Archive for December, 2009

Here’s to the Spirit
by Job Conger

(refrain). . .Oh, here’s to the spirit of hope in our hearts:
. . . . . . .  . The spirit, the ghost or the flame
. . . . . . .    That shows you the sun with the gift of a smile
. . . . . . .    Regardless of credo or name.
. . . . . . .   In the darkest of winter, a wam breath to brighten
. . . . . . . . Horizons of all who are dear.
. . . . . . .  Yes, here to the spirit that moves us to love
. . . . . . .  And here’s to a happy new year.

Life is a voyage through tumbling tides
In the quest for safe harbor and land
As we seek sweet surcease from our sorrows and pain,
When the going’s not smooth as we planned.
Blame your dad, blame the devil, blame a deck of bad cards
But they won’t wreck your ship on the shore.
When you stand at the helm, show the world how you care,
And you’ll reach where you’re going and more.


The world will be better from what burns inside you
Not from cold-hearted running away
To a bottle, or needle, or palavering cult.
What you need, you should be. Show the way.
Let the glow of your passionate dreams light the world,
And the lasting rewards they will sing
At the dawn of each new day to arise to our hopes,
And we’ll know life is worth everything.


writen December 21, 2005
This is my most recent “holiday” poem/song. Though 2009 was the best year I have lived in the past several, I am as connected to fulfillment and a sense of arrival in harmony with my destiny as I am to the planet Neptune. I share the poem/song — you should have me play it with 12-string guitar and sing it to you sometime — to infuse hope into my “tomorrow” as I share it to infuse hope into yours. Here’s to the spirit. Here’s to you!

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Yeah, I heard. They mentioned in class yesterday that he was at Memorial Hospital, so I went over and said “hello.” First time I’ve visited anyone in a hospital. His leg was in a cast, but he said he’s in good spirits. He sure seemed glad to see me. Said he won’t be back to Springfield Junior College for a few weeks.  – SPRING 1966 –

. . . . . Wow, Bob Waldmire’s back. I haven’t seen him in years! Ran into him downtown; said told him I’d like to write an article about him for Springfield Business Journal. Lisa Rigoni approved the idea, and we’re meeting at the newly reincarnated Cozy Dog restaurant today.

. . . The interview went great. Says he’ll be back in September for the Route 66 Festival. Gave me his Mustang calendar. It’s a year old, but it’s solid art! – DECEMBER 2004 –

Chuck Martin, I’ve been in your shop (Parkway Printers, 3755 North Dirksen Parkway) two seconds and I see my old friend Bob Waldmire’s drawings all over the walls. You do his printing for him? Nice work. Good to know he’s back in town for awhile. When he comes in to pick these things up, stick your head into The Granite Guy showroom and let me know; aye? I brought my camera today, and I want to catch up with him.

He really seems to be in destiny’s groove of life. He told me after the camera work was done how he was glad I hadn’t asked him to put on a shirt the way most photographers would. I told him I wanted to show him as he wanted to be shown. I photograph the person; not my idea of the person. Chuck’s going to give copies of these to him when he comes back Saturday. I hope he likes them. – JULY 2008 –

Yeah, I heard. Back home to die. I’m totally depressed by it all. Sorry, but I don’t want to visit him. Let those who knew him better and can deal with the screaming mortality of it all do that. I was lucky to know the man. When I said goodbye at the printer, he was 100% the same kid I knew at Springfield Junior College, full of life and appreciation of those he met along the way. We should all be lucky enough to live in memory as we live in the present. He will be; that’s for sure.

Bon voyage, Bob Waldmire.

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

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If you lived in the age when breakfast cereal was “crisp,” those halcyon days before it was re-formulated and sold as “crispy,” you better batten down your hatches, because a new tide of lingo-drool is about to flow from the packaging whiz-duds and onto your shirt or blouse, thanks to the phine fokes at Nestle, which rhymes with Presley and not nestle and trestle. It bodes ill for the mother lingo, so if you don’t give a rat’s patoot, get the heck out of my blog! Just hit “Back” and return to where you came from because I am steamed, man, and I may be par-boiled before I’m done here . . . . .  . . .

