing enough clean water to allow for Springfied’s future growth and development. This can be done without a costly and pernicious dam. We can show you how!

“You will be treated to a professional Power Point presentation which examines the history of the Hunter Dam controversy, studies the wildly inaccurate projections of water demand used by proponents of the dam in efforts to justify it over the past 40 years, analyses real needs and current water yield data, summarizes the alternatives in the event an additional water supply really is needded in the future and reviews the contradictory and confusing positions taken by the City of Springfield government over the decades. Perhaps most compelling of all, this presentation will take you to the land as it is today – something most people have never seen. You will see for yourself the natural beauty and the historically significant sites that proponents want to flood and foerever destroy with another muddy reservoir that isn’t even needed in the first place.

“After the presentation, we invite you to help us discuss what an incredible opportunity this community has to protect and preserve thousands of acres for the future. We hope you will help our cause by expanding your knowledge and volunteering to do your part to STOP HUNTER DAM NOW, and forever.

“Please join our presenters Bruce Semans, M.D., Donald J. Hanrahan, Attorney at Law, and Clark W. Bullard, Professor of Engineering (UIUC). Other members will be on hand to answer questions.

“Very truly yours,
Dan Hanrahan
CSWU member”

The letter, quoted except for spelling out some abbreviations, came to me Friday. If they had a web site, I’d list it here. They do not. Their address is noted at the end of this posting. I will attend this meeting, and I hope you will too. It’s on a Monday. Anything you need to do that early in the week can live until Tuesday, don’t you think?

Citizens for Sensible Water Use is not a bunch of pot breathing, flower eating hippies from UIS; not that there’s anything wrong with them. They are responsible adults. I respect that. You should respect that as well.

It’s important to understand that in a country where we are being SOLD so much more than we need to live heathy, warmly and contentedly, Hunter Lake ranks at the top of the local snake oil list. Saturday night’s TV news featured a story how we KNOW the citizens of Springfield will need a revitalized, expanded water treatment facility (five year lead time anticipated to make it happen) and that alone is going to crank up our water rates.

Developers are like legislators: if they run out of “new goods” to turn over, to generate capital, to generate activity, their money lies stagnant, the way the focus of legislators lies stagnant when there are no a back-room fights and superfluous legislation being passed.

Case in point: anti-bacterial cleansers. “Anti-bacterial” is the new sensation for counter top, toilet and hand soap developers. There are millions of mothers (real mothers, not deletable explitive euphemisms) who would spend the rest of their lives in shame if the juice from a piece of raw chicken dropped accidentally on the counter on its way to the frying pan killed even one of her children, or if Johny put his finger into his mouth after washing his hands with a soap that did not have ANTI-BACTERIAL magic. If her dear child caught the flu and died before he could fight those pesky al Quaeda making mayhem in Jerome, she would be horribly chagrined. Yet, we are told in the Sunday SJ-R Parade Magazine health column that anti-bacterial cleansers do not prevent disease. SUR-FRIKKING-PRISE! Hunter Lake is like anti-bacterial soap. It is an expensive solution which will engage millions of dollars in motion between developers and other beneficiaries who sashay in shadows, for which there is no problem. It is fabrication. It is contrived. It is an insult to the citizens of Springfield. It must not happen!

As Jimmie Dodd used to sing with his legion of idealistic club members, “Wiggle your ears, like good Mouseketeers.” and attend the October 8 meeting. I hope to see you there.

Citizens for Sensible Water Use
1528 N. 4th St.
Springfield, IL 62702
522-0692

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Chickening Out of the News

11:09 Sunday morning and I’m starting this blog posting, shooed into my office as effectively as an uninvited folksinger would be shooed away from a gathering of Ezra Pound aficionados. Behind the shoo is the face of Newt on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. Newt and #43 don’t appeal to me when I’m sober and they appeal to me even less when I’m not. So for the first time, I’m backing away from a terrific news program host simply because I can’t bear to gaze onm the thuggy countenance of his guest.

I’ll return to the show (which I can hear as a dull murmur in the nearby living room) after the coverage of Bill Clinton’s world-saving effort is over, and the analysis panel comes on: usualy George Will, Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson and if we’re lucky Fareed Zakaria (probably mis-spelled. This is a blog. For a paid column I would confirm correct spelling.). Too many featured guests sound like hucksters for toxin removal elixirs who promise incredibly long deposits, at the bottom of your toilet bowl,  of waste residue from last night’s dinner and bed time snack. I have lost my stomach for that kind of chaff. I want the wheat.

