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Archive for October, 2009

When I picked up a copy of Illinois Times as I entered the Route 66 Diner across from The Granite Guy for breakfast Saturday morning, I was saddened to realize no one had taken a copy from the entryway display rack since Friday about 2 pm. HOW, you may asq, did I know this? I based my conclusion on the wrinkled cover of the annual Best of Springfield issue. Clearly it had seen some rain, the kind likely to blow into the small “lobby” of the diner during a significant downpour in heavy wind . . . and a heavy downpour in significant wind. It stopped raining hard Friday afternoon about 2 pm. If anyone had picked up an IT after it stopped raining, the one on top would have almost certainly been the one picked up. Hence the deduction of no pick up action for the past 19 hours.

The cover was long since dried, and I must say the issue is the best I’ve seen since I began picking them up decades ago and since I began contributing to the annual classic about seven years ago. I recently came across an entry in my 2006 private journal that in that year, I contributed 24 vignettes about “Best of” winners. This year I contributed two: Best Resale Shop and Best Blog. I was happy to net those two because for the first time in a year, I was given no assignments from the respected business publication I’ve contributed to every consecutive month. And I was paid 50% more than the going rate for “Best of” write-ups, thanks to the generosity of the esteemed editor.

The first time I was given “Best of” assignments, editor Pete Sherman and a hardy crew of five or six met for coffee at Andiamo where we volunteered for specific categories. Ever since, there’s been less social interaction. I’ve been asked what categories I’d like to cover in the past, and I’ve usually netted what appealed. This year, the editor said in a five minute meeting from behind his office desk, in esssence, “Here’s what’s left.”

I was given about a week to produce them by deadline, and as always, it was great fun. In the past, I’ve visited most winners with my camera and tape recorder, but this was “reportage-lite.” I could do both by phone and they would take care of pictures. I began making phone calls three days before the pieces were due. Before that I visited each business’s web sites (total time 30 minutes) and hand-written some questions and points of interest. The owner of The Kids Closet wasn’t in the store when I called first, but I could call the next day when she would be in. I called from work and set a time in the afternoon when I’d be home to interview her. That part was a breeze. The breeze quit Wednesday morning when I realized I had not pressed the bleeping record button on the tape machine. So I called her back Wednesday morning. Between what I remembered she had explained and my reprising most of the original questions, writing the 150 words was easy.

The owner of the super Springfield Moms was also unavailable, but I left a message on her voice mail asking her to call me at work Tuesday. When she did, I was informed she was sitting on a beach in Florida, and we had another fab chat despite some wind noise over the mouthpiece. When she turned out of the wind, all was fine. The “Best of” vignette about Springfield Moms was the first completed on deadline morning. She even sent me a thank you note for my effort. It was the first time she’d been interviewed sitting on a beach in Florida.

Writing “Best of” “shorts” allows a friendlier approach than typical for other Illinois Times articles I’ve produced over the years. I cannot explain the reason for my interest in talking to the business owners or personalities, because NOTHING is official until the issue is distributed, the circumstance is similar to encountering Santa Claus in your living room. Even though “He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings and turned with a jerk. . . . .” you know why he came, you know his name, and you’re always glad. (What is the name of that jerk, he always comes with, anyway?)

When I called The Kids Closet Wednesday morning to re-interview the gracious owner, I was told she would arrive at noon. I explained I had lost the earlier interview, and that I would call back at 12:15 so she’d have some time to catch up with her staff re how the day was going, and I did. In the meantime, I played every tape I was likely to have touched in the past 21 hours, looking for that interview, all for naught. When I spoke with her, I explained I had not punched the record button (the only logical excuse) and that I would rather call back, risk being thought an idiot for my error but GET THE BEST INFORMATION I COULD than trying to improvise using only what I remembered from the first go round and what I discovered at her web site. She understood completely and the conversation was a walk in the park.

Total writing timeTotal time for the interviews: 35 minutes, including the re-interview. Why so long for two 150 word “shorts?” It’s important to establish friendly rapport first and transition to “brass tacks,” the focus of each encounter.

