Archive for December, 2010

During the Vietnam War which was going on when I was draft age, many protestors at rallies carried signs that read “MAKE LOVE — NOT WAR” in the course of urging the disengagement of our military from a minor East Asian nation we didn’t much care about until it started turning RED. About 10 years ago, I penned the words shared in the title of this post, printed them on 8 x 10 paper and taped them to the insides of doors throughout my home. If you’re visiting me at the house and open the door to my bathroom medicine cabinet today, you find a 20-year-old box of Curad band-aids, a can of Gillette Foamy shaving cream I’ve not touched in five years, a bottle of Old Spice aftershave my dad had in his medicine cabinet when he died in 1994 and a small plastic drinking glass I purchased soon after I moved into this house in 1996, and on the inside of the mirrored door to the medicine cabinet, a black on yellow sign that reads “Make LIFE Not Woe.” Dutt0 the closet door in the hall that opens to my collection of close to 20,000 35mm slides of airplanes, ditto a kitchen cabinet door where I keep the strainers and measuring cups. I’ve tried to live by my own advice since double-side tape taping them to those doors. In 2011, I’m going to try a little harder.

What is “love?” I no longer define it as I did when I was 30 and 40. Today I doubt that I would recognize it if I saw it. I see and value “friendship,” but even that requires elements of what I used to call love: unlimited patience, unconditional forgiveness of the minor travesties of friends. I still seek what I remember to have seemed “love” but I’m no longer beating myself over the head in its absence starting New Year’s Eve, 2010.

I am resolved to creating LIFE: speaking for what I advocate the way I might sling hot Peter Pan Peanut Butter from a butter knife in the general direction of the rest of the world. I like Peter Pan crunchy. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t enjoy a gob or two from a chair-side jar in my living room after diner for dessert, washed down by iced tea or wine.  I advocate nourishing the world with what nourishes me, what sustains me. I hurl it at the world: friends, acquaintances and strangers . .  . . and if it doesn’t stick, that’s okay. I hurl it because the world is too far away for me to serve it. The world, most all of it, keeps its distance, but I will hurl it just the same.

Make LIFE. Let the rest of the world swallow what it chooses to swallow. You don’t have to destroy what nourishes another to share what nourishes you, by hurling it if necessary and by spoon- feeding it the way Mom used to do when I was three years old and had no interest in tasting cabbage. Advocate. If it sticks, the world will be a better place, and if it doesn’t you will earn the grace that comes from being true to yourself.  There is place for propriety and manners in this world for those who aspire to better than vomiting bad hot dogs and beer from the high bleacher seats. Engage that place. Sling that nourishment to the bleachers if you choose — Isn’t that what evangelical Christianity is about? — or affirm your world and yourself closer to the ball game.

I resolve to make LIFE, not Woe, in 2011.

I hope you will too.

Happy new year!

Live long . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and prosper.

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When I was 25 years old and awakened at 6 am, I’d pull the covers over my head and catch another 40 winks until the alarm went off at 7. On Christmas Day when I found myself awake a few minutes before 6 a, I rolled out of the sack and into the home office because hours spent sentient mean more to me than they did just those few years ago –(RIM shot :)!

Until December 25, my computer had always been on the closet-side shortest wall of the office.  On this day, there’d be some changes made. The snafu with my big DELL computer, recently returned from Best Buy which had repaired it for no charge, was caused by circumstance which required the CPU to be placed too far to the right, off my modern roll-top desk.  Putting it closer to the monitor, avoiding stretching the connecting cord, would prevent future dislodging of the video card deep in the bowels of the big electric box. So at 6 am I began a process that any other day would have required help, moving everything occupying half of the office out of the room to make space for the change. Then I brute-hefted the top half  of the desk onto a two-drawer file cabinet and moved the almost immovable lover half (those components were heaVY!) to the space on the inside long wall opposite the windows and my regular desk. I could tell from the perspiration generated that I needed the exercise.

At 8 am, on a whim, I departed the office long enough to shovel snow from my front porch and sidewalk, anticipating my ears would not be assaulted by a cacophony of neighbors shoveling their porches and walks at that hour on Christmas day. I was correct. I returned to the office refreshed and satisfied.

Just before hefting the top half of the roll-top desk  back where it belonged in the new location, another bright idea: I removed the blue rug that had been on the floor when I bought the duplex in 1992. Only half the repositioned desk would be on the rug if left alone, making the computer and computer desk slightly out of kilter. Anyone who knows me understands I am PRO-kilter. SUCCESS and more satisfaction, a happy break from the typical day when I can’t get no.

