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Archive for January, 2008

Death By Whitman

While I believe it true that sientient beings born without a moral conscience cannot imagine one, I believe also that those born with the capacity to imagine a moral conscience may chose to walk away from it.

Until the 29th, I had gone all of 2008 without bouncing a check. Every week without getting a note from the bank is a personal triumph for me, and since the time for my automatic loan withdrawal had passed (should have been taken out last week) I thought I had squeaked by on the black side of the ledger. I was wrong. When I visited the bank to deal with the unhappy news that came with the mail on the 30th, I learned there was a pending withdrawal for the loan payment, and I had all of 71 cents in my checking account. By the grace of God, I had some dollars in my home equity line of credit, and figuring it was better to pay interest on that line rather than a late payment, I transferred some dollars plus a stark minimum $25 for groceries and $10 cash for fuel. I hated to do it. I will need that line of credit when real estate taxes are due, and I could buy a fine new laptop computater with what I owe to CILCO, but that’s another story.

Of the $25, dog food would take $10, the least expensive large bag at Shon ‘n’ Save. I also bought Buddig sliced meat packets for my Ramen noodles nightly supperfest, iced tea mix, instant coffee (Folger’s of course) and for the first time in months, white bread. Every loaf of whole wheat was selling for at least $2 a loaf and my whole wheat of choice, Bunny Bread, and even my fallback Butternut Honey Wheat, were $2.49! Bunny White was on sale for $1.68. I’ll catch up with “eating right” when I can afford it.

It had been awhile since setting mouse traps in the kitchen, but with the low temps the night before and with fresh bread on hand, I figured it was time. As you may know, four out of five mice who have a preference, prefer Bunny White Bread over other leading brands. Less than 10 minutes after setting the traps with pinches of Bunny, I returned to the kitchen to discover the first of four mice I would bag in next  three hours: three by traps and one by Whitman.  These were what I call “thrifty kills.” These victims were stopped before eating the bread. The same pinches of Bun still decorate the traps as these words come togeher.

Late in the afternoon when I returned to the kitchen I discovered a brown spot on the kitchen floor where I had not seen a brown spot before. Tentative closer examination confirmed it was a mouse near a sprung trap. He wasn’t moving but I could swear I heard his heavy breathing. I slowly reached for a stainless steel bowl on my counter and threw it at him. I missed of course, and he ambled underneath my refrigerator. “Another time, my hairy adversary,” I said to him and returned to my office after replenishing mon java.

Later, transiting from kitchen to livingroom I encountered the same mouse in motion, just ahead of me racing for sanctuary under a chair. I stopped what I was doing long enough to place a trap just beyond the chair, but half an hour later I found it untouched, Bunny intact.

On a typical day, that would have been the end of the mouse action. Not Wednesday. I had to attend an election judges refresher course downtown, so as I changed into cleaner clothes, I noticed another brown spot over by the stereo speaker. I froze. It lay montionless.

I had to nail him! With what? I’m not about to put my foot down directly. He might escape, run up my leg, and eviscerate me mercilessly with his razor-sharp incisors . . .  and I’d be late for the refresher course. The only thing heavy enough that I could risk damaging were books. The closest was a first edition of Howard L. Scamerhorn’s fine Balloons to Jets; 1856 to 1955, A Century of Aeronautics in Illinois.  My goal as I threw the book at him from five feet away was to kill him with a mighty blow to the head. I missed, of course, and the book bounced off the carpet into the front room. The book wasn’t damaged. Neither was the mouse.

Incredibly, he didn’t move a muscle though he had to have felt the nearby impact of Balloons to Jets. Sloooowly . . . . I reached for my reading copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and stepped closer to the brown spot. In the dim light, I couldn’t swear it was a mouse, but the spot had not been there earlier and I had to eliminate the life from it if there was life to eliminate before removing it. This time, I hurled Whitman more vertically onto the spot and quickly stepped on the book with one foot.

Then I stepped on it with the other. I stayed there for what seemed a minute but was only about 10 human seconds. Then I stepped off the book and nudged it away from the brown spot.  Yes, it was a mouse, and a dead one at that. There were no entrails forced out onto the carpet.