Before Christmas, and in celebration of winter, I bought some chocolate flavoring for my coffee. Hot chocolate without caffein is like kissing your doggy: fun, but what’s the point? I bought Swiss Miss, but I also splurged and picked up some Nestle Hot Cocoa Mix: the flavor labeled on each packet
Chocolate Mint

Each packet also carries the cozy sentiment “making Chocolatey MEMORIES” apparenly to explain to the purchaser that he or she is going experience something quite extradordinary and beyond the sensory range of most of us since Dr. Timothy Leary passed away. YOWza! I’m not making mocha or hot choc’ friends and enemas, I’m making c h o c o l a t E y . . . . what? SAYITAGAIN, YAAWL! I’m making chocolatey MEMORIES HalleLUyah! Can I get an AMEN, amigosy aMIgasses!

Man, it tasted . . . . . it tasted very good. I’m going to limit myself to one packet a week, not because of the flavor, but because I can’t face the kitchy evisceration of a simple noun-turned-adjective, and I’m too much the kitchen klutz (with a “k;” right?) to make it blind-frikkin-folded. I’ll be okay with Swiss Miss in between.

It’s only a little bit “funney” and I’m not “happey” to witness this minor lingo “atrocitey.”  “Plainley” there should be a better way to enhance the purchasers’ “discovery” of a new taste sensation, don’t you think? What a sad short-cut to “originalitey” this is!

I mean “REALLEY!”

Live longley . . . . . .and properley.

