Archive for January, 2011

Last Sunday I was served with a summons to reply to a complaint filed in county court regarding my overdue bill to my roofing contractor. Not even the news of my brother Bill’s death last October hit me harder. He lived in Florida. My roofing contractor lives 20 blocks away. A call to my lawyer/neighbor friend’s office generated some good advice and the news that he’s too under the weather to take on my case. He is SERIOUS serious ill, and my prayers are with him. He advised me to visit the county building Recorder of Deeds and the Circuit Court offices to learn what liens are on my home and what specifically was being asked by the contractor. I did the day after he called with the excellent advice.  My initial consuming dismay was tempered by the consolation that I am being directed to respond in writing to the complaint. I don’t have to appear in court as I thought.

Even so, the improvement in my understanding revealed it not to be a commutation; just a delay of what promises to be a “mechanical lien” which will be complicated by the home equity loan I’m paying off. The bank has first dibs on the house if I walk under a black cat tomorrow. More important than the sticky details is the impact of a CLARION CALL for me to find a real employer ASAP. Thursday morning I learned one reality. Today, I visited the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). I was given a brochure and three pages of advice in print, including links to employment agencies and Illinois’ own incredible website. I spent about three hours visiting agencies, getting a job search account with IDES and beginning the sign-up process with Manpower.

I came to a brick wall when I was asked to list my employment history. I knew I’d have to choose my facts carefully and my challenge was compounded by my inability to print a copy of my own resume because my printer at the home office is broken, the printer at AeroKnow Museum is out of ink, and I didn’t feel like sending it to my part-time employer on Dirksen Parkway to print it on his computer because the showroom is a long-haul from  home. I sent it to myself at the employer anyway because I’m working there awhile Saturday, and at least I can print a hard copy. I’m also sending a PDF to the printer business next door so I’ll have some hard copies next week.

Not that I suppose it will do me any good. It’s geared to writing and publication production which is what I’ve been doing the most of for 15 years freelance. I’ll also post it in a separate file here at Honey & Quinine.

I spoke with four counselors at IDES, three only briefly. One recognized me from my writing for Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times, another knew me from my aviation collection and the book Arcadia published, another knew me from my photography and the other knew me from my songwriting and guitar playing.  I told a correspondent a few hours ago, if I were as well-regarded by one employer as I seem to be regarded by many of my friends, I would have paid for my roof by now.

I was counseled that I should tell my friends about my plight. I’m doing more. I’m telling friends and also strangers reading these words as well.

I’ll keep you posted.

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

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Life is a Trolleycar
by Job Conger

Life is a trolleycar in motion
with no station, schedule and
without placarded limits to
the breadth of dreams I bring aboard.

It appears not at certain times
Whenever I awake from sleep
or mindless idleness, it’s there
I board and ride and willingly.

The trolley driver takes no fare
and steers to no stark end of line
but takes me where I chose to go
in whimsy or in bold resolve.

Of late, I board mostly alone
though through the years with company sweet,
the journeys not all comfortable
but satisfied, I ride again.

The view of vistas. summery scenes
and frosty breaths in winter breeze
I would not trade for gold, though love
will always trump horizon’s call.

And I shall board the trolleycar, —
Its clanging clarion bell rings true —
engage the journey as I will
engage the friendship found in you.

—     written 7:13 am, January 25, 2011

I was in the kitchen about 6:30 today, getting my second cup of coffee after awakening at 5:30 am, which is early for me. But I arose anyway and came to the home office to work.  The trolleycar is an anachronism in the 21st century, but I hope it’s not so far gone that people don’t know what it is. There is no one in mind in the final word of the final line. If you read the poem, the “you” is you. The meter shared here came naturally as I wrote the third and later verses. I went back to the start and honed the early ones to match. Rhyme was never a concern. I hope the consistency of meter makes this poem fun to read. I returned to my office from the kitchen, set the cup onto my desk,  closed the file I was working on KNOWING I would write this poem in a neat little concentrated effort and then resume what I was doing. There was nothing more important that writing this poem and followup notes from about 6:3o to 7:25. I will now drink that second cup of coffee. 🙂