He’s still in the living room where he died yesterday about 5:30. I’ll remove him in few minutes with a spatula. I have a visitor coming by later, and uncivil as I may be, I know that dead mice lying around your living room carpet make a bad impression on folks you don’t know well.

Since killing him with Whitman, I’ve been thinking about him. Why didn’t he skeedaddle when the first book hit? I know most wild things “freeze” motionless when sensing danger in the hope that they won’t be seen if they don’t move. But the whole business of standing on him was too easy. Would I have the grace to die motionless when assaulted by dire circumstance? Figuratively spikkin’ am I just waiting for Fate to plaster me away with Whitman, and I’m too dumb to know it?

The incident reminds me too much of how I’m behaving during these days of imminent financial peril. I’m not quite lying motionless, but over the months it seems that way, hoping doom won’t find me and squash me like a creature that treads mindlessly over livingroom carpet and kitchen linoleum.

It’s true: as a human, I can banish my consience. Sometimes though, as I’ve discovered from yesterday, the conscience comes back to bite me.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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498 W. Allen January 26, 8:30 pm
Fifteen minutes into America’ss Most Wanted, my friend George called.

“How’s your camera doing?

“Just fine. Why?”

There’s a house fire in progress across the alley over here, and I thought you’d like to know about it.”

“Absolutely! Thanksforcallingseeyousoon!”

By the time I arrived after taking five minutes for a two minute sprint because of some stupid fence problems,, the flames coming out of the roof at 408 West Allen had begun to subside under the expert management of Springfield Fire Department (SFD) fire fighters. There was still a lot to photograph. Pictured below are the best of them. Sunday’s SJ-R gave excellent ink the the fire but here’s my story.

By the time I arrived, the SFD was fully set and engaged with probably five trucks and crews.  I have seen some stars gnerating less light than they put on the buring house and those nearby. No one was going to trip over a hose or equipment wth that kind of support. A hook and ladder ttruck cew had placed a firefighter directing a heavy stream of water onto the roof from above, at the top of the ladder extended probably 80 feet skyward. It was hard to believe flames could continue with that kind of volume from on high, plus three hoses on the ground in front and at least one in the back of the house. It was amazing those near by wern’t standing in ankle-deep runoff water, but it was all staying where it was directed. A neighbor who lives next door to the burning house told me they had earlier thoroughly covered adjacent houses with water to prevent an errant glowing ash from spreading the conflagration. She was impressed and clam-happy by the effort put out by the SFD.

It was obvious when I arrived the fire had been stopped cold. It was just a matter of soaking every cubic inch of “hot” with water. I departed after watching it for 40 minutes. The large crowd from Sankey Hi-Rise acrross the street and from the neighborhood remained well back from the activity. I used to take pictures for the Springfield Dapartment of Public Health and Safety (long story) so I knew where to move in closer and what not to do. But I also credit my Animal Protective League Waggin’ Tales Shelter sweatshirt I was wearing. Nobody’s going to get face with a guy with a bog ol’ camera and an APL sweatshirt.

I haven’t returned to the scene, but will Monday.. I”m glad to know the owner and his family weren’t hurt, and I pray they are able to salvage some things from the rest of the house.

It was a nutty night!

Pictures below are thumbnailed. Click on any for a larger view and “back to return to this page.

aaafire2.jpg aaafire4.jpgaaafire9.jpgaaafire3.jpgaaafire5.jpgaaafire10.jpg

Live long . . . . . . and check your smoke detector batteries.

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When devouring the State Journal-Register with my eyes I sometimes set aside a page or two because I know good blog when I see it.

A mighty fortress is our blog.

I did this last Friday and Sat.. On the back page of Friday’s “morning edition” was a fair splash of ink about Fred Thompson’s withdrawal from the presidential primary. Most of us knew he was out of the race when he declared, but that’s another story. I thought to myself, “Hosney, why did this major television personality get such ignominious attention on the fripping back page of our fine new sdailyHAH?” And I coucluded the reason his withdrawal received coverage there was because nap-hard FTfolks would have raised a mighty ruckus of he had been given the coverage he merited and not made the paper at all.

