Archive for May, 2008

Poets a challenge for you: Say aloud the title above as written. Now do the same with Beer and Donuts For Dinner. Which has the more poetic “ring?”

If you said the title as posted, my vote is there as well because the rythm seems more natural: DOnuts and BEER (for) DINner compared with BEER and DOnuts (for) DINner which appears to conform better to the iambic beat whether it’s pentameter (which it isn’t) or variation (which it is).

Poets rarely and rightly seldom count beats and feet (two or more syllables comprising a single beat) in a poem title because it’s the POEM where rythm matters (or doesn’t). But as a poet and journalist, rythm matters to me most all the time. Not a big deal; it’s just part of who I am.

Also not a big deal to moi, one might surmise, is nutrition. Yes, I had donuts and beer for dinner toight . . . . and that’s okay. My diet is down to pass/fail; I no longer consider gradiensts of luxury or satisfaction. Fill the emptiness is what it’s all about. Thank God I have bread, Ramen noodles, lunchmeat, Hellman’s, Catalina Dressing, Peter Pan Crunchy and raspberry preserves for a solid week. Coffee and tea will take me into July. But that’s all I’ve permitted myself for the past few months . . . and that’s okay. Some nights I’ve not had that much, and I’ve been okay.

That explains my delight when I was offered the donuts left over from the neighborhood cleanup breakfast today. When I returned form the project, I had a donut and cup of coffee, and I was so tuckered out, I napped until 4.

When I arose, I wrote the earlier posting here at H&Q, mowed my front and back yards, finished trimming my main front shrub and thought about dinner. I knew I was NOT going to eat Ramen noodles, and I’m aproaching the point where I can’t look a jar of Peter Pan Crunchy in the eye, though it’s the best peanut butter I’ve tasted. I still had about 15 Mel-O-Cream donuts, four Old Milwaukee beers, and soon I had deiminished the donut count by six. No known connection by watching “Cops” on Fox TV made it all seem easier somehow.

After dinner I practiced guitar on my front porch for almost an hour, enjoying the quiet sky and fragrance of fresh-mown grass.

And I still have a beer left. I’m drinking iced tea now. I’m trying to kill time until my favorite dramatic TV show comes on: “da Vinci’s Inquest,” at midnight. I’ll do anything to stay awake until then; even post another blog entry. It’s been a terrific, productive day. Got a phone call from a former Springfieldian. He heard about the bad storm here and wanted to be sure I was okay. Friends like that: priceless. Dave Tabb is his name: great fellow, fine family, living in Indianapolis where the same weather that hit us did SERIOUS damage and injured some people. Springfield was lucky.

So am I.

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.


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It was a dark and stormy Friday night. To hear local TV weatherguru Gus talk about it as the big blow blew through you’d have thought the city was experiencing the onset of the apocalypse. It was a wet and windy precursor to what dawned clear blue and cool with the arrival of morning, time for Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association’s annual neighborhood home discards pickup. During all but one of the 10 events, coordinated with the city street department truck and endloader crews, I have been among the local neightor volunteers, and that’s okay because we’ve convenened at my humble abode on the wouth side of our association territory in the near-southwest part of town. This year volunteer turnout at the juice, coffee and donuts kickoff was fewer than usual, but it was appropriate for the reduced resident discards volume. The storm which turned our town upside down the previous evening may have been a factor. Who knows? The dawn was supreme and the day played in harmony.

I was up, uncharictaristcally at 6:30 to arrange tables for the kickoff gathering and to carry my household discards to the curbside between sidewalk and street. I had time left before people began arriving so I began trimming my front shrubs. As I write these words, the main shrub resembles a half a flat-top haircut. I’ll finish it tomorrow.

Arrivals, Ron Kuethe, Judy nextdoor, association president Bill Castor with refrehments in tow began at 7:30 on the dot. By 8:00 most who would help were deep into the donuts etc., girding themselves with easy energy for the big drive that sallied forth at 8:05. Four city trucks and the endloader were ready, their drivers cheerful and glad to be on the municipal payroll until noon. Early into the process, Springfield artist William Crook added his enthusiasm and elbow grease to ours. He’s a VHNA member; a solid-good hummin’ bean.

The procedure is routine by now. All residents belonging to VHNA had been notified in the monthly View From the Hill newsletter, non-members in a small flyer, about our May editions and a follow-up flyer had been distributed this past week. We explained what we could take — old toys, electronics, furniture, mattresses, clothes, books, magazines — and what we could not take — tires, yard and food waste, refrigerators, air condisioners, fourescent light bulbs, paints, cleansers, spouses, kids, residues of lofty ideals . . . so there would be few items encountered that we did not take.

