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Archive for December, 2007

still Karzi after all these years!”

Live long and don’t mess with poppy crops.

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Pictured above: a practical solution for the post-Christmas delemma: What’s to be done with the rest of these stupid mini marshmallows? Photo by Job Conger, Peter Pan Crunchy addict and Joe Biden supporter.

Even though I ate a tasty baked chicken for the big birthday dinner on the 25th, I went “whole hog,” so to speaq, with the trimmings which consisted exclusively of a can of candied yams topped with melting marshmallows.

“Tt’s Christmas time in the city.”
For years I’ve been getting by with the same brand of yams from the same Shop ‘n’ Save, swimming in their own sauce until gently ladled onto my plate and drenched with Imperial Margarine

“ta ta-da DA”

This year I decided to eshew the traditional frozen cauliflower veggie and go pro-radical eqstremist with just the yams and the added garnish of fluffy white “NATURALLY FAT FREE FOOD” as the package read. The minis may have been naturally fat, but they certainly were not free.

Uninitiated to the exciting world of corn starch, sugar and gelatin and other swell stuff, I was surpised when I discovered my first few hands full (handfulls if you live in the White House) had melted to invisibility, right into the candied, yammy-yummy broth heating on the stove. So that I might savor the visual element of the eagerly-anticipated glorious white-on-orange repast, I added three more hands full to the simmering ambrosia and watched it like a hungry hawk with a sweet beak.The results were fab, what else can I say? The combination not only made for some fine candied yams. The magma (not quite liquid; not quite solid) which remained in the pan was a nice dipping sauce for forks full (fork fulls if you live in Glenarm) of baked chicken. But like all good things, the feast ended too soon, and sure enough, the morning after, I realized I faced the long-ago-mentioned dilemma.I had almost half a package of these things, and eating them straight from the package seemed like eating granulated surgar by the spoonful. Solution? Give mon jar of strawberry preserves a rest over the holidays and subsitute the mini marshmallows that were not free. It worked!

Long story short: I’m still working my way through the rest of them and eating more peanut butter than usual to make it happen, but I’m happy with the result. I believe that if you have leftover mini’mallows in your pantry, and you give this a try, you will be as happy and full-filled as I.

Bon appetit!

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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The Tragedy of Benazir Bhutto

Imagine moving ito a country where everyone knows you’re there to restore democracy to a people who have lived their lives in  supplication to the class of brutal, powered elete. Do you think I’m talking about Freedom Riders setting up housekeeping in Selma, Alabama in 1962? I could be, but I’m not.

Now imagine that the leaders privately avowed to relocate you to a pine box come from two sworn ememies. The most dangerous are religious fanatics ready to commit suicide if they can take you along. The other sworn enemy of your clarion call for democracy is the president of the country where you have chosen to come, after eight years of exile, to make a difference.

I was having another late night at the compuiter when news of Benazir Bhutto’s assasination began coming in over WUIS — aka “BBC After Midnight.” Instantly, I was back at Springfield High when word came of John Kennedy’s death. Suddenly at 3:30 I was awake and unable to focus on anything but details coming in. I’m still awash with in a cauldron of loss.

Although everyone is posing in respectful pious platitudes for the woman, all this making nice like hosing down a beautiful house as its ashes cool in the dark of night. News commentators have shared the following thoughts. I can’t claim much of what follows as my own, but I share with you because you may not have considered these points, and I hope you will.

How would you feel if Vladimir Putin began financing TV ads for Bill Richardson? You FORGOT already? He is a Democrat Party candidate for US president! How would you feel if Saudi Arabia underwrote the cost of John McCain’s efforts in New Hampshire? Your reaction might be the same as mine: “Hey Vodka Swilling Sheikers and Movers, butt OUT of our BUSINESS! What would you say if Venezuela’s outspoken president distributed millions of dollars American quietly to all presidential candiates of all US parties in the running, including the Green Party and the Ron Paul Cult? Would you be just a tad perterbed? I’ll BET!

