Archive for May, 2011

If you happened by the back lot of The Granite Guy on north Dirksen Parkway at 2:30 this afternoon, you’d have noticed a man in a dusty old olive dress shirt and blue jeans that look like they’ve seen rough treatment since 1998. They’re not even his jeans. His employer gave them to him to wear when he has to work outside which has been every day for the last week and a day except for Sunday and Memorial Day. When he was hired in 2009, he was told he’d be maintaining the business web site, taking pictures of the business and installations and telling visiting showroom customers about the wonderments of granite and marble, of which there are many.

But there’s a big push to renovate the storage rooms and back lot, and since the customers aren’t dropping by as often as they used to, and since discovering he can be — as the Beatles once warbled — “lying with his eyes while his hands appear he’s working overtime” just so many times before the owner catches on . . . . he’s working outside —  all day most days.

He submits without visible anger or complaint to the owner who is as true to his word as Prince Charles was to Diannnnnna and Frankie was to Johnny — or maybe it was the other way around. There was no discussion about it,  and it was too hot outside and inside to elevate the discontent into flaming disquietude.  There were two options: comply or walk away.  Walk home or call a cab because the stranger in the dusty shirt would necessarily return the key to the pickup truck to its owner, his employer. And that is one reason he stayed outside today pitching  hurling pieces of discarded granite from a wheelbarrow into a back lot of untended grass. Another reason was that he needs a  job,  and this is the best a man of his modest ability can do in this world.

Earlier this year, his modest ability took him to a small university in Ohio to read a poem at the re-dedication of a museum.  Two United States Air Force generals sent him letters of thanks for their brief tours of the aviation museum he’s developing at Springfield’s airport. In June, he’ll be telling a luncheon meeting about the life and poetry of Vachel Lindsay. On June 3, they will pay him with lunch. On June 29, they will pay him with dinner for essentially the same presentation with 45 minutes of biography and poetry recited instead of 30 at the lunch.  The article he wrote about airline operations at the local airport for Springfield Business Journal earned him a “Great Article” note from his editor and a check for $125.

Life in the fast lane of freelance writing.

How is he going to spend all the dough? Maybe he’ll buy another pair of dress slacks and a short sleeve shirt or two.  Last Saturday he bought the first new clothes to come to the house since 2009.  He’s not buying new clothes from JC Penney to be well dressed pitching chunks of 3 cm granite into an overgrown back lot.  The dusty shirt and jeans should be burned. But he’s not done yet. Tomorrow he will be back out in the back lot wearing the same dusty shirt and ragged jeans doing whatever is required to keep his hand on the one thread connected to focused human camaraderie in his life these days — though there is more and more of this at his aviation museum — though there’s no salary putting  peanut butter between whole wheat.

Someday — someday soon, he hopes — if he is patient, and quiet, he will again greet customers, tell them about the wonderments of granite and marble, answer the phone (callers get voice mail now) take pictures, help with the advertising and work on the web site. The key word is quiet, same as it is when awakening from a nightmare: quiet. You . . . . .
don’t . . . . .
want . . . . .
to. . . . .
disturb . . . . . .
the . . . . . .

Live long . . . . . . . . . . and whisper.


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It was a taste of my dream destiny

approaching Johnny Appleseed Museum, Saturday, March 19,2011

My sponsor and friend Arthur Humphrey wanted to depart Grimes Field (see Part 2) with plenty of time to assure Museum Curator Joe Besecker and other organizers we were on hand for the re-dedication, and that’s what we did. If time permitted afterwards, we would return to the airport, for maybe a cup of coffee, but we were also determined to arrive in Ft. Wayne, Indiana with plenty of afternoon sunlight remaining. We wanted to visit John Chapman’s (Johnny Appleseed’s) grave site in time to take some pictures, spend the night at Ft. Wayne and then make an early start to return to Springfield in time for Arthur to re-trace the path back to Indianapolis and fly home to Florida.

