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Archive for July, 2008

ThirtyWhat Takes Cake

In the city where I was raised, Mom, expressing respect for a deed well done despite all odds (for example, Mrs. Wilson planted her entire vegetable garden, went grocery shopping at the A&P, took the neighborhood kids to the park for the afternoon and hosted her bridge club in an immaculate home) would say, “Well that takes the cake.” Today, kudos to regular H&Q reader ThirtyWhat. She takes the cake for remembering yesterday’s blog posting title “It’s Hotter than Hooter in Heater Today …” is from the Firesign Theater’s superb Everything You Know is Wrong. The 1974 production spoofed Howard Cosell, Evel Knievel (probably mis-spelled) comedy duo Bob and Ray, TV travelogues and much more. If you have not heard of Phillip Austin, Beter Bergman, David Ossman & Philip Proctor, you are missing a lot of incredible humor that is  adult but not obscene or profane. The recording was made, according to the album cover, in Hellmouth, California. Also curious: it says the album was written and produced by the Firesign Theater and performed by the afore-mentioned gents. Does this indicate the gents were NOT part of the Firesign Theater?

I’d tell you more, but this blog belongs to ThirtyWhat, who knew me when I emceed a poetry open mic at Capitol Caffe in lyrical downtown Springfield (the city where I was raised), encourged my early blogging, and would no doubt TRUMP any central Illinois lyrics expert in a fair competition.

Thankyou ThirtyWhat, and thank YOU for kindly droppin’ in.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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and it’s Hotter than Heater in Hellmouth.”

Pop quiz: Where does that line come from? Tell me the comedy entity that performed those words on a record, and I will laud your name in a Honey & Quinine posting. Yes, I KNOW who and I’ll ‘xplain more in a day or two. I add for the record: It was hotter than Hellmouth in the showroom of The Granite Guy today!

When I was invited to work for this bloke, I was told the place was air conditioned. Though I’d like to argue the point, the fact remains that air “conditions” the showroom as the ocean “conditions” German submarine U-166 sunk off the Louisiana coast in 1942. I shamelessly concede, however, that I had a different understanding of the term when I agreed to work for him.

I’m lucky to be there — to be anywhere — and I know it, because there pays more than here. Here, some of the cool central air conditioning from the residents above me drifts down to my part of the hoose. And if it were really bad, I’d move the TV into my office, install the small air conditioner in the window and sleep on top of a sleeping bag given to me four years ago by a friend visiting Springfield from jolly old England.

I am a long way (for the time being) from picking cotton and breaking rocks for a living. But I learned something at the showroom today: even with one fan blowing air onto my face and another blowing air onto my torso and lower extremities, I cannot think creatively when it’s hotter than Hooter in Heater. I’m going to have to work on creative things on my time and bill the fellow. I’m confident he’ll agree to the arrangement.

One thing about growing older: increased tolerance for heat. Sadly this seems to accompany colder feet. My toes are cold as I write this. If they were soaking in a hot tub — GOOD god-good GOD, y’all . . . say it aGAIN HOT TubHAYEEEEE– the toes would be cold. This also explains why, when you visit your grandparents, it’s always warmer at their place than it is at yours.

As an philosophical Irishman might have said, “Have fun while yer warm, cuz you’ll be a long time cold.”

good GOD, y’all . . . . . HAYEEEEE

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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I’m Cold Bill; Put on a Sweater

Life is a sad lament.
Where have the good years went?
The imperfections of our fellow humanity,
A rising chorus of obscenic banality,
Pompous and flaming froths –
Modern-day Visigoths.
Their vicious diatribe sucks red to blue.
They are the umbraged without a clue.

Martyrs who will not die
See only storm-tossed sky.
Grim walking wounded cavalcade of sad cynicals
Besmirch the values of tradition rabbinicals.
Seething mob logic hate
Hooked with insidious bait:
“Come sing our song or else we’ll turn on you!”
They are the umbraged without a clue.

(Refrain)
Their mind-horizons span from ear to ear.
They pee into the stream that once was clear.
They’ll picket themselves if there’s a reporter near.
Gee, don’t they love that gross tomfoolery
While throwing spit balls out of schoolery.

Gremlins whose vain delight
Turns fertile fields to blight,
a boiling cauldron with a poisonous soup du jour
served with a sneer to every cackling provocateur.
Dark and disturbing scene.
Every day’s Halloween.
Hath hell a fury like the scorn they brew?
They are the umbraged without a clue.

— Job Conger
first draft completed 7:25 pm, Saturday, April 18, 1998

The composition above was published in my second book of poetry, Wit’s End, now out of print. The title comes from a remark made by Mom to my younger brother Bill while the family was watching TV in the basement recreation room circa 1961. The incident and quote were recalled occasionally by Dad, to the chagrin of Mom in the years that followed. Mom was a smart cookie, easily the equal of Dad in the brains department and their respective careers. The title is clearly connected to the verse by the silliness of suggesting one’s sensitivity should dictate another’s which may be different, though not necessarily.