The US, under the Kestone Cop incarnate, known to the world as #43 urged Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan and leaned on President Musharef to tolerate her while surrendering his army uniform. In the course of complying under blatantly obvious duress, Mushareff transformed Pakistan’s supreme court into a judicial puppet with all the “gravitas” of Kermit the Frog; as eloquent as the the arn that was inserted up their backsides and the lips that moved to a voice, not of their own.. Musharef, believing that Bhutto’s victory in the coming January 8 elections was inefitable also cut a heaping helping of statutory power from the office of prime minister. Had she lived, Bhutto would have had nothing close to the authority she had known during her service in that position twice before.

Early into the reporting, I concluded that given the record of her entire family, seemingly destined for national leadership in the young nation, her father’s death by hanging and the loss of her murdered brothers, probably indicated a flaw built into her genome. I assumed her family had the “corruption gene” common to some political dynasties in other countries, and I ain’t namin’ names, cowboys. Later I learned that her entire family had been outspoken proponents of “Democracy.” Their failures were not from their incompetence. The Bhuttos were the John Andersons, the Paul Simons, the Teddy Roosevelts, theJimmy Carters of their part of the world. Those who prosecuted the family were not the enemies of corruption; they were the enemies of freedom. Who needs an impicatable president when you have your own Alberto Gonzalez, so to speak, in your back pocket?

Besides, Musharef, in or out of khaki and epaulets, doesn’t rule Pakistan; the country’s army rules Pakistan. They are the force, almost since the country was born not many decades ago, who assasinated, indicted and hung those who spoke for democracy. Pointing our righteous extended fingers (chose your favorite) at Musharef is like wailing about the barking Labrador in the neighbor’s back yard when your real enemy is the drug pusher doing business on the other side of your backyard privacy stockade fence, out by the alley at 3 am, and making plans to “liberate” your assets.

The irony that the Taliban and Musharef have so much in common sullies the soul of Pakistan. They hated her for the same reason we would despise Saudi financing our elections, even though they finance a lot of our lifestyle with their lobbyists in DCeit. They hated her because her lofty ideal of freedom is not part of the accepted status quo of Pakistan powered elete. For her to advocate freedom was to mark her as a “tool,” a “poodle” of the US, and a thread to the power elete’s way of life.

Since the late 19th century, the West has stood for freedom, and freedom is a threat to those who find in an inconvenient impediment to iron-toed boots. Not only that, the West consorts with the wrong god. No wonder they hate advocates for freedom, regardless of color or creed, or non-creed.

For the US to have so openly supported her was to seal her unhappy fate from the start when she returned Octobere 17. Washington politicos largely ignored her before she announced plans to go home to Pakistan. We cold shouldered her the way the President of Planned Parenthood might we welcomed at a KKK rally.

We’ve already considered how wary we would be of a US presidential candiate whose bid for the White (no offense intended) House was underwriten. The power elete in Pakistan and that part of the world feel the same about US presence, above board or under the table — in their affairs. Why did the US put all their support behind Bhutto and not share their folding green with other candidates? My guess (and this is blogger; not news commentator) is that such in-depth consideration of options in Pakistan was/IS beyond che talent of #43’s accessories. Their cursory consideration of the field led them to conclude Bhutto was “their man” for the job. They didn’t bother with the rest because is was easier to pick one and ride her to the finish line. Of course that required the “chosen one” to arrive at the checkered flag, which, of course did not happen. So where is the US presence now?

Largely where it has been since 2003. A diminishing relevance to the world.

The US and madcap cops in Washington DCeit need to understand that if we insist on contriving to create a political environment in a country beyond our borders, we must pay the consequences when our anticipated Lincoln emerges as a sulphur and brimstone scented Castro or Stalin. We must understand that we should lead by making our ligtle light shine as a beacon to the darkness engulfing the world right now; not to insist on bullying our beacon into countries whose leaders will never see the light. Freedom must come from within; not from invading armies and not from under the table.

Bhutto’s death is a sorry testament to that reality. God help us all if we are too blind to see it.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Pictured above is a license plate from Bob Gilbert’s collection.