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6th Grade — concluded

My only brush with major school trouble occurred in 6th grade. Though dad’s photo lab downtown had closed, he brought a lot of the darkroom equipment — enlargers, trays, papers, chemicals, photographs, etc. — home and set up a small darkroom in the basement. One day I was exploring stacks of papers and discovered some small photos of an illustrated “ABCs,” What made them special was that they illustrated naked men and naked women in positions that formed the upper case letters. At the time I didn’t know about “making whoopie” and saw nothing more than “funny” about the drawings. But soon after taking probably 20 of these prints to school with me and passing them around to friends wyo found them VERY INTERESTING, I found myself in Principal John Blair’s office and mom and dad coming into the office in a state of high wrath. I was lost to the importance of it all, though I was clearly in deep trouble. Soon the hammer of justice came down, and I was expelled for three days because I had passed around “dirty pictures.” For all I know, I’m still on file somewhere as a sexual threat to society, though I’ve never put an angry hand on anyone in my life. (Maybe that’s why I never made it to the board of the Vachel Linsday Association. Hard to say.) Dad explained how the pictures were in a pile of material he had brought home from downtown after his business closed, and he didn’t know they even existed. The aftermath, following my return to school is lost to memory. I don’t remember being shunned by students or being treated differently by the teachers. Decades later I encountered former Black Hawk principal Blair at a social occasion, ad he remembered the incident and me. He smiled about it; said he did what he had to do as a principal, and I never blamed him for that. He seemed to respect me as we chatted –after all, I had lived into my mid-20s without going to the electric chair — and as I always had, I thought the world of him. He was one of the good ones.
. . . . Sixth grade music classes were held behind the closed curtains of the auditorium/gym/lunchroom stage. Often during my first experiences singing with other kids, I would test the patience of the music teacher by intentionally singing just sharp or flat enough so she could hear the dissonance from somewhere in the middle of the class. I might also sing with a Southern accent, which I had picked up from mom and Cochran, Georgia. Other times, I’d hold the beat for half a step for a measure or two, just to add a syncopated edge. Most of the kids around me didn’t seem to notice, but the teacher sure did, and I always stopped before she became angry. But occasionally, she’d comment as we all sang, or after we stopped, and that was all I needed to get me back in key and in sych. The hardest part was stifling my own giggles and playing innocent while enjoying the smiles of a few students who were aware of my mischief, understood it, and enjoyed it.
. . . . . . That year, two “mostly talking” records made it to the top 40 hits list played on  the radio. One was “Transfusion” by “Nervous Norvus,” — not a real name. It was an “adult” kind of hit which dad discouraged me from reciting. (“Going down the highway, 85/Crash into a car, why man alive./Transfusion, transfusion/It’s a lot of common darn confusion./Shoot the juice to me, Bruce.” That’s all I remember, and the words may not be as sung.) I delighted in the words and the production. It was a cult classic.  The other was “Russian Bandstand,” a comedy farce that did not have a long time on the “frequent play” rotation. Even so, I memorized both in short order and could mimic the voices and sounds the way a comedian/impressionist would. It was great fun “reciting” them in class when we had the moment before concentrating on learning. Lee Halberg particularly, requested “Russian Bandstand” a lot. Great fun!
. . . . I had became a patrol boy (traffic guard) in 5th grade and continued in 6th grade, We wore white patrol belts in a “Z” pattern across our chests to designate our authority. Gloria Owen, a classmate of mine, was the student traffic guard leader in 6th grade. We arrived at school earlier in the morning and dismissed five minutes early from class at the end of the day so we could be at our assigned intersections in time to stand in the middle of the street to let kids pass while grownups in cars waited patiently. We could arrive late for our first morning class since we followed the kids into school when the five-minute bell rang. It was also great fun. At the end of the year, the 5th grade party was at Moonlight Gardens where a Shop’N Save supermarket is today. The 6th grade year’s end party was at the Coca Cola Bottler on 6th Street, south of the Springfield Mass Transit bus garage and Iles Park. After the 6th grade party, I walked home, the longest walk I had taken, and I was very proud to do it. ‘Twas an adventure: a straight shot west on Ash and a left on Whittier to home. I had covered it all riding my bike, but I really got to see it on foot.
. . . . . For about the first four weeks of 6th grade, I was a student of the cello. Mr. Bowen, the orchestra teacher, based at Lawrence School (who was still doing well as the elementary school music teacher I had known when I attended there)  had visited our 5th grade class late in the year, announced plans to form a young persons’ symphony at the new Benjamin Franklin Junior High that was being built that year on west Outer Park. He explained the symphony instruments, and I was attracted to the cello from the start. I liked the musical mid-range and the sound when he played one briefly during his visit. I was also impressed by the fact it was the only instrument in the symphony that had to be played sitting down. During his 5th grade visit, I signed up to learn the cello, and in 6th grade, the orchestra lessons began in the form of lessons by instrument type. All the string players met in the music room weekly with Mr. Bowen. There were four or five violinists, an acoutstic bassist (there were no electric basses then) and I was the only cello player. The only problem was that cello players needed to have a “tree:” a simple T-shaped two pieces of wood with holes drilled for positioning the rod extending from the bottom of the instrument, holding it steady for playing. The tree would be placed under the chair, the side “top of the tee” butting against the chair legs and the vertical with holes drilled extending out from the center. The tree kept the rod coming out of the bottom from damaging the floor and stabilized the instrument better, especially if the floor was hard-surface.  I might as well have been asked to procure one of Saturn’s moons.  For some reason I was afraid to ask dad to build me one. He was an excellent carpenter, and could have fabricated what I needed in half an hour for $1.38’s worth of lumber, with one hand tied behind his back.
. . . . . Another factor working against my becoming the next Pablo Casals was my patrol guard duty. I was also still delivering the Chicago Daily News. Quickly into the year I realized I could not be a patrol guard, return to school to pick up the cello, carry it, walking, all the way home to practice and then back to school. I tried: carried it home one day and knew for certain I could not continue that way. My then-friend Marty Rogers agreed to walk it home for me, but the first day he said he would, I was approached at my patrol guard station by a friend. He said Marty was PLAYING the thing, out of its fabric case, in the middle of the street. I left my intersection (time was almost up, anyway) and ran to the corner where I saw him standing over the instrument with his foot on its neck and sawing in the strings with the bow as though he was cutting firewood! I regained possession of the cello, carried it back to school and walking away from my star-crossed career with a wonderful instrument.  I had cherished the three or four lessons I had in the Black Hawk School music room, learning how to bow, and how to really read music. I always wanted to learn to read music, better, more proficiently than I had during my piano lessons, and I blew it because of unkind circumstance. I still love the cello. How many cello concertos or records/CDs of cello music do I have today in my recording collection? None. How many CDs of Vladimir Horowitz playing piano do I have in my collection? About 12 and probaby 30 more by other piano players.
. . . . . . . In the spring of 1959, dad gave me a simple box camera that changed my life. The first pictures I took were of the beautiful silver-grey Buick Electra (the first 1959 Electra purchased in the city) and kids in 6th grade on the final day of school. Those pictures were later lost. I also took my first airplane pictures — a guided missile, actually: a Talos ship to air missile on a flat-bed truck trailer at the Illinois State Fair. I still have those pictures.

