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Archive for December, 2008

The Write Shuff(le)

If you’ve not picked up the new issue of The New Yorker (December 22 & 29),  get it while you can!

Y?

Because the lead story in “The Talk of the Town” presents an illustration of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looking impish and cherubish and the story of his recent dust-up with the people of this fair state (with its own state fair, by the way). What makes this story particularly worthwhile is that for the first time since it hit the fan a few weeks ago, I was able to read the obscenities “bleeped” out of every news story reaching mine eyes and ears until today. BRAVO THE NEW YORKER!! Yassareee!. All concerns about reality shattering the fragile sensitivities of what opponents like to call partial birth shadow dodgers and intellectually short-shrifted nine-year-olds seem to have vanished like the last whale oil peddler. For the first time in my own rather A-retentive life, I celebrated as I read the REAL WORDS without bleeps and the silly _ _ _ _s that so primly “ignore” the BIG BLUE BABOON self-abusing himself in the corner of the ladies’ auxiliary meeting. The article hit me magnificently effectively. THAT is what kind of cherub our Evvis-fixated iconoclast is! Here in our own governor, we have a true piece of what the bull deposited in the pasture.  The world was waiting for someone to show what a load Rod B is. And I am delighted editors at The New Yorker DID IT, DID IT, DID IT! BRAVO!

The story wasn’t particularly long, but it almost made me forget my soup! The rest of the day I’ve been writing Springfield Business Journal articles — three of them — and welcome assignments every one. In fact, two were suggested to esteemed editor and approved. There are a million stories in this nekkid city, and given the rope and fair professional compensation for my labors, I would LEAP to write every one.

All my notes transcribed Sunday were waiting for me this morning like a house-broken puppy at the front door. I like to see my notes in print, transcribed from taped face-to-face interviews, so I can read them easier and on a computer screen so I can edit them easier, shffling them along with added narrative text into an article. This is the most enjoyable part of writing feature news for me. I say the write shuffle because I’m writing for print and I don’t have to run as I did in days of yore; haven’t written a story for radio broadcast since graduate school in ’77 — that’s 1977.

I also loved writing for radio back then for WMAY and Illinois News Network, going live from the General Assembly during the Dan Walker daze. The stories had to be as tight with a phrase as a good poem and none longer than 45 seconds including actualities — words spoken into the tape recorder’s microphone by the interviewee..

Print is my medium of choice — Yes Virginia, there are more than one news medium: broadcast news, broadcast feature, print new, print feature. . . .can you dig it; I mean them? — I dig print because I can tell more of the story I want to tell. That does not mean writing eloquently and verbosely; it means writing more news.

So I’ve had a decent day, getting two stories and two pictures to esteemed editress (actor/actress; host/hostess, jew/jewess (lost a potential sweetheart when I questioned that distinction). OKAY, I’m just jerking your chain. I know all those are permanent residents of Anachronism City and Lexicon Yesterday. Waiting for me is what esteemed you-know-whom and others call “chicken soup” news. What do I mean? I mean the kind of cotton candy (that’s what I call it) that may not nourish the intellect, but it tastes good just the same.  Do I disdain chicken soup? Not NOW. Not in my present circumstance where I’ll do anything but wish our Illinois governor a HAPPY WINTEBLISS for an honest few hundred dollars. I’ll write chicken soup and cotton candy, and even Cotton Mather. American literary historians please note that some of us English majors never forget.

Bring it on, y’all  — hey  . . . good GOD!

Live long . . . . . and eloquently.

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Doonesbury Demoted?

I’d really rather time travel to next Sunday at 1:05 p because I’m procrastinating away my day, and I MUST transcribe to tapes for Springfield Business Journal articles. I am not “going quiety into the obligation” I am privileged to have. If I hadn’t read the funnies at my usual place after the news shows (which included an unwelcome pastiche of news from last week on Meet the Press and an excellent interview with Joe Biden on This Week With George Stephanolpoulos) I’d be transcribing now instead of delaying the inevitable. I’ve promised myself not to have lunch until the longer tape is done, and the way I’m feeling right now, with the kitchen hot water pipe frozen and not flowing, I”ll probably postpone transcribing until after lunch too.

