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Archive for September, 2016

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The obituary of one of my favorite high school teacher in yesterday’s State Journal Register put a crimp in the flow of my pretty good day. Alice Hensler taught Civics, and I attended her class — Fifth Period if I remember right my junior year at Springfield high. She was sharp, good looking, and  could engage in intelligent discourse, disagreeing, sometimes, but always making clear to  all of her students that she respected them. I remembered yesterday that she had inscribed some flattering words in my 1964 (I think) yearbook.  Miss Hensler was young. She had graduated college in 1957, and I was destined to graduate high school in 1965. Throughout the rest of my life, I have looked for “some of Miss Hensler” in every woman I have loved . . . . and found it in a few. That obituary,  combined with a recent positive act with Marge Harris Robb, younger sister of high school and (later) adult friend Nancy Harris, got me thinking about the nice notes from favorite people who autographed or inscribed  my three SHS Capitoline yearbooks. I decided to examine each one and share some quotes with names and remember most, briefly, and wonder in words what became of them. This morning I brought the first, 1963 edition, out to the airport and opened in for the first time in probably 10 years. The first inscription, located in the upper left corner of the inside front cover was  familiar. It had been written by a great friend I had known since grade school days at Black Hawk. She and her sister Margy and brother David had lived on College Avenue, almost directly across the street from Black Hawk!
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“To Job , How do you  inscribe a yearbook to a boy who is indescribable. And  a troublemaker! Stay the gentleman that you are. Forever, Nancy Harris.” We were pals and later knew each other when I was between spells in college. She married a nice fellow and they moved to Oregon, I believe. Today, from Margy I understand she lives in Florida. I wish her well. I wish all those who signed my yearbooks well.

In the upper right corner of page 1, facing the inside front cover which Nancy signed was this from Barb Henry.  We were in some classes together, and I believe we both worked in the cafeteria during our lunch breaks.
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“Job, Keep on being good. You gave us a lot of trouble in English, but it wouldn’t be fun without it. Love, luck and laughter by truck load. P.s. Never forget our history class.” I was outspoken in English class, but Archie Shoenbeck was a super teacher. Loved it. Thomas Hughes was also incredible. He was the leader of the Debate Club; years later Mr. Hughes recognized me when I was passing through Pontiac, Illinois eating with friends at a McDonalds, came up as I was chatting with the friends to say “hello.” He was a dynamic, vibrant leader. GREAT fellow.

I did not collect many autographs at the end of my year of ’62/’63.  I had reported some students cheating on a semester exam in  Zoology, not realizing that one of the cheating students would be GRADING the exams as the teacher’s student assistant. There were no violent consequences, but it  was all “touch and go” for awhile. Things would go better during my junior and senior years.

Marty Pitchford and I  shared  a reign at the top of a small pyramid  of wise-crackiing sophomores.
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He inscribed the last page facing the inside back cover.

Two other friends autographed the same last page.
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Jim Richardson was a fellow aviation enthusiast and model builder. He was my best friend for years. I knew his family well. They lived on Cardinal Drive across a field from Richardson Manufacturing Company (RMC) which his father founded and owned. We and some other friends flew model airplanes in that field. RMC had subcontracted with Boeing  and built some parts used in  B-47s flown by the United states Air Force.  He was a mathematical genius, married fairly  young and — I believe — had  some health issues early into adulthood and died fairly young.
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Tom was a friend, nice guy. Several years later when I was working in the  camera department of Goldblatt’s in Town & Country Shopping Center, I recognized his name on the outside envelope of some pictures we had sent out for processing. I (ILLEGALLY) opened them and discovered he had been serving with the US Air Force on Guam, maintaining B-52s that were bombing Vietnam from there. I wrote him a personal note and put it into the envelope, explaining we had been friends in high school, I’d love to pay for some extra prints of the airplanes and him, and would he please contact me. He never did. On the positive side, I was never arrested for looking at his pictures.

The next post will be about my 1963-1964 Capitoline. That was the school year when President John Kennedy was assassinated. It had many more inscriptions. I will do my best to make it reasonably brief. Stay tuned.

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

 

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Keeping Up Appearances

There was one reason to attend the first Springfield Classical Guitar Society concert of the 2016-17 season last Saturday night.

It wasn’t because I had time to attend.  I should have spent the time repairing and cleaning the upstairs duplex which two former friends had left is flagrantly despicable condition  after not renewing their lease. To protect their real names, I will refer to  them here and in future Honey & Quinine posts as the OINKS. They hadn’t removed all the light bulbs (just a few) so it wasn’t that I couldn’t see after dark. But it was important to attend the concert. I had never heard the featured guest, Matthew Fish,  from San Francisco who would also be selling his first Cd “From Her Source to the Sea.”

