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Archive for June, 2011

Before  the invitation to move my aviation collection to the local airport came a year ago May,  I did not have a closet for what most folks use closets for: keeping clothes. Every one was used to store aviation material. The one at the far end of the hall by the door to the basement was  for solid wood model kits from the 40s, and rarer plastic I didn’t want to expose them to direct  sunlight, including many Frog (brand) model kits from England  These were days when I also did not own a bedroom. What normal persons would call “the larger one” was my model workshop and storage, floor to ceiling, of model kits. The smaller was my office where I wrote; did the journalism and poetry thing. My bed was in the front room where my feet rested four feet from my front door. I kept my Fruit-of-the-Looms and socks in livingroom furniture drawers because my dresser was located in the model workshop and used to store aviation magazines. The second hall closet, closest to where I should have been sleeping, held shelves of 3-ring binders of 35mm slides of airplanes. The large, walk-in bedroom closet held back issues of Illinois Times that meant a lot to me, especially the headline story with me on the front cover, written by Mikel Weisser and a few front cover pictures I had taken for articles I contributed over the years.  I kept 90 percent of my hangar-borne clothes in a large anwar I had purchased and assembled at home from a box of parts.

Recently, having spent most of a year taking back my house while delivering aviation materials to the airport museum, I realized I had re-taken two closets for clothes and I had an anwar that was a big box of air that took up significant floor space in my master bedroom (the office remains). It had seen me through more than a decade of life, but it was time for it to go. I unscrewed most of it and carried almost all of it to my back part of the back yard where I raked old leaves over the flat pieces and left them to return to the earth in their own good time.

Everything but the doors.

the doors of names

Since moving into 428 in 1997, when returning from an event where I had been given a self-adhesive name tag, the first thing to come off as I entered the front room that contained my bed in one corner and my anwar in the other was my name tag. Those that were not self-adhesive — for instance printed on a computer and put inside a clear plastic envelope attached to a string — did not make it to the doors. There were also two pages of a motto I conceived and placed on the inside of every closet door in the house that read “MAKE LIFE, NOT WOE.”

mimentoes of myself

There are a lot of party names in the hand-lettered labels. A “Monumental” (she will groan at this) friend” usually insists guests sign in as famous writers, earth elements. lyric quotes and more, and she won’t know until she reads this post that every name tag (or DARN near) I ever scrawled onto a piece of self-adhesive shines on where I put them as long as probably 15 years ago. The identification badges from eight years of substitute teaching that kept body and soul in the same place but never served as gateway to a full time position with the school district (not as a teacher but at administrative headquarters).  Those were days I served gladly before I bought better teeth.  I’ve been an election judge may times. You can see the special tags that never stuck long to my sport coats and shirts on many memorable election days. They all reveal a social animal (a requirement if you want to go to work at 5 am at a polling place) of many states of mind: expectant, positive, bound by duty and glad to be, thrilled that I made it home after another great party (several great parties, several great places . . . . . . but not many, and not enough, but that’s okay; “it only hurts when I laugh”” (<—old joke punch line).  I also say the same thing about lovers.

The doors of names remain a permanent fixture. I keep them in the closet in my mater bedroom . . . . . . out of direct sunlight.

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

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There must be several Mary Congers in this world, so I don’t imagine that connecting my name with Mary Conger is a liability.  I began subscribing to her blog last year as she was awash in violent tides of what folks call the “divorce solution..” She became the first person I know of (there may be others out there) to subscribe to Honey & Quinine, and I was so happy I, in turn, subscribed to her blog Quite Contrary. I am guessing Conger is her pre-married name, and even if it’s not, I have a sense of family with her. And as y’all  knows, I am nothing if not family-centric.

After reading Mary’s post today (Saturday, June 25), her first in more than a month, I confessed in a comment that I’m also way behind in my blogging here at Honey and Quinine and at Abe Lincoln’s Air Force. I made her an offer — for every blog post that comes to me from her for the next two months, I will post something at Hon&Qui. This is my response to her post today.

