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Archive for August, 2009

My friend Daisy wrote me late Sunday asking if I am doing okay. I’ve not posted at H&Q for most of a week, a sure sign I’m off my feed as they would say if I were a cow or a kitty. I wrote her back that I was on the verge of posting an explanation for the short hiatus.

Vachel Lindsay wrote a poem describing how “Mr. Moon” invited him to “Come eat the bread of idleness,” which from a poet’s perspective doesn’t mean being “idle” at all; it means sitting still and writing a POEM f’ goodness’ sake. Writing anything requires me to compose details of thoughts, and it’s not a matter of finding time. CHEESES, I have all the time in the frikking world. It’s a matter of wanting to compose details.  But that is the final step. I’ve not wanted to engage that final step until Sunday morning after lying in bed until 10 a (insanely late for me), watching “This Week With George Stephanolpolous” while straightening up my living room which hasn’t seen a vacuum cleaner since mine broke in 2002, and toddling into mon office with my third cup of Folger’s Instant of the morning. It was then that I decided I would write one more blog posting than I had posted in July before then end of August.

It wouldn’t be hard. I had been conceiving blog post titles all week. The “Incident at Rock City” was 90% ready and came out of my fingers like draft beer coming from a keg into a frosted mug. It flowed. I could have written it with one arm tied behind my back. Pretty much ditto with the Buffington post. I knew last night, returned from the reception and feeling like I was back into the hog wallow of navel contemplation much earlier than I SHOULD be on a frikking Saturday night . . . . that I should write about my interaction and just “let it all hang out.” So I did. “Summer” was inspired by my friend Wendy McCrosky’s post about making chili for the first time in months.

My friend Rick Falzone Facebook chatted to me Sunday night, “Job, you are the poet.” and I wrote back “Try cutting the quiet respect of friends and strangers with a knife and fork;” the point being that warm regard won’t pay my real estate taxes and keep my electricity connected this week. The encounter with this respected videographer did focus my brane on the gulf between aspiring writers (those who aren’t successful, like moi) and normal people, and further focused my resolve to write a final, record posting at H&Q today.

It’s 11:40 p as I write these words.

I’ve seen what happens to good people who do far better as writers than I suspect I will ever do, and yet pass from this mortal “stage” to the next just as inexorably. Writing is a blast when I want to write. Today I also wanted to work on model airplanes, trim my backyard fence vegitation, go grocery shopping (I have the cash for it), file articles in the basement, call an acquaintance about some aviation magazine promised to me, respond to an Arkansas friend’s delightful e of a few days ago, run a load of laundry and take my camera on a leisurely stroll through Washington Park. I wrote from 11:05 until a little after 7, ate breakfastlunchdinner, watched a little “Nature” on PBS, napped in the easy chair about 50 minutes and returned to this computer after the local news on the station I vowed I would never watch again. (How great intentions crumble when you want to watch a weather report!) I am a creative wri ta ta.

This is what I am. This is who I do.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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If you read my post about guns for $1,299.99 earlier, you can skip this one. I posted it earlier today (Sunday) and appeared on Facebook with no problem. But after I revised it slightly, the posting did not appear. I hope it will appear with the new title. . . .

The older I get, the fewer things surprise me. Take medication commecials . . .  PLEASE. Pharmaceutical companies spend as much time explaining the unhappy side effects some people may encounter after purchasing and ingesting their cures for what ails us — “May cause nausea, diarrhea, short term memory loss, tone deafness, fear of Woody Allen,  erections lasting more than four days (men only), drowsiness, do not take when pregnant or even day dreaming about rolling in the hay with a healthy, interested human male, incapacity to pass meaningful health care reform. . . . these adverts don’t surprise me any more. They annoy me, but they don’t surprise me. Wednesday’s State Journal-Register advertising supplement for Gander Mtn., the brand nm for a new otdrs store.