Total time expended Wednesday writing both interviews including searching for the “lost tape” and e-mailing the text to Illinois Times: five hours. What can I say? Most of the staff writers at IT could have written them in half the time. Maybe that’s why no one at IT will consider me for full-time employment. I’m too deliberate with my assembly of the articles. The full-timers and talented proof readers and editor are probably more deliberate, but they “deliberate” at 78 RPM and I do it at 33 and a third. What can I say? I’m a frikkin’ POET/journalist and worse, a folksinger. No wonder I can’t find a full-time employer!

The two vignettes appeared in this week’s edition virtually unchanged from what I submitted October 14. The check arrived today. There will be rotisserie chicken from Schnuck’s for dinner Monday, thanks to Illinois Times and the two fine citizens I was privileged to interview not long ago.

I made deadline as I always do. Thanks as always to the fine folks at the best weekly newspaper in the tri-state area for the work. And thanks to you, the home viewer, for reading about it.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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If you’re just joining us, you’re reading Honey & Quinine  where I’m sharing a lingorant. If you’re not just joining us, crows north of the equator sing “Melancholy Baby” in the key of  C-sharp and crows south of the equator sing it counter-clockwise; rootabagas are the national fruit of Blamarka, and Jerry Smoke is frading catuka on Thursdays at 9pm.  I say this because you might appreciate the difference in the status of what I’m saying to people who are just joining us (polite talk for me, myself and I) and those who are not.  It should come as no surprise to those likely to be reading these words that in broadcast radio, there IS no difference in the content of what’s distributed. The host of the show is at — MARK this second —  is the same host that was hosting a second before you tuned in.  Darn sad isn’t it, that radio show hosts don’t need a meaningless “qualifying pretext” to tell every listener the same message, which, for example, might be simply . . . .

“You’re reading Honey & Quinine, a blog written by Job Conger and brought to you by the fine people at WordPress. ”

When I’m listening to my favorite character assassin on WTAX radio, I like to hope that when he tells those who have “just tuned in” his name, he also intends to remind ME of his name as well. Hey, Rash Palooka, don’t I matter too?

The second chapter of a book seldom begins “If you’ve just picked up this book, the protagonist Ben Dair had arrived at the tennis court  and was growing impatient waiting for his doubles partner Don Ethat to arrive.  This was revealed in the final sentence of Chapter One,  and reprising the point was a waste of ink. The context of the new chapter’s circumstance would be  revealed in the story as it would advance through Chapter Two. There is no need for a re-statement intended for those who enjoy beginning a book at the start of the second chapter.

In literature and cinema, re-establishment of the present characters and circumstance  is useful following flashbacks, but serve no purpose in radio, don’t you think?

Stating who I am only to people who have just encountered me is silly, though an occasional reminder to everyone can be useful, especially if the story or the point rambles on and on and on. . . .. If  you’re reading me for. . . and on and on . . . the first time, who I am will become obvious. If you’re reading the 805th of my 805 postings here at H&Q I am the same person as Rash Palooka is Rash Palooka. When you arrived makes no difference. And stating

You’re listening to Rash Palooka on the Rash Palooka Show.

works for everyone.

Write long . . . . . and properly.

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Probably the best change to come to Channel 55 Fox TV programming with the new season has been the disappearance of  the Jim Belushi show at midnight weekdays, a/k/a The World According to Jim. The writing was solid and the cast was excellent; I just thought Robert Young did a better job with “Father Knows Best” of several decades ago. Belushi was a stereotype, and every episode I watched seemed like another romp with “been there” and “done that.” Robert Young was a stereotype to be sure, but his stereotype didn’t make too much noise chugging pitchers at the local pizza tavern, or go to Bears games with painted faces. The commutation of “The World” came at a price: the positioning of TMZ at midnight:30 when my all-time fave comedy show previously aired for two consecutive episodes.