What I found on the natural wood floor beneath where the rug after gathering it into my arms and dragging it down to the basement was a revelation: dust, dust and more dust. I also found an incredible sound when my feet traversed natural wood in the relatively small room. It was a sound I’ve heard only once before, when visiting Vachel Lindsay’s bedroom at the poet’s restored home. The sound and feel were  a “gift” to me, bestowed by kind Fate. I spent the rest of the morning, sweeping up the dust, as much as I could before vacuuming. There was enough to fill an empty green olive jar. Then I  vacuumed, watching some of it escape from the vacuum (very fine dust does that) and then went over the  floor with a damp mop. WOW! The feel, the sound, the sensation of the bare floor is ultra-nifty! And I shall surely sweep frequently in the future. I may even re-varnish it come springtime. I then re-arranged the rest of the room, installed the computer after untangling lots of twisted electrical and media cords going everywhere  and tidied things a mite. The activity described took me to noon.

Lunch? I didn’t need lunch. I was feeling too good for lunch. Besides, I had targeted 2 p for the big dinner. I had hoped to relax watching a football game, but there was no football on my TV on Christmas Day — BIG surprise. There was nothing I wanted to watch, so I read for awhile, listening to Christmas music.

When I started boiling two chicken breast halves in half an inch of water  in a large covered skillet, I realized I had forgotten an essential ingredient for baked (or boiled) bird: Kraft Catalina dressing. I didn’t intend to eat both Saturday; one would be reheated Sunday.   This day’s big event  would be  sans embellishment save for the Colby cheese I added to half a bag of brussels sprouts after they were cooked. The meal was well-harmonized with the Burgundy. For dessert  I savored the equivalent of flavored pound cake with as much Imperial margarine  as I wanted.

The only thing on TV (no cable or satellite for moi, you understand) was basketball and infomercials. A rotten brussels sprout would have been more exciting, but I encountered none. To kill time, sentience having lost some of its appeal, given the circumstance, I took a few more hefty hits of Carlo Rossi and drifted off to nap city.

When I awakened, I enjoyed a cup of coffee and more cake with margarine-a-plenty and opened my presents: Christmas cards received earlier in the month but unopened because I anticipated December 1 that they would be more important on the 25th.

And they were. The cards came from a long-time Springfield friend Ed Wahl who moved to Northern Illinois in 1980-s0mething, Robert Wood, a fellow in California whom I would not know if he walked up to me but who has sent me a Christmas card every year for the past several, Wendy McCroskey, a friend from First United Methodist days who gave up on the city of her residence Auburn, Illinos and moved to Nashville, Cheryl Conger, my brother Bill’s wife when he died last October, Marjorie Smith, Cheryl’s daughter from earlier, before Bill, and Steve Shymansky, my favorite nephew because he is my sister Dorothy’s son and the only kin of my sister (including my sister) to have communicated with me since 1995.  I read each card, thanked God for the kindness of those who sent them to me, and found something tolerable to watch on TV. There were no presents except the cards. 

My service on the editorial committee of the American Aviation Historical Society had been rewarded on Christmas Eve with an e-mail note of a gift certificate at Amazon which I had promptly redeemed with an order of some aviation books, and I was delighted to get it. 

 I visited my “new” wood-floored office,  checked e-mail and spent some time browsing the web. I was in bed by midnight.

This is my 1,000th post at Honey & Quinine.  I’ll make it 1,001, a start on the second thousand,  before January 1. 

Live long . . . . and proper.

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To me there is no greater indictment of a man — not counting action taken by uniformed officers enforcing the law —  than to be single, straight and 63. It’s not that I wear clothes with horizontal black stripes over white with my ankles connected by leg-irons when I go to the supermarket. I have a ready smile for strangers and I never offer my extended middle finger to anyone. Still, this helps explain my state of mind for the past three days and likely for the rest of my life. As I lived Christmas eve eve at 8 am, I knew the next three days would be a challenging trek down rocky waters, and how I handled the tiller would be a story marked with yellow highlighter in the book of my life.

My biggest concern was not to overdraw my checking account. Later in the day I intended to indulge my vanity by visiting a supermarket to buy food for a “first-rate” dinner on the 25th and then the local hobby shop to purchase one model airplane kit, a tradition I’ve allowed myself for decades. That I didn’t even consider a visit to J.C. Penney for a pair of new slacks, a business shirt or two, a second pair of Floursheims — as most men with my wardrobe would have instead of thinking “HOBBY SHOP” — confirms my depravity of outlook. When I pulled into the bank drive-up I was informed my bank balance was less than anticipated and there would be no hobby shop action. Still, I knew I’d have a decent meal Saturday. So with that news, I spent a quiet remainder of the 23rd working at the aviation museum, setting things up as I have since May 29th and reaping a modicum of self-affirmation from the effort.