This is all the State Journal-Register”s fault: a change that has me wondering if Garry Trudeau’s star is descending.  Doonesbury for years has appeared on the top of page five in the Sunday comics when there were still six pages of comics. Several months ago, they compacted the comics (cramming them into smaller frames filling five pages) so advertising could appear on the last page. That was okay with me. Page 6 of the comics was a non-entity with me then as it is today. With the advertising on six, Doones’ was moved to the top of page 3; better for me since it saved me the pointless effort of turning a second page to read almost the only strip that reached me. As noted in a previous H&Q the death of Opus gave me only Doonesbury in the comics and Dave Bakke in the rest of the paper — I dig Landis and Schoenburg and Naumovich (in months that end in “ber”) too but they are silver to Bakke’s and Doonesbury’s gold. I still mine the SJ-R Sunday for the precious mettle.

Todaaaaaaay, as I started to say, Doonesbury was on page 4 which to me is a demotion not unlike relocating the last child living at home’s bedroom to the basement to remodel his room into a guest room. Maybe the intelligentsia on the editorial board feel Trudeau is losing his punch but I don’t think GT is fading at all. When he writes about Lacey Davenport, he’s not giving us his best game because she’s been off the readers’ radar scopes so long. As a long-time fan, I enjoyed the Davenport/Cavendish chemistry when it was blossoming, but the retro tack by Mike Doones’s daughter is not resonating as it should with me. I’ve read all that before. This relocation to page 4 — an EVEN PAGE, a LEFT HAND PAGE! Do you understand the IGNOMINY OF THIS, READAZ? What’s going on with the political conscience of the SJ-R and their comics packager?  Remember when the witch-burners and inquisitionists mobbed the SJ-R into puting the daily Doones’ in the editorial pages? Are we on the verge of nixing Doonesbury altogether and adding a purple frikking dinosaur to the pages? No wonder politics no longer carries that patina of integrity and respect. Look at what the SJ-R has done with the mighty Doones’!

Granted, the Blagojevich whoresplay may be a factor too.

I”m just glad I TURNED to page four, which I don’t often do anymore, to understand Doones’ has not been kicked out of the arena. They’re just making him simmer in the backfield.

Live long. . . .  and proper/

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It’s been a nutty week, and it promises to get nuttier. The collection of Playboy interviews I collected during the 60s and 70s, culled from the rest of the magazines (along with some more graphically appealing presentations but not as many as you might imagine (I have a very discriminating libido) during the 80s and lay boxed away from daylight since. . . . were examined this week. The really good interviews I enjoyed, along with wonderful contributions by Norman Mailer, Woody Allen, Ray Bradbury and Ken Purdy were packed off to Fred Russillo in Maryland by way of Mark Rusillo. I intended to include articles I’ve clipped from The New Yorkers given to me by friends over the years and prime-content-culled as with the Hefnerly heap, but I changed my mind. It’s too soon to say “gebai” to them. I have separated every poem I have saved from those early TNYs and will be cutting them from whole pages and Scotch Taping them to clean sheets of 3-ring-binder-punched paper along with every cartoon culled and saved from TNY and Playboy. I have amassed five loose-leave binders of these since I began the process in the early 90s.

WHY?

The original thought was that someday I could share the humor and poems I REALLY like (what I saved) with visitors (there are fewer than I had anticipated) and with posterity. I imagine when I depart “with no forwarding address” as they say, a stranger or friend will discover the binders in a corner of my living room and keep them; enjoy them, and perhaps add more and pass them on. For the record, I’m physically in great shape: no heart murmurs, sprained muscles or even a sniffle. I don’t hate a single human being, or more than one human being, though there are some (once esteemed highly) whose distance from my life is a blessing rather than a deficit.

I’m in a PRODUCTION mode. After napping last night, starting five minutes into Bill Moyers Journal (a not-infrequent oaccurence as some verbose writhers might say) and snoring through Charlie Rose (DANG IT!) I was six hours edtended from the hour and a half snooze. I was in my office deleting a whaleofalotta files from my arts web sites, working on model airplanes, and getting more done in the office — especially with the models — than I have in weeks. I hit the sack at 5:15 am and then I went to bed.

Was bacq inde office at 10:05 this mownin’.

I will tackle transcribing interviews for two articles I’m producing for the next Springfield Business Journal after the Sunday news shows. Another article will be cobbled together Monday. I’ve been a full week away from Rock City this past week and that bothers me. If it wasn’t weather keeping me off the streets, it was the court appearance and article interviews conducted face to face. I HOPE I can log some hours at work Monday and Tuesday, the day of our holiday celebration (before a two-week layoff).

The weather prognosticators are forecasting — OR The weather forecasters are prognosticating (take your choice) — a reallyreally cold time of it outside extending into Monday. If there’s no snow falling (I think I can rule out rain) I believe I will make it to work, even though I will use probably have the time there (and require the time there) to finish my articles for SBJ. The presence will not necessarily net me a dollar. These days the “currency” is the promise of a dollar, and for me, that’s better than no promise at all.