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A little hunger is good for a hummin bean. I say this because it has been good for me. Before I recited Lindsay’s poetry at the big house last November, my friend named Bud — not to be confused with a bud named Friend — complimented my trimmer countenance. I suppose I should have been flattered, but I said “The thanks go to the kindness of beneficent poverty, Bud. Cutting back on food to pay bills has worked out pretty well for me.” It was obvious my response was not what he was looking for in a kind observation not meant to set me off like a ladyfinger firecracker, and he didn’t hang around for my recital. On the other hand, he seldom has over the years.

These days, thanks in part to a sub-par social life and frustration developing the aviation museum, I am reaping solace from the end of a butter knife heaped with dollops of Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter. Since December, the jar has been a fixture on my living room end table, like the latest The New Yorker, aviation history book, dirty dinner plate from yesterday and TV remote. Most of the time, I leave the knife in the open jar because I’ll have finished the contents before the lethal bacterial elements wafting around the air like invisible clouds shaped like Volkswagens and 30s Chevy Coupes can establish a threatening beachhead.

It’s a saner solace than my other house staple: the ubiquitous gallon jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy wine, the straight man Abbot to the peanut butter Costello. I can eat to excess and read, and when I want to read it’s the more logical opiate. On the other hand, my evenings don’t seem to be as productive as they used to be, thanks to a growing pointlessness to it all, to the game. So the overall loss is less important than it used to be. My best hours of the day are between 7:30 and 6 anyhoo, and my failing to maintain after dinner is simply in step with this growing nation of “Homers” called the United Snakes of America. It’s my country and I love it, but the growing return to pointless paunch isn’t helping my outlook.

For the last month or so I’ve been eating about a large jar a week. That’s a might too much. I know this because my belt is getting tighter and I know the leather isn’t shrinking.

So early into Sunday, I put the yellow plastic lid back on the jar of Peter Pan and returned it to the low shelf of the kitchen cabinet above the counter. Then I cleaned up the living room to get ready for the playoff game between the Packers and the Bears, having become a devoted fan of the pigskin sport in the last eight or nine days for the first time in about a year. As the game started, I heated half a roast chicken and sat down with hot bird and an iced tea glass of burgundy for the game. I have never had better reception on my non-cable TV. The meal was almost like Christmas in significance until the first drive of the game that netted the Pack a fast seven points. So I ate and paid attention anyway. But I needed more than chicken so I returned to the kitchen for desert: a peanut butter sandwich with strawberry preserves and Imperial margarine on Bunny Whole Wheat Bread.

I will no longer keep “the crunch” on my end table. It’s too easy to NOT be hungry when it is so THERE. A dollop on the knife with a swig of tea, swishing it around in the mouth like I’m panning for gold in the Rockies, feeling the PB dissolve, sifting the peanut morsels from the solution as I swallow the liquid a little at a time — sometimes two swigs are required — then munching away on the peanuts. I should save myself some bother and just buy some peanuts, but they’re more expensive than Peter Pan. If I had my druthers, my solace of choice would be salted cashews and Wild Turkey, but that’s beyond my pay grade today.

In the meantime, I’m resolving to eat only at mealtimes. I can miss a lunch if I eat a late breakfast or I’m having an excellent day. I envy my friend Joe’s Facebook reports that he’s just returned from walking at Washington Park (three blocks from my house)  and Lincoln Memorial Gardens at the lake before 7:30 in the AM. Hell I should be doing that. The freedom is mine.  I love to walk, and I could take my camera too. But not in this cold, even though I know I wouldn’t notice it ten minutes into full stride. I need a little hunger in my life.

A little hunger is good for a hummin bean.

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

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I almost never drink coffee after 5 pm because I don’t want swallow more Burgundy than absolutely necessary with dinner to return to earth. Today’s exception is coming as night settles in after what by all rights should have been a total loss of an afternoon.

Yesterday when I began work on an article for Springfield Business Journal an article I could have written last Tuesday after a terrific lunch, photographs and interviews at Sangamo Club, the last thing you might expect of me happened.

