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Archive for May, 2009

Catching UP

Up is elusive and hard to catch. Just when you think you’re gaining ground, you have to stop while a frikking freight train goes by at five miles an hour and by the time the path is clear again, you don’t have time to chase UP anymore because you’re late somewhere else. So it was Saturday.

I’d have driven by the Lindsay House after work Saturday, grabbed a few groceries at Shop’N’Save and caught UP with my gardening if I hadn’t forgotten to pack my driver’s license when I left for work. To lessen time in “lawbreaker mode” I came straight home driving the posted speed on the DOT and made it home without being arrested. Other fine people were working outside in their front yards across the street and a few doors down, and I simply did not want to be sociable. It’s times like these — and I don’t have them often, really I don’t — that if you approach me as I’m getting out of my truck, don’t get your hands closer than three feet from my mouth because if you do, you’re liable to lose a few fingers. It was too warm out also.

Instead I hastened to the basement to catch UP. It was waiting for me: several THOUSAND articles about aviation which I’ve culled from aviation magazines donated to my collection since last fall. When I receive an aviation magazine already on hand or not needed whole, I pull all articles of value to the aviation data bank AeroKnow and pitch the rest. Articles pulled are taped (if two pages) or stapled (three or more pages) and then piled in stacks as tall as they can be without threatening to topple over. The stacks are then pre-sorted. Every file cabinet in the collection is numbered. I separate articles knowing where in the 15 they will go. There are sub categories too, Cabinet 10 contains articles about French and Soviet aircraft, another has clippings about aviation people, combat groups, air forces and aviation museums, so those are also separated from each other to make for smoother subsequent filing.Sound like fun? You don’t know the half of it.

I do this because the accumulation won’t sort itself. I tried instructing it, but my words fell on deaf pages. If it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done by old Number One. No one else I know has the knowledge, the time and/or the inclination to help. And that’s okay. . . . I suppose.

After checking email on arrival home Saturday, processing some pictures for Flickr I had processed at work and emailed to me, I went downstairs about 4:00 with a cup of coffee and started to catch . . . . you know what I started to catch, don’t you? I started to catch UP.

I resurfaced about 6:45 to make dinner (even frikking MONKS have to eat, you know) and watched “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” until returning to subterranea and sorting until 11 when Spike Fehrenstein came on. It was a repeat but a good one, with Carl Reiner and Bo (forgot his last name, begins with a B, hilarious songwriter/pianist/performer). Then back to the basement for more sorting for half an hour. The “Sex and the City” was a re-run I have seen twice, so I watched only 10 minutes before ingesting a breath of Burgundy from the Carlo Rossi gallon jug — Jugs are for tasting, I always say — and hitting the hay. A “breath of wine” is the amount one can swallow before you have to breathe again. It isn’t science but it’s sensible.

Today, I was up at 6:30 am and with first cup of Mrs. Olsen’s best (Folger’s Instant) sallied to the sorting. When I had completed the “first sort” of the articles that had measured about three feet high yesterday, I came up to grab another cup of coffee and ramble here at H&Q. What I accomplished from the concentrated effort is less than five percent of what it will take to catch UP down there, with just filing articles, and there’s much to do in addition to that, but it’s behind me. I can go from here.

I don’t know that I’m the gardener I thought I was when the year was younger. I need to hang by the phone until a friend — fellow aviation enthusiast calls re a planned visit today — so I’ll be concentrating on the aviation inside until we touch base. I don’t know that I will ever catch UP. There are too many things waiting for me — not including dreams which are another subject entirely.

Dreams aren’t waiting for me. They don’t wait for anybody. You catch them if you can; that simple. And even when you catch a dream, there’s no time to be very satisfied with yourself. After all, you still have to catch UP.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Night Vision of a Sleepover Guest
by Job Conger
written Wednesday, May 6, 2009

His head turned to the wall,
he likes awake, thinking about her
and he senses, perhaps he dreams,
she is standing by his bed,
naked.