In his poem The Ghosts of the Buffaloes, Vachel Lindsay writes,
“Dream boy, dream,
If you anywise can.
To dream is the work
Of beast or man.
Life is the west-going dream-storm’s breath.
Life is a dream, the sigh of the skies,
The breath of the stars that nod on their pillows
With their golden hair mussed over their eyes.”

It’s a wonderful poem; should be a short movie. You should Google it and read the whole thing.

He’s right you know. I often spend a third of mine time sleeping. I spend the rest of my life awake . . . . and dreaming.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Season of Love
. . . . . . . . . . . By Job Conger

It’s the time of the season
People go into hock
Buying presents for others
And enduring the schlock:
The retail overselling
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 our God up in heaven
Gave us His only son.

Though the shiny, wrapped present
Isn’t myrh or fine gold,
We rejoice in remembering
What the scriptures have told:
Why we give to each other
As He gave from above.
We will follow the wise men
In a season of love.

(refrain)
. . . . . . Though Emmanuel’s coming
. . . . . . Seems removed from today
– – – – – – We are one in remembering
. . . . . . For He showed us the way.

It’s the way to forgiveness
In the gifts that we bring
And our heaven’s assurance
In the songs that we sing —
All to say that “I love you”
Iike our Father above,
And I follow the Father
In a season of love.

– – – – My words and my melody above  (Copyright 2008) were written to connect buying gifts and a reason for it. If you don’t positively acknowledge the language and point of the words; if you don’t believe in the ethos of the words, there is no need to keep an eye on your silverware; I’m not sharing this to bring you into the fold. I offer the poem and song to anyone who will share it or have me share it. If you don’t acknowledge; don’t believe, I hope that God will bless you and those you love just the same.

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Traffic Court

Just before Thanksgiving, I was stopped by an Illinois State Police officer as I was driving home from work and given tickets for driving with an expired license, driving at night with a “no driving at night” restriction on my license and a warning for driving with a burned out brake light and NO working regular tail lights. I described the whole thing here at H&Q. I was told to appear in court on December 18 to receive the court’s judgment regarding my infractions, and that’s what I did today.

Yesterday, I tried a few times to finish recording a tape of me reciting Vachel Lindsay’s poems, singing a few I had put to music, accompanied by myself on guitar, and some of my original songs. I had promised to do this for my Eastern booking agent Fred Russillo, who is the one hummin’ bean impressed greatly by what he has seen and heard of me in “performance mode” and is sharp enough, and enthusiastic enough to want to see me do more with my life than whine about slings and errors of outrageous misfortune my flesh is heir to — and if Willy SHAKE’ can end a sentence with a preposition, I CAN TOO, yawl. I had started the 90 minute compendium of ear ambrosia on mylar a few days ago, and discovered with no heat in the house as a whole, even though I was fine in the office where I was recording, I was in no state of mind to record Vachel and moi. So today, freshly buffed and looking forward to court like looking forward to having a tooth removed through my left ear, I finished the tape, singing my “Preposition Song,” “Don’t You Take the Mashed Potatoes,” “Sedentary Man,” and “I Want to be Sedated” — all hits from my coffee house days of about eight years ago. I don’t have time or space to explain how that era ended beyond saying that if you think I would never be stupid enough to let a schizophrenic illegitimate son of an unmarried, un-vaccinated mother canine sour my attitude toward many poets in Springfield, Illinois . . . . . you would be mistaken. Anyahoo, I was strangely in a mental state to finish the recording this morning before leaving for court, and I did. My friend Mark, Fred’s younger bro and a terrific friend and neighbor, will deliver the tape to FR over the Wintebliss week.

The car started fine, drove fine, and I parked in the County Building public parking lot 20 minutes before court was scheduled to begin. The crowd was amazing as we all streamed out of the lot, waited at the intersection of Ninth at Adams for the light to change and all strided to our common destination. It was like the parking lot at Lincoln Center in DC ten minutes before the curtain goes up on a Sondheim musical. There must have been ten of us at the stop light: a cross section of traffic-court-frequenting Springfield, most everyone dressed as though there next stop after business at the County Building was the laundromat to do four or five loads for young families of four kids under five.