No, I didn’t take a shower; it was worse than that. My micro-cassette tape full of quotable quotes and banter from this city’s beautiful people snapped and the end of rewinding it. In that moment of blinding dismay, I cursed the luck that I had stopped recording interviews on transistorized  reel-to-reel recorders with little three-inch open reels I had used until about 1967. Breaks in the early acetate tapes were almost often until the cutting edge Mylar began replacing the more brittle plastic. Breaks could be repaired, spliced back together on a small apparatus with special adhesive  tape that resembled today’s “Magic” tape but was thinner. When the repaired reel played, there was just a small burble as the splice passed over the pickup head. I considered prying the micro-cassette apart with scissors and trying a splice with the “Magic tape” on my desk nearby. But after successfully ruining the cassette with a bad stab, I knew it was a lost cause. What to do?

I called the prime subject of the article in late afternoon yesterday and interviewed him again, then put calls into two “second source” individuals, neither of whom was home. I e’d editor/publisher describing my plight, promised the article sans second sources by late Tuesday and to re-send it with second source commentary when one of those I was trying to reach called back and I’d added the required additional perspective.  It was a long night, and a long morning today until the gentleman I had emailed (he’s a Facebook friend) called. Though I had no number for the second person I wanted to interview, I found her on Facebook, sent her a message asking her to call me and giving my number, aaaaaaand inviting her to be a Facebook friend. She called back during lunch and I advised her the article was finished and thanked her.

The completed article went to editor/publisher a hair before noon and after lunch I felt the way I used to feel after a major a capella choir concert in high school and college. D R A I N E D. This despite the load off my shoulders thanks to the article delivered to publisher and the load in my G-I tract from a lunch that included what felt like a pound too much of Peter Pan crunchy peanut butter. I was tired. I wanted to take a nap. I even lay my head on folded arms at my office desk because real men don’t lie down to “nap” before 7 and even then, only after dinner. The snooze lasted just long enough for a phone solicitor to awaken me 10 minutes later. The return to consciousness convinced me I didn’t need to nap; I needed coffee and plenty of it.

As the first cup began to kick in I determined I was NOT going to be unproductive and I realized — as though struck by a rampaging epiphany — that it was time to start on the biography of a Springfield pilot I promised to write.

John Thornton Walker was born in Springfield. His dad was a fireman, and he grew up on the 600 block of south Douglas. He became an aviator who flew liaison planes in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations and was working closely with General Mark Clark when his life came to an end. The working title of the book which will be published by AeroKnow Museum is Story of a Hero Who Did Not Come Home.


Pictured left: John Thornton Walker of Springfield, Illinois in Italy 1944

From about 1:50 through the afternoon I’ve been getting things together. I won’t bore you with details. I found I was coming out of my semi-catatonia as I made progress with this early action and continued quaffing Senor Valdez’ favorite brew juan cup at a time. By 4:30 I was actually smiling and having fun. By 6:30 I was ready for dinner, but I didn’t stop. And at 7 I made my last cup for the day, even though I’m going to return to the book writing after posting these words. Most of the rest of my time on this task will be shared at my AeroKnow Museum blog — http://aeroknow.wordpress.com

It seems odd to be riding caffeine this deep into the evening, but it’s working. I feel synchronised with the rhythm of the day as I have since about 2 this afternoon.

I live on production, and these days I’m producing a museum. Poetry is in the back seat of my life. For the second month in a row, I’m not attending the Springfield Poets and Writers Group poetry open mic at Robbie’s restaurant in lyrical downtown chillyville. I MUST get the museum going, volunteers and dollars, newsletter, a more engaging website and the rest. When that happens, I’ll return to poetry.

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


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Dick Smothers stepped up to the microphone after Tom melodiously rendered the first notes on their comedy album, saying, “Tom, what in the world are you doing?!”

“Oh, I just wanted to sing about eight bars.”

The audience laughed. So did I. The year was 1966. I still smile when I think of it.