At the top of the page, the slogan reads “WE LIVE OUTDOORS” and below it  a terrific photograph of the coolest thing  an outdoor-loving person should have. Low-light binoculars you may axe?  A collapsable canoe?  A tent made of recycled bark? No, hickory nuts, it’s a SPECIAL OFFER! (their exclamation point because simply  PUTTING IT IN ALL UPPER CASE LETTERS MIGHT NOT HAVE IMPARTED FULL IMPACT TO THE DREAMY NEWS) that if you buy a “Citori” you get $150 in free shells.  Trade in any gun and buy a Citori and get $150 back! And pictured below is the Browning (Registered TRADE MARK — my uppercasing) Citori White Hunter. It’s on SALE! But it doesn’t say it’s on sale; it says “Compare at $1799.99.” That doesn’t mean the gun sells most days for $1799.99. It says “compare.”

I don’t believe that ranting about this advertising supplement (16 pages including the small insert insert pages) will help Gndr Mtn sell guns. I am neutral. But there are PAGES of guns for sale in the supplement, from a budget priced revolver ($549.99 to  a “Bushmaster (Registered trade mark) Predator Semi-Auto” rifle that looks like something you want to take to Kabul with you. They say “Semi-Auto” because they don’t want those pesky libras — make that liberals — to come down on them for advertising semi-automatic guns. It’s almost like calling an African Amrcn a nigge — WAIT! I didn’t say it, did I?  And I won’t because as everybody knows, THAT word, which I will NOT say, is inFLAMMATORY. I’m much too nice a fellow for that, and if you don’t believe me ask my mothermaysherestinpeace. OOOOOOOOOR maybe the gun is NOT a semi-automatic, and that’s why they don’t say it is. If you like the rifle, a perfect fashion accessory when sashaying through the wilds of the inner city or Allerton Park, you will be aquiver with delight to know GM offers “HOT BUY” 5.56mm and 2.23 Centerfire ammunition. How totally awesume is that, Mr. Thoreau? Oh, yeah, Hank, give me some of those HOT BUYs too!

Aaaaaah NAcher!

The one thing which will ensure I visit their store next week is “20% OFF All Canoes and Kayaks!”

I’m all in favor of selling guns. The Sears catalog that came to our house ever November for decades running had pages and pages of guns, including the JC Higgins brand and other respected names. They described ammunition too. I don’t remember that kind of county fair ballyhoo (some would suggest ballyhooey) spread across the newspaper advertising suppliment like our city’s new buddies at Gender Mtn.

Let me tell you how I will know this country, which I love with all my heart, is fair and balanced with its wonderful mercantile ethos: I will know whan CVS and Walgreens start putting flavored “cigarette” papers on the front pages of their advertising supplements along with humidors for maintaining the specially harvested Columbian combustables people enjoy rolling in those papers and ingesting into their lungs the smoke from said conflagrations on a stick. We could call those humidors “Bong Shelters,” what do you think? How about some HOT BUYS with those? Buy a humidor at regular price and get a HOT BUY STONER VARIETY PACK of Doritos, corn chips and Pringles for only $5! More munch for the punch!

And I don’t even smoke . . . . anything.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Summer

Summer
By Job Conger

Summer visits spring, a guest
fragrant from the field and stream,
fragile as dawn’s fading moonbeam,
sincere as rooster’s farm scene reveille.

Summer comes, not readily —
the cannon ball dive into the swimming pool —
as spring departs, reluctant, cool,
but inexorably beneath the rain drops.

Summer: cats on hot tin roof tops
as the striding saga of elegant profusion
with torch of blazing sun at noon’s infusion
is tempered by gentle breezes through the night.

Summer, cherished, too soon must take flight
with passionate but fading strident call
as sadly, autumn leaves begin to fall.
We harvest glad what summer leaves behind.

With sky of sun and storm and state of mind
the magic of her feel and form
her raging madness and her charm,
summer is a woman warm.

written 10:45 am, June 19, 2002
published in Bear’  sKin by Job Conger
======================================

Though Japanese haiku all present a “season element” few describe the seasons. Instead they reveal aspects of nature which are unique to each, revealed in each. This poem, inspired at a time when I was learning about haiku and was particularly focused on matters of interest beyond my navel, nevertheless brings me to humanity rather than beyond humanity. It seems that all of nature beyond navels is either similie or metaphor for ourselves.

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I told a friend I would not take my camera to the reception for the new exhibition “Paint and Patchwork, Rod Buffington Retrospective” which continues at the association gallery through October 31, 2009.