It was a “bolt from the blue” when my Benjamin Franklin Junior High School-to-now good friend Bob Gilbert called a few days ago from his home in northern Illinois. He had good news: his first novel Megan’s Love has been slated for publication in a few months, and he wanted me to review it before they print the inside dust jacket.. If you don’t know a’ready, and even if you do, the DJ is the paper wrap that comes with many hardback books. The DJ allows a more colorful “package” for book store display, permits information about the author and even review excerpts to be added late into the publication process. It also keeps the dust off the hard surface of the bound book.

Nacherly I was delighted to be invited to read it pre-press, and a galley is arriving today. My review is slated for my book review page at CIVAG, probably in the second week of January. I’ll mention it’s up here at H&Q when it’s posted.

You’re probably wondering about the peach on the plate; aye? Bob also mentioned he has continued to collect license plates since he started back in 60-something when he and his dad (Eugene Gilbert, former B-17 pilot in World War II; a super gent, like his son) restored what I remember as a 1929 Ford Model A in their garage. He is particularly glad to have acquired the plate pictured here.

“Regarding the 1941 plates . . . . They were given to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (by the State of Georgia) for use on his 1938 Ford Roadster. When FDR remained in DC, the car and plates were in the care of Fred Botts, also a polio victim at Warm Springs, GA .At the end of 1941, Botts removed the plates and gave them to Robert Hogg, head administrator at the polio school in Warm Springs. Robert left in 1943 to join the Army Air Corps and retired years later as a Lieutenant Colonel. He died in 1989 and passed the plates to his son James who today lives near San Francisco. I acquired the plates from him prior to Christmas 2005.”

BG is still into plates big time, and he edits a collector’s newsletter. If you’d like to know more about license plate collecting — perhaps you have some old plates for sale — let me know in the comments section. Bob will get in touch via e. How? Let’s just say zat vee bloggas have our vayce, and leave id at zat. Seriously, he’s a straight up guy, and is always looking for license plates for his collection . . . .

Except when he’s writing novels and enjoying his fab family.

For those of you curious about my Christmas, mine was quiet and sane — no bent fenders and hardly any broken glass — and I hope yours was the same. If it was something I could brag about, you may be certain I would have told you about it by now. In the meantime, I’m working on my “humble” and not opening any “se><ual enhancement” email from repelvican parcedental canidapes and their hinchpersons. ..

Live long . . . . .and proper!

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I Rang a Bell for Salvation Army

About a month ago I heard a public service announcement that Salvation Army was looking for bellringers I knew it was a volunteer gig, but in my circumstance, blessed with a car and the need to “justify my flesh” in this world, I called the number. Knowing absolutely nothing about how they operate, work schedules, etc., I explained to “Dave” at the other end that I was not working anywhere full-time, I had the time, and I’d gladly go wherever I could help. He explained volunteers work two-hours per assignment, just show up, put on the blue identifyer and ring. He asked if I could ring at Schnuck’s on Montvale Drive on the next Thursday at 3, and I said “sure..”

I knew it would be a mad dash if I had to sub teach that day, but as long as a subbed at a school with 2:30 dismissal, I’d be fine, and if called, I would ask for an assignment that ended then. My concern was for naught. This last pay period of 2007 generated exactly ONE day of subbing, and there were no calls to sub that final, pre-vacation week. merry yadayada

The assignment was a plum: inside the sheltered and heated cart area at the front of the store. The kettle was to the left of the entrance into the store proper, warm, dry and out of the wind. The fellow bell ringer I encountered at 2:55 was a 20-year veteran of what I call “The Ring.” His winter coat sleeve displayed patches, sewn like sergeants’ stripes that testified to his commitment. He said he was originally from Milwaukee, but he had moved to Springfield a few years ago for the warmer weather. He was cheerful, and really into the season. One of the first questions he asked was “Do you have a car for getting to places?” I replied I did, and he seemed impressed. He also stated that some of the Salvation Army staff and bell ringers had met that morning and talked about me. He was the ONLY ONE who knew how to pronounce my first name! WOW! Cheerful AND hep! I was told the kettle action begins the day after Thanksgiving and ceases at 3 p on Christmas Eve. When the van came by at 3:00 to pick up his kettle and install a fresh one for my round, he explained he was going to Target, riding with the van driver, for the next two hours, but would return to Schnuck’s a little after 5:00.