His eyes are open,
imagining her skin, her warmth, her scent,
her softness.
He knows that if he turns to her,
she will walk away silently.

So he remains,
his head turned to the wall
sensing, wishing, determined
not to shatter the crystalline perfection
of his vision.

She returns to the sleepover couch
to spend minutes uncounted,
eyes open, gazing into the darkened room . . . .
until she closes her eyes and goes to sleep;
touches her dream.

==============
This is based on an actual event with Lenore though I am sure she was NOT sans threads. I did force my eyes against the nearby wall on the left of bed, and I conceived the poem, grabbed the nearby clipboard with paper and pen, and drafted it sitting on the edge of my bed in the slowly arriving dawn. I didn’t show the poem to her because I didn’t want her to think I was madder for her than I was.  Today she can read it here if she likes.  It’s a free country.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Before I begin (a metaphysical impossibility to be sure), I note for the record that “Lenore” is not a member of my Facebook community.

Lenore’s Poems Take Two
by Job Conger
written 3:30 pm, May 1, 2009

The first time I read
what I thought was your poetry
I read a home page
table of contents,
patina titles over blistering realities.

Today I read several of your poems
for the first time, and I found them
stark,
without equivocation
as generous as innocence
but with real blood in the tears.

I reeled like a boxer
taking hard punches in the gut
instinctively,
while leaning into the action
for more of the same,

breathless!

====================
The above was the first poem I wrote about her, to her. I was stunned, inspired by her poems and remain the same today.

Live long . . . . and lyrical.

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Lenore Is Gone

As I used to sing,
“It’s a lesson too late for the learnin’
made of sand, made of sand
In the wink of an eye my soul is turnin’
In your hand, in your hand.
Are you going away with no word of regret?
Will there be not a trace left behind?
I could have loved you better,
didn’t mean to be unkind.
You know it was the last thing on my mind.”

The stupid thing I did which resulted in Lenore moving most of her things out of my house starting about 1:30 this morning was astonishingly mild to me, but a nuclear explosion to her. Earlier, I had picked up some special items for dinner and some food seasonings I knew she wanted for the kitchen. Both would be happy surprises for her, and until she departed home to spend three hours or so with her boyfriend, I would drink her in like a thirsty man, happy to have her for the time I was alotted. On arrival, I was told she had to run errands and would not be back until possibly 9. In her absence, we should each eat a snack iso we could enjoy dinner later. I ate no snack because for a lot of our relationship — mostly when I’m here alone and she’s gone — I have had no appetite. I’ve forgotten what appetite for food IS.

She returned about 9:30 and when I suggested a light meal instead of the one I had looked forward to sharing with her (I hadn’t eaten a thing since 11 in the morning) she walked out with no promise to return soon. If I had known she would be running errands, I would not have picked up special dinner. And she would be sleeping on my sofa, and I in my bed, and I would not be awake at 4 am in the morning writing about her.

Lenore returned home about 1:30 am and in half an hour she moved almost all she had here out of the house as I sat on the front porch (following her command for me to stay out of my house) trying to talk to her. She kept telling me to sit in a corner of the porch and not talk. It was only after she moved her two big travel suitcases out that I noticed her boyfriend parked across the street a few doors down. She wheeled the two suitcases to his car. That’s when I knew she was through with me.

There won’t be any tears shed over this. I was convinced I was in love with her, she was convinced we’d never even hold hands. I was too old for her. I was absolutely crazy about her poetry. Talent comes in beautiful packages sometimes. We both loved the arts and the New York Times. But the really important “writing” was on the wall though I was too blind to see it. The circumstance, as heavenly as it might have been if we loved each other, was doomed.  I didn’t relinquish my dream of an affectionate relationship, and she held firm in her resolve not to go in that direction. If she hadn’t been so beautiful and talented, I would have never dreamed so much about a long-term future with her. Now that she is gone, there is no point to tears. If I thought crying would bring her back, I’d start this minute and stop only when she put her arms around me. It won’t happen.