It wasn’t because I looked forward to photographing the artist during before, during and after the  concert as I have for more than 10 years as a volunteer. The change from the original concert venue, First Presbyterian Church, first to Faith Lutheran Church, to Grace Lutheran Church had brought significant dimunition in the quality of lighting of the performer. Organizers, or perhaps just the concert-hosting church coordinators, did not understand the importance of directing light to the front of the artists; not behind them. The reason has to do with why theatrical productions devote at least some of the illumination on the audience-facing fronts of the characters in motion.
I had wearied of photographing seated silhouettes playing silhouetted guitars in front of commendably lit proscenia, backdrops and choir lofts. I resolved to take a seat up  close, from which I could see and hear Matthew Fish. My hearing is not as good as  used to be. 2016 is the year I began wearing hearing aids. There is special capability that allows me to select a “music mode” that maximizes reception of that range of sounds.

It wasn’t because I remembered to wear my hearing aids Saturday, I had rushed to get out to the airport to work on my AeroKnow Museum which is my raison detre in recent years. Typically, I’m conscientious about remembering, but somehow I somehow slipped up. At least I’d still sit up front and enjoy what I could. The acoustics of the sanctuary are good. Regular people sit twelve rows and more away and they’re fine.

It wasn’t because I had stayed too late at the  airport, and by the time I arrived, the front rows were almost filled to capacity, so “up close” was not in the cards.

It wasn’t because I’d have a clear view of the guest performer. The church had removed several pews at the front left side of the aisle and installed a grand piano and chairs for what would, the next day, be an instrumental ensemble and perhaps a small vocal group. The audience necessarily  was seated toward the center aisle. I sat in the closest empty pew which row three behind the  clutter. My view of Matthew would be  between heads in the two rows ahead.

When he was playing, my woeful hearing scored minor triumphs when I could recognize a rhythm in 3/4 (waltz) time instead of standard 2/4 and 4/4 signatures.
Jeff gave commendably pleasant introductions to most of the tunes he was about to play. I could tell this much from how he sat with his Kenny Hill Signature model guitar, his gestures and how the audience responded. During the evening   I distinctly heard about 1o words.

It was because the organizers of the concert include some of the most respected friends I have. They are long-time friends. When I fell on ice a few years ago, these friends were INSTRUMENTAL (no pun intended) along with  some friends in making my recovery much easier than it would have been without them. It was because some of them have helped with materials for my aviation enterprise and gave me food that helped sustain me when I have experiencing  some financial “trauma”  last year. It was because some of the regular attendees at the SCGS concerts have become my friends, all intelligent, well-tempered, gentle-humored ladies and gents.

During intermission,  one of those friends bought two of Matthew Fish’s premiere CD and gave one to me. I’ll listen to  it later today.

I knew my attendance Saturday would be an act of likely futility, but a  gesture worth making. I did it to demonstrate my  support for my friends. Sometimes it’s important to “arrive late instead of skipping” a banquet knowing full well your arrival won’t be in time for with the main courses, but if you’re lucky,  you’ll be in time for  pie. There are considerations that transcend Veal Scallopini. Sometimes  it’s just a matter of  keeping up appearances.

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

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Ballad of the Bitter Loner

This song is based on my Ballad of the BOF which I included in my third book of poems and song lyrics Bear’ sKin. The refrain is improved over the earlier version, written April 23, 2002 but the tune is the same. I sang it one time in public.

Ballad of the Bitter Loner
by Job Conger

Have you met the animated guitar-whacking folk singer,
The crusader with a cross attitude?
The picky nit pick picker with an upturned middle finger
For the world which he considers gross and lewd?
While the others with engaging smiles
Singr toasts to sweet tomorrows,
His sparking wine of yesterdays  drinks sour, flat,
Yes, there’s only one conclusion
One can reach — at cordial distance —
From a dull and droopy countenance like that:

What a hastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a bore.

With  his melancholy melodies’ long loose
Rope — entwined with fibers full of unforgiven wrongs —
Which he knows will soon or later be his hangman’s noose,
He is lashed to prophecies of his own songs.
And despite the damnably  infrequent hope and sense
Of coming sunshine in a life of dreary night
He’s resigned to the inevitable truth and consequence
Of being so screwed, though he thought he was  so right.

What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
Hear him roar.

Yes, remember, for the record, that an eager active brain
Doesn’t mean an easy ticket to success.
It takes more than witty aphorisms to sustain
A bright patina over hidden, grim duress.
It takes building friendships,  being patient, nice
To the flitting souls who share your storm-tossed sea.
If you aren’t you will discover you must pay the price
When you become the man you never dreamed you’d be.

What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
What a chastened and bitter loner
Nothing more.

