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Archive for November, 2009

The building used to be home for the Masons who built it and later moved to a new facility a few blocks south on Sixth. I attended DeMolay meetings in the basement there as a high schooler. Shortly after the major renovation, funded in part by the Hoogland family who owned Illinois Wholesale and now own Family Video, I performed in the main auditorium when Jay Landers was director of Springfield Art Association and the first Cornucopia of the Arts was produced. If I were working full-time, I would pledge $50 per month to help the Hoogland meet its 2010 mortgage obligation. If you are working full-time and can spare the dollars, I hope you will contribute to the effort. Most of the following is based on a one-page flyer that was part of the Fall Prairie Art Alliance Newsletter.

Today 15 resident groups are based at the Hoogland and produce programs and outreach. They are  Springfield Area Arts Council . . . Sangamon Watercolor Society . . . Springfield Ballet Company . . . Sound Celebration Chorus . . . Springfield International Folk Dancers . . . Land of Lincoln Barbershop Chorus . . . Springfield Muni Opera . . . Springfield Theatre Center . . . Springfield Old Capitol Art Fair . . . UMEDIA (David Cain’s enterprise, I think) . . . WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield . . . Gordon Productions . . . Junior League of Springfield  . . . Prairie Art Alliance . . . Sound Celebration Chorus.

Annually, 200 other organizations use the facility annually for meetings and special events. About 10,000 individuals attend events and activities therein.

The Help Us Keep the Doors Open campaign seeks 600 pledges of $50 per month from individuals and businesses. Monthly billing and automatic withdrawal plans are available. Donors are recognized with recognition plaques on the building’s entryway steps and risers. Logos can be displayed. Donors paying in full and require no billing or auto withdrawals receive a $50 voucher for Hoogland Center’s arts-sponsored productions.

To pledge, visit http://www.600Donors.com

For more information about the Hoogland, 420 S. Sixth Street, call 523-2787 or visit http://www.scfta.org

I can’t contribute $50 a month, but I will contribute what I can. I hope you will too.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Posing

Open Studio artists shoot the photographer before drawing and painting him as he poses motionless in a comfy chair.

How unpredictably
the threads of friends
weave the tapestry
of our lives.

My friend Rachel asked me to pose for her Open Studio visual artists gathering at University of Illinois Springfield (UIS). Others we know had been afforded the honor: Tom Irwin, Russel Brazzel . . . . who knows how many others? She had seen my “performance” at Vachel Lindsay’s birthday party November 7 and engaged each other in happy repartee at the Springfield Classical Guitar Society concert when she mentioned the Open Studio. Her e-mails to her visual artist friends mailing list also came to me, the timely reminder of the commitment, a few days before the gathering.

I took a third Saturday off from working in the Rock City showroom, but that concerned me less than it might have in summer when I had my upstairs duplex vacant, and despite contributing to my favorite business newspaper, I needed every dollar I could earn, even if I didn’t know how many weeks would transpire before I’d be paid in part. Previous Saturdays, I had opted off to sing and recite at Vachel’s birthday, then to show a part of my old airplane model kit collection at Illinois State Museum’s Collectors’ Day. Open Studio, I figured would be icing on a layer cake of bountiful Saturdays.

It was. Though I’m not a painter or a drawer, I am learning photographer who gets a lucky shot now and then. I’m passable as a photo/journalist to the extent I’ve been paid for photos I’ve taken for articles I’ve written. Though I may not make a living from any of it, I know what works, and I like to think that I have a visual artist’s mind. Posing for Rachel and her friends would allow me to be the kind of subject I thought a subject should be. My feel for the task proved on the mark.

We encountered each other as I was walking toward the Visual Arts Building from the back parking lot and Rachel was coming out to bring in some items from her car. While they set up the studio, I visited the UIS student gallery.

It was as interesting as the other Springfield galleries I’ve visited with just a touch more neophyte evident in technique, though the talent came out like thunder.

When I entered at Rachel’s beckoning call, I was introduced to the artists who had arrived while I wandered the gallery. One (Jan) was a warm and familiar face who told me my Gallery Harvest photo gallery at Facebook had connected her to a friend she hadn’t seen in 30 years. That meant alot to me, considering she appears just a tad overe 25 years old. Another (Ellen)  was an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in 10 years or so. She’s now a friend. The others were as new to me as I to them.