I’ve settled into something of a routine at my employer, working 44 hours a week when I work every hour I can, and taking time off whenever I need to take time off. Case in point: I’m presenting a program about poet Vachel Lindsay (at least 45 minutes of reciting his poems and describing his life in a nutshell to adults urbane and sharp enough to likely enjoy the story  — to the Illinois Association of Retired Employees this coming Wednesday. I expect I’ll work 4 hours or maybe take the day off to work the rest of the day at AeroKnow Museum and work on a poem I’m writing for a Thursday event at Prairie Art Alliance’s H.D. Smith Gallery downtown.  The same day, a restored B-17 is coming to the local airport for a few days starting at noon. and I will be there (200 feet from my Museum office) to help with that event. I’m friends with the sponsoring organization, and they appreciate my being around.  Only by being true to my employer, doing what he wants whenever he wants, when I don’t have to be elsewhere,  even though he sometimes drives me nuts, could I rationalize my arbitrary — as Walt Whitman might say — (Are you ready for this?) “Leaves of Absences.”

The Museum progress continues less frenetically that it did when I thought there were local people who might give enough of a Republican rat’s hindquarters to want to help.  Besides,    those from the outside are stoking the fire in my belly with their reactions and approval.  I recently showed the entire collection to a Federal Marshall, carrying a hip-side-holstered side-arm and communications gear th at probably let him communicate with satellites.  His pilot — who had toured two months ago when the organization that transports convicted felons by air to maximum security quarters was boarding passengers out on the ramp several hundred yards away — had briefed the “enforcer” and the new visitor’s reaction confirmed the course I’m taking with  it all. Serendipitous FATE is giving me the “go-power” that logic has not delivered.

The only missing ingredient in this rattle-wagon of life is the capacity of my employer to pay me when payment is due. Things are running about a month behind these days.  Not eating as much of what I used to take for granted when I was 50 is a plus in my life.  I’m sure some may wonder if I’m on relief assistance or visiting the community food pantry. Not on your life!  I see the total  beauty, the total net blessing  of this circumstance, and I’d have to be more daft in the head than most friends already assume me to be, to kill the “goose” that gives me these golden weeks.

_
Okay, Mary, it’s your turn.


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

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I understand a trilogy is an assemblage of three. Still, I promised to write a trilogy about my March 2011 visit to Urbana University in Ohio and John Chapman’s (Johnhny Appleseed’s) grave in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and that is what I’m doing, even if I have to share it in four parts. After completing this post at the bottom of what’s to come, I’ve decided there may be five parts.

Singing after reading Vache after re-dedication ceremonies. Arthur F. Humphrey photo

Following the re-dedication, I sang some of my songs and offeed my books for sale in a room adjacent to the Museum displays. Special thanks to Mrs. Hazard, wife of former Urbana Universty President Francis Hazard for patiently listening to at least 20 minutes of the songs.  Even though Arthur and I were watching the clock, determined to get to Ft. Wayne, Indiana in time to visit John Chapman’s grave before dark, there was no sense of impending doom as the minutes flew by in mid afternoon. Everything I hoped to do in Urbana, relating to the purpose of my visit, I did: met some terrific people and had a fantastic time.

As we wended northwest, Arthur explained a lot about Ohio geography and history, noting we were riding on ground Chapman might have seen in the 1830s. If I had been in a classroom, I would have taken notes. We arrived in Ft. Wayne a little after 5, located the fine Hampton Inn where we would be staying, and then made a beeline for John C’s grave while the light was at least nominal.

What we found dismayed me, but considering the public understanding of the man remembered in what we would soon visit on foot, the entry area was about what we should have encountered.  Thanks to Arthur’s GPS device on the dashboard, we found  the busy side street —  the equivalent of North Dirksen Parkway between Cook and North Grand in Springfield — and turned left and down a poorly maintained gravel and concrete drive to an equally disintegrating parking area where the car was parked and we walked past two reinforced concrete barriers placed to allow only pedestrian traffic to enter the park.

entrance to the park and the path to John Chapman’s grave

The terrain was hilly in contrast to the mostly flat land surrounding it. It was an unhurried walk by the barrier after a few pictures . . . . . .