The weather for the re-dedication was “picture perfect.”

the crew that gave me the day

As soon as we arrived, Arthur quickly connected to the key players. Pictured left to right above, Arthur Humphrey, Joe Besecker, Mrs. Francis Hazard and the immediate past president of Urbana University, former United States Air Force officer and gentleman, Dr. Hazard.

Urbana University's Student Union

We learned we had some time to relax, so we visited the Student Union and planned the appearance in detail over coffee.  When we returned half an hour later, people, including news media from nearby Springfield, Ohio, were arriving. I changed from street clothes into the clothes I would wear when I read “In Praise of Johnny Appleseed, Part I, Over the Appalachian Barricade.”  Call me silly, but I want to appear — at first glance — to be “the performer;” not someone who is on his way to catch the next freight train out of town OR for one of the invited or ticket-buying audience.

Nobody likes a museum re-dedication on an empty stomach.

The culinary triumph of the day, apple dumplings or something like that, maybe baked apples.

My only regret was that I did not sample the apples.  The whole sumptuous array was tempting, but as a RULE I do not eat before “performing” in public. Things were busy after, and I totally missed my chance. Aaaah, the breaks of show bidness!    🙂

The ribbon before the ceremonial scissory.

The re-dedication went very well from start to finish. I stood in the back of the room as things transpired. Nice welcomes, speeches from the current president of the university (a surprise since he’s not a big advocate for the Museum) and Joe Besecker who introduced Arthur who introduced me. It was the best introduction of my life. He covered the bases authentically, from knowing me and corresponding with me; not from a prepared script.
I thrive on good vibes, and this “house” was full of them! Here I was not the “character” I have become in Springfield, Illinois. For one thing I felt welcome. Unlike much of my time in hometownsville, I felt I was NOT intruding. I intended to honor the man whose genius created the poem I had been asked to read, and I wanted Springfield, Illinois a place THEY would want to visit.  I think I accomplished those goals. It was probably my best reading of any poem I have given in my life.

Even though I prefer to recite Vachel Lindsay’s poems, there had not been time to memorize the part I was invited to share. As I read from the same handout I would distribute after the ceremony, I found un-anticipated security in the paper that remained on the podium. The security was the assurance that I would not be at a loss for words if something distracted me as I spoke. My eye left the page often, and I made frequent eye contact with the audience, but I always knew exactly where I was in the poem, and returning eyes to the paper was like returning to the fabric of a trampoline: I knew my eyes would touch exactly where they needed to touch and the poem would continue without hesitation. (This assurance comes from practicepracticepractice, btw,) There would be no sudden stops in the rhythm to recall the phrase that came next.  The reaction at the conclusion was more than I dreamed it would be.

publication for the occasion

As we had traveled to Ohio, while reading the 12-page 8.5 x 11 inch booklet containing the entire poem, a few pages and photos of Vachel Linday and a little dab about me, which I had produced at my initiative to distribute, I found — to my chagrin — some minor typos, and just because there were just a few, I was not “cool” with that. Before I read, I knew I’d produce a “second edition” to send to the Museum to distribute in the months ahead. I didn’t tell the audience this for the same reason  I would not apologize for, say,  a soft drink stain on my shirt. That information was not relevant to the task at hand. But soon after returning home I produced the version shown above and sent almost 200 to the Museum.

After the re-dedication ceremony I played my guitar, sang some of my songs and some Vachel Lindsay poems I had set to music and sold my books of poetry and aviation for about an hour. It was not part of the official program, so only those who wandered into the room lingered a few minutes to hear a tune or two and then moved on. The sole exception was Francis Hazard’s kind wife. I believe there was more than simple interest in my music involved; there was also humanitarian concern for a visitor whom she wanted to assure with her presence, that she and the Johnny Appleseed Museum and Education Center valued my presence there.  It was all informal, and I jabbered almost as much as I sang, between occasional book sales so it would be wrong for me to suggest I was playing Carnegie Hall to an empty house. I don’t think Tiny Tim would have done any better. I was happy with what I did. I hadn’t come there to “practice.” I came to perform, and performing is like flying: any time engaging the activity is time well spent; from this we learn and grow.