A comfortably upholstered chair upon a carpeted riser had been placed front and center in the studio, and I was asked to sit. The seven artists — a good turnout I was told — were positioned in a semi circle around me at their easels a and tables. We discussed what kind of pose was needed for the first effort, about a 20 minute session. Jan noted I often “played” with my beard; could I do something with a hand in my chin whiskers? Sure. That’s the reason I have a beard: to think. I don’t know how I made it through high school without one. I assumed a pose with my left hand pulling on part of the beard, an easy stance I thought, to hold for the 20 minutes planned for the first one. Then the artists came forward with their digital cameras and started taking pictures. Dear dear, I felt like such an OBJECT! <– JUST KIDDING! There was convivial patter leading up to putting the brush to paper, but once they began there was almost no conversation among the artists and even less from artist to poser until time was called. Very impressive.

The music Rachel had selected to play in the background was perfect for the task, contemplative and relaxing but not dull. I’m used to posing for acappella choir when I sang an entire concert with my eyes on the director, almost never diverting my eyeballs to see if I recognized anyone on the audience. It was a matter of being professional. But it’s one thing to stand and sing, and it was a surprise to learn the importance of maintaining the total pose, to be sure than the fourth and fifth finger of my right hand remained in a “V” on the corner of the right arm of the chair. At first I tried not to blink my eyes, even though sometimes a tear would form and run down the low cheek. In later poses, I blinked more frequently but always held my pupils directed to a point in the room. During the first session it was the upper left corner of Jan’s paper on her easel. It was hard not to look at Jan, but I sensed that would make her uncomfortable, and 99 percent of the time, I was focused on that corner.

There was a break after about 20 minutes and I was invited off the platform to look at the works created if the artists would permit a glance, and most did. There was more convivial conversation. Rachel passed out vanilla wafers to the artists who wanted them. I declined because I pose better without any more weight under my belt than necessary.

Before the second pose, I was asked to play guitar and sing some of my songs and share some poems. THAT was probably why I agreed to pose! The artists remained at their stations with busy hands sketching and painting. But I was free to walk from side to side, make gestures when reciting poems — mostly Vachel and some Job — and it was great fun. The second pose was a breeze, probably a little longer than 20 minutes, maybe less, it didn’t matter. I felt “in my element,” I wanted to be as professional as anyone posing in a New York City or Paris studio. I spent most of the time taking in the subtle action taking place in front of me with an active mind, blinking seldom, tearing often, and glad to be there. For the second pose my arms were more akimbo and my legs crossed and eyes locked onto the glare of the back of  a metal chair about halfway back into the studio. Toward the end of time alloted, I was invited to move out of the pose to loosen my limbs, but I remarked “Everything is fine, My bones are calcifying and fusing nicely where they are. No big deal.” and everyone knew I was okay. There was no significant discomfort or pain, though my hands began to lose circulation and “go to sleep” toward the end. It was also interesting to return to standing off the riser. I felt I had spent a week in zero gravity in earth orbit, and it took a two or three minutes to get my legs back.

Again I was invited to look at what the artists had created, and I was amazed. I was concerned with not being overly enthusiastic, but when I saw what artist Marie had done, I asked her permission to photograph her work if I promised never to use it for commercial purposes. She smilingly assented. I also photographed her with it, and other pictures were taken as well, know that the need for attention to the art was behind us.

It was a terrific Saturday afternoon! Kudos and thanks to the mom and daughter whose names I have forgotten (please forgive), Bill, Doug, Jan, Ellen and Rachel for the privilege I shall savor forever.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Stranger to Milk

In October, with a little spare change in the checking account, I decided to buy something I had not purchased since I was an English major,living in an apartment off the MacMurray College campus at the ripe old age of 25. I bought two boxes of tuna helper.  I didn’t knock myself out and buy the Betty Crocker brand; I went generic because I am a humble man. I arrived home almost tasting the almost-forgotten food substitute, but before opening the box I hit a roadblock. The instructions mentioned MILK.

Dang! I have not had milk in my house since 1981. Single guy, no kids and young kin. What the heck do I need with MILK? Why was I suddenly so out of the loop of life that I didn’t have any MILK in the house?

Point one is that if I wanted a brandi alexander, it would never occur to me to buy fresh milk. I’d go drink one in a frikking BAR. Why ELSE would I want milk? What does MILK have to do with the American Bachelor Code? ZILCH is what it has to do with it. It was part of my life even during my early years away from the crib! I had it handy because I remembered the Betty Crocker Tuna Helper required it. When I ate breakfast cereal up to about age 27, I required it. But after breakfast cereal followed fruit out the door, I almost forgot it existed despite the days of yore, not so long before.