rendezvous with history -- photo by Arthur F. Humphrey

The path continued straight for a few hundred yards, gradually rising and turning left where a roofed display waited. Poor light prevented photography here since we were in shadow east of a larger hill and the setting sun to the west.

the historical display en route up the hill behind to the grave

We did not linger long here. Our destination was the top of the hill. On approaching from the east, I thought it unfortunate that the larger steel fence and well-maintained hedges  surrounding a smaller fence, beyond which the headstone was visible did not have a gate that would allow entry into the inner area. When we walked around to the west side of the outer fence we found that gate and went in. The grave remained protected behind the inner fence with a gate clearly locked. I was okay with that.

the mezzo sanctum

Visible in the background are the lower terrain and path leading to the grave on the hill. The area is well-maintained, plaques easy to read with no litter at all.  As I looked to the west I was stunned by the view.

the busy highway and sports stadium walking distance from the top of the hill

WHAT a revelation! Draw your own conclusions, but the incongruity was not as sharp or horrendous, on reflection,  as it seemed at first. The ground at graveside was quiet, the air clean, and overall ambiance in tune with the immediate surroundings. What I truly loved about the place was that there was so little evidence there and really close-by of “the hand of man.” No exhalting grandeur of marble and facade to hyper-venerate the person commemorated — if not actually buried — there. Recent research into the business of where John Chapman is buried leaves room for conjecture. Even so, the site spoke volumes to me. At the risk of sounding Native American, THIS is sacred ground.

by the entry gate

approaching closer

John Chapman's grave stone

To leave a part of a man John Chapman did not know, a man who knew of Chapman and in many ways exemplified much of Chapman’s legend in his own life, I had come to read Vachel Lindsay’s poem “In Praise of Johnny Appleseed” at the grave.  Arthur had planned to videotape the reading, and I planned to record it with my Olympus digital machine in my shirt pocket.  I would read the entire poem. We had the time, but the light was fading fast.

remembering Vachel remembering John Chapman - photo by Arthur F. Humphrey

There was a glitch with the video, but the Olympus worked fine. Even so, it was obvious from the noise of the wind and my simply moving, and the distant traffic, that the recording discovered when replaying, the result was no more than a personal memo, a souvenir of a remarkable visit.

The light was going fast. We walked back to the car almost in total silence, drove to the Hampton Inn, checked in and then went out for dinner. Early to bed.

And early to rise on March 20.  We had to return to Springfield in time for Arthur to drive back to Indianapolis, turn in his rental car and catch his flight back to Florida from whence he had come to Springfield March 17.  During out travel to Ft. Wayne, he had wondered aloud about there he had put his prescription glasses. During the painless and surprisingly fast and pleasant trip west, he explained he had found them. Good news all around! What I discovered, 20 minutes away from the Hampton Inn, was that I did not have my prescription glasses. I knew exactly where I had left them — on the bedside table; not on the dresser where I had deposited my wallet and camera — but I was not about to embarrass myself and burden Arthur by asking him to turn around for probably an hour’s delay. I did not want to risk his not connecting in Indy.

I also had discovered at the grave that I had used all the memory card space on my camera, and I had to delete some pictures taken in Urbana to capture what I wanted at Ft. Wayne. The one picture I regret deleting was that of the photographer from the Springfield, Ohio newspaper whom I talked with before reading Vachel in Urbana. She took the picture of me that was included in a fine article about the Museum re-dedication. I took her picture too, and truly regret deleting it. If I had been carrying an extra memory card, this amateur-league omission would not have happened.

We arrived at 428 in Springfield close to noon. Before Arthur departed, I had the pleasure of introducing him to my good friends Mark Russillo and Thea Chesley and of course, Jake the wonder dog who walks Mark and Thea at least twice a day. The timing was perfect, but the time was short. A hurried unpacking of my gear and a BIG THANK YOU and HAVE A SAFE TRIP HOME to Arthur.

I later learned that he had made it back to Indy with time to spare and had a good flight home.

This week I’m getting new prescription eye glasses.