Coming next: 7th Grade at Ben Franklin Junior High

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Passion Flower

Passion Flower
by Job Conger

To a virgin in the night, in the night
In a land almost forgot
And a time when faith grew dimmer by the hour;
From a manger’s meager light,
Came the dawn of a new day
With the birth of God’s own son: his Passion Flower.

(chorus) Passion Flower, planted simply to atone
For the hurt and the pain not of his own
And to show: show the way beyond the pain
To eternity and sweet salvation

Joyous news by angels came
To the shepherds with the flocks
And the wisemen with their majesty and power
Heard the word shared in God’s name,
Journeyed far to find the town
And the manger with the mighty Passion Flower.


Many saints have come to be
SInce the seed of God’s desire
To restore His covenant with souls grown sour
Bloomed for all humanity;
Yet how many still don’t share
The joy and hope of the desert Passion Flower.


May the love — that heaven scent —
Reach the hearts of everyone
And then lead wayfaring strangers grim and dour
To the lofty firmament
Promised to the ones who seek
To know God’s son,
His redeeming Passion Flower.

written December 2002
Merry Christmas everyone.

Live long . . . . . and proper,

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If I Tweeted, this would be an extended chirp.. . . . . .

I knew when I headed home from shopping this morning that I should extend the trip to the west side and Famous Liquors to pick up a bottle of my traditional Christmas treat to my addled brane: a bottle of 101 proof Wild Turkey. I’ve done this once a year since I started reading Hunter S. Thompson back in 1976 , the way 10 year old boys MUST have the kind of basketball shoes that Michael Jordan wears. Famous Liquor is the traditional lowest priced place for booze, and the only one still in town is out near the Shop ‘N’ Save where I needed to visit to get some more ice cream bars and Carlo Rossi Burgundy. There were only two of the former in the fridge and about an inch point five of the latter in the bottle. That would never do for Christmas Eventide.

About 2:15 I exited Casa de Pepe headed west. I might have taken the easy way: South Grand past Washington Park to come out on Chatham Road, stopped at the grocer first and then hit Famous Liq second. I took MacArthur down into Wabash instead because I have memories of that route, past Town & Country Shopping Center, past West Grand School Yard (where I used to fly model airplanes with Mike Evoy and Phil Arndt whom I’ve not seen since junior high, and besides, if anyone decided to break into my truck with no functioning door locks in a parking lot, I’d rather have tham steal my wine and whiskey while I was buying food than steal my food while I was buying wine and whiskey. It seemed the “moral-high-ground” way to go.

The rain was as intense as a thunderstorm in July without the noise. The parking lot at Famous was as packed as I’ve ever seen it. There must have been 15 vehicles in the parking lot that seems to have not seen maintenance since 1972. From the truck I stepped, distracted into a puddle that seemed 18 inches though it was probably only 10 . . . . okay, four inches, but it was a deep four inches. The interior was stacked like Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 premier edition of Playboy. Everywhere I looked there was something tempting, something nice to see. The place had more aisles than it did last time I visited and a huge glass-enclosed humidor of cigars in the entry aisle. If I had a real employer I would have lingered there awhile and probably turned over a new leaf or two. Wines are arranged by type — Merlot, Australian, Muscatel, you can imagine. There was an impressive array of boxed wines, the kind that come in plastic bags packed in boxes with a nozzle that lets you dispense from the fridge; like a keg only more “high society.” There were also large bottles of wines — Paul Masson, Livingston Cellars —  I’d probably buy if I weren’t so income-gravitated toward Rossi.  Only problem: there was no Rossi in that area where most grocery stores display it. I was asked by a “Famous” associate if I was finding what I wanted and on learning I wanted Rossi he walked me to a corner of the store which — if it were an ocean liner — would be called “steerage.” He asked what I wanted, I replied “the Burgundy” and he handed it to me as he “steered” me to the checkout lanes. “Not so fat,” I thought. “Let’s look at a price,” I then said to the associate. “HMMM,” I said. $12.97! Did you know CVS Pharmacy sells it for $10.97?” He explained Famous used to match prices years ago, and he wished they still did. He also said they used to have the lowest prices in town on everything.

