Archive for April, 2010

It’s been a crazy cupladaze, especially Wednesday when my computer contracted a virus as I was surfing action you don’t find at Waikiki. This the kind of action engaged mostly by lonesome straights over 50 who don’t have girlfriends and wives. Frankly, I deserved the virus, the way a heroin addict deserves hepatitis. I took my CPU to PC Doctor this morning, and I won’t have it back before May 10 and only then if I can pay for the “fix.”

In the meantime, I’ll check email and Facebook messages when I come to “work” at The Granite Guy, and after today (Thursday) I won’t return here until Monday at the earliest; probably not even then. Who knows? It matters less than it used to; not because I’m closer to the future I have prayed for, but because I’m so far away.

I’m so far away that when the phone rang Wednesday, as my computer was full-system scanning the computer in the hope that I could simply excise the virus without taking the machine to PC Doctor and watching the Charlie Rose re-run on WSEC and the phone rang, I didn’t move my left arm 2.5 feet to pick it up. The voice I heard leaving a message was from a customer service person at the Shop ‘N Save telling me someone had left a gift certificate for me there.

An anonymous gift certificate reminded me of the difference between surfing the X-pages on the Web and kissing someone sitting next to me on the livingroom sofa.  I’d rather sit on my sofa for that kind of human affirmation of self, but when I can’t get it there, I’ll get it where I can.  Getting it where I can on the Web has led me to the brink of swearing off that option.  I can’t pay $100 to PC Doctor on Amos every time my libido makes me do it.  As I heard the supermarket clerk explain herself, I decided to decline THAT option too.  I’m not going to visit the Shop “N Save, and the person who kindly — and with the best intentions; no disputing that — can pick it up from the customer service counter any time she likes. If she can’t meet me for coffee — I’m not even THINKING of my sofa — I will not indulge the anonymous gratification that’s waiting at a supermarket for me. 

It’s not that I can’t use the groceries. Though my days of eating Ramen noodles mixed with Hellman’s and sliced lunch meat are behind me — none consumed at all during the winter of 09/10, but plenty the two winters before — the following have taken up ongoing presence in the kitchen. John Morrell sausages (kind of like a bratwurst, but pre-cooked like an Oscar Meyer wiener (I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener . . . . ) , store-brand Colby cheese, Hellman’s mayonnaise, Kraft Catalina dressing, Peter Pan smooth peanut butter, Smucker’s strawberry preserves, a few cans of Campbell’s Chunky Soups, Bunny whole wheat bread, Imperial margarine and ice cream bars from Shop’N’Save. If I’m lucky, there’s Carlo Rossi Burgundy, but life is almost as bearable with Luzianne iced tea with ReaLemon and Folger’s instant coffee. These last few months, that’s all I’ve been eating . . . . and I’ve been okay with that. When I need “dessert,” after three dinner sausages with cheese and Catalina on top on a plate, I eat a peanut butter sandwich, and IF the day has been kind to me as I to it, an ice cream bar during Charlie Rose. Anonymous charity from people I think I know  . . . . I’m not okay with that.

That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the gesture. But I am a social hummin’ bean.  I enjoy engaging in hummin’ discourse face to face when possible. I have fuel in the vehicle.  It’s not that I was too lazy to drive to the store. But on this Do Something Affirmative For Humanity Day (a Facebook friend invited me to officially observe it today) I am affirming my allegiance to the community of the KNOWNS. God, bless them every one!

I know there is a lot to be said for being anonymous. A friend wrote excellent poetry anonymously. Think of Ben Franklin and early patriots who wrote anonymously. When writing regularly for Springfield Business Journal years ago, I wrote under a pen name (Clifton Harrison) for Springfield Magazine. When it comes to kindness, human to human, human FOR human, if there is no name at the giving end, there will be no name receiving it either.

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


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Angry Bangry

Angry Bangry
by Job Conger

We used to be motivated by the challenge to do better.
Now it only makes us angry.

We used to be assured and comforted by the letter of the law.
Now it only makes us angry.

We used to be inspired by sayers of sooths and singers of truths.
Now they only make us angry.

We used to be awe-struck by new colors in our kaleidoscope of life.
Now they only make us angry.

And, I think, the reason why —
as I scan the dark horizon of a stormy sky —
is that it’s easier to shoot the airplane down
than it is to learn how to fly.

written January 16, 1996 and published in Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois

I am challenged by the evolution toward anger. Instead of rolling with change, we want to head bang. Too many people are throwing so much feces at each  other the distinction between  human beings and chimpanzees in a zoo becomes less and less. I am challenged by this, but I am not angered by this.

Live long . . . . . . and proper

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Lady Destiny
by Job Conger

Destiny punches no time clock
so if you think you’ve found yours,
understand you must give her  hour she requires.