There is nothing that pleases a 12-year old palate like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Butternut White bread with a glass of cold white milk on a July noon.

That’s all well and good, but I didn’t even use cream in my coffee. And there was dry creamer for that. In about 1978 I bought a large jar of Eisner non-dairy creamer for friends who took it in their coffee and it remained in my kitchen cupboards less than half consumed until 2008. When a friend Kevin Panting starting visiting regularly to talk aviation and history, I decided it was time to buy fresher non-dairy creamer so I purchased a small jar of Coffee Mate at Schnuck’s. Then he started bringing his own coffee from Grab-A-Java because he didn’t like my Folger’s Instant. He’s a great fellow, but I am not going to by a Mister Coffee and filters and Regular Grind for one friend. I’m simply not that sophisticated.

For two weeks I ate something else. My 2009 generic Tuna Helpers sat on the shelf going nowhere. If finally decided I’d loosen up and BUY some MILK until I read the instructions more closely. It wasn’t enough I had to buy milk. The instructions specified TWO freakin’ PERCENT milk! CHEESES, back in the old days (1969, 1970) we drank REAL MILK. HECK we didn’t drink diet beer either. (Don’t get me started about diet (Lite) beer! Finally I bought ONE QUART of  TWO freakin’ per cent milk. I ate a box of tuna helper over two days. It required 1 and 1/3 cup of milk, stirred in with the water. Why dilute it like that? What’s the point of it? When time came to put my tuna helper where my mouth was,  I was not impressed; might have been different with Betty Crocker. I’ll never know.

It occurred to me two weeks later that the untouched remainder of the quart might be going sour, so I checked the “sell by” date November 12. It said “November 12.” I dined on the second box of tuna helper . . . . you guessed it . . . . November 12.

It’s now November 25. I’ve just returned from the refrigerator where I went to sniff the quart of 2 percent milk with exactly 2 and 2/3 cups of milk removed from it. It smelled okay, but that may have been because it’s cold. I’m not taking any risks; didn’t touch it to my lips for a taste test; I’m just going to pour the liquid into the Vine Street Nature Conservancy area in the back of my back yard and dispose of the plastic quart container with the rest of the week’s trash.

What else could I do with milk? Drink it? The idea seems as appetizing as drinking green olive brine from the little glass jar. I will pass. Better it should nourish the decrepit remains of greenery in the back of the back back yard.

In the meantime, I have started water to heat to boiling for what is my more traditional stove top tuna casserole of Hellman’s mayonnaise, a sauteed onion or two and a hefty helping of melted Colby. I just looked at the noodles I bought for this occasion at Shop’N Save today. YOLKLESS NOODLES! How did I accidentally pick those up? More freakin’ health food! At least the cheese is real. And the tuna in water which I prefer even though it is not as tasty as the tuna canned in oil.

I’m a grownup and I am finished with milk. This is my Thanksgiving eve resolution . . . . unless I decide to make some scalloped potatoes which I LOVE.

RIGHT! Maybe in another 30 freakin’ years!

Live long . . . . .  and proper.

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The editor of a Springfield business monthly, who has been very good to me 11  of the past 12 months wrote me concerned I had given readers the wrong impression my my prosy H&Q yesterday. I clarified the point at Facebook, and after considering how not all readers are Facebook friends, I think it fair to clarify here as well.

If I didn’t work regularly for a stone fabricator, I would not be driving a borrowed pickup truck today instead of a 1986 Ford Escort with lousy brakes and a heapin’ helpin’ of other fallible mechanicals. I”ve certainly earned more in the last year or so than I would have earned substitute teaching, though I loved durn near every minute of that. During those eight years, I recited Vachel Lindsay’s poems whenever I could get one or two in edgewise and knowing enough to leave him alone when it would have disrupted the primary focus of my raison detre. You’d be amazed how little Vachel you get to recite from the showroom counter of a stone fabricator (DANGIT!) The owner of the place saved my bacon when I started working for him, loaning me the dollars to pay my property taxes and allowing me to keep the gas and electricity connected. But since he loaned me the truck, I have been lashed to his whimsy, tolerating a gradual growth of back pay due, knowing full well that if I press him for it the answer will be the same and also knowing that without the back pay and clear title to the truck,  a 1997 Chevy S-10 with a bare metal spot from paint burned off the top center of the hood and a list of incipient maladies growing every week . . . . I cannot find another employer. After five months of procrastinating, promising to bring in the title to the truck and literally giving it to me, he brought the title in Friday. I can’t afford to OWN the thing. I don’t make enough — with the pay schedule as it is — to afford the insurance and maintenance for the thing. We will resolve this impasse, I hope, after my mad rush to complete two article assignments by deadline.