Note to Mrs. Hazard.  THANK YOU

As the numbers of visitors wafting through the room began to diminish, I stowed the guitar and enjoyed seeing the rest of the museum.

Gee, Songs About Johnny Appleseed. What's this?

WOW! Six songs; well not exactly. . . .

HEY look at the one in the middle. I can HEAR me. So can YOU!

THAT was major ripple in the outflow from the splash I made at the podium earlier: seeing my name among such distinguished and famous others.

I did not sit at this table. Why break a perfectly good chair?

As easy as it was coming, it was hard saying goodbye to the Museum and its convivial staff. In the Souvenir Shop I was intrigued by original clay creations glazed with colorful coatings. I purchased an open apple-shaped candy or serving plate which I would later present to Jennie Battles at Vachel Lindsay State Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. I also purchased a glazed clay apple with the name of the Museum kilned into it. Francis Hazard gave me an official Johnny Appleseed Museum pin which I permanently affixed to my technicolor jacket’s left lapel. A few minutes later I learned that pin is given only to members of the Museum Society support organization and a few minutes after that Arthur told me he had given me a gift membership! What a terrific gesture!

The official certificate, suitable for framing arrived at my home May 17.. It will soon be displayed behind glass in a frame in my home office.

Arthur and I bade the Museum a fond farewell about 3:00 and boogied over the Ft. Wayne, Indiana and the grave site of Jonathan Chapman.

The start of a monumental event, Ft. Wayne, Indiana

The fourth and concluding part of this trilogy
. . . . . .  Whispers To and From Beyond . . . . . . . .
will be shared here at Honey & Quinine next week.

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

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On Sunday, May 29, from noon to 5 pm, AeroKnow Museum welcomes all visitors with birthday cup cakes and coffee (soft drinks and cold water cooler water also available) as we observe the start of our second year in our new home at Landmark Aviation, Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, Springfield, Illinois.

The daily log I’ve kept since that first day of moving in begins Friday, May 28, 2010, meaning that our second year here begins Sunday. That we are beginning a second year means as much to me as the fact we are completing our first.

I hope the day brings friends who have promised to visit, but never quite and the several who have visited over the past 365 days.  Perfect strangers are welcome too; imperfect strangers as well.  Our new color visitor brochure will be given to all who attend, each autographed and dated by yours truly — the brochures, not the visitors.  We are selling nothing Sunday, but no effort will be made to discourage those who care to become members of Abe Lincoln’s Air Force or donate dollars and historic material to the Museum.

I hope to see you Sunday!

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

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May 18, 2011
. . . . . . . . . . by Job Conger
. . . . . . . . . . written May 18, 2011

I’ve walked away from fog
and moping over dreams
I had been hoping
would come true
and pining for the wonder years
doomed never to have been.
Tomatoes IN!

Months before while
sad bemoaning, through dark
reveries atoning,
I watched seeds
of summer fruit begin to live
in soup cans made of tin.
Tomatoes IN!

Window silly gardens warmed
with hope and sunny  (yet not mine
for love nor money)
to green living beings
I set to life while I reeled
quite bereft of friend and kin.
Tomatoes IN!

Sprouts of green in
April started penetrating
soil; imparted
hope that I would see the summer
as they grew toward the sun
while I hated the world
because I am not Errol Flynn.
Tomatoes IN!

Transplant time came just
this morning as the seedings
went re-borning
from the sill
to fresh-tilled soil
wherein their future lies.
And I too shall live anew;
shall rise above this life’s gross
cacophonic din.
Tomatoes IN!