I also smile when I think of a recent request I made following WMAY (970  — the noose and talk of Springfield) radio’s Kirk Farah revealed he uses Lifebouy. On Facebook, I asked where he purchases Lifebouy. The answers from responders there were what Gibbons hurling excrement are to the playoff game between the Bears and Packers. So go figure. Ask an honest question expecting an honest answer and suddenly I feel like Nellie in the Rogers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific. “If you’ll excuse an expression I use. . .” I had expected better. So if you live in Springfield, Illinois, let’s see if you can do better.

Do you encounter Lifebouy — the BLUE bar — in the soap aisle when you grocery shop? What store and where do you encounter it?

Live long, “stay nice and clean, shave every day and you’ll always look keen” . . . . . . and proper.

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Sunday Epiphany
by Job Conger
written 9:15 am, Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday morning sunshine is beautiful to me.
I said goodbye to last week in my sleep last night.

The remnants of dreary shortcomings are flushed and forgotten
in the sacred power of Sabbath Day
as the light of the forever son and sun
illumines hope and resolution for incipient tomorrows,
returns to the shadows the shallow drear,
restores to my heart the hope of second chances
and chances after: beginning now, mine
for the taking, to engage anew, renewed,
in heart and voice
to shape my life as the miracle of mud —
moist dust that became life
and shall return to dust —
true, and blessed in truth.

In the Sunday morning sunshine
I delight in what I am
and what I am certain to become:
a child of light
reflecting light
in the world of wanderers
embraced by darkness.


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About a week ago, I was semi-traumatized when I arose from an evening nab taken after a terrific three hours of picking and grinning (I’m not into noses; I carry a guitar) at Gallery II’s First Friday extravaganza. I awoke to find the loose lens in the prescription eye glasses I bought seven years ago totally gone from its frame in my shirt pocket and from the face of the earth!. “To a hot place with this,” I said to no one in particular as I set the damaged frame on the end table and toddled off to the bed chamber for a long winter’s nap.

The search began in earnest — more accurately, in my house — the next morning. Over the next five days I searched for the missing lens everywhere I had been since coming home about 8:30 that night and found nothing. I even used my year-old Oreck vacuum in a place I’ve not vacuumed since 1998: my living room. The hope was to pick up the small bits in the hopes of revealing, and recovering the lens. I shook the sheets and quilt in the bedroom anticipating the sound of wayfaring glass (or prescription plastic; I don’t know) against the hardwood floor. No sound. I dug my hand into the deep dark recesses of the big easy chair where I had napped Friday night, That was profitable: I pulled out an assortment of subscription renewal cards for The New Yorker magazine, some used paper napkins, about 25 crunchy Cheetos that I had not consumed over the years and three errant pennys. But I didn’t pull out the lens. And I didn’t eat the Cheetos.

Late into my teens I discovered I had a slight right eye vision shortfall. I could see pretty well from my right eye, but I couldn’t close my left eye and read through the right. Without glasses at all, I can see and read most anything more than three feet away from me that’s reasonably large. But close-in I NEEDED the left-side lens.

I couldn’t afford new prescription glasses. Why? It’s my career choice. Apparently God chose a life of semi-poverty and celibacy (for about the last 10 years) without having to pray for hours at a time before breakfast and after dinner. I am a freelancer; I carry a guitar.

Still, I knew I’d have to settle for drug store reading glasses, and Wednesday after a full day at my part-time job and AeroKnow Museum, I visited CVS Pharmacy at Sixth and South Grand and purchased same: magnification 3.25 because nothing less would do.

And “do” they did to a lesser degree than hoped. Reading glasses seem  to focus at a point fairly close to the eyes, and don’t work beyond that point.  They worked find for reading a book or computer screen, but I soon discovered it was best to leave them in my shirt pocket most of the time. Still, it was a fair return for the dollars spent.