I’m even down to only two “must reads” in the State Journal-Register’s excellent “funnies” section: Opus and Doonesbury. And sometimes For Better or Worse. I used to read Hi & Lois, Beetle Bailey and Frank & Ernest regularly, but they seem like Lawrence Welk re-runs these days. I miss B.C., Calvin & Hobbes, Tumbleweeds and Boondocks.. I’m still glad I subscribe to the SJ-R.

Too much of what’s happening today, from my perspective close, if not  buried, in the haze that wafts across the earth, from ground level to 50 feet up,  like a dust storm of incidental acrimonies, happens in a stratum beyond my concern. I believe in local politics because I can see cause and effect. It’s more immediate. National politics is wonderful, but I care less about how the grain of wheat was planted, the board room arguments about what kind of genetic resistance should be engineered into next year’s seed stock, how many distributors to retain next year and who to close, the need to replace what percentage of delivery vehicles and from local or foreign brokers . . . . .  and I care more about what’s in the bread I’m about to eat: the near term concerns that won’t come to my table until after Iowa and New Hampshire votes. I believe in knowing what’s going oin across the world because I want to know the wolf is coming long before he scratches on my door.

I’m going to start listening to my CDs more often.

They are halfway through probably six minutes of commercials following the Clinton presentation, and the round table is coming up. Time to return to the living room.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Late Summer Love

Late Summer Love

Gone the fair young maidens,
Vanished into the years
With all the hopes of springtime dreams
Untamed by wisdom’s tears.
Lost the quest for love’s first blush,
Banished by winter winds
And tortured treks through wilderness
Endured, but for what ends?

She saw me on my journey;
Sang softly love’s reprise
Of better days and caring ways
with magic melodies.

<>I answered most politely
With passionate embrace
For sweet salvation here on earth:
This lilting, laughing face
Who might share my great sojourn
Toward lasting joy supreme —
A voice and heart in harmony
With my wayfaring dream.Though gone the springtime moon songs,
Still I cherish what might be:
Her wondrous soul vivace, here,
Embracing our reality.

Hw grand the fair young maidens
And their sprightly, eager knights
Who dance so happy in the sun,
Into the sweet twilights.
Late love is more than deja vu
Though flames less brightly blaze.
She’s no Gwenvere, but I’ll hold dear
My (place name here) always.

— by Job Conger
written 2:43 pm, January 25, 2002
published first in Bear’ sKin by Job Conger

Inspired by a woman, not from Springfield, who married another fellow when I made it clear I would not leave Springfield. My writing of “(place name here)” was done for the first time with the sharing of the poem/song here at Honey & Quinine. We (her, her huz and moi) are friends

and life goes on, braaaaaaah! (It’s a Beatles thing)

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Two seconds into the school office at Grant Middle School, a black young man I’ve taught in class before sees me walking in, makes eye contact and asks me to autograph his book. When I ask him why, he replies ?I had you last year, and I just want your autograph.” He opens a paperback book he has handy and opens it to a page with some space on the bottom. “Right there would be good,” he says. I start to sign it twice, but break his mechanical pencil lead twice before I can finish two letters. His schoolmate sitting next to him hands me a pen, and the rest is easy. I sign it Mr. Conger,” asking him how he’s doing, and he says “Fine.” I tell him “You;re the first student who’s ever asked me to autograph a book before. I hope you have a good year. See ya.” and I’m off to math class.

Besides the principal at Grant, who’s a straight-up gentleman and the almost completely non-adversarial attitude of the students toward substitute teachers (from what I can tell) most of the time, the classiest part of this middle school is that it has doorstops built into the floors. You open the door all the way and it pops over a slightly raised flexible probe that goes into a slight indentation in the door’s bottom. A gentle tug pulls the door over that catch to close it. Nifty, aye? Grant is the only school I’ve sub taught at with this 21st century innovation. No wonder we beat the Russkies to the frikkin’ moon!

To know me is to know that I am not a mathematician, though I sometimes think that with a different seventh grade math teacher, I might have become one. No need to embarrass the teacher by revealing the name. Besides, I’ve forgotten it. I just remember that I was too bleeding afraid of being thought STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID in class to ask questions. I found it easier to barely get by and let the rest of the class imagine I was smarter than I was than it would have been for me to open my pie hole and emblazon my gross incapacity like a harvest moon, into the chortling faces of my schoolmates. Even so, when I sub teach math, it’s usually an exceptionally fulfilling day, and Friday was no exception. This was not because I’ve grown smarter since seventh grade; it’s because the teachers I sub for are nothing short of fantastic in their lesson plans, substitute teacher guidelines and capacity to accommodate the vagaries of dealing with wayfaring substitutes.