Others will not consider your allegiance
 n o r m a l
and they may think you’re a mutant fruit on the tree
that’s best nipped in the bud.
Give the skeptics their two cents’ worth
but keep the other 98 for yourself
and for Lady Destiny.

Do your best to play the game
of the drones who pack the pollen home
and the mud daubers who are often deaf 
to her call.
Because the hive rewards the team player
with sustenance
that will permit you to listen long
to Lady Destiny.

Do not ignore her when she calls your name.
She will be your one true love,
seeking you as you her throughout your years;
returning to reward your sacrifice
and to punish your indifference.

And after you do all the things you choose,
though you forget the names and faces
to your final day, you will remember Lady Destiny,
and you will judge
the value of your life
to be only as worthwhile
as you were true
to her.

written February 17, 1996
Destiny for the whole life has been more a part of my life than any passing fancy
or plane.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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maple grove

On a day when I resolved to get everything due to others out of my way so I could HURL my froggy countenance into the Arcadia Publishing book I committed (long ago in a circumstance far away) to co-producing with a great fellow Tony White, I got a lot (but not everything) done with obligations but the Arcadia project, and believe me when I say, “No one is more disappointed over this prolonged travail than I.”

I spent about four hours with the Springfield Chapter Illinois Pilots Association newsletter Sunday and finished it after three hours today. During that time I called a fellow whose book I’ll be reviewing for Illinois Times (that will be for grocery money and not a minute too soon) and left a message on his voice mail; also wrote the e-mail address he gave me and it came back undeliverable. DANG! The newsletter was e’d to the chapter president for proof reading and printing, and when I get them back later tonight, I’ll fold and stamp them for mailing Tuesday.

I also spent some time at AeroKnow telling all comers how the web site is going “on hiatus” until June 10 and not to send any queries to me until then so I can make the Arcadia deadline. I must have the courage to do what needs to be done, and given how much time I spend with my head in the clouds, this drastic hiatus NEEDS TO BE DONEdammit.

I had to visit the water and electric utility to pay what I could of my utility bill before they disconnected me. Disconnection of gas is a virtual certainty this week, but since the esteemed family upstairs has electric heat, I’m the only one who will bathe in water heated on a stove-top pasta pot. I know what you’re thinking — COOL! This really burned my behind. I don’t know why I owe so much to them, but I either pay or write my Arcadia book in candle light. I’m a big fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, you understand but my computer would never permit me to write a book by candle light.

Home and into an article a friend wants me to read and critique before he sends it to a British aviation magazine which will pay him for his superb prose. The fellow IS a good writer. He needs me like another thumb, but I’m flattered enough by his appreciation of my writing sense that I’ll make some notes during dinner and fire something concise back to him before bed tonight. I’ve already told him, poLITEly (hey, none of this dire ire is HIS fault) not to send me anything more to critique until June 10, the day after my Arcadia deadline.

Home. No word from the book author on the negative side, but on the positive (I suppose) the consultant who said she’d probably be able to come over tonight and help me learn Joomla, a web site system, didn’t show up. It was positive because the sky was getting darker by the minute and I HAD to mow my lawns, the back for the first time this year, and the front for the second. It was the most fun I had all day.

A trimmed lawn is a contented lawn.

I’ve resolved to keep Honey & Quinine going even though I’m shutting down everything else. As I wrote to a poet friend, this will be my wordy channel to the world directly and since it also appears at Facebook hours after it goes to WordPress.com, how I’m doing. I posted, in my last status report, which I won’t resume until June 10, that if they want to reach me, read Honey & Quinine and leave a note as a comment following these posts. I can read and respond and delete all that from here.

At the suggestion of a masta godna, I've introduced a young cauliflower companion.to keep Clyde Cauliflower happy. I call her Blanche.

All I have ahead of me now is the interview with the book author and the big model display at Capital Airport May 1, part of a major scholarship fund-raising breakfast which I committed to providing MONTHS before things got ULTRA-earnest with Arcadia and a major poetry event at Lincoln Tomb May 3.

Rutabagaville, part of Vine Street Nature Conservancy

I’m tightening my seat belt. It’s going to be an interesting week.

Live long . . . . . .  and proper.