John Chapman and I are not finished with each other. I will be launching a Facebook page about my visit. I also intend to tell the world about two major biographies of Chapman. One was published in 1954 and the other — an absolute delight  — was unveiled by the author at the Johnny Appleseed Museum in April.  I just haven’t determined how, yet.

I am also presenting a morning storytime about Johnny Appleseed for children  at Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site this summer. In the fall I will present a “Poetry in the Parlor” lecture with song at the Home for grownups and kids of all ages. I am reworking the document I produced for the re-dedication to include a version of this four-part trilogy to offer for sale.

I said it before, and I will say again: My encounter with Arthur F. Humphrey, Joe Besecker, Francis Hazard, the Johnny Appleseed Museum and Education Center and the John Chapman grave in Ft. Wayne, Indiana have touched my literary life profoundly.  For the affirmation, (we used to call it self-actualization in the 60s)  memories, the warmth and education which will echo loud, warm and well in my heart  I am truly grateful. Thanks to everyone.

Live long. . . . . . and proper.

 

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Vamping
by Job Conger

The curtain parts. . . .
and he steps out,
folds his hands into each other at the belt,
begins a pitter-pat introduction to the show,
explaining how it all came together
for the bright and shining production
about to begin, and
this is his first time walking onto
a stage in this beautiful city, and boy are his legs tired . . . .on stage
and the effort that went in,
and the challenges met and overcome,
and the way the canvass came together
over two-by-fours with the little wheels on the bottom,
and the smell of all those paint fumes,
set builders on their bleeding knees,
sweating like saints possessed,
and the weather,
and 60 girls auditioned last April
for the lead.
Thanks to Bleeker and Strouse for
underwriting the day-care cost so the cast
could focus on final rehearsals last week, and
the director’s wife brought a new son into the world
ast St. Johns just three nights ago and
golly, did that
throw a stick into the spokes of this Big Gus  production
and the cue from the bandleader offstage right
should come aaaaaaaaaaaaany minute now and

won’t that be swell because Mickey Rourke will be on
Letterman tonight and oh, wow, he’s really looking forward
to being home in time for that and
have you looked at the price of grapes lately?
Gee whiz, no wonder the kids
are bursting their britches
from nachos smothered in polyunsaturated
cheese food product and by the way . . . . .

And he jabbers on and on and on,
serenading us, like a corn-belt “Leaves of Grass”
beneath the proscenium and on and on and on
because nobody came out
and tapped him on the shoulder,
because nobody told him
there is no one back stage now.

And the music never comes.

He is the joke.

He is the play.

Drive safely.

Good night.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I’m reciting this at “Poetry at Robbies,” on the south side of the square, on Adams  between Fifth and Sixth. The evening begins when readers with something to share put their names into the hat and the fun begins at 6. I hope to see you there.

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This morning on the way to work at “Rock City” I stopped at my barber (Duckett on Second just south of South Grand, nice guy) for the first time since February and had my hair cut to a near-Princeton style and my beard trimmed to one inch all around. I did it to shed a personna I’ve  encountered every time I’ve passed a mirror and looked in recent months, a personna that has done me no favors.

It had been created at the start of the new year when I began scissor trimming the beard to a flat bottom and was tweaked in Frbruary when I “went Lincoln,” removing the mustache over my upper lip. It wasn’t meant to be an Authentic Lincoln. I kept vertical tendrils of whiskers that ran from the crease of my lips down either side of a shaved-clean center close under my lower lip, to connect with the rest of the beard  below. It was more a “Cap’n Ahab” look, and for awhile, I enjoyed the “look,” the personna defined by his face hair, that told strangers I am not an insurance salesman, not that there’s anything wrong with them.

The price of this blatant unconventionality was the loss of civility, or more likely and truthfully, the perceived loss of civility as I threw myself into setting up the museum at the airport. Starting abut late March, I allowed myself a grumpier perspective as I considered friends and aquaintances. After all, I was “Cap’n Ahab;” I had the face for it.

I am a more content fellow as a result.  I might even let the hair  grow back over my upper lip. If people  like me, it will be because of the person I am adjusting myself to be.  I won’t worry about my unconventionality impeding a positive first impression.