It was snowing Friday, I’d say a 6 out of 10 with 10 meaning “frosty apocalypse,” and when I called my “blue moon emplonyer” who engages me “once in a” and pays me part of what he owes me once a season, sometimes twice, I was told there was no reason to come in on the eve (to pick up some things he had given me (used boots a used phone, some sweatshirts with the company name inscribed thereupon) because of the snow. I asked him if he might pay me another portion of what he owed me, and he promised to come by with some dollars in a few hours. A few hours later he called and explained he’d come by in a few more hours, by noon.

About 2:30 I called and instead of reaching him, I reached his voice mail and explained that if he really intended to come by as promised, I hoped he would soon because I needed to leave the house to by food for the 25th and I couldn’t go anywhere waiting for him to arrive, and the snow was piling up out there.

He came by about 3:30, paid some of what he owed me and gave me some cash, and I headed out for the grocer and hobby shop in say 7-on-a-10-scale snow. I wasn’t bothered by the weather, I was driving a pickup truck. I’d be fine. BOOM to the County Market slightly southwest of Hammer’s Hobbies because I figured it was more likely a sack with a model kit was more likely to be stolen from a supermarket parking lot than a few sacks of food would be stolen from curbside in front of a neighborhood hobby shop. The streets were well-packed with snow, and I drove side streets mostly. I’d rather drive slow (15 or 20 mph) on terribly snow-packed streets than drive faster than I want to drive to maintain pace with impatient drivers drafting onto my rear bumper at 25 miles and hour on busy streets with slush ruts between snow-pack.

I wanted chicken breasts — a few would have been fine — but all they had on display were packets of eight, so I bought them. Then a veggie, a packet of Green Giant broccoli in cheese sauce and a small back of generic Brussels sprouts, followed by a small pack of Colby, a jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy and a party tray of sweet breads — you know pound cake-like in several “flavors.” That was more than I needed for the single day, but I knew I’d appreciate the leftovers later. I would not have allowed myself that extravagance if my employer had not made good his promise 45 minutes earlier.

As I shopped, unknown to me but a sure bet as it turned out) a woman left her home on foot northeast of my home, headed for the convenience store at Spring at South Grand in the near-blizzard.

The slow drive to the hobby shop was enjoyable without heavy traffic that would have been encountered on major streets. As I approached the destination, turning north onto 10th Street from the west, it was obvious the owners had closed early. Since they live in Decatur and considering the weather, I understood. No problem. I didn’t even slow down to be sure. The inside was darker than the heart of Ebenezer before the epiphany.  So I continued in motion toward home on quiet snow.

From 10th, I turned west  onto Ash for eight blocks then north four blocks on Spring. As I approached Vine Street a block north of Spring, where I intended to turn west for the two blocks to home sweet home, I saw an approaching figure trekking through the falling snow. It was the woman who had departed her home probably 10 minutes earlier.

I had time to see her as I computed our closing speeds. She was about 5 foot 4 tall, shoulder length brown hair, eyes focused straight ahead. There was no hat, cap or hood, the blue jeans were everyday, neither new nor tattered. The jacket she wore was one a sixteen year-old son might have worn, possibly grabbed from the rack by a back door in solemn resolve to get something badly needed that could not be done without . . . . my guess is cigarettes. It became obvious I could gun the engine to maybe 20 miles and hour and make my turn left without endangering her, or I could slow to five mph so she could walk through the intersection before I arrived. Of course, she was walking in the street, not on the sidewalk, because that was where the snow was better packed, easier for walking. So as approached, I did something I hadn’t really done since leaving County Market: I stopped . . . . . and she passed by, her eyes fixed straight ahead, expressionless. . . . . . turned left about 10 seconds later and drove the rest of the way home, eyes straight ahead, expressionless.

Didn’t touch any of the new groceries except the wine. The chilli from a can was fine, and the chunky Peter Pan on a butter knife was all the eventide opiate a freelance journalist in my shoes could have merited, I read more 0f Mike Shepherd’s new historical novel, from a The New Yorker I had set sside when it arrived in October and hadn’t noticed since,  napped, spent some time on Facebook and browsing the web. Bed came easy early into the darkness of the big day.

Coming next time: Christmas.

Live lng . . . . . . and proper.

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Christmas 63 Agenda
by Job Conger

Intended to be sung to the tune of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” I don’t know that the song HAD an introduction melody/verse before the familiar song began, but I wrote one anyway. Make up your own if you like.

Let me tell you now, it’s been a heck of a year —
Not at all what I dreamed at the start.
With a head full of dusty, crushed, great expectations,
I’m becoming a bitter old fart.

So to pay for my vanity, thinking my soul
Would prevail with naiveté grand,
On that great birthday, penance will be just desserts.
I’ll eat crow, choking on what I planned.

I am going to . . . .

Have myself a very little Christmas
Filled with angst and spite
Following another
nearly restless night
Yes, it’s true I’ll
Have myself a very little Christmas.
As sun rise brings the dawn,
Friends and family
Will be long-time gone.

Here I am savoring olden days
With so many memories past:
Days of laughter and harmonies
And good times that didn’t last.