I could not have asked for a better place for a first encounter with The Ring. I had dressed to suggest I was not a refugee from the soup kitchen, though I sometimes feel closer to that world than the world in which I strive to survive. It was important to me, going in, to let people know that people of good will, of many “stripes” are behind the bell ringing effort. The unspoken message I wanted to convey, that I convey ihere at H&Q, is that two hours of bell ringing, for a few days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a good way to give back to our community. When I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends, we were visited by a mutual friend who had helped dish out a feast at Washington Street Mission before coming over to say “hi” and chat for awhile. That encounter planted the seed that led to my volunteering for Salvation Army.

Earlier concern that people I knew would recognize me and think I was living at Salvation Army disappeared the minute I picked up the bell. Without my long full beard (recently trimmed to a more status-quo-ish van Dyke), in decent clothes topped by my leather bomber jacket and freshly shampooed hair, I hoped I looked as GIVING in my mode as I hoped the passers by would be, and that’s how things worked out. I did encounter SEVERAL people I knew, including a member of the Sierra Club, a former employer and others. Pardon my vanity, but I sense some people gave because they recognized me, and if they did, that’s terrific. I was impressed wtih the smiling faces and frequent giving. The bell was in constant motion from 3 to about 5:05 and not in tinkle mode, in CLARION CALL mode. I wanted people entering the store to KNOW Salvation Army was there. The only time I stopped was the several occasions I saw young mothers with baby’s in car seats, snug in blankets and paybe sleeping. I didn’t want to wake them, and there wee consistent smiles from passing parents as they came and went. It was obvious, from 3 to 5, that people were in GO MODE at Schnuck’s. Most were passing by engaged in a necessary brief encounter with food shopping because they were concerned not so much with Schnuck’s or Sallvation Army kettle, as they were focused on what waited beyond . . . . . and as Donovan sang in his hit “Mellow Yellow,” . . . . “quite rightly!” Still there were smiles a plenty. I learned later that people who shop at Schnuck’s are some of the most generous givers in this city.

KUDOS to SCHNUCK’S management for letting Sanvation Army set u p the kettle at that central, confortable location at the Montvale store.

When I arrived home, my first task was to e Illinois Times editor extraordinare Roland, and ask if he could use a story about Salvation Army bell ringers. If yes, I was confident I could interview Dave and others for a decent story. The answer was “no, thanks. Content for the last issue before Christmas was already scheduled.”

“No prob;” I responded. “Maybe I can ask earlier in 08 and contribute something then.  Merry Christmas Roland and IT.”

I heard nothing from Savation Army in the week that followed. I wondered if I had been “fired” because of how I had engaged the people. Occasionally, I DID wish folks a “Merry Everything,” and Happy Holidays,” and “Happy Happy” and “Happy Birthday Celebration,” but nostly, “Merry Christmas.” When I heard the SA phone number during another PSA, I called them, explained I hadn’t heard from them since the first experience at Shnuck’s, and that with the week of no school, I was ready to help again.

The call came last Thursday. Would I help from 9 to 11 am at JC Penney? YES, it will be great to be a part of Christmas eve there. BTW, I had tried to generate an article for IT and would be describing my experience at my blog. Was that a problem for Salvation Army? “No,” he responded. “We appreciate every mention people care to share regarding what we do.”

Monday dawned clear and crisp, perfect weather for the day. I arrived on time, again dressed “in holiday style” ready to ring my “brass-colored bell.” It was Christmas time in the city.

I was wearing a sweater knitted by my dear sister Dorothy about 10 years ago and sent to me as the last Christmas present she would send my way. The year after, my Yule-tide phone encounter was NOT in the spirit of the season, but I was proud to wear the sweater in happy testament to her at her best. If there is a Shymansky or friend of same reading these words, please tell Dot she is still number one in my book of good people. I had brought my long leather coat, but after half an hour of ringing I stashed it in my nearby car.