The next morning I was surprised to see news of Ohio’s own Ron Paul impersonator’s withdrawal from the race. Dennis Kucinich had struck out, and there was no joy in moonbeam land. In terms of column inches of ink, Dennis was given the short shrift. Even so, the appearance of the story on page two I believe was possible only because of a rare confluence of circumstance: Brittany hadn’t shaved her head again and Princess Di ‘s DNA had not been linked recently to the grime underneath Queen Elizabeth’s fingernails. Dennis is a happening dude which explains why he merited a picture. We were left on our own to remember Fred’s drawling countenance: a face that launched a thousand yips.
I guess my point is that with only one daily newspaper in Springfield, there is growing evidence of fair play sneaking by us. Pers’nally, I will be not be suprised if the Replblicans protest this unholy trend en masse . . . . and if the Democrats don’t even notice.

In Vachel Lindsay’s early poem entitled To the United States Senate, he wrote . . . .

What will you trading frogs do on a day
When Armageddon thunders through the land,
And each sad patriot rises, mad with shame,
His ballot or his musket in his hand?

Stay tuned sports fans and athletics supporters. As #43 might say. . . . . . . . . . .We’ve only just began.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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“Is it REAL?”

The student in the back row on the left against the wall had arrived in class on time, sat down at his desk and promptly pulled his coat over his head resting on the desk top. When the bell rang . . . . . . actually, that’s not quite correct. The bell doesn’t ring at the start of 7th period at this west side middlle school. Teachers rely on the clock on the wall, their watches and the established good will of the students to bring things to order at the appropriate time. For this class, the appropriate time occurred about five minutes after it should have by the clock on the wall.

As I was saying before the digress thing . . . . This was a special education class usually taught by an absolutely charming and clearly competent young professional who could have been my niece Julie 20 years ago. Given the nature of the class, I was ready to cut some slack. I approached the fellow and told him in effect, “If you want to uncover yourself and sit up like the good student I believe you really are, you’re welcome to stay with us this period. If you are not ready, you can be as you’d rather be in the office. You will not remain in this room.” He thought it was a fair proposition, he uncovered himself and after the class as a whole “returned to earth” as we got rolling he was an exemplary student, one of the best. Early into the groove he asked, “Your beard. Is it real?”

“Yes it is.”

“How long did it take to grow it like that?”

“About a year.” The short answer. I’ve trimmed the full Whitman-esque crop o’ hair I had when I subbed at this school in November. I’ve also had a terrific hair cut from Mike Deuwer to boot; BIG IMPROVEMENT! Today I resemble a cross between George Clooney and an ancient Egyptian king — thanks mostly to the beard, a VanDyke with a flat-trimmed bottom.

With the new look, students no longer good-naturedly call me “Abe Lincoln” and “Santa Claus.” Earlier in this day, a sudent looked more closely than usual at the beard and asked “Are you Jewish?” I explained my religion has nothing to do with what should concern him for the next hour and a half. And he was satisfied. So was I.

This was the first sub assignment I’ve had in more than two weeks, and it was HIGH–FRIPPING-TIME! I am in a hurting way in the dough-re-me department. The hot pot I bought las spring to replace my illl-timed demised microwave has given up to ghost after less than a bleeping year. Now I’m stove-top cooking water for coffee and tea in the same bleeping small pan I use for soup. As Jerry Lee Lewis might have sung, “There’s a whole lot of washin’ goin’ on!”

Not that life is without its joys, principal of which is my subscription to The New Yorker magazine. I’ve considered posting an entire blog about it. lt’s worth noting it has been the high point of my week for the last two weeks. I just missed Ken Auletta’s major piece about Google. Luckily he talked about it receontly on Charlie Rose. The New Yorker is like NPR on the radio and PBS on the teleV: a ROMP for the curious mynd! Next to Dennis Camp’s fab Vachel Lindsay biography installments on Keep and Share, this magazine is the most intelligent interface I’m encountering these days. My social life is a distant, fetid memory by and large; not that I mind, you understand.

Received an e-mail from Biden for President the other day. He and his campaign organization are posturing for a bid to serve as Vice President, even though the dust in the Democrat party snaqe fight is not even close to settling. It could be worse; Joe could be talking to Republicans. At this time, that post-withdrawal enterprise should be kept behind the scenes and under the table where it belongs, don’t you think? That said, I wish him GOOD LUCK! He would make an excellent vice prefident as the former colonies might have said in 1783.