I love to write poetry but I need a reason to write it. The reason I wrote this poem was to meet my own criterion never to attend a Poetry at Robbie’s Night (on Adams between Fifth and Sixth Street in lyrical downtown Springfield) without bringing with me a new poem I have written that no one besides me has heard before. Fair to say that if I had not resolved last night to transplant several tomato plant seedlings I started last March to a garden area I resolved to clear today before I drove out to AeroKnow Museum at the airport, I would not have written this poem, though I might have written another poem. I love to write poetry. I need only a reason. Give me a reason and the inspiration will come. It always does. I will share this poem in about four hours at Robbie’s. You come too.

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

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Indianapolis retouched

Arthur Humphrey, friend/benefactor and I had stopped at the North Grand Shop’n’Save where he purchased a styrofoam cooler and provisions for the drive east. Neither of us like to waste time eating in a restaurant when traveling and extending time en route to where we want to be to begin with. The drive through Indianapolis on the 270 Beltway was a breeze. I offered to drive part of the way, AFTER we came, alive, out the  exit to Springfield OH,  but Arthur’s was the only name on the rental car contract and we played it safe. At no time did I have to take to the whiskey bottle as I have wanted to do every time in the past when I’ve driven the Beltway here.  For the record, I’ve never consumed any booze while driving, not even through Indianapolis.

Reminds me of a childhood riddle: Why did the chicken cross the Beltway? To get to the other side of beautiful Indianapolis! After my first trip east requiring me to drive that road, I timed subsequent trips so I could leave Springfield at 2 am to be BY the BELTWAY before the morning rush hour. And even then it was a lot to handle.  I don’t care if I have to get to Ohio by way of KENTUCKY, I will never attempt that stretch of road at the wheel of a ground-bound vehicle for the rest of my life.  I have friends — David and Colin Tabb and their families in Indianapolis I would love to visit some day, but if I ever do. they’re going to have to let me leave my truck in a K-Mart parking lot in Danville, Illinois and take me the rest of the way in and return.

Urbana University, Urbana, Ohio first look

After checking in at the Springfield, Ohio Hampton Inn  with plenty of late afternoon light in front of us, we drove to Urbana University in Urbana,  20 miles away. The school is surrounded by timber, seemingly carved out of a meadow with a nearby abandoned railroad track that was old-old and lots of distance between buildings. The building pictured above is the site of the Johnny Appleseed Museum and Education Center (JAMaEC). I had a profound sense of BEFORE LINCOLN as we walked the campus. The JAMaEC is the left part of the structure as you see it from the parking lot facing the outer side of the campus. Originally the two distinct structures were built and used separately; later joined by the sunny area in the middle which would serve as the site for the public re-dedication of the collection.

Urbana University was founded in 1850 by followers of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist and Christian theologian who wrote extensively about a new age of Christianity, and whose mystical outlook and claims (which included visiting Jupiter before Timothy Leary had been born) were very radical, so much so that he never founded a structured church as Wesley had. But he had his followers. called Swedenborgians (pronounced with a soft “g” as in “forge”) who formed reading groups. John Chapman, who would become known as Johnny Appleseed encouraged his very successful friend Colonel John James to donate land for the Swedenborgian university. Chapman and James were Swedenborgians. It’s easy to see why the institution would establish and maintain a museum dedicated to Johnny Appleseed.

There is some conjecture that Abraham Lincoln attended a Swedenborgian reading group during his years in Springfield, Illinois; also that the Lindsay family shared some connection to that faith.


one of the more modern buildings with some wisdom from old Rome

On our way to visit the university library, I photographed these words on another building.  Matthew Penning wrote “Now it is permitted to enter with understanding into the mysteries of faith.” Matt is a Facebook friend who, with a little help from Google, translated those words from the original author who died some years ago.

Urbana University Librarian Julie McDaniel poses with a visitor. Photo by Arthur F. Humphrey

I learned from Julie that Urbana University’s library had no books by or about Vachel Lindsay, a shortcoming I believe Arthur subsequently made right. During our short visit I also gave her some copies of a program handout I had prepared to hand out during  the morrow’s big event.