Some, maybe all, Springfield middle schools teach their cirricula in BLOCKS of roughly 90 minutes; not PERIODS of roughly 50. My half day gave me two blocks. One from about 11:00 to 11:30 with a break for lunch and continuing until about 1; the second straight from about 1 to 2:30. Both blocks required students to work on their work packets alone or in groups. The teachers lesson plan stated I was NOT PERMITTED to help; they had to figure things out for themselves. This brings up a point some good folks who have never had the pleasure of substitute teaching don’t understand…..

“How can you sub teach in maff class (some curious antagonists have never mastered elementary spelling) without knowing how to do maff?” some query at the odd party or effigy burning. The goal of every teacher — certified with the State of Illinois or other states, or certified as a substutte — is to guide students in the learning process. Not one teacher in the history of teaching — according to The Book of Teaching, Chapter 3, verse 18 — has been asked to verbally speak every fact conveyed in a body of learning material into the ears of the students, individually or when collectively gathered in class. Sometimes, what a student carries into the years from a class has absolutely no connection to the factual material presented in texts, movies, projected graphics or additional reading assignments. All I remember from 10th grade English (what we now call Language Arts because the Beardstown meat packers objected to the original term) is that his name was Mr. Schoenbeck, and I wrote an essay called “Driving In A Storm.”

He liked the essay so much he read it aloud to the class. Our English text had suggested the title, apparently assuming it would be about navigating our family car through heavy rain and lightning, perhaps on a vacation trip. I wrote about a visit to the driving range and the recreation park on Wabash and hitting balls while the rain came down by the cat and dog. He liked the essay. My peers liked the essay, and I loved that they liked the essay. I digress.

You may be sure that whomever the substitute teacher is, and whatever the subject is, students will learn from the interface lasting a block or a period long. The students will learn how to respect a new person, an authority in front of the classroom. OR they will learn how not to respect that transiting stranger. Jessica will learn how to focus on quiet study when Johny or Tanishia is poking at her with a pencil when the sub’s back is turned. OR she will learn it’s okay to hit Tamisha on the head with a book; a retributive strike, so to speak. They will learn that sometimes the substitute teacher will discipline a misbehaving student even though the regular teacher would just give him or her a stern glance with blazing eye contact, and all would be cool. They will learn that the new grownup can listen to a lot of snickering before acting to stop it. That’s usually because the sub wants to give extra rope to “veteran students” squirming under the gaze of new earnest eyes. As I said earlier, the modus operandi is seldom adversarial. That it appears adveersarial is ofteh the sub teacher’s mis-assessment of the interplay. But you can be sure that every interface between class and substitute teaches students about life. That’s the point of school from the start. Dates and multiplcation tables are essential for sure, but sometimes nominally incidental. Every interface brings new learning to the students and new learning to the substitute teacher as well. That’s one reason I enjoy it so much.

Friday was a joyous afternoon. Problems were minor, pleasures were many, and I always look forwardt to returning to Grant Middle School for more of the same.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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FOLK Salad

Thanks to the best news weekly in the greater tri-state area for the imspiration for me to get off my keister re my music preforming (as they say in the White House) . Something “registered” when I read the news about free listings for local musicians, so I created FOLK Salad to let my people KNOW — via mon response to IT and my creation of a new page at my arts site..

Before I tell you where, I will tell you why. I was given my first guitar about age 10. It was a $15 Harmony from Sears, and when I received it on Christmas circa ’57, I thought I had been handed a ticket to the moon! (Gossamer wings optional.) It was just one of those things. Elvis was arriving; the Everly Brothers were arrived. When Mom brought home a book from the library about how to play a guitar, I knew I’d have to settle for what we then-called “pantomiming” and we today call “lip synching.” The book was hardbound with a black cloth cover and about the size of a John Steinbeck short story anthology, but a heck of a lot harder to comprehend. I needed something simpler with bigger pages.

In the meantime, I pantomimed my performance of the Everly Brothers “Problems Problems” and “Bird Dog” . . . . . . (“Hey bird dog, get away from my quail. Hey bird dog, you’re on the wrong trail.” I could still sing it today, but I don’t expect to, even though NOW I can play the chords. Singing two-part harmony with myself is the real challenge) . . . . . ..at a Blackhawk School variety show. I amso ‘mimed Neil Sedaka’s “I Go APE” — NOT the civilized, sanitized, revisionized version he performs today like a Mike Jagger atrophied into Joe Lieberman, but the ORIGINAL. . . . . and that version was excellent.