I am happily consumed with the Arcadia book project and the Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association. I am not kidding or stretching the truth when I confess this: the day it became clear from Arcadia that I am going to write a book for them, my handwriting significantly improved. Today it’s consistently been more legible than it has been since I was in my 30s. The February View From the Hill neighborhood association newsletter is coming together in the week ahead. Let me know if you’d like me to e you a PDF of the eight-page production late next week.

Almost forgot . . . . . had another contribution for the tooth angel last night. It was a major one, right down in front, but it was the last of the lower jaw “fangs” which I’ve detested most of my life. It simply let go painlessly as I was brushing what remains Thursday night before I boo-ga-looed down to Sangamon Valley Collection for some neighborhood and book research. Some readers may remember my earlier posting about this tooth before Christmas when it was ELOQUENTLY telling me of it’s plan to “vacate the premesis” as I sippeed iced tea. Yes, I could do with some replacements, but as long as I’m boiling my coffee water on the fripping stove, I’m not going to anguish much over dearly departed incisors. .

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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A New Literary Bio on Line

Since encountering and voraciously reading Dennis Camp’s Keep and Share web site about Vachel Lindsay, I’ve come to know, almost intimately, a man I have hardly known at all. His name is Vachel Lindsay.

In recent months, beforel I received an email from Keep and Share, stating Dennis had invited me to sign up for his page (access is by invitation only), I had learned the former Sangamon State University professor was working on a new Vachel Lindsay bio. In the mid 70s (1970s for you pundits) I had taken a course he taught about Illinois poets – Masters, Sandberg & Lindsay — and to this day, that course is occasionally rembered — and always fondly – by a former classmate of mine and I. Though I knew he had been greeting visitors at what was then a very different version of what is now known as Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site at 603 S. Fifth Street, I was not aware of how deeply he was committed to the study of the poet/artist’s life and creations. Though I have since, often, mentally horsewhipped myself for not visiting the home when he was spending time there, I’ve since spent hours and effort I never would have dreamed in the 1970s I would spend, getting to know the Lindsays in my own way.  Following his years of research, Dennis authored the three volume The Poetry of Vachel Lindsay complete with Lindsay’s drawing which iremains today, something of a Magna Carta of the native Springfieldian. Before this momemt in the literary epoch, others, particularly Eleanor Ruggles, have written the Vachel biography. Her The West-Going Heart: A Life of Vachel Lindsay should be required reading for every student who spends one senior-year semester in a Sangamon County high school. In his unique magnum opus, Dennis lay all of Vachel’s poems on a giant literary plate, explained when and how they were created, arranged them in first-to-last chronology, and invited readers to dig in with heart and soul and voice. The Vachel bio now being shared — for absolutely no charge — at his Keep and Share web site, for many poetry enthusiasts, repositions Ruggles’ excellent book from the position of “ultimate destination” to the only slightly less-laudable “must visiit on your way to the ultimate destination” which waits for you “at Camp.”

At present, Dennis tells me he has no intention to find a publisher for his e-book. He has no interest in engaging pulp media. We, the people, in order to engage a more perfect reading medium, may download and print all he posts at his site. His book MERITS print media action, but that is not my decision; it’s rightfullly his. I respect that. I reap of his decision, and so should YOU!

Every book written about Vachel Lindsay should be read if a person desires to know about him. Almost everything publsshed thus far speaks commendably to VL and his art. The one exception is Edgar Lee Masters’ convoluted clap-trap in ivy clothing.
– – – – -Don’t get me started about that one.
They are important because like early chapters in a good novel, they acqiuaint readers with names and scenes which will be encountered in greater detail along the way. By the time you arrive at Dennis Camp’s K&S presentation, you will be ready for it. As I discovered when I printed and read the first chapter of Dennis’ production I downloaded from his site, the man I thought knew — Nicholas Vachel Lindsay — was a man I hardly knew at all. Now that I have said all that, let me say all this . . . .

DON’T delay engaging Dennis Camp’s production until you read even one of the many books already waiting for you at Prairie Archives. Read Dennis Camp’s first. How?

The only way to get there is to be invited, and to do that you must email him

dcamp6504@insightbb.com

Tell him you read about his work at Honey & Quinine and want to join the roster..