The big challenge was arriving at the piles of discards at the same time as the wheeled vehicles since all of us VHNA folk were on foot, and our territory spans from about 10 blocks north-to-south and about as many east-to-west. The truck crews communicated with each other via radio, and we on foot walked as fast as we could catching up with them while a supervisor in a pickup truck scouted ahead to be sure we found all discards, loaded them into the clam-shelled front end loader and watched as it carried the goods to waiting dump trucks. When a truck was filled to the brim, he bee-lined to the landfill, sumped and returned to the project. It was all pretty smooth, thanks to good people with great attitudes and the truck crews. We were done by 11, so we thought. in our wake, some residents we had passed by and set things out for pickup. So we returned to those sites and wrapped it all up. I was home quaffing orange juice over ice at 11:30.

Membership in VHNA was not required for discards pickup, but wll our notices encouraged people to sign up ($10), and several did. Chatting with citizens as we did heavy lifting and hauling, the good will in action, by example, of our volunteers for fellow citizens . . . . . that was our real reward.

If your part of turf does not have a neighborhood association, you should consider it. Events including our pickup are possible only because we are an association with good people who care about our city and want to make it better. We have a collective voice that Springfield municipal management hears, resepcts and engages on occasions such as this, and we in turn are grateful to our city for their invaluable help.

Poet Vachel Lindsay wrote “Let every street be made a reverent aisle/ Where music grows and beauty is unchained.” He was absolutely right.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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Acappella Choir

I wrote the following song in the summer of 2003. Take away the refrain, and it’s a poem: magic, aye? I’ve performed it in public twice. Earlier this spring, when I arrived at Springfield High for a good day of sub teaching, I was asked to take a note to the choir teacher, and I was happy for the chance to see where the choir rehearses these days. When I attended in the mid-60s, we had a large separate structure just outside the brick school building. I had many happy memories in that building. The band and orchestra also rehearsed there. Dan Sprecklemeyer looked like Dave Brubeck and had the humor of Calvin Trillin, Oscar Levant and Daniel Patrick Moynahan all combined. When I introduced myself to the current acappella directa, I explained the happy memories I had with Dan S. and was delighted to learn she had known him for two years before he retired. Last week, I dug out the following . . . and typed it to give a copy to her and another to the folks at the SHS office. Unfortunately, I was not called to sub teach there again this year, DANG IT! So I’m sharing it here. This may be a little too “inside” for you, but I hope you read it and like it. For lunch or dinner I will gladly come to your house with my guitar and sing it for you.

Acappella Choir
(dedicated to Daniel Sprecklemeyer, Springfield High School, Springfield, Illinois

(refrain) I never sang a solo in acappella choir
Though I wanted to in the very worst way.
Had to get myself a guitar to sing my joys and tribulations,
And as for now, I’m doing okay.

I was a lucky boy to know
Mr. Daniel Sprecklemeyer:
Acappella Choir leader,
Brilliant with the harmonies.
He was more than just a teacher.
He was laughing inspiration
With a song in his heart
Full of sweet melodies.


There was magic in the chorus,
Sweetly singing in the concerts.
I was just a first tenor,
But I was part of the team.
Every challenge in the music
Was a mountain that we conquered,
And the view from the summit
Was the answer to a dream.


All the Robert Shaw arrangements,
The premier of Lindsay’s “Congo,”
Mormon Tabernacle’s “Battle Hymn,”
Blake’s “Songs of Innocence.
Spring’s Mardi Gras production,
Paper snow, “Sleigh Ride” at Christmas,
Janet Boosinger’s great party,
Joys unknown before and since.


I was a kid without voice training —
Others had their private lessons —
And my voice was immature,
Like Nouveau Beaujolais.
When I had my chance to solo,
My voice crumbled like a Saltine.
Still I loved that mighty chorus,
And I do to this day.


— written by Job Conger
2:15 am, July 8, 2003

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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A sigh is still a sigh. The fundamental things apply. . . .

The past few days I’ve felt like a small monkey on a big leash, lurching in the direction of the greatest tension to lessen it, but engaging not a soul in conversation. I’ve not engaged any part of my life enthusiastically since the Tom Friedman posting ran up the blog pole. Thursday the circumstance changed for a few minutes, providing passing hope like a fountain in the desert and then disappearing into the blazing tableau of sand and bones.