By 9th grade at Franklin, Mom or Dad had found the Mel Bay “how to learn guitar” books, and they were my pathways to fame and four tunes. I was delighted! I could understand Mel Bay! From “Red River Valley,” I progressed to “On Top of Old Smokey,” Camptown Races” and “Undecided.” UNDECIDED? “First you say you will, and then you won’t. Then you say you did and then you don’t. You’re undecided now, so what am I gonna dooooooo?” I also remember the refrain, but I’ll spare you. Yes, it was a very modern book. I even performed two or three songs, accompanying myself on my own guitar in Mr. Bob Nika’s ninth grade choral singing class. And I remember the first comment by the first person after my first song, which happened to be “Undecided.” When Mr. Nika said “Does anybody have any thoughts to share?” Nancy Rose, probably the best-looking blonde in the history of Benjamin Franklin Junior High School, said, “Yes, I do. Job, I couldn’t understand a word you sang!” And you know the God’s honest truth? I was not insulted or hurt. First of all she was NANCY ROSE for goodness’ sake, and second, she was absolutely right. I seldom practice or perform a new song without thinking of Bob Nika and Nancy Rose. My hand to God, that is the happy truth.

I won’t bore you with the rest except for a summary. Played with a folk group comprised of Jim Richardson, Carl Russo, Steve Baker and me in high school. Later played a lot in college at SCI and MacMurray, mostly. Played at all the Springfield coffeehouses in the 60s except Rudolph’s Bean. I went there once without guitar, and the campy scholastic kitschyness scared me away. I took some pictures during my days as a regular at The Somethin’ Else at Fourth at Capitol and have posted them at a web page you can access through the CIVAG Site Map.

I’ll share more as I get some 21st Century performances under my belt. I billed myself for a long time as “Springfield’s Oldest Living Folkinger” but now that I probably am, I resent the approach, even though I used it for about three and a half days.. So now it’s FOLK Salad. Job Conger, his six-string and his 12-string acoustic guitars. Lettuce entertain you. Unplugged, umpresentious and unforgettable.” Vist the page www.civag.com/FOLK.htm

Sing long . . . . . and proper.

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Friday vamping

It’s been a busy week — good and not good. Wednesday, I had half a cup of dog chow left for two dogs who had had about the same the previous day, about 1/16 of their normal intake. Thank God my web site client was in town because he was the only way out of my hole. I told him I needed an advance on the work I was doing, and could I swing by after subbing and pick up a little green.
“Sure. I”ll have it for you at the front counter.”
Whew! I could almost hear the bullet I had just dodged whistle as it passed by my ear.

School was a challenge. I’lll be cryptic about this. High school half a day, three classes: a video for first and third with reading and work sheets in the middle. Typically, my days begin with exemplary students and end with the less thans. It was a reversal Wednesday. I continue to be amazed by the illogic and unpredictability of members of the same human race. The afternoon tore me up inside.

I had prepared some material to discuss with web client when I went to his place to get the dollars, but he had a customer and no time to chat. He did have the dollars, thank God; twice what I had asked for and a real blessing. But I could not shake the tempest continuing to rage in me 40 minutes after school had concluded. I began to understand the ethos of a former girlfriend who taught special ed at Washington Middle. (One day when I was in my early 20s, I was even invited to bring my guitar and play and sing for her class, and I did.) During those short few years Carole told me about teachers who come home from school, take a nap, meet faculty friends for bar hopping until who knows when, and begin the same thing the next day. That’s what keeps them going at school — and they’re the ones with real power in the classroom! And this was in a time when more kids knew to stop at NO and to proceed at YES. Near as I can tell, things went south in the 70s. And here I am sub teaching in 2000 and bleeping seven. I guess it’s all relative. Students should not be judged against the standards of 1968. they should be judged against the standards of 2007 . . . . . . which are as different from 68 as Ipods are from 8-tracks. I decided Wednesday I would not be driven to bars, which are expensive. Besides if you consume as much as you want, you’re a menace to society driving home. I vowed that if my fave Carol Rossi was on sale for less than $10 (for a gallon) I would buy a jug. It’s been on the shelf at more than $11 lately. I started buying and drinking it about 13 years ago when it was $5.97. (It’s the same brand and the same jug my mother used to send me to buy for her when I’d go over for Sunday dinners, but she drank the Chablis. Long story. I’ll spare you.). I know this because Hardee’s 8 piece fried chicken was often on sale at $5.97 Wednesdays, and I’d buy the chicken first, then bop over to Midway for a gallon of Rossi Burgundy for the same price. At Shop ‘ this Wed., it was on sale for $8.97!