Rod Buffington talks with talented Springfield painter Lorraine Pilcher

Rod Buffington talks with talented Springfield painter Lorraine Pilcher

I changed my mind. I’ve decided to return to my old camera toting ways as a regular blogger, which I hope H&Q readers will appreciate and for sharing the glory at my Facebook photo albums. Illinois Times and Springfield Business Journal may not be interested in featuring my arts writing regularly, but not all my friends read those two excellent publications, and I’m considering them as well. I’m doing this MOSTLY to bring people into the visual arts community who have not set mind in it before.

The Springfield Art Association receptions in their fab gallery at 700 N. Fourth Street begin, commendably, at 5:30 and conclude at 7:30 on Saturday nights when they are arranged. This allows folks to visit, prime the appetites for dinner downtown at a decent weekend hour, take in the late movie at the Senate, the Orpheum, the Roxy, the Lincoln –OOOPS, that was a bygone era. TODAY we can do the reception and take in excellent theater or concert at the Hoogland or UIS Auditorium. We are blessed today, but differently, which is not to say lesserly.

I arrived about 5:40. Rod Buffington, a MAJOR midwest artist, was greeting everyone who signed the guestbook at the door that opened directly into the gallery. I signed in right after Randy Witter’s wife. Rod was just a few steps inside where he remained until a little after 6, an excellent touch! He’s a good fellow and more meticulous in his art than some neurosurgeons are at their profession and some politicians are at their trade. At a typical SAA reception (and this was probably my 20th) one finds an older demographic than typical receptions for Prairie Art Alliance, Sangamon Watercolor Society and UIS Gallery events. The numbers of incredibly well-dressed trim 80-something widows just about knocks my socks off. I saw probably 10 people under 30 and about three people under 20. Few politicians (that I could recognize) were there. Bill Cellini was there, and because I saw him, I KNOW his beautiful wife, journalist Julie was there as well. So too were Gerold Groebel  and Mark McDonald of Public Television Station WSEC. Artists came in droves, Gloria & Jerry Josserand, Lorraine Pilcher, Rachel Hasenmayer, Jan Sorenson, a gentleman who teaches at Quincy College who recognized me and actually engaged me in conversation, chair of Prairie Art Alliance’s board and several others.

The ground floor of the Edwards Place mansion is open and part of the event. Finger food and wine are served therein to all comers. The numbers of visitors to the Buffington event topped any I’ve attended in the past five years. Probably more than 1,000 visitors, most circulating in slow motion, emulated squares on a Rubic’s Cube worked by a neophyte. At least 80% moved slowly, going nowhere in particular from room to room, chatting with associates & friends in polite reception conversation for maybe 45 seconds and moving on to lessen the risk of embolisms from legs that stand still too long. There were also clumps of people who haven’t seen each other since the last charity auction at the club. Like islands in Lake Springfield they stay for sometimes five minutes at a time before navigating, gingerly to the next clump.

I found the greatest personal challenge was to take four steps in a particular straight line — ANY direction — without brushing against someone while making the circuit from the dessert table on the far west side, to the finger foods in the living room, to the wine serving in the north end of the parlor, to the gallery and back again. I was not a camera jerk –at least I hope I wasn’t. I had two glasses of white wine early into the evening and circulated then with food only (it was my flipping DINNER after all) and then camera only, “focusing” on pictures I knew were appropriate for Honey & Quinine and public perusal..

SAAug16

Rod Buffington is an icon in the arts community. He was director of the Illinois State Fair Visual Arts Gallery for years, and a name, not unlike Howard Hughes or Arianna Huffington, why fly closer to God than many of the rest of us. He is an incredibly successful artist with an original voice inspired by his grandmother’s quilting. But to pigeon-hole his art, displayed and owned nationally, as “quilty” is to oversimplify. Suffice to say here at H&Q, visit the gallery and see it to believe it and savor it for yourself. A six-page program that briefly describes every example displayed is available, free, to all visitors. I intend to return to the gallery soon, sans camera,  to savor more and schmooze less.

