Archive for February, 2011

Oh Hiatus Away from a Pathete
by Job Conger

‘Til the AeroKnow Museum
becomes  what it needs to be,
I’ll have no time to savor
moments sharing  poetry.
I’ve sold my books already, friends,
to those inclined to buying.
Pretending my lyrics pass
for poetry is artsy lying.
Repeating what I’ve rattled off
a thousand times is cruel.
When I write another poem
I can share, who’ll hear it? YOU will!

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February 16 — 8:15 pm
I wrote the poem above while working late at AeroKnow Museum Wednesday evening. The collection which is within a few months of being properly arranged and tempo of progress increases as the weather warms. The new priority has forced me to cut back on time spent elsewhere.

After writing it off the cuff so to speak and posting it while visiting a friend’s Facebook announcement of the poetry reading, I noticed I had let some typo errors come through undetected and uncorrected. You can’t edit comments on Fb after you’ve posted them and that’s where I posted the poem. Then I realized I had not given the impromptu a title. When an acquaintance posted a comment at the same friend’s announcement, the title came to me in a flash, I tweaked the poem while correcting the typos and decided to share it with you here at H&Q.  I hope you like it.


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The spam from the hardware store didn’t mean what it said, but millions of readers understood, just the same. Perhaps I should have found comfort in the solace reaped from that unhappy conclusion. After all there is a satisfaction “element” in the success when something communicated by a paramecium is understood by those nominally, by coincidence of birth, better blessed between the ears. 

Instead I was angered over the communicator’s incapacity and then depressed in my understanding that it’s not a big deal. The advert headline said “Come to Ace Hardware for all of your home improvement needs.”

Did you, the H&Q reader get angry or even mildly bothered by that quote?

I go to Dynasty Asian Cuisine for a delicious lunch. I attend gatherings of Springfield (Illinois) Poets and Writers Group for an enjoyable evening of poetry and song. I go to Washington Park for a fine photo session with transient ducks.  Let me tell you what I do not do. I will never go to Washington Park for my needs. Why not? Because there are no needs at Washington Park, or the poetry group or in the restaurant’s tasty Basil Chicken.

There are no needs at The Granite Guy, 3755 N. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, Illinois. I know this because I asked the owner George Jaworski. He replied, “Wee have no kneedz her. (Did I mention he probably flunked every spelling exam he ever took? True story.) I digress.

The “lovely, rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore, nameless here forever more,” who shared part of my home with me, platonically, for a few months in 2009, offered me no needs. 

Needs don’t wait to be possessed on a plate or shelf in a hardware store. Needs are possessed by those who own them. They are possessed by sentient beings and by many Republicans too.

I don’t intend to visit Ace Hardware for needs that are not theirs to give me. I don’t desire to possess any more needs than I have at present, and I wouldn’t mind  reducing the number of needs I possess by satiating and otherwise satisfying most of them.

I will visit Ace Hardware for tomato seeds.  I will visit Ace near Walnut and Jefferson for redwood (thank you very) mulch.  I will not visit Ace for what they cannot provide: a meal, amore, a long winter’s nap.  That’s okay. I am a man of practical aspirations.

But for them to suggest to innocents expecting to find needs on their shelves, I consider the advertisement I read earlier today a lamentable FRAUD committed against citizenry undeserving of such deceit.  That’s why I say,

Ace Hardware, don’t communicate with your bowels; communicate with your (collective) brain.  Don’t sully the language with the unflattering aroma of what we typically excrete into porcelain bowls with gurgling water and broadcast on AM talk radio.

The world will be better for your consideration, and you will be better for it too.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Suddenly Indispensable

A few weeks ago I visited the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES, tax supported employment agency) and left on what James Brown might have called “the good foot,” resolved to get cracking with the search for a viable employer. Over the next 48 hours I signed into the system on my home computer, searched jobs listed and signed up with some of the links at their site including “job.com” (that should have been MY website, chuckle chuckle) which wanted only to sell me services and the local Manpower temporary agency. I didn’t follow up by visiting the agency or returning to IDES. The weather got in my way.