Friday, I was leaving the bank drive-through after buying a bank check for a payment to a company that wants ONLY bank checks that are made of paper and not boomerang-stuff from me. My truck (a loaner from part-time employer for the past two years) has a window winding handle with a little plastic knob that disconnects if the left hand operating it while the right hand steers the vehicle is not perfectly placed. Without major downforce on the knob while moving the handle, the knob breaks off in the hand, and the force often sends it thusly into the map pocket directly under the handle or the driver’s-side floor.

If I hear it bounce onto the floor, immediate search and recovery is required. Why? Because though it seldom falls far from the handle,  it could roll under the accelerator or brake pedal and complicate my life BIGtime by preventing full travel of those pedals when full travel is demanded.  So after not finding the knob in the map case, I began groping around the floor near my seat as I drove to the next stop light. While stopped, I found something I had not seen since last Friday at Gallery II: the lens to my prescription glasses!  After some silent huzzahs and acknowledgements of gratitude to The All-Seeing One, I groped a little more and found the knob-errant, put it back into the socket on the tip of the handle and finished closing the window.

It’s Saturday morning, and I’ve not yet returned the lens to the eyeglass frame with the big hole on the left side. I’m posting this blog wearing my reading glasses. In a few minutes, I will clean both lenses of the prescription glasses after securing the loose element with a rubber band stretched over the extreme left side of the lens and frame to maintain compression and keep it from falling out.

It’s all better now. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.

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

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Imagine that in July 2008 a powerful radio sent a message in the direction of distant star, a message that said “It’s hotter than Hooter in Heater today. . .” My blog post with that headline traveled almost as far when it was picked up when Todd Cooper, an artist in the Eastern USA picked it up in a Google search for those words and was connected to Honey & Quinine. I was quoting The Firesign Theater, a tremendous comedy group that is to the USA what Beyond the Fringe  and Monty Python’s Flying Circus are to Great Britain. Todd contributed a short, cordial comment and wished me well.

I e’d him a thanks for the comment, briefly described my arts activities and interest in expanding to a greater audience than I’ve found thus far. I also found him on Facebook and invited him to be a Fb friend. No word yet. We shall see. I’m okay either way.

It speaks volumes for words we share in blogs that we never know how far the words we write will travel. The feedback renews my belief that I am meant to be a writer and that I am meant to be a writer who is living in better circumstance than I am on this day.

I STILL haven’t published a CD — one for the songs I’ve written and one for the poetry I’ve written and one for the Vachel Lindsay poems I recite and sing — and I remain hamstrung by not knowing how and friends with kind promises to help . . . . . s o m e     d a y . . . . . . . and my present incapacity to hire a tutor. There are 10-year-old children making YouTube videos, and I can’t overcome the challenge a 10-year-old can master. When I play guitar and sing at art gallery receptions, I make grocery money from selling my books of poetry and aviation history. THANK GOD.

I find solace in circumstance when Todd Cooper sends a “ping” back to me as though reflecting a signal sent into the depths of space and time. I am flattered that my words will touch others long after I can. Touching your eyes and perhaps in the future, your ears, will work for me. . . .  as I continue my quest for more.

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

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A Facebook friend recently reported how a customer service rep gave him such a difficult time during a phone call this morning that my Fb friend invited the representative to shove his/her (something) right up his/her (you can imagine what).  In the way that killing (with gas in a chamber or electricity in a chair) innocent people  wrongfully convicted of murder brings satisfaction to those who favor the death penalty, the growing affinity for expressing passing discontent with people or circumstances in words of explosive profanity is a mystery to me. I don’t see the source of satisfaction for unrestrained vitriol for the same reason I don’t see the source of satisfaction to a parent who strikes a child or another adult.

It was clear my Fb friend indeed FELT satisfaction from what (in this posting) is an unquotable, profane, but not profound, controllable  outburst. He was proud. Perhaps in his own words he might have affirmed that he was #@**%%+!  boasting. 

 We are not hard-wired with profanity  in the DNA of Homo sapiens.

(Real fast, readers, should marriage be legal for Homo sapiens?
“Throw them to the @@$*&** jackals you say? You must be very proud.

I responded on Facebook that my friend’s report showed him to be a true child of God. 