I could have spent the evening photographing the Edwards Place and surrounding neighborhood in the fading dusk. I spent far more time with an abandoned quadruplex across the street than with any single individual engaged in conversation at the reception, Outside, carrying the glow of a successful artist’s body of work, I wanted to be more of the “artist” I  know dwells in me. Without the reception, I would not have been led to pay attention to my camera between leaving the house and driving away. I do want to go back to that house in the fading light to take more pictures of that neighborhood and probably the most famous home in our historic city.

I departed about 7. I would eat nothing for the rest of the evening until I had a night cap of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich washed down by a glass of Carlo Rossi’s Burgundy about 2 am.

Kudos to Springfield Art Association, Rod Buffington and the many good people who attended a most memorable reception. If you like visual art, and appreciate local history, you should get involved with Springfield Art Association.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Sometimes a breeze wafts into Rock City that allows me to inhale in a few star-blessed moments, all that is beautiful about life. So it was August 22.

When the door from the parking lot into the showroom is closed, a mechanism on the hinge sounds a bell anytime someone enters or leaves. When I’m laboring over a hot computer, writing a new post for Honey & Quinine, revising a poem, updating aviation history files for AeroKnow, revising a poem/song lyric, or (almost as often) addressing concerns linked to the success of the best natural stone business in the tri-state area, the BELL SOUNDS, alerting me to the likelihood of good people entering the joint to look at granite or marble. On days when the door is propped open and the fan in the back pulls cool air through the place, there is no bell alert. As a result, a polite clearing of a throat at counter’s edge or conversation between a gentleman and lady as they look around the showroom let’s me know it’s time to get my head out of the computer and turn to the happy possibility of selling some stone. Sometimes there is no hint. I idly look up from the screen and gaze into the warm countenance of a patient visitor who’s been watching me type for maybe the past 15 seconds or so. I used to react as though touched with a cattle prod or the voice of Lindsay Graham. These days, I’m used to it, and the visible, brief convulsions generated earlier from such encounters are “history.”

That’s how it was on August 22. When I first glance at a woman, standing alone on the other side of the counter, my first question I ask (to MYSELF) is “How old is she?” Then I ask myself “Do I care if she’s married?” My best encounters with this kind of customer occur when I assume she’s married regardless of age as proven by a ring on a finger. But there are times when I see a ring on a finger and I assume it’s a Captain Midnight TV Show secret decoder Kellogg’s Cornflakes cereal premium she purchased with five box tops and 50 cents for postage and handling — even though the diamonds and gold strongly suggest I am mistaken in such an assumption.

That’s how it  was on August 22. I looked up and into summer sun and a picnic at Lincoln Memorial Gardens by the lake. She said she had talked with another fellow behind the counter earlier (that would be Ned, not his real name, but a fine fellow and a fine name just the same) and she was back to learn some more about the process of ordering a granite countertop. She did not mention a husband or a family, and the gold and gems on her finger might as well have been a decoder ring. We spoke in harmonious meters. We commented peripherally about matters of mutual interest. When I showed her the postcards protesting the use of the Third Street Corridor for high speed rail and urging implementation of that plan on the 10th Street corridor, her eyes lit up like “The Midnight Special” locomotive made famous by “Lead Belly,” more formally known as Huddie Leadbetter. YES, she would take a packet home with her, sign, stamp and mail them! YES she was an artist.  When I told her my name and of the visual arts column I used to write for Illinois Times and my arts web sites, she said “YES, I KNOW YOUR NAME. I have read your articles and visited your web sites. It’s a pleasure to meet you!” Polite hand shake. Since a sale of some beautiful granite was riding on a successful outcome to our discussion, I did something I didn’t want to do: I let her have her hand back.

She described her art. Acrylic. I described my art: poetry and the book I had published about local aviation history. Grabbed one of the copies I always have on hand for sale at Rock City and showed it to her. She wanted to buy it. I apologized and said that’s not why I showed it to her. (True. Anything I own I would have given to her during this encounter.) She insisted and wrote me a check.

In the meantime, Rock City’s owner (a terrific hummin’ bean in many ways) came in and I introduced her to him. While he helped some other customers, we chatted, and when he returned to us, I passed the “baton” of convivial discourse to him, returning to the computer. As she left a few minutes later after arranging a visit to her home by business owner to work out details of a likely purchase of granite, she carried with her an inscribed and autographed copy of Springfield Aviation. She stopped briefly to share her e-mail address with me. She was smiling the smile of a thousand suns. “I’m floating,” I said. “I will be floating for a long time.”