After passing through security and exiting the elevator at the sixth floor I took my place at the end of a line of probably 50 (families of mothers and husbands and toddlers, usually one babe for every two parents, 98% of them white) and a large interspersed array of black citizens, mostly pairs of women and solo men. As I told the woman sitting at a small table at the courtroom entrance my name, she pulled my fact sheet from an alphabetized array in a box and put it at the back end of a growing file that would be subsequently delivered to the judge when the session began a few minutes later. A uniformed county police officer directed each of us to seating, filling benches of seats from the front of the room to the back, from left to right, making a rainbow stew of ethnicitys, all ow whom had run afowl of the law. by the time the presiding judge entered, and we all stood briefly as instructed by a voice in the distance, every seat in the room was taken with no more than a few inches’ breathing space between each person.

The judge spoke firmly and clearly saying he would call people about in groups of eight to ten who would then stand in a line to his left and approach the bench as each was called forward. We could pay fines in Room 405 that day, or make arrangements there to pay later. If fines were not paid by time specified, warrants would be issued for their arrest, and ehey would have to explain their delay in court. If those with tickets wished to plead innocent to the crimes noted on the tickets, they could request of bench trial (decision rendered by the same judge later that afternoon) or a jury trial which would take place from 30 to 60 days later. Then he called the first group to the front of the room.

Throughout the proceedings attorneys passed up and down the center aisle accompanied by (I presume) their clients, obviously involved in more than traffic tickets. Others dressed professionally transited up and down the aisle stepping smartly as only women and men in dress shoes can walk. Civilians by and large, displayed a slower gaite, striding as though walking from the ticket line to a seat on a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Mid-America. It took only about ten miniutes to process the first ten accused. Most spent 30 seconds or less at the bench talking, in hushed tones,  with the judge and assistant state’s attorney..When the front half of the seats in the court room had been emptied, called to the bench and dismissed in the order in which they had arrived and been seated, starting probably at 8:30, more ticket holders were ushered in by the same county police officer. I was number two in the fifth group called forward.

As he read my name so all of us could hear, the judge pronounced my name — Job — as though it rhymes with job or Bob. As I waited in line at the front of the room, for 3/8s of a nano-second, I considered whether or not I should set the record straight regarding the dying art of properly pronouncing my name. At the end of 3/8s of that nano-second I concluded that the judge could call me Loretta if he wanted because he was in charge of that scene. If we ever encounter each other in the street under friendlier circumstances, I will correct him then.

The assistant state’s attorney read my charges to the judge, including the one about my driving with a “no driving after dark” provision. I displayed my new drivers license and told them my car lights had been replaced and were all functioning. The judge advised me to pay a $100 fine for driving after dark.

I asked if I could speak to the court, and the judge said “yes.” I explained how I did not know why I had been given the “no driving after dark” restriction and that when I applied for my new license, my request to delete that restriction had been approved. The judge asked me to show my license to the attorney who looked at it closely, confirmed there was no restriction, and gave it back. The judge told me there would be no fine at all; that I was free to go. “Thank you,” I said, calmly turned and strode smartly out of the courtroom.

Only after I was out of the County Building did I smile.

I’m still smiling..

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Warm Again

I detest being cold more with every gift of another day I am privileged to live. Cold makes me angry at everything and angry at nobody. It is an impersonal affront to my good day and better nature. For a long time today, I thought I would have to endure another day of it, but my anguish — as so often happens — was premature.

I had emailed my good friend Kevin early Tuesday night describing my frigid circumstance and asking him to swing by after he dropped his fine wife off for work, five minutes from my oooooooooom suite oooooooom.

I jerked awake about 9 a just in time to savor Garrison Keillor’s superb Writers Almanac. When it concluded, I realized that typically, K would have called by 8:30. What happened?

To the email in a flash. The first note said he’d call me in a few minutes. The second e said something had come up; he would call me later. . . . NOT the news I wanted to read. I had phone calls to make and I could not make them for fear of missing my friend’s alert he was on hist way. I was really getting concerned by 11:45, so I called him. There had been another delay. He was leaving and would call me five minutes from my place.

A (seeming) eternity passed. Finally, a tad after noon, he arrived and we were en route to Tom’s HVAC repair place for a replacement furnace igniter. Then a fast run to RADIO SHACK — my OFFICIAL HONEY & QUININE ELECTRONICS RETAILER.– fir a working clock radio. The manager at the Sangamon Avenue Store, Steve, is ex US Air Force and a terrific fellow. Then to Schnuck’s for bare minimum food for a few days, including a fresh gallon of Carlo Rossi Burgundy! A fast trip by Rock City for a promised pay check, by the pank to deposit it, and HOME to install the new furnace igniter!