Some nights, TMZ appeals to me. Everyone involved is easy to like, and what I call the crew’s “commando papparazi” style is entertaining. What’s more, it keeps me in touch with names and personalities that are mostly total unknowns to me. I know I should know about them. Why? Because TMZ wants to share their street encounters with what I’m confident is an aware, younger audience.  I am NOT a younger audience, but I like to know what’s going on. I consider myself a total happening dud — make that DUDE. Even so,  Fox kicking back Scrubs to 1:25 for the first half hour totally bummed me. With a regular work schedule — half a bleeping day at a time though it is — I’m committed to arriving rested and alert. Last night, after an exceptional dinner, I found a way to do that.

It might have been the onions.  For the first time in months, I came home with a bag of onions, the yellowy kind that come in the fishnet bags.  I’m sure they have a name, but I’m no culinary technician. I know what I like. I like them so much, and was so glad to have some in the house that I cut two of them into medium-size chunks that would separate and sautee to perfection on medium heat with half a stick of Imperial margarine. I had two large pre-cooked sausages that I added to the pan during the last five minutes, and feasted directly from the pan. The reasonably healthy duo was accompanied by Carlo Rossi Burgundy, which I consider the perfect wine with sausage and onions.

At least I had concluded that by the time I was into the second glass. After finishing the tasty repast, I read some aviation history as I endured a background Nova program about a society that walks on hands and legs. It was so grim, I even turned the volume down, but kept the picture so I’d know when the program was over and I could turn up the volume.  I didn’t last long enough in conscious mode to notice when the program changed.

The meal had been the first in about a week without peanut butter, cheese puffs or crunchy cheese curls on the plate, pan or in a bag, and the richness of it all, augmented by the best wine in the world for sausage and onions, sent me to Nap City before 8 pm. There I remained until, touched by God’s own alarm clock, I awakened and thoroughly enjoyed Charlie Rose at 10 p on the frikkin’ DOT! 

Then I lurched into the office and worked on processing digital photos in a new filing system I’ve created on the computer that’s not connected to the Internet. There was not a touch of wine in my head; it was clear as a bell and I was alert with a restored, positive attitude. I was productive and reasonably content until about 1:20. When I noticed the time, I shut things down in the office and returned to the livingroom to watch Scrubs for the first time in more than a month. Both were exquisitely funny as always.  Less than a minute after the second one concluded, I had quaffed the third of my second glass of wine remaining from dinner and was in the sack with lights out listening to George Norey. I was sawing logs less than two minutes after that.

The only way I can engage a Scrubs routine is by nodding off by 8 and awakening in time for Charlie Rose or at least by 1:20. Getting serious about such a revision means I won’t be abot to watch my PBS faves which usually air between 8 and 11 on WRSP. There are times when I don’t even want wine with dinner. The Luzianne iced tea I’ve been drinking since mid-summer with a touch of sugar and lemon  is working out nicely.  I consider one and two-thirds glasses of Burgundy a “hide from the world” antic and not much of a TV scheduling “means to an end.” I’m going to have to wrestle with what will clearly allow me to watch high comedy from 1:25 to 2:25.

In his poem “Springfield Magical” Vachel Lindsay called this the time “when trees and grass and men are wrapped in sleep.” In the same poem, he wrote, “Angels come down with Christmas in their hearts: gentle, whimsical, laughing, heaven-sent, and,  for a day,  fair peace have given me in this the city of my discontent.”

Maybe Sarah Chalk, Zach Braff and the wonderful cast of Scrubs come as angels to me between 1:25 and 2:25.  I know for certain they are whimsical, laughing and heaven-sent and that they give me fair peace. Perhaps like other blessings, including sauteed onions and sausages,  they are not most treasured when savored every day.

As I type these words, I am alert, warm and not hungry. Last night was a gift.

Every day is a gift.