Frustrated by a printer than refused to work after I cleared a paper jam in December, I was lucky to be assisted by friends across the street who printed five copies of my revised resume. That should have been my last excuse for not walking in “cold” to receptionists at businesses where I WANT TO WORK (advertising/public relations/news enterprises where writers work) and simply placing on the desk an open resume and cover letter . . . . . not even in an envelope . . . . . . and asking to speak with anyone who would consent to speak with me. I didn’t do anything with even one of the resumes. The weather got in my way.

. . . . . I have a working printer now. Last week I took a very close look, while on the verge of pitching the deletable expletive into the nearest waste bin, and discovering I had re-connected the thing the wrong way after  “The Great December Paper Jam.” It works great. . . . . .

Then in seeped The Great Thaw of ’11 and with it more random disarray. After w0rking as few as five hours a week at my lifeline, the stone fabricator’s showroom on “the edge of the world” and resolving — with encouragement plenty from Honey & Quinine and a some who don’t read it — to jettison my presence from “the stony quagmire on the east side of purgatory” I’ve been told by the owner he has decided to give me more hours, that things are looking up. Now I’m suddenly indispensable.

Soon after the relief of his interest in engaging me more hours came delight tempered with PROBATIONARY OVERTONE: an assignment from my favorite news monthly that began with “I am going against my better judgment and giving you a major assignment for the March issue if you are interested . . . .” There were reasons for the caution, and for a few days I felt I was dancing for the hangman, but I had been double-quick to gratefully accept the assignment, poured my heart and all my journalism acumen into it while declining hours “on the east side of purgatory” . . . . and produced an article warmly received and well-liked by the publisher. “Delight” doesn’t approach my reaction to the positive outcome shared by the gentleman who took a chance on me and was rewarded.

So today I’m fact checking for my favorite local news weekly. The writing I’m fact checking and updating is for the annual Visitors Guide distributed all over Springfield. I wrote the words at least a year ago, but chances are things change — phone numbers, open hours, website address — and we want to be current this year. My first contribution to the Visitors Guide was in 2002. It’s been a regular gig.

Instead of working six hours a day at the AeroKnow Museum I’m still setting up at the local airport, I’m working three or four after the quittin’ whistle blows out east, maybe four hours on a Saturday, and probably six on a Sunday. And now that the weather is improving, I want to work there even more because there is so much to do! But first things first, meaning what Thalia Menninger —  in the TV show “The Adventures of Dobie Gillis” starring Dwayne Hickman — described as “buttering my parsnips” and I describe as “feeding the people to whom I owe withering sums of money.”

It is amazing how many things get in the way of what should be a simple process!

As long as he’s paying the insurance and letting me drive my only motored vehicle, I am linked to the east side of purgatory as a stool pigeon’s feet are “linked” to new concrete “boots” while chatting with his avenging brethren pier-side.  The employer, like concrete boots, is not arbitrarily a “bad thing” if I maximize the potential of the circumstance.

So here I am, suddenly indispensable, improving my sub-thoracic muscle tone,  running in place with heavy feet and hoping that the creek don’t rise.

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

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An Expensive Slip

Yesterday’s post described my sudden fall getting out of the truck with a hand on the vehicle to steady me as I walked around to the front porch and the other hand full of things from an early morning interview. One and a half steps into the trek, I fell face first. My Sony Mavica camera and the rest of me kissed my neighbor’s ice-crust-topped snowy front yard about the same time. I reported that aside from the snowy semi-dunking, there were no injuries. This I thought until I tried to take a photograph of another person connected to my story slated for the March Springfield Business Journal.

I was using the Mavica because I had discovered a hair in my Canon lens a few days earlier. I tried shaking and blowing and wiping, but nothing moved the hair out of the view. So the Mavica, my stalwart “everyday” camera became my backup for the visit this morning.  It was only after trying for five minutes to get it to warm up to “ready for action” mode that it became obvious the camera had taken its last picture.