Lenore taught me how all consuming the power of desire to be close to a terrific woman can be. I knew that desire many years ago, but haven’t for almost 20 years. I’d just about given up hope, and Lenore brought it back to me. Now I am again without hope.

The plants she gave me, the cherry tomatoes I don’t care for and banana peppers I have never eaten will continue to grow until they rot on the vines or I give them to neighbors.

The experience of my desire to be more than a friend to Lenore consumed my life. Care and upkeep of my aviation web site suffered because I’d come home and be depressed as hell that she was out from 11 (when her boyfriend got off work) until 2 to 2:30 am when she’d quiety come in, turn the living room light off and go to sleep on the couch. No matter how happy and enraptured with her from my arrival home (if she was here, and she was most of the time) I knew she’d leave to be with her boyfriend. She’d be in her home town over the weekends working at a restaurant and staying with her parents in an unhappy home environment she was eager to escape by living with me. I have neglected friends, email and responsibilities with my aviation web site, Facebook pages, and valued correspondents who’ve stopped writing me. All of this for the hope that a beautiful woman would love me. I told the editor at SBJ about a week ago that sometimes living with Lenore was like having hydrochloric acid poured on my soul. I should have adjusted, learned better how not to aggravate Lenore. But sometimes fools never learn.

Life goes on. There are real estate taxes and overdue bills waiting. I’m due at work early today. There will be no sleep between now and then because if I go to sleep, I will sleep late and will not be there to open the showroom and hold down the fort all day.

I am in shock . . . . or not. I am empty. Lenore was the best woman I’ve known and the worst woman I’ve known, and I’ve known my share if there is such a thing. There were too many taboos when we talked. I listened to her talk about men she had met, how much she liked them but would not allow me to tell her how much I cared for her. It made her “defensive” she explained. Once she know how much her hugs meant to me, the hugs ended.

She has a key to the house. She can come here in a few hours and leave it like a hurricane struck, which as a similie, is not far from true. God knows what’s going to happen. I wish I could be here, but I sense, incredibly sadly that I have seen her for the last time, and what I saw was not the beautiful woman who captured me, who never wanted to capture me.

There will be poems from all of this, of course. But Lenore will remain Lenore. If I can’t maintain my integrity as a male of the species, there is nothing left in me to respect.

I miss her like hell already.

Life goes on.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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I’ve thought long and hard about beginning a new series here at H&Q — maybe a new blog — called “Living With Lenore.” It would be about the joys and not-so-joys of living with a friend I call Lenore because that’s not her real name. It’s a 100 percent platonic circumstance, though I would gladly surrender custody of her choice of  either of my ears if it were “play tonic” instead. After a morning encounter with her as I stayed home from work to finish a newsletter for the Springfield Chapter Illlinois Pilots Association, I’ve almost completely ruled out the possibility of series or separate blog. WHY?

Even anonymously, she’s entitled to her dignity, as I’m entitled to mine. Blogging about her, I am afraid, would diminish our dignity; more so than mine was diminished during our impromptu dialogue about faith. I quickly recovered mine, thanks in part to her kindness and thanks in part to encountering my poem presented here. In my first book of poetry, Minstrel’s Ramble, to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois I call the poem “Banana Peel,” but I’m re-titling it effective today.

Affirmation of Fate
by Job Conger
written March 27, 1994

Life can be black and white.
Deeds are wrong and their right,
But sometimes things can seem in between.
And deciding what’s best
Puts my brain to the test,
Not to mention the load on my spleen.

So I’m starting today
In a new, special way,
To relate to what God has in store.
And the answer I’ve found
Is to seek hallowed ground
In the shade of His grace evermore.

There’s a list a mile long
Of what might be called wrong
With a nation of Bart Simpson clones:
A nightmare come to pass.
All our houses are glass
So we shouldn’t waste life throwing stones.