Emanuel Swedenborg's bust of a sort

The fine bust of Emanuel Swedenborg in the library lobby seemed a mite out of place, not for the great Swede it depicted but for where it was . . . .

under the table

. . . . . under a table!  Julie explained no one was making a political or theological statement, and that the icon who so inspired the frontier community to create the new school would not be there long.  Arthur and I were in a race wtih the sun, and our library visit was all too brief.

historic hangar at Grimes Field, Urbana, Ohio

We hustled out to the airport and discovered that like Springfield, Illinois,  Urbama. Ohio is home to two aviation  museums of note.

Grimes Field historical marker

There was a diner at the airport that was obviously closing for the day when we arrived, but had we more time, it would have been great to visit it, even if just for coffee.  The two museums were closed also. One promised to be open Saturday, but the larger one had a sign that it was closed Saturdays. Even so I copied both phone numbers to call to see if we could visit Saturday morning anyway.

behind the check-in desk, Springfield, Ohio

After a fine dinner in downtown Urbana, bustling with people on an unseasonally warm evening  we returned to the Hampton Inn. With much to see before the Appleseed re-dedication,  we hurried out to Grimes Field on a perfect sunny morning to see what we could see.

The Champaign Aviation Museum at Grimes Field is located on North Main Street (Ohio State Route 68) coming out of Urbana, Ohio

  • homThe Champaign Aviation Museum open Monday – Friday , 9 am to 4 pm, Saturday 9 a to 2 p and closed Sunday
  • Douglas A-26 Invader  at Champaign Aviation Museum, Grimes Field

B-17 restoration

The B-17 is being restored from five partial aircraft. The close-up pic of the nose art was taken by Arthur Humphrey.

There’s no space for all the airplane pictures I took during the visit. I will share them soon at the AeroKnow website.  I was totally enthralled with the activity at the general aviation airport. There were probably 15 volunteers working on the B-17,  and more Cessnas, Beeches and Pipers on the ramp outside the Airport Cafe than I’ve seen at some fly-in breakfasts! Contributing to the success of the scene is location, not far from Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio, The Museum of the United States Air Force in nearby Dayton, and the city of Springfield, Ohio, less than half an hour from this beautiful airport.  I would leap at any opportunity to go back and spend an entire day at Grimes Field.

Legacy of a legendary light manufacturer, The Grimes Flying Lab Museum's Beech 18.

The other museum was also neat as a pin, focused on one local enterprise known worldwide for its innovations in aircraft lighting. I could have spent two hours talking with the people there and learning more about the flying test lab that is the museum’s centerpiece. They, like the Champaign Museum, had souvenirs a plenty, including reproductions of historic airplane postcards. Time at the airport was running out and we had to boogie back to Urbana University.

After meeting museum director Joe Besecker and a past president of the University,  Mr. Hazard (first name to be added here real soon) and his wife,  Arthur and I walked over to the campus student union for a cup of coffee and to discuss what would come next when we returned to the big event.

Job, Joe Besecker, Mrs & Mr. Hazard. Photo by Arthur F. Humphrey.

Mr. Hazard is a retired U.S. Air Force pilot who flew F-84Fs and F-100s. I could have spent the entire afternoon talking airplanes with him.  I met no second-stringers at this campus.

The story continues next time with the Johnny Journey Trilogy: Part 3:  A Taste of a Dream Destiny Sharing Vachel at the Appleseed Museum Re-dedication.

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

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None of my friend are directly connected to this post, but all of my friends have  helped me learn this.

Part I  — The Lesson That Must be Learned

The most important key to success is not how tall you are, or the shape of your nose,  or your waist size. The most important element, that children should learn, before they turn 15, although the learning never stops, is how to handle ANGER. It is important for children to understand that anger is not learned by following examples of parents, family members, friends, who may not be good examples at all, but from following the examples of leaders, of individuals conspicuously successful in their families and friends with whom they can discuss anger and how to process it, to channel natural emotions (everybody gets angry, even future saints) into productive outcomes.