No big deal. The Canon was available at the airport AeroKnow Museum. Only problem was I’d have to take pictures with my telephoto lens because of the hair in the smaller lens. BOOM! Out to the airport and back to my interviewee. The ice on his parking lot was a challenge, but neither of us slipped.  BOOM over to Hill Camera Repair to see if my friend Irv could clean the hairy Canon lens.

He DID, bless him! He told me there were other tiny bits that should be removed, and I promised I’d return with the Canon for a thorough cleaning next week. And after leaving it with him, I will be without something I have owned every day of my life since June 1958: a working camera!

Haven’t spent more than 45 seconds at AeroKnow Museum since Tuesday and haven’t worked an hour at Rock Circus on the edge of the world since Wednesday. When I have “ticket to write” from a person who promises more than a scratch behind the ears and a benign smile, my LIFE is the STORY ASSIGNMENT. You’d think this kind of dedication would make me a full=time journalist who could drive his own car and maybe get lucky on a Saturday night now and then.

And you would be wrong!

The bleat goes on.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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A two-packet bowl of Apples & Cinnamon Quaker Instant Oatmeal at 4 pm. This is not “me.” I don’t snack. I’m calling it a late lunch. It is comfort action on a day when I have come to the end of my rope with the extreme cold that has blanketed this town for more than a week.

When I went to bed last night, I dreaded rising early for an interview with the prime “player” in a story I’m writing for the March Springfield Business Journal. I like getting up early – 5:00 am or earlier — when I have a reason, and if the snow had not been so intrusive, I’d have looked forward to this morning, to arising about 6, showering, reading notes at least once and driving off to the interview over breakfast at a fine restaurant on Springfield’s far southwest side. The nature of my journalism seems confined, coincidentally, to the heart of Springfield, Illinois in this”the city of my discontent” (thank you Mark Harris), and the distant interview destination seemed like Santa Fe or Phoenix from home. I knew going to bed I’d awaken in time, focused on getting to the interview, but for the first time in YEARS I had a disturbing dream and it shook me up.

I was bathing in a large tub like it was my last bath, alone in a room off a large tiled room, conversing loudly with a friend (who lives across the street in real life) justifying my life to him, not holding anything back, more of a rant than dialogue over what seemed like a span of two hours. When I finished my story, a familiar voice whispered “It’s time” to me. I rose, wrapped myself in a towel, and exited into the larger room, There I encountered a former paramour, source of the whispering voice. She was partially disrobed, leaning forward at a dressing table with her head resting on her arms gazing at me but not speaking as I walked out of the room . . . . . . . .  and then I awoke. This was not a happy dream.

I didn’t have time to shower. But as I pulled into second gear beginning the trek, southwest bound on the veryvery cold ice-packed  street, the sun and crystalline blue sky took the cobwebs away. The drive was a delight, the interview and breakfast the same.

Home again, I carefully exited the toasty-warm truck, arms full of camera and documents, steadied myself with a hand on truck’s front left fender. I began a tentative step toward the front porch and I slipped on the cantankerous ice, landed flat in the icy snow in my neighbor’s yard! No harm done; I was freezing; not hurt.  With the assurance of a blind tightrope walker walking the wire in a hurricane, I resumed, standing, gathering my ice-besotted camera etc., and inching my way to my front porch. After reaching the hand rail, the front door came easy.

Yes, I HAD shoveled a lot of snow from around the truck but there were patches of ice, hard, unpredictable ice coat over the top of snow patches. Incredibly hard, the slickest deviltry under foot I have ever trod. If I had parked by my sidewalk, a technique discouraged by statute in this town, I wouldn’t have slipped. It’s as clean as though ’twere June.

I arrived in the toasty living room, snow melting from hands, shoes, camera and a prepared document from the interview, like I had walked away from a train wreck. A fast cup of coffee brought me back to a positive mental attitude and I began making phone calls and getting the rest of the article together. Made decent progress but got stymied when failed to connect with the two remaining “essential” media liaisons. I left word on voice mails and caught my breath during the Charlie Rose Show repeat. I wasn’t hungry after the excellent breakfast at Perkins.