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

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Cold Comfort

It’s been a week since I took my computer to PC Doctor on Amos to be cleansed of viruses and spyware, and during that week I’ve been asking monself: What good is Norton and AdAware. given the fact I still have an $80 payment due late this week to get my computer back? It took EIGHT MINUTES for my Gateway to finally go dark after shut-down, half an hour before I took it in for the cleansing.  I just got off the phone with the technician who said it took less than 30 seconds when he turned it off as we talked.  I’ve reached a point as I continue to live without a working furnace where the futility of wine as a rewarder (which is not to say “redeemer”) of my fiscal conservatism and angst en extremis has proven an impractical option and not because of cost (about $13 a gallon, good for a week). It’s impractical because it costs me more than money; it costs me time as a conscious, thinking hummin’ bean. It prevents me from engaging life whether I do it by filing articles culled from hundreds of magazines in my array of file cabinets in the basement, working on my feet and hardly noticing the chill, or in semi-fetal posture under two blankets in the big livingroom easychair, watching a baseball game on Fox TV. I value consciousness. Sleep to me is as good as being dead, but less than permanently.

For the record, a friend has offered to fix the furnace, so it’s not like my semi-catatonia some nights in a chlly living room  (especially after challenging times at The Granite Guy) has been tolerated because I can’t have heat.  I just don’t want to pay for the gas my furnace would burn for the benefit. I do have hot water. Otherwise not even The Granite Guy would tolerate my odiferocity. I’m making it through this nutty phase — which will end when I am determined to prevent my water pipes, poorly insulated in the basement, from freezing and bursting by reinstating furnace action — thanks to a new habit I acquired the day after my September 5 birthday celebration.

Some friends came over for dinner, a pot luck thing. I had bought ice cream bars, chocolate shell over vanilla, for dessert. The next evening, I ate another during the Charlie Rose show on PBS. I’ve had one almost every night since. It’s made a big difference in my attitude. 

I’ve lived most of my life with Y E A R S  . . . . . between ice cream bars, fudgesickles and Dreamsickles. Can’t remember the time before the day after my birthday when I ate ice cream on a stick. I like the measured moderation. When I was eating ice cream from a gallon “tub” of Prairie Farms Neapolitan, I sometimes polished off the entire thing in less than a week. Moderation is easier with ice cream bars.  Take ONE out of the box because one will melt uselessly into my lap as I partake from the other. I don’t return to the freezer for a second after the first because one is perfect unto itself: enough of what it is to sate my appetite and enough of a “pat on the soul” to reassure me that all is not going utterly to hell in a handbasket.

On a windowsill are 43 woodice cream bar sticks. They’re as clean as I could get th em with tongue and teeth, but they’re destined for soap and hot water before I’m done. They are such prime wood — nicely bleached, uniform in size and weight — that it seems there is something “constructive” waiting to be discovered, a work of art, to be varnished but not painted, assembled with some Elmer’s white glue. Maybe something more. I’ve always wanted a garage.  Perhaps a guest house or a gazebo behind the back deck.

I’m 43 elements (tomorrow there will be 44) toward something, but I’m going to need many more for anything worthwhile. What is the size of my expectation?

The size of my expectation is greater than the dimension that spans through fall and winter. There will enough on hand in spring for “great expectations.” In the meantime, I will have reason to be of good cheer. To paraphrase a song I love to sing about Kilgarra Mountain,  “Whack fol the dario. There’s ice cream on a stick in the freezer.” 

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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One of the perils of freelance writing, and the best reason I can think of for working where you can find regular work can be seen in the time I’m having with an annual edition of a popular Springfield news weekly that features brief vignettes of popular personalities and places. My personal journal reminds me I wrote 23 vignettes for the publication about this time in 2006. In 2009, I’m writing two, and I am grateful to have been assigned those two. The whole process this year will take about three hours of focused activity including web research and interviews. One interview and vignette were behind me this morning by 10:30. The first interview was a breeze, a sea breeze. The interviewee was sitting on a beach chair with her cell phone, watching the surf and sunworshippers, enjoying a well-deserved vacation on Miami Beach. The interviewer was seated in an office chair at the showroom desk of The Granite Guy with the space heater singing what remains of my lower leg hair and praying that an innocent customer would not interrupt our interview. The speaker phone was engaged, and the cabana cowgirl had been told I was taping the conversation. If you saw my longhand, you’d know why I use the recorder and transcribe for 50 percent of what goes into a typical vignette. True, George Jaworski came into check for new messages I might have placed on the elevated countertop message area, but we simply smiled and nodded to each other as I contininued talking to the interviewee. I smiled to let him know I was not plotting the overthrow of Poland, and he smiled to let me know he was happy not to catch me stealing manilla folders. It was a fab interview. The second would have been perfect as well.