Those who fail horribly in processing anger become abusers, killers, robbers and repeatedly go to jail or move to Texas and go to jail where they are killed in return.

Those who master anger stay married. They are employed by lucky companies and individuals who make the most of their talents whether they are manifest in a surgical theater at a hospital or a road crew on the by-ways of county by-ways.

There is a wide spectrum of in between.  Near to top of the range are radio personalities and politicians. In the middle of the middle are your neighbors.

Part II — The Price of Not Learning

At the very edge are those who succeed enough in their cunning and deceit, determination to be seen by those who never really get to know them as as “someones” nicer than they are. They never fail at marriage because they never marry, even though they come close. They never go to jail because they learn to hurt only themselves (most consistently because friends don’t linger long) with their ranting and retribution. They become the anonymous lost.

They become poets nobody reads and museum administrators nobody supports.

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

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If I had a dime for every hour I’ve spent resenting and dreading what I have just finished doing, I would likely be a richer hummin’ bean than I will be when the check for said dread’s happy outcome arrives in the mail in a few weeks.  Most writing assignments affect me this way. If I could channel angst into action the way methane is transformed into a lovely blue flame with the touch of a burning match, I would be more than a writer, I would be Sarah Silverman.

It’s all over an article and the weeks of uncertainty over what I would write, the missed deadline because my employer had a death in his family and I was required to keep my hand on the tiller while he was away from the helm, hours of problem recognition and not a nano-second of problem solving until . . . . . . . . with the exception of some initial effort engaged in March and a smidgen more early this week . . . . . . this action-packed day.

My editor — if he had known what condition my condition was in — would have likely pulled me off the assignment  and told me to remove his contact information from the Rolodex of my bren. But I kept a confident pose and while my outlook on life in general was akin to the rotating tank on the back of a cement truck, pulled off the ruse, which by any other name is still a ruse. The sweet smell of pretense.  I had to have the story in my 5 p next Monday. On May 9 I decided to send it in on Friday, the 13th.

I didn’t really begin to enjoy writing the story until about 3 p Thursday. It was coming together in bits and pieces, not yet having a perceived conclusion or even order. The most important task is always to get the information into malleable form. Get the facts into a Word file!

How the hael did I ever write an article before computers? I don’t remember the details, but at one time, I seriously considered marrying my blue Smith Corona. Then I left it for an IBM Selectric with the type ball that allowed me to work in Pica or Elite. I preferred Elite because the type was smaller, and I could write a 20-page term paper in 15 pages.

Resolution and happiness comes, if not from the interview process, for sure from the successful completion of the transcription of most of the interviews; getting it into a Word file. So it did with me.  The transition from Muller’s Day to Journalist’s Day came as I departed the office for the second photo session of the day, secure and content in the knowledge that most of the facts were in that repository of pieces of a not-yet-crafted bucket of words.

By 6 pm it was coming together and I was having fun — I mean genuinely enjoying LIFE — for the first time in this process. By 8:30, I had written, proof-read it and sent it to the editor, just 12 and a half hours after arriving here at the airport office. Muller’s Day had come to an end.

Tomorrow morning I will process the pictures — probably seven or so of the best — and send them to the editor with caption information.  But there’s no dread over pictures. Sure, I sweat nurturing a pot roast to pink-in-the- middle perfection, but pictures are the gravy, the savory essence that compliments the meat but doesn’t overpower it.  Tomorrow I may darn near laugh to myself as I put a ribbon on this hoe down.

For now, I’m going to boogie home, eat some grapes, some Peter Pan chunky on a butter knife and quaff the Carlo Rossi Burgundy as much as I care to. This is my traditional “dinner after 9” and it works okay. It’s a humble repast but hey . . . . . .

Who will tell me what this means in English?

I am my mother’s humble, lucky son.

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

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