Would YOU walk away from major back pay due and leave behind a pickup truck you don’t own, knowing that the next time you need groceries you will walk or take a CAB to the store?

Clarification: My H&Q post yesterday year was not intended to disparage ANYONE, or ANY PUBLICATION that carries my byline. If you see my name in publication, these are good people. They employ me with assignments that are manna when the other job is poopa. Everyone pays me on time — about a week after the articles appear — and one of them even invited me to their Christmas party.

If I could find a regular employer with heath benefits in the pay package, I’d chuck the fabricator and walk/cab/bike to work until I cold afford a car. I’d even chuck the back pay. My growing unhappiness with the daily office routine is not helping at all, but I will spare you details. It’s a bleeping Keystone Cops movie in hurried 20 to 40 second interfaces with the owner, dialogue sirened to me as though the apocalypse was was pulling into the parking lot . . . .and hours of quietude between. During that quietude I take care of the showroom first, and do what I can with poetry, journalism and aviation history the rest of the time. There are days when I am “all work, all the time,” and I’m okay with that. When the interfacing is sane and tempered, I’m as fulfilled with good business, good customers, challenges met and resolved . . . . as I am with a good poem.

Did I mention that the people who hire me to write are NOT my problem?

Okay. I just wanted to be sure.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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The editor of a Springfield business monthly, who has been very good to me 11  of the past 12 months wrote me concerned I had given readers the wrong impression my my prosy H&Q yesterday. I clarified the point at Facebook, and after considering how not all readers are Facebook friends, I think it fair to clarify here as well.

If I didn’t work regularly for a stone fabricator, I would not be driving a borrowed pickup truck today instead of a 1986 Ford Escort with lousy brakes and a heapin’ helpin’ of other fallible mechanicals. I”ve certainly earned more in the last year or so than I would have earned substitute teaching, though I loved durn near every minute of that. During those eight years, I recited Vachel Lindsay’s poems whenever I could get one or two in edgewise and knowing enough to leave him alone when it would have disrupted the primary focus of my raison detre. You’d be amazed how little Vachel you get to recite from the showroom counter of a stone fabricator (DANGIT!) The owner of the place saved my bacon when I started working for him, loaning me the dollars to pay my property taxes and allowing me to keep the gas and electricity connected. But since he loaned me the truck, I have been lashed to his whimsy, tolerating a gradual growth of back pay due, knowing full well that if I press him for it the answer will be the same and also knowing that without the back pay and clear title to the truck,  a 1997 Chevy S-10 with a bare metal spot from paint burned off the top center of the hood and a list of incipient maladies growing every week . . . . I cannot find another employer. After five months of procrastinating, promising to bring in the title to the truck and literally giving it to me, he brought the title in Friday. I can’t afford to OWN the thing. I don’t make enough — with the pay schedule as it is — to afford the insurance and maintenance for the thing. We will resolve this impasse, I hope, after my mad rush to complete two article assignments by deadline.

Would YOU walk away from major back pay due and leave behind a pickup truck you don’t own, knowing that the next time you need groceries you will walk or take a CAB to the store?

Clarification: My H&Q post yesterday year was not intended to disparage ANYONE, or ANY PUBLICATION that carries my byline. If you see my name in publication, these are good people. They employ me with assignments that are manna when the other job is poopa. Everyone pays me on time — about a week after the articles appear — and one of them even invited me to their Christmas party.

If I could find a regular employer with heath benefits in the pay package, I’d chuck the fabricator and walk/cab/bike to work until I cold afford a car. I’d even chuck the back pay. My growing unhappiness with the daily office routine is not helping at all, but I will spare you details. It’s a bleeping Keystone Cops movie in hurried 20 to 40 second interfaces with the owner, dialogue sirened to me as though the apocalypse was was pulling into the parking lot . . . .and hours of quietude between. During that quietude I take care of the showroom first, and do what I can with poetry, journalism and aviation history the rest of the time. There are days when I am “all work, all the time,” and I’m okay with that. When the interfacing is sane and tempered, I’m as fulfilled with good business, good customers, challenges met and resolved . . . . as I am with a good poem.

