Archive for August, 2013

Dad Was Right

CongerDad-1You should have known this man. His name was Job Clifton Conger, III. He and his wife, my mother, Avis (maiden name Jones) Conger named me after him.

As long as I knew dad, I was the nine-year-old; sometimes the four-year-old.  I recognize the attitude. I feel it almost every day from the owner of the business that employs me. By virtue of my LIFE depending in the good will of the all-knowing omniscient one, they have the last word. Some of the time my actions influenced the last word. While I was living at home, his favorite admonition was “I can’t make you do what I tell you to do, but I can make you wish you had.”

As soon as he and mom divorced — I was about 22 and moved out of the house by then — I began a life of mostly beards and sometimes simpler mustaches.  It drove him nuts.

This picture shows me reading a Vachel Lindsay poem at a party in my home about 2002, a time when I could afford to have parties; a time when I could afford to have friends who would come to them. behind me is a pastel pencil portrait of me when I was about five years old. A long story for another time. DSC00109I still wear the same red shirt. It shows its age these days, but that’s okay; so do I.

During dad’s final years, we bought a duplex together. He lived in one half and I lived in the other. One of the last conversations we had (We had, sadly, few conversations of longer than five minutes about anything.) he admonished me sternly regarding my beard. They were unattractive. They were unhealthy. They worked against me socially. Nothing I said about great men who had beards when societies were far less antiseptic than they are in this modern age, how no one died from infected beards or diseases carried in beards . . . I could have whistled “Yankee Doodle,” and returned to my half of the duplex on better terms. I had a beard the day he died in December 1994 and kept it.

My most famous mustache is the one pictured next.
I had it in 2004 when I had my picture taken in the cockpit (where the pilot sat) of a famous World War II fighter, a restored P-38 Lightning flown to an airshow I was part of by an equally famous pilot, Steve Hinton, who also took the picture.  Steve complimented me on the facial hair. He thought it was pretty sharp. That was the nicest thing a famous person ever said to me. The beard came back with winter that year and stayed with me in one for or another until I shaved it off in spring, 2013.  The producer of a local television show was going to visit my aviation museum and tape a half-hour episode of Illinois Stories for WSEC Television (PBS for Springfield)

Two days before the scheduled taping, I “went smooth,” so to speak.  I had considered keeping it for the taping, but this was my BIG CHANCE to score something close to immortality, that someone might see the program and make a difference in the life of the museum. I reasoned that based on my dad’s litany of admonitions and other observations through life, some people were genuinely offended by facial hair — especially on women (RIM shot! smile) — and I wanted to offend the fewest people during the TV program. So I shaved. Big deal. The stakes were too high NOT to shave.

I am still clean-shaven. Here I am at a model club meeting a few months ago.
SAPMC613-1 I am a calmer fellow this way, which is to say, I’m still hanging ragged too much of my days, but I feel somehow legitimized. I cannot foresee facial hair in my future. I like the look.

It seems that dad was right.

And come winter, when it’s chilly at work or home or at the museum, and my face gets cold, I’ll take a more civilized, approach to address it. I’ll put on a ski mask.

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


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Earlier this year I was asked to present my Vachel Lindsay program at Sacred Heart Convent in Springfield, Illinois. This would be something new for me. I had sung my folksongs at a Catholic institution for boys called Brother James Court, but I had never recited poetry or sung for the kind of institution I knew only from the perspective of Maria von Trapp and “The Sound of Music.”

VLSHC-aI was told I’d have 35 minutes on August 12, starting at 6:30. Later it was changed to 6:00 pm because it would be closer to the dinner time, and I’d likely have a larger audience since some would simply remain in the lounge area and not return to their rooms first. It was good thinking, and it worked out very well. Not so good was the news I’d have only 35 minutes to speak. For half a minute I thought I was back at my old haunt at 603 S. 5th, Vachel Lindsay’s family home, today a beautifully restored historic landmarks. In my many recitings there in years of yore, I was given 35 minutes max as well. CHEESES, it takes me 15 for my voice to get right, let alone share the story of the world-famous native son and his wonderful poetry.  I was delighted to have the opportunity to share Vachel and I planned accordingly.  Better to recite for 35 minutes joyfully than decline a unique opportunity.

