Archive for January, 2012

On the way to work about 11:15 a on a chilly Friday the 13th, driving streets that were still patchy with snow remaining from yesterday’s icy apocalypse, I stopped at Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site at 603 S. Fifth Street in Springfield to deliver a special edition of my latest book, Confluence of Legends ($5 plus postage, available from the author). The new edition has a specially printed cover that includes the name and address of the Lindsay home. To own one of those you must have visited that beautiful home and purchased it there.  Another special edition is for sale at the Johnny Appleseed Museum in Urbana, Ohio with the name and address of that fine institution on the cover.  Every Appleseed edition sold in Ohio includes a brochure about the Vachel Lindsay Home, and every edition sold at Vachel’s house includes a brochure about the Appleseed Museum.

I was delighted to find the sidewalks and steps leading to the front door recently shoveled clean of the icy white which had visited our fair city Thursday and left behind a three-inches-deep calling card, a memento  of the occasion. One can imagine my surprise, soon after being greeted by site director Jennie Battles and giving her the books, that she had shoveled every inch of it herself. For a woman in her 70s, I consider her devotion to visitors and her taking the snow shovel and ice melt to arms an act of service above and beyond the call of duty.

When I took the books upstairs to the visitor education room with its ever-present, ever-playing CD about the life of Vachel Lindsay, his family, his poetry and the house, I encountered the vacuum cleaner at the top of the stairs. It was obvious Jennie had been preparing for a special gathering of a genealogy organization that’s gathering for a special public event at the home tomorrow (Saturday, the 14th).  Anyone interested in an un-hurried visit to the Lindsay home, without being interrupted by other tourists passing through and the hustle and bustle of an audience parading in for a special event is well advised to visit the home the day after a snowfall before lunch. I should have brought my camera, and I usually do, but I had to boogie off to work and hadn’t thought to bring it. Some touches of the Christmas season remain in the house, including a table-top Christmas tree on Vachel’s childhood-bedroom desk, next to his typewriter. What a picture, what a statement of a poet and the season it was!/is!

As I prepared to leave, after a terrific but brief encounter with the Maestra of the concert that is the house and the story, I promised Jennie that as long as she is site director there, I will shovel the snow from the steps and sidewalks. She will never have to do that again. She has demonstrated conspicuous dedication to Illinois history in her duties at Vachel’s house and at the Old State Capitol and Lincoln Tomb before arriving at 603 South.  She deserves a better hand of cards than the one she holds, the day after significant snow on a cold and dreary Friday, in the great state of Springfield, Illinois.

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

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I thought my life would improve after re-connecting my firnace and enjoying circulating warm air, but I was mistaken. In the two weeks since permitting 65 degrees of warmth in the house, turned to 55 at bedtime and kept that way until returning from evening overtime at AeroKnow Museum, I have been coming home sooner, finding things to do at home, and hitting the sack significantly later than I used to. Since returning heat I have watched Letterman three times. After a friend gave me a working television in September, before the heat came back, I watched him ZERO times. I LIKE LETTERMAN. The house was so chilly I coccooned under blankets in the living room easy chair and slept long enough and deeply until I jerked awake, often about 2:30 or 3 am. Then I listened to the radio dozing in and out and sometimes thinking THINKING THINKING until 4:30 when I’d arise and work at the Museum until time to visit my employer for eight hours. I was okay without a working furnace. True, I came home from the airport too tired to eat more than basics for dinner and was sometimes sleeping by 8 pm in that chair,  but I was getting by.

Since heat returned, I’ve started reading again after dinner. Watching DVD’s on the Christmas present — which amigo Tim Sheehan came over and properly connected it after my proving incapable of same — have pulled me past 11 into the night. That didn’t happen sans furnace that workace; I was busy sleeping.

I’m becoming soft in the heat. I’m arising later and driving out to the airport as the eastern horizon begins to glow. Losing the hours from 5 to 7 is costing me in lost production at the airport. It’s costing me too much.  Too often since Christmas, I’ve not worked late-late at the Museum. More lost time.

I haven’t written a poem or song lyric in more than a month. I feel indicted by this sorry circumstance. I like to write. I consider poetry a parlor antic the more I want to write it and do not, but I’ll get over this. I feel like a pouting lover, daring circumtance to smile at moi-the-poet so I will smile back and start writing again.

My likely solution seems to be backing off the DVD rentals. A few nights ago, my pilot friend Warren Stiska donated almost 100 aviation VHS tapes: a lot of things from Turner Broadcasting System and what else I don’t know. I haven’t even taken them out of the box. I have to watch these in moderation as well. I don’t have a TV and VCR at the airport; otherwise I’d watch them there as I file things in the Research Room. Mayhaps I’ll limit DVD and VHS play to weekends.  Mayhaps I’ll buy a new car and eat steak. Slim chances every one.  

I think that once the new wears off this heat fad, I will crank back the thermostat to a permanent 55. After all, I discovered a few days ago that I can even shower and shampoo in a chilly house. After not showering for more than a week and a half, I found it is possible. I had to shower. I was getting a haircut in a few hours and didn’t want to be asked to leave before it was done.

The good news is that I’m evolving with all this, going for the middle ground. I can be warm at home without ever being hot. I will spend as much productive time at the Museum as I can without hurting myself and impairing my outlook. In the meantime, I’ve discovered something worth remembering.

I’ve concluded that a warm man is a lazy man.

Live long . . . . .  and proper.

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For the past month or so, I’ve adopted a new habit of smiling into the sunshine when I’ve driving, especially before 5 pm. I’m doing this because of a minor epiphany experienced some weeks ago: when I see smiling, I want to smile back. I nearly always do, especially if she’s good-looking and including an occasional he, especially if he’s good-looking (but don’t get the wrong idea). And when I smile at all, I feel better. The idea that “I am what I chose to be” sometimes comes through loud and clear to me, especially in traffic before 5 pm.

