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Archive for August, 2015

Catching Up Again

What a year! I’m almost out of one bramble bush, but my path through what’s left of my life necessarily takes me to another one, leaving little time for relief; only regret, as I lurch, inexorably toward the next one..

In early May 2014, knowing I had serious cataract problems with my eyes, a condition that prevented me from driving legally with a valid drivers’ license, I consulted an eye surgeon, someone who removes cataracts. For more than a year I worked to arrange the procedures. When an agency wanted verification of my employment and pay history, my employer took not days or weeks but  MONTHS to provide them. A county medical assistance agency consulted with me over months as I waited for my employer’s information, and while waiting, last August or so, depressed as hell, I GAVE UP trying, even after I had received what I had asked for in May. I didn’t go to a scheduled appointment at the county agency, and soon after, I received a notice from them that I had missed the appointment, and that I would have to re-apply. In November I changed my mind about giving up, wrote the local agency whom I visited on time and followed their advice to contact the state agency.  I didn’t. I was miserable. In late April 2015 my case worker at the state agency called ME, asked if I was okay, wondering what the situation was with the eye doctor. After I explained SHE performed a minor miracle that re-connected me to my eye surgeon. She said the funding would come, but we’d have to wait another month because the Lasik surgery apparatus intended for my weaker eye, the right one, was available only one day a month, and we’d missed it for the current month. The surgery on the right one, and a month later on the left one (didn’t require the Lasik apparatus) was completed as scheduled. The operations were complicated, requiring pre-surgery preparation on my part and lots of self-delivered eye drops medications on schedule after. But the operations themselves were almost JOYOUS experiences for me. The medical people were friendly, professional, knew what they were doing, and my discomfort level during both was no worse than a pin prick. The business of post surgery eye exams by another eye doctor was less than happy, but he seemed to be competent, and I decided the Prairie Lasik and Eye Center would not have hired him if he was not. I kept my frustration with him. He was as warm as a cucumber, I got my glasses, and that was that. Not quite.

I find I STILL NEED to use a magnifying glass to read small print in some books. THAT BOTHERS the BEJEEBERS out of me! I had not expected THAT!  I’m disappointed. When my finances allow, I will visit another eye glass business — after I’ve paid the bills for the past year of treatments — and see about getting the glasses I thought I would get the first time. Even so, there is a sunny side to the outcome: I have a doctor’s statement to take to the drivers license facility. It says the condition that prevented me from a license has been remedied, and that my eyes are now of acceptable acuity to permit me to drive on Illinois streets. One would have expected that I would have rushed to the licensing people and obtained my new drivers license the day that statement was handed to me. I haven’t gone yet, but I plan to this week if I have the time. My outlook on life is still sub-nominal.

As the eye situation evolved some other events took place. Last October, the person who rented my upstairs duplex for four years broke her lease and moved out over two days, leaving a litany of broken fixtures, cat urine-stained carpeting and more. She had promised not to leave until spring since nobody wants to move into a new home after school starts and Chiistmas is around the corner. Even if the place had been left in perfect condition,  I knew chances were slim that I could get it leased before spring. Even so I put my rental sign into my front yard, and that later that week was called by a fellow who wanted to see the place.

I showed it to him and his pregnant girl friend. They loved it. He said he was an experienced renovator and he’d gladly fix it up if I’d discount the rent for a few months. So we agreed. And then I began writing checks and eating like a bleeping hobo. First to go , upstairs, was the cat-stained carpeting. The woman said the odor was dangerouts for pregnant women. They replaced it with hard surface wood veneer flooring that looked fine. He started to re cover the floors in two of the three bedrooms with new tiles but didn’t finish them after I purchased all the tiles he needed. Then I told me he could not lease the place because he had just been transferred to a job in Chicago, but he promised to finish the renovation before he had to move in January. In the meantime, the couple would stay at his dad’s house where they had lived for several months. Then they left and never came back. The next day I had the locks re-keyed. And the duplex remained vacant all winter. And it was a very hard winter with the loss of that rental income and having to drive at night (home from work) with cataracts in my eyes that were getting worse.