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Carol Doty, Job Conger, Jens Jensen

Flashback. On Wednesday, April 14, Jennie Battles, director of Vachel Lindsay State Historic Site, 603 S. Fifth Street in Springfield called me and asked if I would read a Vachel Lindsay poem during Carol Doty’s presentation about Jens Jensen. The early natural landscape preservationist was the kind of fellow who would speak against cutting down a beautiful stand of trees on the southwest corner of MacArthur at Iles to make way for our city’s first “shopping center.” Jensen was also a Landscape architect who designed nature parks. Lincoln Memorial Gardens by Lake Springfield was transformed from farmland to the wonderful array of wood chip trails, trees, natural flowers and stone meeting circles in large part by Jensen. It was a loss of farmland for sure, but the trees and plants planted there during its creation were selected by Jensen and a group of Springfieldian volunteers who packed their car trunks with saplings and seedlings and drove them out to the site by the new lake. Jensen was one of three close friends in Chicago Vachel Lindsay netted after he became an internationally famous poet. The others were Carl Sandburg and Jane Addams of Hull House. When the statue of Chief Black Hawk, created by Loredo Taft was dedicated at Lowden State Park near Oregon, IL, Vachel read a new poem “The Black Hawk War of the Artists” he had written for the occasion. I transcribed the poem from Dennis Camp’s tremendous three-volumes about the man and e-mailed Jennie that I’d have the poem memorized by Sunday and would practice it all week and polished for reciting as it should be for the occasion. And I did.

Carol Doty

I arrived at Vachel house about 1:20 to meet Carol and learn how the poem would fit. I gave her a copy of Vachel’s poem I had produced with a link to my Vachel Pages web site and a brochure about my “The Poet Speaks” presentation about the poet. I learned Carol intended to conclude the talk with a group sing of “Illinois Illinois” our state song. She noted her regret that there was no piano player who could play the song for the group, and I offered to boogie home and get my guitar. BOOM! I was gone and back in 20 minutes. Even though folks were starting to arrive, I played a few bars of the song in three keys on guitar until we found one that Carol’s voice would naturally match. It made sense, I suggested, that she could lead the singing, and I’d get us started and accompany on guitar. She agreed.
For about five minutes, I recited the poem in the downstairs bedroom as visitors came in and took seats in the nearby parlor. I had the poem solidly down. No worries.
Her lecture was terrific, accompanied by several slides she had taken of Jensen and more modern developments his part of Illinois and the Jensen cabin in Wisconsin. At her nod and introduction She called me JOE. (Does “Job” on a brochure and my poetry handout strike you as three consecutive letters best spoken as JOE?) I was rattled a little, and the recital was not as smooth as it would have been sans JOE reference. I came to a few ragged pauses, and Carol, standing close-by gently prompted me. That saved my recital.

Jens Jensen

At the end, I rose, took my guitar and sang the song, a little raggedly because Carol varied the melody, but we made it through the first, second and fourth verses, lyrics of which had been included on the back of the program. I didn’t learn until we were enjoying refreshments . . . . .

Carol Doty

. . . that Carol didn’t know the melody of the song. It was still fun to share! I later explained to the esteemed scholar how to pronounce my name and told her how much I enjoyed being a part of the event. The consensus of friends who were in the audience was that my recital was fine. They appreciated my effort to memorize it and share it as I did.

Carol Doty and Jennie Battles

On the whole, I was happy with the day. I’ve added “The Black Hawk War of the Artists” to my “poems recited repertoire” and will share it every chance I get because of the exhortation to preserve what nature remains. Thanks to Carol Doty for her excellent scholarship, photography and charm and the fine presentation and to Jennie Battles for arranging and hosting this memorable event.

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

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From the Illinois HIstoric Preservation Agency . . . . .

Poets in the Parlor April 24 at Vachel Lindsay Home to feature Earth Day theme

SPRINGFIELD – The need to establish green space for recreation, a cause championed by Vachel Lindsay, famed landscape architect Jens Jensen and others, will be the theme of a special program on Saturday, April 24 at 2 p.m. at the Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site, 603 S. Fifth Street in Springfield.  This “Poets in the Parlor” series presentation is sponsored by the Vachel Lindsay Association and the Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site.

This Earth Day themed program will be presented by Carol Doty, who retired after 35 years on staff at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.  For many years Doty was curator of the Jens Jensen archival collection at the Arboretum’s Sterling Morton Library.  Jensen was one of the nation’s most famous landscape architects and in his early efforts to save natural areas, he enlisted the help of his many influential friends including Jane Addams, Louis Sullivan, and Vachel Lindsay.  Jensen persuaded Kenneth Sawyer Goodman to write a simple outdoor play, Beauty of the Wild, that was presented annually from 1913 to 1941 to bring public attention to natural areas worthy of preservation.  Doty’s April 24 program will touch upon Jensen, Lindsay, and the first performance of Beauty of the Wild at White Pines (now a State Park) near Oregon, Illinois.

Limited seating is available.  Refreshments and tours of the Lindsay Home follow the April 24 program.

The Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site is the birthplace and longtime residence of poet, author and artist Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, 1879-1931.  It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for free public tours.