“I am too,” she said, turning and returning to her car.

That’s how it was on August 22.

HOME. A fast e-mail to her, thanking her for buying my book, explaining I was still floating, and that was true even if she was married with three kids. Invited her to the Vachel Lindsay event the next day, saying it would be terrific if she could come and it would be terrific if should could not come. True words. There would be ample joy and happiness at Vachel House (and I was correct in anticipating such.). It was hard not to be a totally naiive idiot in my state of mind. On the “Total Idiot Scale,” my e probably scored 88% of 100. It was a miracle I didn’t go off the scale, considering what I felt.

Silence for days. I debated whether or not to cash the check she wrote and just to keep it as a souvenir. The address didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to write her again until she responded. As Winston Churchill ones observed, “It is better, sometimes to remain silent, and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Thank you Winston!

A week later, I received a terrific e-mail that brought news I didn’t want to read. She is married. . . . . . . .

Enough said, almost. She said she had read and enjoyed my web presence and had glanced over my book. She felt some excellent feelings as I had the week before; said she hopes she can hear me play guitar and sing some day. And she wished me well.

End of story? Not quite. I’ll likely not e her again. No reason to quarrel with contented status quo of one; hey? I am happy she’s okay and happy. She will likely read this posting here at Honey & Quinine, and she will know and appreciate my appreciation of her sunshine. Any more from me would just un-necessarily sully a polite contiuum. There’s nothing to be gained from more than that.

I am happy for the encounter, exquisite sympatico and the beauty..

That was August 22.

That is August 30 as well.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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This message, is shared in the belief that a large piece of future happiness affecting every citizen of Springfield, Illinois and nearby is at stake. Fat beuraucrats in Washington, DC and our own Illinois Department of Transportation who think they can jam their will down our throats are mistaken. If you favor a BETTER Springfield, please read what follows. . . .

IDOT and Union Pacific have been making back room deals since January to locate an additional freight line along the Third St. corridor, instead of consolidating the rail lines at 10th St. as the city, county, and every major plan has recommended for years. IDOT and Union Pacific wanted this to be a done deal before the citizens of Springfield knew what was happening. Now we know about their plan, and just a few of the changes that it would bring to our city:

* A second set of railroad tracks would be installed along Third St. to run a freight line in addition to the existing passenger line.
*40-60 trains (mostly freight) would pass through Springfield each day, resulting in traffic tie-ups and long delays in downtown Springfield and any neighborhoods near the rail line.
*Some crossings along Third St. would be permanently closed, creating dead end streets. Business districts and neighborhoods would be divided by the constant flow of train traffic.
* Other crossings would have overpasses built, leading to concrete walls 24-30 feet high in the midst of historic neighborhoods and downtown Springfield.
* The medical district would be split in two, and vibrations from the passing trains would prohibit research facilities from being built.
* Much of downtown Springfield and neighborhoods all along the train tracks become inaccessible for all practical purposes, driving development even further out to the edges of the city and discouraging future growth and revitalization.

Send a message to IDOT officials, Union Pacific, and Senator Durbin by joining us on Wednesday, August 26 at 5 p.m. for the second in a series of “Rail Rallies.” We will meet at Fourth & Jefferson and form a human chain stretching from Second St. to Fourth St. to represent the length of the proposed overpass for JeffersonSt. (just one of many) and show how it will impact the businesses and traffic far beyond the railroad tracks alone. The media will be invited to see this visual representation of the impact of using Third St. as the primary rail corridor, as IDOT has proposed. We will be also handing out postcards to be mailed to key officials to let them know that the citizens of Springfield want their voices to be heard in this process!

For additional information, contact Steve Combs at 494-6668 or Michelle Higginbotham at 553-4629.