It’s true that

Through the years
I’ve had my share of chances
And I blew them all.
So I’ll simply
Beat my head against a wall.
That’s how

I’ll have myself
a very little Christmas, y’all.

written round midnight, Thursday, December 23, 2010


There is more truth than fiction in the words above. I don’t like how I feel these days, but I’m glad to be alive. I’ll try to post a “Christmas upside” poem here at Honey & Quinine before the 25th.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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And she’s a Virginia Conger from Minnesota.   In turn, because her blog is nicely presented, I’ve subscribed to hers. The fact that a stranger — not a friend (though I presume at least as much from her initiative and obvious smarts) — is the first person to subscribe to Honey & Quinine reveals a lot about my life this winter in Springfield, Illinois.

It seems I’ve drawn a curtain down on my life. It’s not the final curtain that follows the final act, what Vachel Lindsay in his poem “The Drunkard’s Funeral” calls “. . . the grand fifth act.” I blame the winter,even though all my buddies from the local visual arts community have communicated zilch to me (with one exception) and I have done the same with them. Repartee is a memory. Repartee with purt near everyone. I’m throwing myself into the AeroKnow Museum at the local airport. For the first time in a few years, I didn’t attend a regularly scheduled poetry event at a local downtown restaurant because there were things to do at the airport, and I’m interfacing regularly with that crowd. Haven’t written a new poem in MONTHS but I’ve taken a bunch of airplane pictures this week. Met people from Tallahassee and New York City.

New at the Museum office is a used laptop computer that connects via wi-fi to the Web. Unfortunately, it means I’ll be spending less time with the Museum and more time with Facebook and email. I have two articles coming together for the January Springfield Business Journal. Still no full-time employer, but now that I’ve almost completely kissed The Arts (poetry and songwrithing) goodbye until spring or I finish setting up AeroKnow Museum, I am enjoying what I’m doing a whaleovalot more than what I wasn’t doing and feeling hellish for coming up short all de lib long day.

My performance coming up Saturday from 7 to 8 p at the downtown Hilton Hotel Third Thursday Gallery — will be my last public presence in song for the year unless someone invites my guitar and me to a party, and based on the happy arrival of the first subscriber to Honey & Quinine, we can collectively rest assured there is no danger of that.

My song “Hello” ends with the lines, “You say Springfield is not a place to grow; it is only a place to hide.” That’s okay, some blossoms flower more obviously in limited light.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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I’m backing out of the arts. Maybe this is just for the winter; I sure hope it is. There’s more adventure at the airport and the AeroKnow Museum — www.aeroknow.com — and there are things to be done out there. I feel a compulsion — more than that, an obsession — to build the Museum as I would build a house while putting movies and walks in the park and the rest of the world “on hold.”

I’m still looking for full-time employment as a communicator. Thanks to Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times, who trade pay for my ability, and the writing I contribute to the Illinois Pilots Association and American Aviation Historical Society, I believe my poetry — at least the cognitive ability, perspective of the mind of a poet are shared in my journalism. I LOVE JOURNALISM. I am curious about everything when it comes to writing for pay. I told the recently departed SBJ editor that I am game to write about anything except women’s  health, not because I am against women being healthy, but because I believe any competent journalist who is a woman will write about women’s health more competently than any competent male journalist. I believe the POET in me imparts an element to my style that people who have read my writing often appreciate. They don’t appreciate it to the degree they would hire me to write full-time. When someone does, I’ll resume posting more frequently here at Honey & Quinine.

My brother is demised (two months ago), my sister Dorothy has disowned me, there is no wife, no love life, no kids growing or grown. No one is invested in me. That’s not to say there is no one interested in me. I’m grateful for that. And I’m interested in people who are interested in me . . . . and even some who are not. There is nothing to prove to anyone dear to me because no one is dear to me. I LIKE a bunch of people and they know who they are.

The last time I shared more than an hour of company with a human whose friendship over the years, whose opinion and advice I cherished and respected, my desire to chat was held at arm’s CAUTION length so she could hear an essay read on an NPR news program as she tidied up her terrific kitchen. The same tacit imperative silenced even a third person, dearer than I. And for the first five minutes of frozen silence, I respected the mood and the right of my host to hear the essay sans interruption. Then I mouthed a “thanks” and “goodnight” to the third person and drove home without turning on the stupid radio.

I am engaging the aviation  museum because my actions generate positive outcomes and there are no fragile egos to placate with plastic pro-forma compromising of truths.

I have no ego at the museum. I have expectations there, and not all are met. And that’s okay. Almost every day I work there is like going to an air show. There will be airplanes on the tarmac that I may photograph (or not), people who want to engage me, often teach me, and permit me to show them a thing or two.

If my life were a banquet, the Museum would be my gravy. What I need is meat.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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