On Wednesday night, December 3, 2014, I decided after work to skip the Illinois Pilots Association meeting I had planned to attend and work in the museum I’m developing at the local airport. It was a lucky decision. Two hours into the evening the museum was visited by an impressive group of US Air Force Academy administrators who had landed at the airport to refuel their airplane so they could continue their home-bound flight to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Leading the group was the  superintendent of the Academy. We had a WONDERFUL visit. I get along well with aviation people. I took pictures. I promised to stay in contact with the superintendent’s aide de camp. It was a knockout terrific encounter of the best kind.

The next day after a lunch of coffee and peanut butter and strawberry preserves sandwiches, I had a minor stroke.

To be continued. Thanks for reading this.

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

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So Many Strangers

Last night, for the last time, I attended an arts event where I always enjoyed sharing my poems and songs and poetry and songs of others. The last song I sang is one I wrote on March 31, 1991. Here are the lyrics . . .

Bullet in the Back

Have you ever prayed for a bullet in the back
That will kill you when you’re crying,
That will end the rain and agonizing pain
That you feel when you feel like dying?
Do you wait for the runaway truck in the street
To snuff away that last heart beat
As you wallow in a whirlpool of defeat
And memories of days that were sunshine sweet?
Have you ever prayed for a bullet in the back
That will make your life complete?

He’s a man who prays for a bullet in the back,
Who has lost his zeal for living,
Who’s ashamed to share the hurt that’s deep within
And is damned if he’ll try forgiving
Of his parents who did the best they could
Though he felt they  never really understood
Of his friends for offenses, though intentions were good,
And himself for not doing as he should.
He’s a man who prays for a bullet in the back
As he always feared he would.

There’s  a problem that comes with a bullet in the back
To a person thinking through it:
How to fabricate some morbid twist of fate
That will make some bastard do it.
Not a Buddha or a Christ will take the aim
Though a devil might relish assuming blame,
But an East Side demon with an alien name
Might send you back to where you came.
There’s a problem that comes with a bullet in the back
When it’s more than just a game.
When it’s more than just a game
When it’s more than
just
a
game.

Two months ago, some listeners I’d never met at Joe Gallina’s Pizza Restaurant in lyrical downtown Springfield, suggested I should sing my other songs (including some better songs) while sitting on a bench on the restored Old Capitol Square with an open guitar case. That is a greater shame than playing for the three people who I sang for last night. I love to sing and recite for people I’ve never met, but only when there is at least one friend present. Last summer I played during a festival or a sort at a restored stage coach village west of Springfield. The sound system was superb, there were many strangers, and there were three friends. Not close friends, maybe well-liked and respected acquaintances . . . and that was close enough. They had no clue how important their presence was to me. One had invited to play at this event.

I have read of so many artists who died penniless, friendless, and by their own hands, and I stand starkly, amazed and sorry about circumstances I wish I could understand.  Springfield poet Vachel Lindsay is a favorite. Lindsay scholar and a brilliant gentleman who had been good to me, Dennis Camp,  “went west” in his own way at his own chosen time. WHY?

If you are NOT sans friends — and not many of my acquaintances are NOT sans friends — (lucky bastards) you’ll not likely appreciate the comfort zone created by sharing your perhaps-inaccurately-perceived incapacities  and sins with strangers . . . so many strangers. We craft our joys and sorrows, We make soup into a steak dinner on a framed canvas, into a poem on a page or a song shared alive and evermore (as Fate permits) in recorded sound. Lots of artists have lots of friends. Deservedly so.

I wish I knew more about people who read Honey & Quinine. To understand that sometimes you ascribe “value” to what I share here with so many strangers . . . this is not working well for me. The time to hang things from the clothes line for passing, curious, readers to engage with eyes and hearts is AFTER they come, from the Whirlpool or Maytag, after the last spin cycle, from the laundry room in the basement. Some things will dry with wrinkles even after soap and sun. That’s okay.

In the meantime, I’m treading water. . . swimming when I have the hope that drives the swim . . . in strong current and a long way from the shore. And since sharing with so . . . many . . . strangers keeps my head above water — as it has for some years now — I will continue until I don’t. Thanks for being out there.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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