I will be there to report on this rally for Honey & Quinine. I hope you will be there too.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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The newcomers upstairs spent most of Sunday moving in. They’ve had the keys for the past three weeks after agreeing to pay rent for the last week in August, and they’ve brought things over a little almost every day. This is how I prefer to work with good people upstairs. I’m going all-out for this family — invested almost a month’s worth of rent repairing and improving the place since the former residents moved out — and they’re going all out for me. He intends to pressure clean the aluminum siding on the porch for no charge because a friend of his has an apparatus that’s idle on weekends. It had been years since any residents had swept the outdoor green carpeting on the front porch, but they swept and improved it two days after we signed the lease. The bride’s mom is replacing a toilet that overflowed onto the floor everytime they flushed it and not charging me labor. We’re going to deduct the cost of the new bowl and tank . . . .and floor linoleum and sealer . . . . from the first month’s rent.

Which brings up a misconception. When I was renting, back in my halcyon yoot, I assumed the owners of the properties where I lived wore $100 underwear. The head of the family who departed July 8 felt the same about me. When fingers snapped upstairs, there was an expectation that I would respond immediately if not sooner. She didn’t know — or didn’t appear to know — that when I didn’t respond, chop-chop, it was not because I had a mean streak down my back. It was because I didn’t have the dollars. I was trying to work more — still am — but “trying” doesn’t pay for a new central air unit. Renters sometimes don’t realize this.

What I didn’t imagine about renters, and I do not understand today, is how long-term renters (they had lived upstairs five years) allowed some things to break, and didn’t tell me. The malfunctioning toilet, the linoleum coming up off the bathroom floor, breaking drawers, broken sliding doors, torn screens, these were surprises I should have known about before they departed in July. The loud bumps that penetrated their floor and my ceiling, as though they were dropping console televisions from an eight foot step ladder should have prompted my investigatory initiative, but frankly at 10:30 at night on a Sunday, there are things I simply did not want to investigate. I understand the logic now. If I had reacted, they would have been liable for the damage they caused.  That liability, by and large, was not a factor following their departure.

Four renters before, I saw the kids of the family roughhousing in my front yard. That’s great. The best sign of a secure neighborhood is children having fun, even tossing a volleyball in the open street when there’s no traffic. This means LIFE to me, happy kids and residents. My joy inspired by the earlier renters twice removed was tempered when I looked out my front door ten minutes later and discovered a sizable dent in the door or my Ford Escort. Of COURSE none of the kids living upstairs did it. It was an act of a vengeful God who intended to shake up the anorexic 13 year old smoker who probably puffed upstairs as much as when sitting on the front porch steps and decorating the environs with her butts, allowed the priviledge of ensuring premature demise her exceedingly Reubenesque and distracted forebears despite my no smoking proviso in the lease contract. But God’s aim was off and he hit my car. But I digress.

Sunday was an exceptional day. I’m still swearing off the national news shows and using the time to accomplish some things  around “Casa de Poetguy.” I had made my run for a big jar of Folger’s Instant and hair spray in Casper. My neighbor down the street who had purchased my Ford Escort in July even came over at my request and drove it over to  his house where he will fix it and give it to his daughter (age 11) who he anticipates will be driving age when he’s done with it. He will give it to her then. I had uploaded a bunch of pictures to my Vachel Pages and AeroKnow Home, but there’s a hiccup in the file transfer protocol that my friend Donna at Interactive Data Technologies (522-5050, DYnamite owner and staff!) will fix in about 18 seconds later today. I could hear the new residents moving in upstairs and recognized the happy squeal of the daughter, whom is spending her first day in Third Grade today. I knew when I heard her, that her mom and dad were probably going to spend their first night upstairs, and I was right.

I confess to a nap after late lunch and on arising, felt like the rest of the night was for chilling and not working. Read the rest of the weekend papers and a fab article in the latest The New Yorker.  Had a late dinner, ate the last of the ice cream and drank . . . . almost, the last of the Rossi Burgundy.

Round midnight, I quietly opened the front door, walked out onto the front porch and stood slowly soaking in the breathless tableau.

Not a creature was stirring.

Two vehicles which had never graced the curbside out front at the same time were parked, motionless, embraced by the stillness, one in front of the house and the other to the east. No traffic was heard on South Grand, no trains, and even the streetlight seemed not quite as bright, as though dimming down a little to be at one with the eventide. I sighed a little sigh, thanked Dame Fortune, Yahweh, Jehovah, The Force, for the day, stepped back inside, locked the door and went to bed.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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