I side with Walt Whitman who wrote: “I have sweated through fog with linguists and contenders . . . . . . I have no mockings or arguments. I witness and wait.” This poem is not intended to mock anyone. People are what they say and do. Call them what you choose to call them.

Live long . . . .  and proper.

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Did you wonder why newscasters talked about a bike race in a country many legal citizens of the USA have never heard of:a little west-European territory called FRONTS? I wondered about this every time a story aired, but I didn’t wonder much because no Americans placed high at the finish and fewer were disqualified for using illiegal chemistry.

I guarantee you when Charles Lindberg flew to Paris in 1927, he did not land in Fronts. The song we grade school pranksters sang about at Lawrence Elementary school, was not a country “where the ladies wear no ponts.” What are PONTS?

The matter weighed lightly on me brine until I realized the newscasters weren’t speaking American English — Amerglish, if you prefer — Englican, if you prefer – when speaking the three-word-name of the French bike race. They were speaking French.

Why?

I suppose it’s because it’s the name of a national event in that excellent country where the ladies wear no pants. Still, do you suppose French and Spanish use the primary lingo of the USA when talking of the Presidential campaign, or Republican and Democrat Party National Conventions?

I know few US aviation historians talk about the L’Armee de l’Air when writing of it. We say French air force, and we don’t upper case it because it’s not the name of the air force. The name of the air force is L’Armee de l’Air. Same thing goes with Heyl Ha’ Avir (Israel’s) and Fuerza Area de Boliviana (Bolivia’s) air forces.

My guess is that like many names, “Tour de Fronts” is a terser, more convenient metaphor for a term which, in Amerglish, might take more time to say. Here in the USA, the gentleman you might be working next to, the nice guy you call Joe may be Jose, and in these nutty days, he might be Rashscratchi or Mustafa. Do you know a good man whose appearance suggests an Istanbul (not Constantinople) heritage who, when you introduced yourself to him, said, “Just call me Ted.” And you know something? That’s okay. This is the USA and we can call people what they ask to be called.

Life is a cabaret old chum. Come to the metaphor.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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An update from Saturday — The first half block of the six I walked to the publisher’s party about 5 p was a challenge and education. As this leg malaise has captured so much of my attention when sitting at this computer in the office and relaxing in the living room, I didn’t anticipate the improvement in performance and life perspective that my hike would produce.

The change in my stride has me feeling like a 98 year old. The long stride that was mine up to early June just isn’t there now. As I began the trek to the party, I told myself repeatedly that putting one foot in front of the other was what mattered; not what I missed; not the former freewheeling swing of arms to a marching tune replayed in the mind’s iPod. The way I felt most of the day Saturday after I determined I would walk to the party and back depressed me. I was not confident the legs would work; not confident my heart would work. I just knew I would make the effort; not because of what others (believing my promise to attend) expect of me, but what I expect of myself.

The gathering was fine. It was great to see esteemed editor and chat at length with her, to be introduced to her children, Dorothy, Loretta, Steve and Sheila and to introduce myself a few minutes later to her fine husband. Springfield Chamber of Commerce director and his wife Jean were there. We chatted about my interest in convincing George Jaworski, The Granite Guy, to join and the fact my first two articles marking my return to the pages of the publication would be in the next issue. I told him I’m still freelancing but looking to settle in with a full-time employer. I also saw the fellow who reminded me he was my “carpet” guy who had done some work for me years ago. I was amazed I did not converse with another WRITER except for esteemed editor. They were all advertisers, publication staff, friends and family.
The beer was Miller Lite (everyone is boycotting that Belgian brew made in St. Lou) and the highlight was vodka lemonade. I drank three in the course of an hour and a half and three cups of Miller Light and ate all the fine bratwurst, potato salad and brownies I could hold without carrying a sack.

In Saturday’s post I talked about drinking all the booze I could hold, but in the warm, mid-80s, breezeless sunshine on the edge of dusk, getting tanked was the last thing on my mind. Why bother? What’s the point? I was among friends. What the hell did I have to demonstrate or prove to anybody? That I had a penchant for self-induced dimentia? Not yesterday. Not forever.

The nifty thing about walking is the time I have to SEE the world. The variety of approaches to architecture in the homes in the turf transited, built mostly in the early 20th century was fascinating. The return was affirming and faster than my egress to party-central. I timed myself going home and the 15 total minutes in motion were positive and engaging until I crossed Walnut going east on Vine.

I had seen the Budweiser bottle left on the SIDEWALK as I passed outbound. Finding it still there on the return blistered me. I picked it up and carried it home; my two cents for a cleaner neighborhood. The brazen callousness of some (Who knows? Insert disparaging epithet of your choice.) finishing that Bud and letting it fall from his (or her) hand onto the bleeping SIDEWALK? You know, if you have to pee, do it in the deep end of the pool; not as you stand on the DIVING BOARD! Toss the bottle into the nearest waste container in an alley; into a bush by a house, put it into your pocket; just don’t leave it in the sun on the sidewalk! I wish I could have seen the person when the bottle was left behind. I wish we could have conversed. What insight about life in this community could I have learned from that exchange? What was the reason for leaving the bottle there? Did he bother with zippers and buttons in his (orher) world? Does heorshe flush at home and in public restrooms? What was the worst thing an unfriendly person did to himorher?