Returning to the office, I piddled most of the afternoon away (including seven or eight games of computer solitaire) waiting for two media flaks to return my calls. Had they called back, I would have been focused and sharp for brief interviews, but my brain was temporarily “offline” for any AeroKnow tasks.  I could not leave to put some time in at AeroKnow Museum because I had to stay close to the phone. About 1:30, the full impact of what must have been less a “long winter’s nap” than I thought I had had, my icy tumble and fading “joi de vivre” hit me like a brick wall, and I put my head on my arms on a desk-side table, trying to catch 40 winks — unlike Mary Ann from my dream, with ALL my clothes on — and listening to BBC radio on WUIS report live from Cairo. I must have slept a little because I found myself a mite refreshed when I arose to fortify my resolution for a more productive remainder of the day with more coffee and lots of it.

It’s time for a cell phone in my life. There is surely a budget plan for a bloke likely to use it maybe 15 times a month and even then mostly to receive calls from media flaks who take their time returning calls to pesky journalists.

Time for another cup of coffee and another stab at productive work before the sun goes down. I have 20 minutes . . . and I’ll likely have dinner with Charlie Rose at 10, and with luck a better slumber. There’s no wine in the house. But tonight I wouldn’t touch it if there were. My state of mind is my own best agent for retreat into slumber.

I am ready for spring. I take this cold hard ice personally. Friday will bring a second face to face interview and a trip to a nearby Radio Shack to talk about cell phones.

I shall prevail tomorrow.

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

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Those lucky enough to live through age 35 acquire wisdom from the early years that the many travails suffered are eventually resolved. The searing heat, the harsh tidal wave of a friend or lover walking away in anger cools and dissipates on the beach with the passage of time. For many the wisdom that comes with 36 through 61 settles the mind, and for the brightest and most successful of us, the wisdom earned continues for the rest of our lives. Others, who have not connected to their “happily ever afters” begin to see they were not as wise as they thought.

When I was shoveling snow Wednesday, not sweating up a storm, happily chatting with neighbors doing likewise in the mid-morning sun, I thought I was tracking true to completing the task at hand: clearing the walks and my driveway up to the rear tires of my truck. But as, bending at the knees, I began to lift another shovel full of bright white, I felt something pop in my lower back. I had learned not to be a hero with the shovel, so I returned it to the porch and myself to the house. Took a few aspirin (the first two I’ve taken in probably 10 years) from what I’m sure is a near-antique collector’s bottle of Bayer my dad left behind when he departed in ’94 which he had purchased probably in 1978! I felt okay for the rest of the day. Sure I could tell something was sub-nominal, and when I stood to walk to the kitchen or elsewhere it felt like my upper body was balanced precariously on a pin sticking out of my sacroiliac. Later in the day after the aspirin expired, I felt like a 98 year old doddering into the kitchen, but I left the apirin alone because it seemed my body was telling me how to carry my torso better while being more acutely sensitive to the consequence of not carrying it correctly.

By Wednesday morning, I knew I was much better, so I brushed the snow off the truck, spent some time at AeroKnow Museum and when I returned home in the fading afternoon, I gently, slooooowly shoveled more snow from the perimeter around the truck. Didn’t hurt a thing; no pain.

The snow also compromised the backbone of my resolve to find new employment pronto. On one hand, my allowing weather passing minor back discomfort (which depressed me. Don’t YOU get depressed when you’re ill or you bruise a big toe?) to affect what I can accomplish behind a warm computer seems incredibly wussy of me and simply acknowldging the shame does not change the course I’m steering today. I tell myself “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down. It matters how many times you get up.” But I know the pain is not as bad as I describe and neither is the depression. What I’m doing is cold — terribly stupid and counter-productive, but cold just the same –mindless calculating that I will be blessed with a more determined attitude to GET WORKING toward finding any employer AFTER MY LITTLE STORM BLOWS OVER.  I know I may appear to be kidding “myself,” (though I feel determined that my attitude WILL change) but I am not manipulating my destiny as well as I like to imagine I am.