Did I mention that the people who hire me to write are NOT my problem?

Okay. I just wanted to be sure.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Focused Frontally
by Job Conger
written 10:58 am, November 19, 2009

The coffee shop is not a playing field;
it is a stadium for ones and twos,
and our table of six,
watching the unfolding of
the explicit rationale
of those who have decided
to be where they are.

Everyone’s focused on books except
the chatty 22-year-old at the next table
on a cell phone,
tempering his voice
like a library supervisor
talking to a clerk at the checkout desk
when patrons are watching.

The polite decorum prevails:
fog over a harbor for
beverage imbibers and conversationalists
tempered, table-tennis lobs of words
to extend the volleys: forward- focused explorations
of truths on pages,  topped with caffeine,
hot chocolate with sweet whipped cream.

==============================
I write this during a 20-minute writing prompt at the November meeting of Poetry Parnassus in Springfield, Illinois. I’ve revised it a little since the first draft which I read to those gathered at the tables. What seems obvious to the six of us present as things happened is not so obvious to those who weren’t present November 19. I considered that when revising for readers who weren’t there. It made a better poem. The dichotomy of individuals playing individual “games” in a collective assembly of individuals and couples and our joined two tables of six hit me at first glance. There’s no common game played; it’s a stadium of many minds in motion . . . . and a wonderful place to be. Harmony of intent could have almost been sung.

Live long . . . . .  and proper.

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It's Too Late Baby

There was a time when I wanted to get the hell out of the office at “work” to drive home, plunge into a fresh gallon of Carlo Rossi Burgundy or go almost right to bed to nap and sleep my rancor away. That time was about an hour and 20 minutes ago, and I’m taking no chances: after posting this at H&Q I’m doing BOTH.

There’s nothing to be gained by throwing rude epithets into this rant. I’m saving all that for my pending arrival at the gates of Hades where they will be more in syntax with the environs. It’s clear than what I thought was a workable, though inconsistent harmony with my employer — a deceitful charade from day one — with focus and practice and patience, could be worked into a relatively sane routine. I could not have been more wrong if I had “bet my money on a bob-tail nag” at “De Camptown Races.” And today I almost walked home from work.

I hate it when I have to compromise and short-shrift my career as a JOURNALIST (which readers all over the frikking WORLD, who have read my journalism, would conclude that I AM)  for an employer who owes me more than $3,000 and cannot tell me when he will pay me what he owes me while I wonder how I will find a REAL employer if I walk away from him and the only transportation I have: the truck he loaned me and can take back on a perverse whim.

Today I can no more work on my journalism assignments for the December issue than I can write a poem. Both require too much thinking, and I left my frikking brain on the coat rack when I came into the house with that fresh jug of Burgundy. At the check out lane at Shop ‘n Save today with groceries and a fresh GALLON of Burgundy,  I followed a destitute alcoholic through the checkout lane. I could tell from the condition of his hair, clothes, complexion, the crumbled $2.00 he handed the cashier, and the way he didn’t even sit the quart bottle up on its bottom; it just rolled down the moving rubber conveyor belt, who (in a general sense) he was. It shook me a little.  ME in a few months? No way,  Montague;  I don’t have it in me to last that go that far.

Saturday I’m not going to work. A friend asked me to pose (with clothes on and my guitar and my music and poetry) for a visual arts workshop. So I’m doing that instead of earning $40 at work: a sum I shall likely never see.

Monday I will go for a dental consult re my . . . . . . what? my Facebook profile? No, again, Montague; my emigrating teeth, emigrating out of my head and into my home office desk drawer. It will be a first visit to a gentleman with a Sterling reputation. I look forward to the visit. THEN I will finish one article for the journalism beat and continue working on the other. I will take the rest of the day off from work and all of Tuesday as well to WRITE. I’m due back at “work” Wednesday, and I suppose I will go.

Thank GOD I have an invitation to spend Thanksgiving with some friends.

I have some pictures to post at Facebook now, so I’ll sign off. Who knows? After unloading here and there, I may feel like foregoing the nap to just stay “un-prone” until after dinner and Charlie Rose. There’s plenty to do here, including posting that poem I promised. Who knows? It could happen. . . . .

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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