A dented Old Milwaukee was found on Pasfield a few blocks north of Vine, close to the gutter, under a shade tree between sidewalk and street. Someone left behind MONEY! Heorshe could have redeemed that can and others like it for dollars . . . . for bananas, for Ramen noodles, for Lipton Iced Tea. Why just leave it for someone else to cash in?

The Seagram’s Gin bottle I collected months ago from the lawn in front of a major local bank as I walked home from a visit only two blocks away. It was a drizzly day. The empty could not have been sitting in the grass more than 24 hours, judging from the condition. Who drinks GIN and discards the bottle onto someone’s lawn? What is THAT person all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie, should we take more than we give? (thank you Burt Bachrach and Dione Warwick)

I’m going to recycle the Old Milwau’ can and pitch the rest into my kitchen trash. They have been my souvenirs — other owners’ detritus with a message to me — long enough. It’s time to step beyond.

And so I shall.

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

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This isn’t the first time for me. The other time was the same car before I started subtitute teaching about eight years ago. It was winter then. And it was more of an alibi than reality.

The work situation is unaffected. George Jaworski happily picked me up and another good fella brought me home. The person I’m teaching about email is going to pick me up and return. If I don’t have wheels by mid-August, I’ll be in a fix because there’s a sub teacher refresher seminar I must attend. I look forward to that. This will be the first one since the arrival of the new District 186 superintendent.

For the past two days I’ve concentrated, grudgingly, on catching up with some aviation magazine index transcribing. Back in the 80s, using 3 x 5 notecards, I noted contents of every aviation magazine in the collection: thousands, using an abbreviation system I created expressly for aviation historians who may find what I’m doing worthwhile in the future as they find it worthwhile these days. I’m amazed. Google knows all about this little enterprise. Few in Springfield know about it; fewer support it. More folks have contributed to this collection from Australia in the past two years than Illinois, but that’s okay. It’s coming in, a little at a time, and regularly. The information I’m transcribing from these notecards was mostly longhand, and the publication I’m tackling, a now defunct title called Air Classics, while never top drawer in most respects, was prolific in volumes and scope of coverage. Now that it’s gone, it’s important to get my indexing completed and uploaded for free public access. But it’s tedium maximus. The only reason I’m letting it absorb so much of my time at this time is because as long as I’m feeling so trashed and out of the loop of life, I’m not going to endure this pervasive sense of dread and discontent by engaging in activity that’s FUN. Better to have the appendix removed when you think life is particularly droll. That way you won’t have to face it when you’re back on the sunny side of the street.

Speaking of which, I”m about to leave the house AS A PEDESTRIAN to walk about 10 blocks to a party at a publisher I write for. YES, I did consider taking the car. By taking side streets I could probably make it and avoid contact with gendarmes and steel. But if I consume the quantity of adult libations I intend to consume, I don’t want a DUI charge tacked on the the litany of “menace to society” charges I’d bef strung up on if I do something REALLY stupid behind the wheel coming home where I don’t belong anyway.

So, it’s time to batten down this electric box and go for a stroll to an anticipated reunion with some fine people who believe I can write and take a picture. If I return to this magic machine in one sentient piece, I will let you know how things went.

Live long . . . . . . and walk; don’t run.

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As Richard Nixon almost said, I am not a COOK!  Still, I know how to make the most of a frying skillet.

A few weeks ago after finishing my most recently savored gallon bucket of Neapoitain ice cream, a minor revelation appeared before my eyes like a burning 43rd president. The plastic container fit easily into the freezer half of my refrigerator and I realized it might be a useful ice mold. I filled it about two inches deep, returned it to the freezer and a few hours later it had frozen solid. Since it was plastic, it was easy to simply let the warm kitchen warm the outside edge so I could flip the container and deposit a disk of ice on dinner plate.

I call it faux glacier ice, or XRE for short.

Then I hacked at it with a utility knife until the pieces were small enough to fit into an iced tea glass and thermos. One problem: as I chipped away: the ice went in all directions, most on the counter; some onto the floor to be deposited in the sink. Then another revelation:


My My large skillet hasn’t seen the light of day since 2006 , but it’s remained secure and clean in the cupboard. As you can tell, the ice, fresh from the mold, was a perfect fit. The sides are high enough that I can chip away and the XRE pieces stay where they belong until I return them to the freezer.

Why go to the bother? I like the looks of random chips. Most are larger than cubes from my ice trays and they remain longer in the glass. I also enjoy the almost-visceral experience of chipping my own ice, contrived and faux-hip as the XRE process may be. It’s tap water for goodness’ sake!

That said, I’m using XRE exclusively now. I may store the cube trays where I used to keep the skillet.

Try this at home, but let the chipping be done by mom, dad or a responsible adult. By reading the words shared here, visitors to Honey & Quinine implicitly assent to holding harmless, the writer of this blog.  Be cool with faux glacier ice. Impress your friends, bore your enemas — make that enemies and  look both ways before crossing the street.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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