There will always be another storm.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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from the front porch Tuesday morning

I hadn’t planned to work at Rock Ville Monday, but when I was offered a chance to earn a few pesos, I took it. Told Jorge I’d run for home the minute the sleet started to fall, I’d be out of the showroom faster than you could say “slip sliding away,” but when it really began to get rolling I decided to stay for the duration, until 5 pm. When the “whistle blew” (Does any American under 40 years old know what that means?), Jorge scraped the ice off the windshield and window while I sat in the warming interior with my foot on the brake pedal since there’s no working  emergency brake and with the engine running, warming the ice from underneath, I couldn’t have scraped the ice.

I drove to the airport and AeroKnow Museum early into “rush hour” because I knew I didn’t want to drive into the city from my outpost “on the edge of the world” (northeast perimeter of the city) with the sleet coming down pretty hard and a bunch of speed-crazed hop heads passing me as though I was a doddering centenarian at the wheel. The normal trip of about eight minutes to the airport took me about 15 minutes; not bad, and instead of averaging 50 mph as usual, I averaged about 30. Waiting until 6:40, time for the rush hour to clear and the salt trucks to get some sodium chloride onto the streets was smart.

The drive was a challenge but not frightening on the four-way into the city, and from North Grand to Vine, it was a breeze. The Street Department trucks had done a TERRIFIC job. BRAVO! I spent the rest of the evening saying silent “thank yous” to Divine Providence.

My resolution to get serious with my search for an employer crumbled Tuesday and continues Wednesday. I DID spend some time on the Web Tuesday morning, completing a form with the Illinois employment service, but I became a barnacle after that. SNOW DAYS — no school, my conscience was almost guilt-free as I worked on the AeroKnow web site and organizing photo files all the day.  The snow appeared severe coming down about 4 pm, but I decided to shovel as much as I could so there’d be less the next time.  I braved the chill to shovel a little of it off the walkway, but the wind blowing west at 40 mph and gusting to more sapped my resolution PRONTO. I returned
about 6:30 better dressed and lasted longer, but the wind had increased, and the snow was ferocious, I could hear it almost like hail on a tin roof. The wind sounded like a freight train, and the tought of branches falling down on me as I futilely flailed away took all the “Errol Flynn” element out of my crusade. I took it personally. There was no point continuing if 15 minutes later, only GOD would know I had tried.

On the positive side, PBS television broadcast three hours of the best programming I have seen in my life between 7 and 11. Tremendous retrospective of early TV crime shows, a Frontline about the inconsistent competence of coroners and a knockout Charlie Rose. I skipped the James Taylor/Carole King show at 9. It was a repeat.

my truck Wednesday morning at 11 a

I had planned to shovel snow at noon, but the sun looked so good, I made an early start about 11 and had made a dent when I returned to get the camera.


neighbor Judy and her new Dalmatian making pathways through the deep white



Judy's gerbil -- I know she's not a gerbil, but the little beast is as cute as a gerbil. Her name is Peggy. Note my shoes: the same I will wear to my next interview with a potential employer if I ever find one. I know -- DUMB.

I shoveled, enjoying the fine proximity of Judy next door and Mark across the street who brought us fresh coffee! WOTTA GENTLEMAN!

I shoveled everything but the foot and a lalf of driveway directly behind my truck and was ready to do that when I felt something break in my lower back. I’m old enough to recognize a minor back sprain when I feel it so I stopped shovelling and came inside to take more pictures.

charcoal, cooking utensils and a half a bag of grass seed on the back deck

back deck from the bedroom window

upside down watering can on the back deck mezzanine

snowy Ponderosa

If Jorge doesn’t ask me to work the Rock Ville showroom on the edge of the world Thurs, I will, but I’ll carry State employment materials so I can search for openings with employers that pay me regularly for the tomatoes I pick. By the grace of God and a generous publisher, I also have a Springfield Business Journal assignment for the next issue. Until I’m back in the streets, Im treading water here, jogging in place as they say. I’m okay with this. As long as I’m not doing things the “world” calls legitimate, you can be sure of this for sure:

I’m working like a man possessed on the business of AeroKnow Museum.

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







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