Readers who still  believe the president’s health care reform will bring “death squads” to cull those of us who love their country out of the herd may have missed what many call irony in that last sentence, but I’m not accusing anyone. I just want to state for the record that irony  was there, it was intentionally there, and it was not profane.)

I noted in a follow-up comment that deletable expletives don’t make us what we are. We make us what we are. I believe this applies to our non-friends and strangers and to our friends. They don’t control how I react to adversity. I control how I act to adversity. It’s not like the doctor tapping just below my knee when my legs are crossed during physical examination. 

(You know what cross-examination is? It’s the act of having the state of your body’s health evaluated by a cranky physician.)

I can hear some of you thinking “Hey, you #+%! ##@^*)&*!, I’m not trying to be profound ALL the time, so get off my +-)*(&^ !!  I feel your (com)p(l)ain. Sometimes  it’s better to just HURT the one who hurt you. Even the tri-dimensional father/son/holy ghost threw over tables where sacrifices were being sold on a Sabbath Day. So what’s wrong with knocking down a few tables? What’s wrong with killing an occasional innocent human being convicted by a jury purchased by the prosecution with evidence that lied?

Buster Keaton in a classic silent movie, isn’t watching where he’s going and walks into an open man hole in the middle of a busy street.  The first time, it was funny. If the take had been looped to repeatedly replay, it might have been funny a second time, but playing the same action five more times would not generate five more times as much laughter in the movie house. Layer and layer of profanity, even a one-time-only hurling of gutteral bile, doesn’t add to the unhappy coincidence of having a hard time with an inconsiderate customer service representative.

As a writer, I’m here to urge us, as I urge MYSELF, to exercise the capacity for profundity with which all Homo sapiens, Hetero sapiens, Gay sapiens and Lesbian sapiens are endowed by our Creator. (Can you tell I write with a broad brush sometimes?) We can DO this!  LET’S!

The language is beautiful. We don’t have to spread bovine semi-solid waste on a wall when we can paint as well and better  with better pigments in our brush. Chimpanzees hurl their own excrement at each other when they lose at checkers and politics. It seems folly and sad that so many of us to follow their example.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Some years ago a friend read aloud (at a gathering of literaturians) a famous poem entitled something like “When I Am Older, I Shall Wear Purple.” It was written by a woman for women, it seemed, and I subsequently wrote a poem “When I Am Older, I Shall Wear People” to give my take on this business of  “renouncing, haughtily,  the cowadly (cowardly if you prefer) conventionalism of hummin’ beans younger than 50”. Staring this new year, I’ve vowed to engage another way of doing the same though it’s not quite poem-worthy as Elaine might have said on the Seinfeld show.

I have decided to no longer sort my socks.

In the pantheon of clothing options for civilized users of dining utensils, nothing matters less (unless you’re heading off to an interview with a possible employer: I’ll concede this much) to the world as whether or not your socks match. I concluded this as I was getting ready for a shower one Saturday and discovered I had gone all week with a brown sock on my left foot and a navy blue sock on my right foot. The world had not called my attention to this faux pas  for six days! Maybe they were just being polite. I don’t think so. My world which blows off promises the way wind (they call it Maria) blows the stars around and sets the clouds a flyin’ is the same world which would not hesitate a nano-second to verbally accost me for mis-matched socks if it mattered.

And aren’t we all a little too picky-picky-picky and too easily bothered these days? If matched socks were essential to the great American lifestyle, the point would have been severely impressed upon me last week . . . . and it wasn’t.

So here’s one fewer concern for these hard times, one more meaningless convention to abandon because we can.

I can already feel the weight off my shoulders. When I pull my next load o’ laundry out of  the dryer, my socks won’t be matched and paired as ’twas done last month. And when I’ve towel-dried from next Saturday’s shower, I’m going to grab the first two socks I see there in the top drawer of my dresser among my Fruit-of-the Looms and put them on.

And if the world thinks this shirking of apparel propriety is a delusion for monkeys to share, it’s the world’s problem.

It isn’t mine.

Live long . . . . . . .  and proper.

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