The new igniter went in like it was made for the furnace, which it was, of course, and gradually the heat is returning to the house along with circulation to my fingers. It feels ter-frikking–RIFFIC! I even set up the clock radio with no problems!

I didn’t even mind skipping lunch. Besides, I picked up a fresh rotisserie chicken at Schnuck’s. I feel I could eat the whole thing, but I’m going to eat about half and fill the rest with a peanut butter & jelly sandwich or two to fill the rest on the cheap.

Oh, what a relief it is!
Live long . . . .  and warm.

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BBC radio says it’s 7:30 GMT and I’m trying to stay up late so it will be easy to fall asleep when I depart the warmth of my home office for the chill of my distant bed less than three feet from my home’s front door. Silly place for a bed you say? It’s the only place I have room for one.

The day was going well when I posted the earlier entry about 19:45 GMT Tuesday. That’s because with the office space heater going full blast, I hadn’t noticed that the furnace had quit. That became evident during a quick trip to what the Brits call a water closet, the warmest room in the house, and I noticed the chill. A little checking revealed the furnace pilot light had died, and there was no playing with the thermostat that could fix it. I called Ameren to see if they had cut off my gas. I didn’t expect it. I’m keeping up with that since they reconnected. But I also didn’t want to call a repairperson only to find there was no gas coming in. Ameren reassured me: I’m a consumer in good standing.

A fast call to George, a friend across the street who can fix anything with one arm tied behind his back. He couldn’t get over until after dinner. Okay.

The rest of the day was a major bummer. The furnace was the FOURTH thing to break in the last seven days: first, my toaster, then my car heater, then my clock radio and now THIS.

FRIKKING GREAT.

I didn’t work on my stories for Springfield Business Journal, but I also didn’t touch the wine. I worked on office things at about 25% capacity.

As I heated the last can of soup in the kitchen I noticed my cold water pipe had frozen. I was getting no cold from the tap there. While the soup warmed, I set up a space heater in the basement crawl space, the Achilles Heel of my house plumbing and opened the faucet to let water flow as soon as the heat in the crawl space thawed things out.

For the first time since I bought this house, I ate lunch in the office, rising and going into the kitchen every five minutes or less to see if the water was flowing.

The one thing productive I did was begin recording a promised tape of me reciting Vachel Lindsay’s poetry and some of my own songs with my guitar for a friend in Maryland. Progress was okay, but I still arose often to check on the faucet in the kitchen. Some force grabbed my attention about an hour after I had set up the heater, and I raced into the kitchen.

There I discovered the faucet thawed and going full bore, and water to within a 1/16 of an inch of the top of my kitchen sink! A minute’s delay in responding to that almost supernatural prompting to get into the kitchen, and I would have had a hell of a lot of mopping up to do. Somebody “up there” likes me, though sometimes it’s hard to be sure.

By 1:00 GMT, my taping of poetry and songs had been interrupted four times by phone calls, the last from my neighbor the furnace whiz guy. He came over, and worked fast in the chilly basement.

I have a broken electrical igniter. He removed it, showed me how to insert a new one where it came from and headed home. I will buy a new igniter tomorrow, but it won’t be easy. I’ve not touched the snow on my car, and it’s not going to be any warmer Wednesday than Tuesday. With a likely dead battery and a heater that’s not working, my prospects for tomorrow and Thursday are not good.

I emailed another friend asking for help, taxiing me to a HVAC supply store or at least jumping my car battery but he’s not responded. If he doesn’t, and my car doesn’t start after sitting in my drive since last Friday, it will be another chilly evening tomorrow.

And I’ll likely have to take a cab to court on Thursday morning. I’m told I won’t have to go to jail — THANK GOD — but it’s sure going to make an interesting morning.

You would not believe how frikking cold it is in the rest of my house. Had I not chosen to eat dinner in the living room under a blanket (how ILLOGICAL, yes?) and watching the news and Charlie Rose (Henry Kissinger and a Harvard economist; both decent interviewrs) I wouldn’t have appreciated that. That’s why I don’t want to go to bed until I can’t hold my eyelids open tonight. Sleep in my bed with a sheet and too frikking blankets, I frikking SHALL! Besides, there’s no room on my office floor to lie down withtout bending at the waist. I expect the water on my kitchen counter will have to be chipped off the formica if I want it gone Wednesday.

Lesson learned: some folks just aren’t intended to be content. Ooo bla dee, ooo blah dah, life goes.

Live long. . . . . and keep your feet dry.

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