Thanks in part to a terrific book entitled Today Matters by John C. Maxwell sent to me by a terrific friend (yes, I still have a few) from Florida named Rowena I am re-arranging my priorities.(I will tell you more about the book in a future post here. In the meantime, closed circuit to RLG: Some of it is sticking!

Today I have the beard that looks more the deliberate design instead of innocuous lasseiz fare, with the tendrils, but the bottom is round (all the best bottoms are). And no one will mistake me for The Wild man of Borneo.

Or an insurance salesman.

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

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Today, I posted at Facebook a “pearl of wisdom” I harvested from the ether of my room a few seconds before:  “When the joys you anticipated in the  playing of your concerto diminish for reasons beyound your understanding, and you realize you are playing a solo tune, that is the time to play even louder.”

If I had a scintilla of hope that I would successfully and happily converge with the magic of “amore” in my personal lifetime, I would not post the following moribund snapshot of my Saturday night ritual for the past several months. I’m sharing it with you now NOT because I like to simmer in the caustic bile of my own making  BUT to  reveal my reverence and appreciation of Larry David, creator and star of a TV show I never watched until it went into syndication beyond cable and satellite dish receivers. The show, the memory of the show, which airs Saturday nights on Springfield, Illinois’ Channel 55 allows me to remain at my desk in the empty showroom of a backwater employer — who hasn’t paid me in more than three weeks — without putting my head down onto folded arms and going to sleep.

Saturdays I spend from one to two and a half hours working at my AeroKnow Museum at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. At 9:45 I depart to work four hours at my employer’s showroom. At 2 p I return to the Museum and work, typically until 6:30, sometimes until 8:30 or 9:00 before returning home.

On arrival there, I eat the largest meal of my day, sometimes soup, raisins, sometimes grapes and Peter Pan chunky peanut butter on a dull knife. I used to eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches — I do have a jar of strawberry preserves in the kitchen cupboard and a loaf of Bunny whole wheat bread on my breakfast nook table that I purchased the first week of May and haven’t yet bothered to open, not even for toast. With my regal repast, I sip Burgundy from a gallon of Carlo Rossi. I used to pour it into a glass or plastic cup, but I consider if I lift the jug and quaff directly, I’m paying penance for the nature of my ways these days. The wine sedates me to sleep in the living room easy chair for a while, but with the TV remaining on, I usually drift off about 8:15 and re-awaken in time to see Susan Langhein’s Friendly Chevrolet 1/2 hour program touting some terrific cars sold by a terrific dealer.  Earlier this year I decided not to retire to bed at midnight and saw my first “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and have gone to some effort not to miss one since. The prospect of seeing the next one is enough to keep me awake even if I haven’t “napped” ‘twixt America’s Most Wanted and Friendly Chevrolet.

Larry David’s role “as himself” is more appealing than Jerry Seinfeld, which for most of the program’s life, David co-wrote and co-produced. i loved Seinfeld and watched it through three or four syndication cycles as well as first runs starting about its third year new. When David left the Seinfeld show, the quality of that show fell off precipitously, though there were still superb comedy moments throughout the few years it soldiered on without Larry David. When “Curb” went into first run production for HBO or Showtime — I don’t know/remember which — reviews were unanimous in their praise, but I did not know why until it found its way to Saturdays at midnight on the local Fox station.

It is the only show with a theme song I can hum to myself and smile, though I have known and loved many TV theme songs. I am humming the theme almost constantly today.  I have replayed the June 11 show three or four times since, a wonderful pastiche of wit,  unexpected turns, characters a plenty to smile with; not a second-string actor or actress in the lot.

The writing trumps the best I’ve seen before “Curb.” There is no religion or politics in it, no sense of undue, hyperbolic FOCUS ON DAVID as one might expect when you star in your own show. The other characters are “moons orbiting around and interfacing with the planet, but the planet is small and does not dominate the universe.

Every episode ends with an AHA MOMENT, and the memory of each is made as much of the sweet cake that is the foundation of that AHA MOMENT as the moment itself.