Putting off (again) an aviation history research commitment to a correspondent in Australia, I was filing some things recently relocated from basement to less-humid office central. I had been tossing down the Folger’s Instant more frequently, hoping like the Tin Man that a magic elixir could infuse me with something lacking. I had just put the hot water pan onto the stove and returned to some scissor work, separating clippings into neat piles, when a call came from New Hampshire.

On the other end was a pleasant voice from an Arcadia Publishers proofreader whose voice was cool mountain water on the crows-footed forehead of my mind. She asked me if I had some time to go over some text revisions in the Springfield Aviation proof I had sent in about two weeks ago.

And go we did. I was delighted the publisher would take the time to be sure corrections needed to conform to their stylebook would be okay with me: corrections including no contractions, no sentences beginning with numbers, proper use of upper case when talking about governors and mayors . . . . all routine, and a welcome education for me. I did not know proper form requires “…. according to Springfield mayor Tim Davlin, … OR “…. according to Mayor Tim Davlin.” It makes good sense; I had simply never considered it before. I also thanked her and Arcadia for setting me RIGHT about spelling of “ordnance” meaning bombs and rockets and NOT “ordinance” which is how I’ve been spelling it since junior high. It’s a lesson well-learned and never to be forgotten.

About 20 minutes — See? You don’t have to begin a sentence with a number — into our conversation, I had to excuse myself because of a fragrance reaching my office from the kitchen. It was the fragrance of a pan with all the water boiled out of it sitting on a red-hot electric stove eye.

When a pan is that hot, and someone is waiting on the phone, there’s no time to fiddle with it. Don’t put water into it because the difference in temperature might break the pan. Just set it down somewhere. Where? I almost brought it back to my office so I could more swiftly resume the conversation, but on the way I saw a small table that used to be dad’s. I put a few pages of the State Journal-Register down as a buffer, an impromptu hot pad, and returned to the phone for the rest of the fine conversation. I told her what had happened and apologized for the primitive circumstance. She seened to understand. The rest of the conversation was a breeze. She asked if I had any questions. I said if she lived closer to Springfield I might, and then asked if she had an idea of when my (OUR, really; it’s an Arcadia team production and gladly so) book would hit the stands.

She didn’t know. After she completed the changes following our conversation, she is sending it on a CD to the printing facility in Carolina. They will schedule it for a press run and get back to me. In the meantime, she explained, I will be working with Arcadia’s public relations people. Excellent news, every word.

When I returned to my formerly-hot water pan and lifted it, I discovered it had not only burned the paper as you see it in the picture above, it had hot-etched the mark into the top of dad’s fantastic table. I tried to wash off the damage, but it’s there to stay. BUMMER. I understand he had bought it in New York City in the 70s, and I rather cherished it.

On the other hand, a piece of paper or cloth draped over the top, and it looks okay.

Even so, I am getting a hot pot today; not a frikking no-hame, the kind I purchased last year at the drug store. You know what they say . . . . .

Once burned, twice shy.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Our gnosh pit turns its lonely eyes to you! You’ve not shared a conversation with Jim Lehrer at your website for years. Your last New York Times column posted at the NYT web site was May 28, 2007, and I understand from the talk in the hood that you’re busy writing a new book which I hope will arrive just after the next Dem convention. It will make good eye-wash, I’m sure, and your inevitable appearance on the Charlie Rose Show (make it TWO; one is never enough) will be easy on the ears; provoking to all who don’t believe the earth is flat.

I can’t believe that no competent journalist or “columnunist” (as the flat earthers might say) has spent serious time in Iraq over the past several months. John Burns is safer where he is in London, having earned his respite after years of immersion in that gritty purgatory, but no one with his credibility or talent has taken his place over there. The rest of our country may have chosen to regard that ghastly travesty as two brats throwing mud at each other in a distant corner of a distant back yard, Tom Friedman, but I do not, and I do not believe you do. Where’s Martha Radditz? At the White House now. She earned her reward if she regards it as that. As long as there’s germicide for her hands and feet when leaving that foggy morgue of hopes, I’m glad she’s safer with less gunfire, though the wanton ravishing of Truth is about the same.

We need you to reawaken caring legal citizens of these United States of America (and the world) who vaguely remember you and still sincerely await your wisdom.

In the meantime, I’m finding a lot to like about E.J. Dion in the local State Journal-Register. Same goes for Donna Brazille who is a surprise and delight. I miss Maureen Dowd, thougth Matthew does a fine job on This Week Sundays. Where are YOU hiding Maureen — in the Halls of Montezuma or the shores of Tripoli? You’re every bit as hip as the other Dowd, and you do more with your smile and acerbic wit than Matt does with his Friedmanesque urbanity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not whining over the state of the journalism. As long as any of our brave men and women die for a lie, I feel a shame for my nation that knows no amelioration. I know Rudolph He…….. make that #43 turns a deaf eye to you, others of his ilk may be smarter. You can never tell. But I can tell you without your voice on the page and in the air, some good folks will forget . . . . . or get sidetracked in pettiness. That would be a shame Tom, and do you know why?