It took place yesterday. I was at my home office and she was at her store in a nearby community. I called at the arranged time, and she was ready to talk. I’ve learned from years of doing this what matters in a 150 word “article-lite” so the minutes devoted to it were few and fast. A lot of the conversation was spent with pleasant patter explaining I could not tell her the results of the reader voting, but my call should be telling her something in itself. It was probably the most obvious and overplayed explanation in central Illinois journalism. It was also as painless as an oatmeal cookie.

This morning, when I finished vignette number one and prepared for vignette B, I discovered the wrong cassette was in my recorder so I replaced it with the one nearby, wondering why I had removed it after the interview. The other tape also had no trace of the friendly voice engaged less than 24 hours ago. Soooo, I fast-forwarded through both tapes, looking for that voice, then doing the same with my  other, larger-tape-format recorder. Nothing. This morning I was primed to get the assigned writing to esteemed editor by 11:30, but Fate had other ideas. I called the establishment to apologize and do an “encore” interview. As assistant explained the interviewee would not be in until noon.

So I’ve filled the last hour and fifteen piddling around my home office, reading my conventional mail and watching the minutes while writing this post. The hour is at hand. I told the associate I’d call at noon:15 so the owner could grab other messages. I hoped the place would not be busy. I also I would rather try again for the visit than submit a lesser article with no “quotable quotes” which add to even a small production. In the meantime, I will publish this post about 12:15.  I’ve finally figured out why the snafu occured in the first place. I had the micro-cassette machine in my hand yesterday at 2:02 pm. She was ready and friendly.  Believe me when I say it would have been a perfect interview . . . .

. . . . if I had remembered to press the button marked “Record.”

Live long . . . . . .  and proper.

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I met Paulette Adams when she visited The Granite Guy a few months ago and next to the pickup truck Georage Jaworski has let me drive since April, that chance encounter has been the most significant event I’ve experienced “working” for him. Paulette explained in the convivial conversation not directed to stone that she would be featured at RMD Gallery, 210 S. Sixth Street in post-modernist downtown Springfield at the final Arts Walk of this year, and hoped I’d drop by during the event. I was a little late for the Arts Walk but in time to take the pictures shared here.

I’m no art critic, but I know what I like. I was impressed enough during the visit October 20 to share a few pictures here. More p;ictures including information/price cards will be shared soon at my Facebook Gallery Harvest album. You don’t have to be a Facebook friend to learn all you want to know about them; just visit RMD Gallery and pick up one of her cards Rob Delong and staff will point you in the right direction.

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Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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As Nice A Time
By Job Conger
Written 6:20 pm, October 19, 2009

As any to be glad, fall is,
for the end of summer tempest in the clouds and heat;
from hours in the garden on your hands and knees,  retreat.
Brash cacophonies of squirrels’ and cats in rut surcease.
Into harvest homes arrives the year’s encroaching peace.

As any to be glad, fall is,
watching promenades of southbound Vs of geese in flight.
Now’s the time to gaze from porches in the waning light,
savoring cerulean sky  and blazing sunset maples’ hues;
daytime’s curtain falling sooner, calling forth the poets’ muse.

As any to be glad, fall is,
trading summer splendors’ cotton cool for woolen warm
mowing lawns just one last time, winter’s incipient charm
This season of  year rewards the pilgrims’ passing strife
with  golden sweet and lingering epiphanies of life.
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Three minutes after arriving home from “work,” Monday, October 19, I was on my front porch with a clip-board, felt tip pen, and Burgundy (not for ink, but to drink) an eager spectator/poet watching all I could see like a hungry hawk, alert and looking for a wayfaring wabbit. Less than an hour later I had three stanzas of a poem I would spend two more hours tweaking to what you see above. I probably have some more tweaking to do, but since this is my first NEW poem shared here in a long time, I was proud to have taken the time to nail the nugget in real time on my front porch and refine it from 10 to midnight or so with the space heater on in the home office. I hope you like it.

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