There are more distractions when I’m driving and miserable. And as some semi-famous vocalist once sang — might have been Vic Damone — “I’ve got a right to sing the blues.” I’ll spare you the details here. Besides, the I.R.S., my dentist, the physicians who took out a minor non-cancerous melanoma above my upper lip a few years ago and most importantly my roofing contractor  already know what I’m bluezing about.

Most of the time when I’m driving in daylight, I don’t listen to the radio, and I turn off my cell phone because I don’t want my last words to the attending physician, as I expire on a gurney in a hospital emergency room, to be “GoLEE, if only I hadn’t been distracted by Garrison Keillor gurglegurgle.” I do this for the same reason pilots don’t listen to their favorite CDs as they fly. Why permit unhappy coincidence to kill you so easily?

Even so, I do grant myself permission to smile when looking into the sun when stopped and when in motion. After all, the eyes are already squinting; right? And if you’ve ever gazed into the rear view mirror of the car ahead of you, especially at stop-signs/lights you’ve probably noticed from their eyes reflected in those mirrors that they are checking you out to see what kind of Palooka or Bachmann is so close to their rear (tee hee, tee hee) bumper (tee hee).  I want to make a good impression, even though she’s probably married or has a boyfriend or has a little plastic statue of Ellen DeGenerate on her vehicle’s dashboard. Even though we’ll never meet. That’s okay.

I smile my best for strangers.

The guy in front of me who sees my froggy countenance smiling in his rear view mirror may remember me when it comes time to offer me a job as a writer in a week and a half. Who knows what the future may bring? I believe smiling makes a better impression than a smile shared with potential employers, and I don’t want to lose that outcome because I was distracted by something and  I wasn’t  smiling 8:38 am last Thursday at Walnut at North Grand.

Besides smiling doesn’t mean you have to be happy when you’re smiling, though it’s a lot easier to be happy when you’re smiling than it is to be a deceptive son or daughter of an unmarried mother dog.  It’s hard when your lips are saying “joyful” and your heart is saying “dreadful.” It’s easier to give the joy to myself and others by letting the lips provide the context of the moment at the stop light or when turning left and I get a good closeup of the driver in the Camaro waiting for the light to change.

Smiles are my gift in sunlight to anonymous humanity. Few will notice, fewer will care, fewer will remember, and that’s okay. I give anonymous strangers a reason to smile to themselves; that’s 50% of the equation. The other 50% I savor for myself.

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

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I Am a Creative
by Job Conger
written 11:45 pm, February 18, 2009

Happy the soul who brandishes a pen,
Jousting with the world like horseback-knightly men,
Mightier than sword, with lyric acumen.
I am a creative writata.

Some engage the craft by the dawn’s early light;
Others under candle glow round midnight.
Boozy musers ramble while higher than a kite.
I am a creative writata.

Hurts can be assuaged in metric sublimation.
Laughter spread to others in rhymed jubilation —
What I did last summer with my parents on vacation.
I am a creative writata.

What a great pursuit for people so inclined,
Groping through the fog to harvest fruit for the mind,
Processing the crude and making it refined.
I am a creative writata.

Don’t think I’m literary. You’d be wrong.
Most of what comes out from me comes in song.
Poetry pentameters make me strong.
I am a creative writata.

Now that good people are starting to subscribe to Honey & Quinine, and now that I’m not writing as much poetry as I used to write, I remain as enthusiastic about poems I wrote years ago as I was years ago.  Some of my poems I neither like nor dislike. Those poems I am satisfied to accept. This is a poem I’d include in a list of my top 20 best.

The high-brow touch of  “writata” which I usually speak as “wriTA-TA” like yo=HO-HO and sis-BOOM-BA. I’m not a big fan of the poetry academes who take special pride in the poetic “wuks ta ta” if they can classify them with Latin-rooted pidgeon=names. “I Am A Creative” is simply my way of making fun of things I’m too foggy in my belfry to understand.

It’s ALMOST a song. At first I accompanied myself and sang it. These days I don’t touch the guitar and I sing it without accompaniment. The guitar gets in the way. My friend Barbara has commented favorably about it. She likes it, and I hope you do too.


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Here’s to the Spirit
by Job Conger
written  5:30 pm, December 21, 2005

Here’s to the spirit of hope in our hearts —
The spirit, the ghost or the flame —
That shows you the sun with the gift of a smile
Regardless of credo or name.
In the darkness of winter, a warm breath to brighten
Horizons of those who are dear.
Yes, here’s to the spirit that leads us to love,
And here’s to a happy new year.

Life is a voyage through tumbling tides
In the quest for safe harbor and land
As we seek sweet surcease from our sorrows and pain
When the sailing’s not smooth as we planned.
Blame your dad, blame the devil, plane a deck of bad cards
But they won’t wreck your ship on the shore.
When you stand at the helm, show the world that your care,
And you’ll reach where you’re going and more.


The world will be better from what burns inside
Not from whining and running away
To a bottle or needle or palavering cult.
What we need, we should be. Show the way!
Let the glow of true passionate dreams light the world,
And the lasting rewards they will sing
At the dawn of each new day, to arise to our hopes
And we’ll know life is worth everything.


I wrote this poem — to be really REALLY honest, I wrote the lyrics to a new song — a long, long time ago, but not a world ago. I’m living in the same house. I’ve made probably three new acquaintances I like since then, my kitchen floor is still torn up from the puppy I adopted but could not manage.  But the song remains my anthem of hope. Happy new year to you.

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