Anyone with a computer and Wikipedia or a public library can learn about the poet. My program handout (I always produce program handouts to distribute to the audience.) would be two pages on one 8.5 x 5.5 inch piece of paper. Side one would be a biography of 194 words. Side two was a list of poems I would recite, a list of “Other Vachel poems you should read,” a book I recommend to all who dig Vachel and want to know more about him and a link to my Vachel Pages website — http://aeroknow.com/arts/lindsaypoet.htm 

To produce the program, I selected the poems I thought appropriate for the audience. I could have recited two hours of Vachel that I recite “at the drop of a hint” whenever a friendly stranger, a friendly friend or a sworn enema asks. But when giving a scheduled recital, nothing is “random.”  Vachel had more in common with the nuns and sisters than they might have believed, and it was important for me to demonstrate that kinship via his poems. Here are the poems I recited in the following order. Look them up and enjoy them yourself:
Crickets on a Strike
General William Booth Enters into Heaven
The Beggar Speaks
The Broncho That Would Not be Broken
A Curse for the Saxophone
Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight
On the Building of Springfield
The Mouse that Gnawed the Oak Tree Down

The audience was terrific. They smiled and laughed in all the right places. So what was I?, you m,ay wonder: some kind of comedian? No. Read the poems. You will understand. I felt I was sharing with a special audience who COULD understand Vachel. They DID.  Before reciting “The Mouse,” I said I’d be happy to answer questions after I finished that, and I had an “encore” poem ready in case they had no questions. They had none, and applauded generously.

Then I recited Vachel’s “When Gassy Thompson Struck it Rich,” and for the duration of that, Vachel and I were comedians! It was terrific!

Lynn, the activity director at the convent escorted me to where we had met and thanked me for coming.  I told her I would be happy to return any time.

I hope I do.

Here are some more pictures . . . . . First is the view of the inner courtyard looking down from the top floor hallway.
VLSHC-cThe stained glass window in the lobby was commissioned by the Dominican Sisters when the convent was constructed. An informative card Lynn gave me when I noticed and complimented her, explains it in detail.

A last picture before returning home.

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

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A friend whose WordPress blog I read regularly recently commented his concern for my paucity of postings at Honey & Quinine this month. I can count on the fingers of my hands the number of comments about ANY comments about my H&Q posts, and I truly appreciated his interest.

It motivated me to return to this blog and to make more time to let my “blog juices” flow. I’ve not written a new poem or song in months.  Most of my time away from my employer has belonged to my aviation museum. My time at work is not what it used to be. The owner of the business is due to appear in court August 20 for under–reporting his income tax.  For all I know at this time, I will be short an employer by the end of this week; maybe sooner. Leading up to that moment has been a month — actually months, actually years of erratic, adversarial chemistry, recently turned downright caustic and not condusive to the creative writing process. My days of writing blog posts during slow hours at my showroom desk behind the computer are over.  Ideas for blog posts and even a new poem-song or two have seeped into my line of consciousness, and I’ve kept them close to “the front of the bus,” so to speak.” I have decided that my creative time will be part of my museum time. I’ve already processed photos for my first post-transition post and will draft it today; post it probably Tuesday.

Sharing my incapacities does nothing to demonstrate my abilities, and abilities are what I offer to the world, to potential employers, to potential and current friends.  I will spare you the bother of sharing them.

On this sunny Sunday, I’ve worked at AeroKnow Museum at the airport, organizing part of the aviation magazines from 7:15 until about 11 when I decided to get off my feet and return to my downstairs office.  I’ve chatted with museum visitors from Allegiant AIrlines and a fellow who flew in for the Illinois State Fair and was flying home to Kansas in his Cessna 182.  I’ll write my draft of “Vachel For the Sisters” when I finish this relatively short post. Then I’ll return upstairs to work some more with the aviation magazines, spend some time building models, sorting and filing data for the research room and return to the office to check e-mail and Facebook and to process more pictures.  I’ll return home about 5:30 for an early dinner and to watch 60 Minutes if it’s on. I’m halfway through Jack Parr’s last book entitled “P.S.” — a good read; recommended if you know who he was and remember him well.

Physically I’m doing very well as I continue recovering from the leg surgery that followed my fall last winter. The only lingering challenge involves ascending and descending stairs with the same alacrity I demonstrated before the fall. Last Tuesday I was on my feet almost eight hours straight as I photographed an event at the Air National Guard base. I could barely walk when I departed mid afternoon to work a few hours at my “employer,” but by the end of the day, following my return to my airport office I was fine; felt good about the exercise.

I’m not angry with anyone and I count every hour a blessing wherever I am. Here’s hoping you are as well blessed as I . . . . and that I still feel this way come Wednesday.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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