Though not part of the news release, Job Conger will recite Vachel Lindsay’s poem “The Black Hawk War of the Artists during Carol Doty’s presentation. This is the first time I’ve been invited to share a Vachel Lindsay poem as part of a presentation by someone else though I’ve been honored to recite — as a featured presenter — every year since the historic site re-opened following extensive renovation. Carol Doty has exquisite credentials for the program planned, and I hope to see YOU there. For more about the poem, see my April 22 posting here at Honey & Quinine.

Love long . . . . . . . . and proper.

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One of the oldest buildings in lyrical downtown Springfield is . . .

some place you’ll want to go

“The Norb Andy’s Tabarin” was built in 1892 on the south side of Capital Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets. For years, the cozy walk-down from the sidewalk restaurant/tavern was THE watering hole for politicians, cronies political writers, a sort of Chicago Billy Goat Tavern South. On April 21, it became a favorite watering hole of a group of Springfield poets who pay dues to Springfield Poets and Writers, the latest incarnation of an organization launched by Robert Bartel and friends in the late 80s. The occasion was our first “open microphone” gathering where poets from all over the city (the public at large) were invited to read and recite their poems. We would gather in the ultra-cozy back room at Norb’s, all comers desiring mic time would have their names put into a hat, and they would be called as their names  were subsequently pulled out of the hat. It was a good and nifty way to do it though it drove me nuts until my name was pulled. I want to be sure YOU know I LIKE the idea though I felt suddenly as nervous as a pro-choice advocate at a tea party.

Wagging emcee Thea Chesley

Thea Chesley calls herself a “poet and wag” which is fine if you know Calvin Trillin because east of the Mississippi, folks who know Calvin are about the only ones who appreciate the value of a wag behind a microphone. The rest of us call her “the goddess of cookies and wine” because while we love her poetry, we love her parties even more. I predict that in 30 years, she will be the Hermione Gingold of the 21st century, and if not that, an engaging corn country Sylvia Plath. She’s a terrific emcee too.

I had selected three poems based on the scheduled back room cozy venue, and was significantly traumatized by the welcome reality that we’d be sharing in the main room, and there would be several poets participating I had not met whose poems I had not read or heard PLUS a sprinkling of regular Norb regulars who happened to be there because everybody there knows their names. Again, minor trauma for sure but also for sure, a major improvement in the ambiance of the room. I had come prepared to read a terribly confessional poem not shared before called “Wednesday Confessional,” and recite my poem “These are the Poets” and the Vachel Lindsay poem “The Black Hawk War of the Artists” which I will be reciting April 24 at Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site. I was so shaken by the change in “feel” to the room I knew I wouldn’t risk the poem which I’d spent hefty time memorizing over the past six days. I knew I’d blow it and I didn’t want to botch Vachel. I did not bring my guitar, though I have set several poems to music. If someone invites me to bring it to poetry open mics I will, but I feel I have as much to gain by concentrating on poetry and writing new poetry, as I have to gain by leading strangers to prematurely conclude I am more a frustrated songwriter than I am a (frustrated) poet.

Thea had purchased some pizzas from Joe Gallina Pizza nearby and sold slices because Norb’s doesn’t have a working kitchen. It’s a bar. The kitchen isn’t up to current municipal code, but owners hope to make it so in the months ahead.

Pat Martin and her book Needles of Light

The sound setup was perfect and the photogenic background was the same. Most of the poets were commendably competent, and from where I sat close to the front with my camera, I was more glad so many fine people CAME than I was concerned over the quality of what they read.

placed 3rd in national poetry conference in Austin, Texas

It was great to see some fave reg’lars from recent years back reading their poetry, but the big thrill for me was sharing mine (and Vachel Lindsay’s) with strangers. For the first time in my life, I botched a Vachel downtown: “The Broncho That Would Not Be Broken” which I attempted to recite first. I should have recited it to myself quietly as the others were reading, just to have it re-imprinted in short-term memory. I hadn’t recited it for about a bleeping YEAR. I froze at the start of the third verse, and rather than bore the audience with my prolonged groping, I bailed quickly: explained I had hit a wall and recited my second poem . . . . then risking another wall encounter of the crash kind, recited Vachel’s “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight,” though I’ve not recited THAT for almost a year. Some Vachel is always at the tip of my tongue and many more are in my back pocket. Abe Walks is always a low apple I can pick anytime. After the readings concluded, I sat at a table with Ken Sibley and recited the Black Hawk poem almost verbatim. I am confident about the poem and the venue where I will recite it publicly for the real first time.

Ken Sibley, poet and arts supporter extraordinare

Before the readings concluded at about 7:45, it was announced that Norb Andy’s will host another poetry open mic May 19, same BAT time, same Bat station. I will be there with new poems, and I hope you will be too.

Makin' your way in the world today takes everything you've got.

Kudos and thanks to Springfield Poets and Writers and The Norb Andy’s Tabarin for a memorable evening.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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