I had purchased some decent food at Shop ‘n Save, but all I wanted for dinner were sandwiches. I ate my lunch meat sandwiches and quaffed the Burg and totally enjoyed Ken Burns’ fine series “The War” before retiring early to bed. The sub line called a 9:00 something. Last year I vowed not to drink if there was a chance I’d be called to sub the next day. So I erred, demonstrated my human capacity for imperfection. I had not gone overboard.. It was a sane night. Perceptive readers will recognize the description I’ve just written for you is a beagle puppy, while the truth is I tussled with a grizzly bear. Some truths in this blog must be imputed, rather than revealed in black and white.

And Thurs. I arrived for a day of special ed where my lost love had taught special ed. The day went okay, but it was a heck of a haul. I arrived at 7:30 and was not released for lunch until 1:08! One of the teachers checked in on my about 10:30 and asked if I wanted to grab a drink, but I declined. I was doing okay. At noon, the need to hydrate hit my like a truck, and there was not a human adult in sight in the hall. It would have taken me 45 seconds to walk to the teachers’ lounge and buy a Mountain Dew and return, but no such luck. I would not leave the students. So I waited until 12:30 when I walked my five students to the cafeteria where they bought lunch, and I bought a half pint of white milk, drank it like it was cheap beer and refilled the carton with cool water from a drinking fountain in the hall. Once the day was done with the students, it was a straight shot home and a gradual return to a state of general coolness. I did not touch the wine for the rest of the day and evening. I did have more lunchmeat sandwiches for dinner and the iced tea flowed like . . . . . like iced tea should flow, sweetly and generously.

On Friday, the fog of the past two days has passed over me like rain clouds riding slow wind. I’m feel okay, rather like awakening from the anesthetic after minor abdominal surgery. I have half a day at another middle school ahead of me, and I am absolutely delighted to be going there. This is one of the better schools and close by.

The weather is good, and there is fuel in the old fuel tank. I still haven’t paid my $1,000 real estate tax bill, but today I will celebrate the joys I am given, and the rest will have my full attention when I can share my full attention. In the meantime . . . . . . they won’t be going anywhere.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Profit and Laws

where the ffffffffoooog is
Pictured above: an unhappy tableau on Springfield’s near south side, two doors east of H&Q-meister. The residents don’t even look Puerto Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrican. This picture has been slightly retoucht.

The gentleman who came to read my watermeter today had just encountered a neighborhood citizen who saw the City Water Light and Power logo on his car and verbally dang near assaulted him wanting to know if it was legal to park a car on the grass by your front porch. “They think that because I work for the city, I know everything,” he explained, obviously a bit twitterpaited by the acrimonious encounter of the nerd kind. “I told him toe call City Hall.”

I told the CWLP fellow, a nice enough bloke, that it was against the law to park in your front yard. There’s a city ordanance that says so, that I’m with the local neighborhood association (true) and I know these things.

“It seems okay to me,” he said. “What difference does it make?”

“It’s the difference between eating chili with your fingers or eating it with a spoon; between standing on your head in a pew at church or sitting politely with the rest of the congregation,” I replied.

He was distracted by the second example. “Well, I have no trouble eating chili, but I doubt if I could stand on my head at church, not as old as I am.”

I ‘xplained the point is that the ordinance exists for a reason: to limit the disrespect we can display against our neighbors and our excellent city. It’s the same reason I can’t run a house of prostitution from my house unless I want to move east of 11th Street, and that if I wanted to sell meth , crack and marywhanna, I’d have to move a few blocks north to do that. He seemed to understand and with polite pleasantries exhausted, he hastened to the car he had backed into my driveway (without blocking the sidewalk of course. As I said, he’s a nice enough gentleman.) and exited due east.

I hastened to my telephone and dialed 788-8311 and was connected , in a move of extreme propitiousness and serendipity, to a friend on the Springfield PD whom I will not name for fear of staining his solid gold name. He promised to drive by the house I described as soon as he started his beat.

At 2:10 p when I took the picture from the street, not closer than 10 feet from the real estate, the car was still there on the lawn. As Karl Scroggin might say, C’est la guerre!

I’m lucky whan I comes to neighbors. And if I didn’t take pride in the looks of things, as much pride as I can take without a fripping full-time employer, I would not be concerned about cars paked in front yards. especially when the driveway which belongs to the same homeowner, is not occupied by a parked car! When that sucker’s wheels and tires disappear, and it rests on cinder blocks, I want those frippin’ blocks on the driveway where they belong! After all, it’s the (legal citizens’) American way, don’ cha know. JOSE, can’t you see?

Live long . . . . and proper!

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