Saying “Don’t have a cow!”
Doesn’t cut it somehow.
And an angry “SCREW OFF!” won’t compute.
No, the answer’s beyond
The debris of the conned,
Of the bitter, the deaf, dumb and mute.

(refrain)
I am not the combined judge and jury.
No, the point that’s worth keeping in sight,
Is that words full of hate
Are just mean Devil bait
And he’ll reel you right in if you bite.

But I am what I am
Without shame, without sham,
And if accepting each other was cool.
Without schtick, without stone,
We’d make honor our own
By remembering the old Golden Rule.

==============
It’s sung to a jazz-waltz tempo, and I have sung it many times. It’s fun  I hope you like the words. You should hear the melody and guitar that go with it. This ditty will be on my first CD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  if I ever find what it takes to record one.

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

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Day’s End with Lenore
by Job Conger
written 10:10 pm, Monday, May 25, 2009

She’s folding clothes.
God, she’s so lovely!
Not a word spoken,
Yet how much we share.
Deep in her eyes
I see my forever.
I see my heart’s joy
Glimmering there.

We who have dreams
Ardently follow
Questioning never,
Forever true,
Knowing the cost,
Paying it gladly
As only fools
Deep-devoted can do.

She’s on the couch.
I sit in a chair nearby
Savoring moments
Almost complete.
We are together
(My lips won’t ask more.)
Sharing day’s ending,
Memories sweet.

============
I came in from the front porch practicing guitar for half an hour with paper on a clip board and pen in arms’ reach, just in case a poem found me. No words had come. I put away the guitar and brought the clip board and pen to an easy chair in the living room. Without a word, Lenore came into the room and sat down on the sofa she also sleeps on and began folding her clothes from yesterday’s laundry. I began writing. This is one of a few poems she has inspired I wanted to hand to her so I kept a lot of what I think about when she’s closer than 60 feet out of this poem. It was finished in half an hour. The melody was mine, locked in, at the end of the second line of the poem, and the rest was written to that meter and melody. I sang — sans guitar, just the voice — the first draft to her, and she smiled, responded with thanks. She didn’t give me all I could ask from her. But she gave me all she could give. And that was enough.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Vachel Lindsay wrote a poem entitled. . . .

What the Sexton Said

Your dust will be among the wind
Within some certain years
Tho’ you be sealed in lead today,
Amid the country’s tears.

When this idyllic churchyard
Becomes the heart of town,
The place to build garage or inn,
They’ll tear your tombstone down.

Your name so dim, so long outworn
Your bones so near the earth,
Your sturdy kindred dead and gone,
How should men know your worth?

So read upon the runic moon
Man’s epitaph, deep writ.
It says the world is one great grave.
For names it cares no whit.

It tells the folks to live in peace
And still in peace to die.
At least so speaks the moon to me.
The tombstone of the sky.

The poem came to me today (I recite it often when addressing audiences) because in the years since it was written — 1912 or 1915 — citizens of the USA created a day to honor dead  military service people who died in battle. It seems to me it is the sacrifice that matters today, that a service person placed him or herself in a position where death was a likely outcome. Joining the military service does not make that outcome a good bet. Fighter pilots during World War II died as often in training accidents as in battle. Different US services had different percentages of combat losses per total numbers in service.

It’s not that men and women died; it’s that they lay their lives on the line. Why? Patriotism as a factor, to be sure, but so was the preference of death to being thought a coward. In some instances, American aircrew, sailors and soldiers sacrificed their lives so their comrades in arms would live. A pilots at the controls of a mortally damaged B-17 held the airplane in stable flight so the rest of the crew could parachute to safety. Other examples abound in history and in current events: falling on grenades, helping others into life boats until a major explosing blasts the life from all remaing aboard . . .  the stories are legend. In tribute and appreciation for that sacrifice, I hope we pause to savor the freedom which is ours from that sacrifice. It would not have been ours without it.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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