If I had a TV set that was not better suited for residence and denoument in the local landfill and a DVD player, I would find a way to purchase every episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” I could get my eyes on.  I don’t intend to search for them and watch any on a computer screen. They should be viewed in a living room, in the company of Carlo Rossi or without him, or with a friend.

It’s a show that for now provides an essential reason to prevail though the slog through the muck of the week — thanks also to occasional brushes with humanity and redemption from other people and places — to the next Saturday.

You may not be in circumstances like mine or like those of Lily Tomlin who once  sang on Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh-In” skit  –“I spend my days in alphabet soup. Up to my A’s in alphabet soup.” — but if you can find and have time to watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” I wager you will derive maximum enjoyment from it as I do . . . . . . at midnight . . . . . . . on a typical Saturday night.

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

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ticket to an open back porch

Monday I said goodbye to apparel I have owned and worn during most of my poetry oratory and all of my poetry oratory. The white polished cotton pant I wore at Urbana University last March and have worn since purchasing them from J.C. Penney in 1997 was surrendered to the basket of wastes with wegwet and appweciation, the way I might surrender a pet to a shallow grave in my back yard. For certain I verify it was a pant for I have never witnessed it to be more than one during our lives, paired as we were, to each other.

The white trouser became a part of my “performance ensemble” of a red shirt (two of which continue years past their prime), my not-manufactured-to-be-polished natural brown walking shoes and what folks have called my “amazing technicolor sportcoat.” The combination of red over white stood for the combination of the Western red rose and the Eastern lotus. The pair were extolled in Vachel Lindsay’s fine poem that celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal, “The Wedding of the Rose and Lotus.”

R.I.P. indeed

I’ve also worn the white to work and other recreation. But I didn’t notice the disintegration of the fabric in the wallet pocket left rear area until last April.  The discovery was not unexpected. Another polished cotton — the khaki which I als0 owned more than 10 years had already given up the ghost thanks to the wallet pocket breakdown. In late April I removed all my business cards from the wallet and every non-essential card from the rest, hoping to “buy” a few weeks’ more life before surrendering to the inevitable.

The final straw —  rip to be precise — may have come when I recited Vachel for First United Methodist Women last Friday.  I never stand behind a podium and imitate a cat tail in no wind when I recite Vachel Lindsay’s poems, especially when I share his “The Little Turtle,” a short one I shared a few hundred times when I was a substitute teacher. My recital includes surprise lunging toward hapless individuals in the front row as I EMphasize points in the fine poem. Last Friday in mid-lunge, I thought I felt a fart escape — or if you were born east of Chatham Road, excape — from one end as I emphasized the word “caught” for the third and final time in the final stanza of the poem  As it happened, I was aware that it happened, but I was confident that  if no one near had heard it happen, I was okay because there was no conspicuous embarrassing scent in the wake of it all.  I went on with the reciting of the rest of the program sans discomfort and showing no perceivable chagrin over what to me had clearly been a fartal faux pax.

I think today that I mistook a significant RRRRIIIPPPPP in my pant for another sound attributed to an orifice not far upstrrrrream. There was no tawdry self groping to be sure during or after the recital. I said my goodbyes and turned “tail” to many of them as I exited the event and came home.

I didn’t don the white apparel again until Monday when I came first to the Museum and then to work. During the day I sensed more air circulating in the sternal area than previously enjoyed. A fast grope THEN confirmed major damage along the seam.

When I arrived at the Museum after work, I grabbed my camera and strode swiftly upstairs to the Research Room which I locked from the inside to take a few pictures shared here. Five minutes after arriving home I deposited that pant into the bedroom waste basket so I would not accidentally repeat myself Tuesday.

About a week ago, purchased a new Dockers and now that I’m used to Peter Pan chunky peanut butter as a main course, I see another new pant in my future.  Now I’m putting thoughts of pants of all kind aside and going home to a gallon of Carlo Rossi Burgundy.

I can use a good belt.

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

P.S.
I will start saying “a pair of pants” when my kind of people start saying “a pair of bras.”

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