It was a different two hours. Out in the open, but facing the sun, shading my eyes from the glare by partially dodging behind the Salvation Army kettle sign, I was fign — or fine if you prefer. Peopkle were NOT in a rush. Again, I was recognized gladly by many, including Orpheum Theater historian, a friend of my brother Bill and others. Joanne Paul, child bride of John Paul, Prairie Archives owner, came by and contributed to the kettle. An acquaintance I had met at a party last summer lit up like a Christmas tree when she recognized me; called me “The Vachel Lindsay Guy.” I was delighted. And so on. Again, my bell was in constant motion, and this day I found a natural rhythm to it. I was outside and comfortable, there was no holding back except for babes in car seats. There was a much greater ethnic diversity here, and everyone gave generously; as well or better than at Schnuck’s. The two hours passed faster too.

My replacement was a former UPS driver who remembered me, my writing and my aviation from when he delivered to my former west side home. I was amazed. That was more than 10 years ago. We had a terrific chat. He had arrived about 10:40, surprised and delighted to find someone ringing the bell. He said most days, no one had arrived until 11. He also said Salvation Army has a hard time getting volunteers for bell ringing.

I stop this saga so that I may invite you to go back one sentence, and read it again.

I told him I was happy to ring, as promised until 11 sharp if he was okay with that, and he was. At the stroke of high noon Eastern Standard Time, he girded himself in the Salvation Army garb I had surrendered to him, and following a nice visit with the kettle-changing fellow, arrived right on time in his van, I departed. . . . .

. . . . . .To the interior of JCP where I made a small payment on my charge account bill and bought myself a Christmas present; paid for with a check: a three-pack of their finest “Gold Toe” socks, $16.38. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Now I’m back in the Honey & Quinine “saddle” and absolutely glad to be. I hope your Christmas was good for you. Thanks for reading this post.

Live long . . . . . . and volunteer to be a Salvation Army bell ringer in 2008. It made my season, and I bet it will make yours as well.

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Passion Flower
by Job Conger

To a virgin in the night,
In a land almost forgot
And a time when faith grew dimmer by the hour;
From a manger’s meager light
Came the dawn of a new day
With the birth of God’s own son, his Passion Flower.

Chorus — Passion Flower, planted simply to atone
For the sin and the hate not of his own
And to show,  show the way beyond the pain
To eternity and sweet salvation.

Joyous news by angels came
To the shepherds with their flocks.
And the wise men with their majesty and power
Heard the word shared in God’s name;
Journeyed far to find the town
And the manger with the mighty Passion Flower.

(Chorus)

Many saints have come to be
Since the seed of God’s desire
To restore His covenant with souls grown sour
Bloomed for all humanity
Yet, how many still don’t share
The joy and hope of the desert Passion Flower.

(Chorus)

May the love — that heaven scent —
Reach the hearts of eveyrone
And then lead wayfaring strangers, grim and dour
To forever’s firmament, promised to the ones who seek
To know God’s son, His redeeming Passion Flower.|

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Season of Love
by Job Conger

It’s a time and a season
People go into hock
Buying presents for others
And enduring the schlock:
The retail over-selling
As we push and we shove.
It’s a shame we forget that
It’s a season of love.

From a brother to sister,
From a mom to a dad,
Like a breath to revive us
In a time that’s gone bad.
Let’s remember the reason
For the way that it’s done
As a god up in heaven
Gave us His only son.

Though the shiny wrapped present
Isn’t myrhh or fine gold,
We remember the reason
That the scriptures have told
Why we give unto others
As He gave from above.
I will follow the wise men
In a season of love.

(refrain) Though Emmanuel’s coming
Seems removed from today,.
We rejoice in remembering
ForHe showed us the way.

It’s the way to forgiveness
In the gifts that we bring
And the heavens’ assurance
In the songs that we sing.
All to say that I love you,
Like our father above.
And I follow the Father
In a season of love.

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