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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January 19 I spent four hours researching three projects at Lincoln Library’s Sangamon Valley Collection on the third floor of the main branch. It was out of the wind, warm, and productive time.

As chair of Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association’s Member Recruitment Committee, my raison de’re there was to work with another MRC member, putting together a census of businesses and residents from the Springfield City Directory. We could have done that from home if we had $816 to pay for Internet accesss to the information, but we were glad to be at the library with no phones, no ticking parking meters and home thermostats cranked down until returning.

Our territory served is bounded by Jefferson on the north, South Grand on the south, up to but not including Second on the east, and the east side of Walnut on the west; a heaping helping of turf whose residents have a lot in common, mostly concern over the proliferation of parking lots and illegal drug retailers. Our goal is to build association membership, but first we wanted to know who we are. The annual City Directory, published for most of a century, groups information together by listing of residents and businesses alphabetically, busineees by type (Automobiles, Dealers, Barbers, Chimney Sweeps) and by street address. So it was a breeze to transcribe informaton from the info arranged by street.

My other two missions, addressed after my associate headed out having successfully achieved our goal of transcribing data for north/south streets, was to get cracking with my Springfield aviation hIstory book and while doing that, record Congers in Springfield. As long as the City Directories were open for one purpose, it was easy to swing by the alphabet’l  resident listings.

Surprising was that given how Charles Lindberg had flown air mail in and out of Springfield starting in 1926 and continuing until shortly before his famous flight to Paris, there is no mention of a Springfield airport until 1930. There are also no listings of airplane dealers or air taqxi operators. The only clue of “air anything” was under the US Post Office information in the front of the directories. Starting in 1926 air mail going south for St. Louis and points beyond departed at 8:15 am. Flights north for Chicago connecting to New York departed at 5:05 p.m. Things began to change starting in 1930 with the first official mention of a Springfield airport..

I did not check CIty Directories before 1914, but from that year to 1933, there were no Congers in Springfield. Miss Ellen Conger, a stenographer with the State Auditor of Public Accounts, lived at 1005 S. Sixth. Fascinating information. Wish I could have met her. She was listed only that year.

As I departed the library about 4:45, looking forrward to returning soon, the cold hit me as though it was a benediction for important time, well spent. The crisp air was refresing, and in the air there was a feeling of . . . . .

Across the street at 7th at Capitol, a taped music system at the Lutheran church played a carrilon rendition of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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With apologies to Oyving Boilin.

I’ve been busy with life, campers, increasingly consumed with the Springfield Aviation HIstory book but more than that. The legitimacy of simply being asked to produce what, in the anus of history, will be a modest compendium, has linspired me to spend less time ikissing the living room easy chair with my ample keister, and more time int he hone orifice and making the aviation collection — as a whole — more than the whimpered enterprise of a man with a mission and pathetically little more.

The folks at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport have opened their resources to this enterprise, allowing me to borrow resources that you will see in print before Christmas if you buy the book. Others are doing the same, including a friend in Bloomington who spent years at Capital Aviation rebuilding surplus bombers into executive transports and fixing airplanes.

I’m also reconnecting with Air Combat Museum at Capital Airport and focusing on developing my future as an aviation writer.

Believe it or not, I’ve not sold one book of my poetry via my Job the Poet web page. That’s why there is no poetry there now. In a few months, the page will probably disappear as well. And that’s okay. Some day, I will tell you why that has happened. It isn’t all connected to aviation history book contracts.

Thanks to all who have e’d me promising help with the book. Dan — I look forward to reading more from you. And thanks to others who have posted encouraging words here and via e.

I just proofread the American Aviation Historical Society’s first newsletter for 2008 and have made it through proofing/editing half of my friend’s new romance novel. The first Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association meeting and newsletter (which I now edit) are behind me. As newly elected secretary of VHNA, I will share more about the neighborhood association bidness with you in future postings here at Honey & Quinine.

I have subbed one half a day in the last week. On the whole, I would rather be subbing when the sun is up. I can research when the kids are out of school.

Meanwhile, if you have pictures and stories of Springfield aviation to share, please post a comment here, and I will get back to you in a day or less.

Live long . . . . . amd proper.

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