That’s how wars get started.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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My Pal Jack Daniels

I can almost hear the management meeting as WUIS public radio prepared the commercial for a coming concert . . . . “Just DON’T use the ‘B’ word, Larry. It would be so de clase and un-public-service of us if we use the ‘B’ word.”

“I know,” says Adrianna. “We’ll just use the first and middle names. It will be oh so sweet.”

Applause and thundering body checks all around.

Let me state I KNOW nothing of what I’ve said thus far. It’s all my speculation. When you hear someone speak the lyric, “Bye bye Miss American . . . . .” you frikking expect the last word to be lincluded; right? What the dash is wrong with pie?

I used to love getting together with my pal Jack Daniels. His taste was always first class. I generally felt a heck of a lot better after engaging his heart-warming company. Neat, he was supremely smooth and inspiring. Would I ever share the rest of his name?

Absolutely, but first let me ‘xplain why. No nine year old or even late-pubescent reader is going to be wasting his or her time reading Honey and Quinine. Saying the rest of Jack’s name will not incite innocents to depredation and delinquency, and I hasten to predict lack of same from adults who read it. His full name is Jack Daniels Whiskey.

Can you imagine what Samuel Adams’ (Adams’s if you lost the Civil War) last name is? I’ll tell it to you straight: it’s Samuel Adams Beer.

The HOLLOL, the HOLLOL! as Saburo Conrad might have said.

Is there a standards and practices bureau that forbids mention of the “b” word on public radio? Or are our timid friends at WUIS simply sparing innocent eels — make that ears — from the stain of hops and barley? I suspeck — as #43 might say — that it’s the latter. So let’s give them the right to their little incipient faux pas, nipped in the “B_d,” so to speaq and share a short chort’ over the success of their quaint deception, shall we?

And if you encounter my pal Jack Daniels, tell him I look forward to reacquainting myself with him.

Gotta find a full-time employer first.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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My family’s military legacy to the cause of freedom is as rich as Kermit the Frog’s. A cousin, Charles Donaldson joined the Royal Canadian Air Force before the USA became involved in the war, later transferred to the Army Air Forces and retired as a Colonel, but that’s about all I can brag about, and I’ll spare you the rest. Many people in my fehr city celebrated the return of the 3637th Maintenance Battalion yesterday (Sunday) to home after almost a year in the Iraq dust-up. I didn’t stand on a street curb during the parade or attend the big welcome home ceremony downtown. With my van Dycke beard and shrubbish eyebrows, I might have been collared as a potential party pooper and asked to go back to Iran.

Even so, I did tape the American flag simile included in the phalanx of Sunday State Journal-Register advertising inserts to the top of the window inside my front door. The local paper has printed three Stars & Stripes similies during recent wars, and every one of them is displayed , prominently in my house, Where my Catholic friends put a crucifix, I put an American flag.

Memorial Day seems the time to think about the proud memories of the dead. Given the choice, I’m confident most every one of us would prefer to be a little less proud and cherish them sweetly alive. The Japanese military advanced every soldier one rank following their death in combat. (I could be wrong; it may have been their officers. Someone enlighten me if you can.) The US military should do the same.

The best thing I can do as a hummin’ bean is to demonstrate to myself that the deaths of brave men and women in combat affect me is to permit myself to be inspired by their sacrifice to do something more meaningful on this day than I would have done any other Monday when I’m not working (which is most of them these days, dang it). And if it’s not something extraordinary, let me be something atypically more productive (which I guess is “extraordinary” without the dress shirt.

And so I am. I’m cleaning out the room that once was the coal bin for this old house. I’ve spent most of the morning in what amounts to a crawl space, removing rotting storage boxes, rearranging the insulation materials and tidying the rest of the basement laundry area. In the process I discovered some shelving boards I’ve stored in the crawlspace for 10 years. An unexpected bonus. And I’m thinking about those whose intentional and unintentional sacrifice allowed me to do this. They will not hear, feel or see my salute in heartfelt thanks for their service, for their dedication and bravery, so that I could make my basement a better place to live, and that’s okay.

I salute their memory in humble thanks, just the same.

Live long . . . . . . . . . and proper.

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