Since January, I have stopped being a poet so that I could pour my heart and soul into a major project at AeroKnow Museum. Most readers will laugh and then sigh as I explain the obsession has been the consolidation of less-than-whole page (8.5 x 11 inch) scraps of information into single-page amalgams of information. I finished the project last Thursday.
Last January I started pulling scraps from every file in the museum’s Research Room: — 15 file cabinets — filling 12 (case-of-reams-of-office-copy-paper-size) boxes with them, and then setting them aside in the Intake Room to be further processed through two of the three requisite tasks leading to the return of the information removed back to the Research Room. In the meantime, too much of the rest of my life as ceased to exist.
The task was time-consuming to be sure, but it was made easier, thanks to my almost completely walking away from good people in this community whom I have known and appreciated for years. Most of this walking away has occurred since last August when I started coming to grips with the angst of my frail mortality as I approached my 65th birthday. I’ve attended far fewer poetry and visual arts events than I attended before launching AeroKnow Museum at the airport.
I have completely walked away from Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site. For almost three years, I had been inviting the site director — who, through her occupation connection to history might have (logically) enjoyed seeing it — to visit AeroKnow MUSEUM. Until August I invited her every time I attended an event at the Lindsay landmark. Until November, I had renewed my membership in the Vachel Lindsay Association and attended the annual meetings. Not any more. I have not walked away from my appreciation of Vachel Lindsay and his poetry. I will continue sharing my Vachel Lindsay program and reciting his poems for anyone who will have me. My profound disappointment with the “Lindsay elite” would be harder if my treasured Lindsay scholar and friend Dennis had not taken his own life about a year ago as Vachel’s birthday approached. The positive outcome of all this is that I better understand what I believe Vachel was experiencing before he took his own life in early December 1931. Springfield killed the poet pretty deliberately and well. The people of my own hometown Springfield (“this, the city of my discontent” — Vachel Lindsay from his poem “Springfield Magical”) killed my friend Dennis pretty well. I will not allow myself the incapacity to live, an incapacity I have felt looming in their company. They will not kill me.
The last poem I wrote this year was inspired by a painting displayed at a gallery in October. I was delighted to have had the opportunity to write the poem “We Wander” and delighted to share it with an attentive audience, excellent people who delighted in hearing it — and other fine poems from poets inspired by other fine paintings. I WANT to be writing more poetry. People who read it, like it. So why the HELL have I not thrown myself into the pursuit of becoming the next Rod McKuen or Henry Gibson? Because I reap more direct reward from aviation and the few friends I have come to know from that on a daily basis than I have reaped from the SEVERAL (but not many) friends I have come to know, since about 1989 with my poetry and songwriting/performing. The poetry connecting — now that I must work Saturdays for an employer whose last paycheck was given t me almost two months ago — comes once a month TOPS. Sometimes not even that. The aviation affirmation comes every day of my life.
Meanwhile, back at the airport, since last spring this year, at least two or three days a week, I arrive at the museum office between 5 (when the host business opens for the day) and 5:30 two or three times a week, and darn near every day but Sunday before 7. On Sunday, I sleep late and arrive by 9 without fail. My consciousness is what I call “water seeking its own level.”
I am wrapped up in the web of what I call “syncopated sunshine” — a rhythm of life that is inconsistent and hard to swing to.
On days I shower, I roll out of bed at 4, and arrive at the museum at 5, sometimes a few minutes before, and eight of 10 times, the early arriver is already there at the occasional 4:55 and the building’s front door is unlocked. Other times, I am out of the sack at 4:30, teeth brushed, (no time for coffee) dressed and out to the museum by 5 or close to it.
In theory, I should be able to do this consistently by hitting the hay by 9, if not 8:30. I need no more sleep than six and a half hours’ worth. In reality, I am ALLOWING the travails of my workplace to figuratively “tie one hand behind my back.” I leave work at 5 — and go directly to the museum until 6:30 to avoid the rush hour traffic going home. I ALWAYS find something to work on. No big surprise there. But, if I’ve had a really rotten day at work, I go by to see if there is a Wall Street Journal I can have. The FBO that provides fuel and maintenance to local and transiting aircraft receives a State Journal-Register and three Wall Street Journals daily. Pilots and passengers departing the FBO after landing to refuel may take a WSJ to read about their airplanes in transit elsewhere. If there are any left when I arrive after work, the counter crew may approve me taking one or they may indicate a few more flights are scheduled for the evening, and all WSJs on hand need to stay until those flights have come and gone. THEN they will slide one under my office door. WSJs are important to the museum because I read every issue I get and clip anything related to aviation so I can file it upstairs.
On a good night I’m home by 7, but if the day at work was better than typical, and my outlook is good, I will work at the museum until 8, sometimes until 9 and on really good days until 10. They close at 11 pm.
On a good night, I’m eating dinner by 7:15 and washing it down the hatch with cheap Burgundy. I am trying to drink more iced tea and less burgundy, but it’s not working out very well. Regardless, even with iced tea, I am exhausted from semi-combat at my employer. I am often asleep in my recliner by 7:40, and awaken most frequently around 11 when I turn off the lights and go bed, but even that isn’t easy. Late night radio before midnight totally stinks. Last night it was so bad, I listened to a “sports radio” station as my head hit the pillow, not because I’m a sports fan but because the only other two stations I can receive clearly in the bedroom are right-wing diatribe and financial advice (two separate radio stations). At least I’m not offended by sports radio. Getting to sleep is easy. I don’t drink more wine when I wander in after the early evening “nap” because I’m already half asleep.
Getting back to sleep after AWAKENING at 2 am is the problem! It is pure, freaking purgatory. I DON’T want to get up and do something. What the hell is there to do in my house? I have begun to work on AeroKnow tasks at home just to stay awake after dinner. Sometimes I delay dinner because I know I won’t go to sleep before I eat. I REALLY want to confine museum work to the museum and my employer who doesn’t complain if he sees aviation material on my showroom desk because he knows my FIRST PRIORITY while I am there is MY EMPLOYER. That’s as it should be. I am HAPPY to earn my pay . . . whenever . . . he decides . . . . to pay me.
My home computer is an old laptop I purchased about two years ago with a small screen. I cannot work with the small screen, even with a full-size keyboard plugged into it. Sooooooo I am committing my resources to a new desktop computer for HOME this Christmas, but not before. In fact I will go shopping for one AFTER Christmas because I expect prices to be lower then.
With the desktop computer at home I HOPE to sleep solidly for at least six consecutive hours a night by not napping. If I’m tired after dinner with or without wine, I will to to the frikking bedroom after turning off the lights and the thermostat to 55. Then I will use the time from whenever the hell I do awaken to write poetry or songs or whatever, even AeroKnow Museum tasks.
The real hard part? Holding onto things until January. That will be the hard part.
Live long . . . . . and proper.