I returned the bottle to “Carlo Rossi Corner.” I was also told Famous used to have prices for the lesser Rossi wines (including Burgundy) and slightly higher for the higher end varieties, but they’ve discontinued that as well. “Tuff tookas!” I mumbled. “I still need some Wild Turkey,” I said and left him in my soggy dust. I knew from earlier trips where it would be, and it was.

It didn’t occur to me that Shop ‘N’ Save would sell Wil’ T’ for less than Famous, so I carried a fifth to the checkout lane, paid $23.95 for it (the bottle I bought last Christmas cost me $15.95) and departed for S’ave.

Sure enough, Rossi Burg was $12.97 at the grocer as I feared it would be. CHEESES I’d have to head back over to the CVS in my neighborhood to get it for $10.97. Coneinuing up the aisle, I found Wild Turkey 101 for $19.97. CHEESES in-fripping-DEED! Next year, I’ll know where to go. I’ll make up on savings for WT what I spend on CRB and won’t have to shop another store.

I didn’t buy ice cream bars because the chocolate shell is a challenge for my newly installed upper plate. I bought a gallon of Prairie Farms Neapolitan instead. For Christmas eve dinner, I bought some  “deli” (term for something that’s as “delicatessen” as pork barbecue and baseball) chicken salad and Hawaiian salad.

I took the short way home, passing by Illini Country Club en route to the Washington Park perimeter on South Grand. The stream that meanders through the elegant golf course was two inches from overflowing. I’d never seen it close to that high, and it was flowing as fast as a stream of vitriol from Glen Beck’s radio show. There were LARGE puddles of water all over the grass. The sand trap near the street would have made a good swimming hole for Lilliputians if it hadn’t been so chilly. Something fascinates me about Springfield under major rain, and often in recent weeks, I have wished I had a camera to capture the fast-passing H2O tableau. Thank God I didn’t. It would be a one-way ticket to pneumonia and its companion malaise, oldmonia.

I had been pondering the five-block extension of my return home to get some Rossi Burgundy, and as I headed east on South Grand nearing the decision to turn onto Henrietta Avenue and a fast right to home or continue to Sixth Street . . . . . . I decided to skip the wine. I am incredibly luckin’ frucky,  and the realization hit me as I passed through the green light at Walnut . . . . and hit my left turn signal. For the last three blocks I KNEW this was a story I would have to share wtih you, so as soon as I put away the groceries and Turkey 101, I sat down facing a glowing computer monitor and did just that.

Merry Christmas eve, eve eryone. I pray that you are as blessed as I!

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

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to be sung to the tune of . . . you’re bright; you’ll figure it out . . . .

Oh Well, Oh Well
by Job Conger

Every year is a marathon race from the start
As we seek satisfaction in home, head and heart
And the point of this wild crazy game that we play
Is a red and green bottom line called Christmas Day.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well
Surely next year will make up for this one.

As we strive toward sweet dreams that may never come true
We endure slings and arrows as good folks must do.
It’s amazing the things people swallow that hurt
As we pray the big day will bring our just dessert.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well,
We’ve been luckier than some sorry b_s_a_ds.

May we count all our blessings this season of hope
And resolve not to hang ourselves with our own rope.
May the people we care about know joy sublime.
We’ve a mighty long haul until spring time.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well,
May the mirth of good friends and fun linger.
Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well.
May the mirth of good friends and fun linger!

written 1 pm, December 18, 2002
I’ll have a more up-beat Christmas poem song here tomorrow. I commented on Facebook a few days ago how I’ll never forget Mel Torme’s wonderful song in which he sings, in part, “Everybody knows a turkey . . . ” I believe that many of us at Christmas enjoy the trimmings as much as the turkey, and that’s part of what makes the season special. The season’s “turkey” that I know this year is the rain. I drove through a major downpour to attend Rock Circus’ party yesterday, and it was a mite frightful on Chatham Road, even with new windshield wipers and great brakes for the first time in two years. I did it not for the “main event” but for the trimmings that come with the main event: getting away from the showroom, convivial conversation with the owner and his fine wife, and even the food was almost incidental. I hope your day is more than the turkey that may be part of it. I hope the trimmings nourish you grandly.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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