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

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The Shoes Worn Least

Dad was alive when I bought them, sometime around 1992 or 1993. On at least two occasions when he saw me wearing them, he made it clear he didn’t care for them at all. And that was okay, I didn’t cringe or get angry; I wore them anyway.

My friend David MacLaren and I often had lunch at Old Country Buffet at White Oaks West, a shopping center across Route 4 from White Oaks Mall, and occasionally we’d visit a few nearby stores afterwards. I believe I bought the shoes I would wear least of any shoes I ever bought at a Payless Shoe Store. On the occasion recalled here, I also bought some dedicated walking shoes because I had concluded that I needed something more utilitarian than the street shoes I’d been wearing to the first several local airshows I attended. (Springfield Air Rendezvous’ “run” lasted from 1983 to 2006.) I wore them annually to the air show (a three day event, counting “media day” and seldom between airshows. The just didn’t look like legitimate street shoes.  The shoes I would wear the least were purchased for another special purpose: parties.
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I  liked the formality of the wingtip treatment with the informality of the thick, informal (non-dress shoe) laces. As a child of eight or nine I had worn “white bucks,” and with their thick, white topped leather and thick, red rubber soles, they were unique.

The did make a “statement” at parties. I wasn’t trying evoke anything approaching sexuality with them, I knew they weren’t fashionable. I had always been a Florsheim shoe  man so I knew formal shoes. I’d never wear these new shoes in daylight or to a job interview, but I LIKED THEM. They were left and right fortresses of leather, conspicuously heavy. The soles were only nominally flexible. I didn’t WALK when I wore them; when striding over a hard surface floor, I  ka-LUMPED!  And that was okay; I liked the new shoes anyway. And I moderated the ka-LUMPING by taking shorter strides.

Some years have passed by completely without my even touching these shoes. I don’t  attend parties much anymore, but I usually wear “the whites” when I do . . .  for the same reason I wore them when I  had a more satisfying social life. But last week I began doing something I would not have  considered when I had money for shoes: I wore them to “work” at a part-time employer and also to my airport aviation museum.

The decision to bring them out of “retirement” did not  come easily. They had always been “Christmas shoes” to me, similar to a special sport coat or a special-occasions-only party dress with some women friends. On the other hand, I was down to just two nominally-wearable pairs of shoes and wanted to have a third  pair to wear. I’m afraid (and regret this terribly) that my party days are over. I will probably never love another woman (though I would love to) and I will probably never buy another pair of shoes.

To paraphrase from the  ancient philosophers . . . . “I felt sorry for myself because I had no Florsheims. Then I met a man who had no Keds.” (once-popular rubber-sole sports shoe manufacturer).

I believe myself fortunate that I have three pairs of shoes. There were times when some of the dress shoes I was wearing (three or four pairs at a stretch some decades) had holes in their soles the size of half-dollars and nobody knew this but me.

So if you see me wearing “the whites”  sometime,  don’t imagine I’m going to a party in these things . . . . .

I AM THE PARTY!

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

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I was born September 5, 1947, 69 years ago. My life and outlook, on “lesser days” (as I live THESE DAYS) are hobbled by circumstances not to my liking. Yesterday I went through about 500 pictures of places I’ve traveled, events I’ve attended, friends gone by the wayside, girlfriends who dazzled and delighted me and disappeared.  I sometimes looked at those pictures over the years, sometimes letting 10 years go by between visits.

Every time before yesterday, I decided those pictures were there so I could share them with others, new friends, that I might write about those people; tell the world how and why they were dear to me. I thought the world should know those people and places when I become famous and someone writes my biography.  Yesterday, I looked and every pictures and separated the pictures which no longer meant what they once meant to me from those , most of which at any rate, will remain for the “clean up people” to discover along with what remains after the life in me ceases to be. (I have no living next of kin, no “person to notify in case of emergency.”) Yesterday I delivered to the dumpster, behind the building that hosts my  aviation museum, 380 pictures (prints)  and several hundred slides I didn’t bother counting after briefly looking at them with a lighted magnifier.  It all made an impressive mess at the bottom of the dumpster. I was impressed. Last week I decided that pictures are like angry horses. If they try to bite your fingers when you approach with an extended hand, it’s time to get rid of them. The reward for your attention must be more than regret.

The almost 120 pictures I kept for future reverence and future reference, collectively are  a “Job’s Life ‘LITE'” record that matters a lot to me.   Maybe I will scan them and write about them.

I’ve decided that memories should be allowed to die natural deaths by fading away. The pictures from the past,  SUSTAINED woe that would eventually die naturally. I have enough already. There’s nothing to gain by going back and reprising more of it.

The uncounted many thousands of aviation-related pictures I’ve taken remain on hand. They will be my legacy to fate because aviation enthusiasts have netted far greater benefits from knowing me than the parade of acquaintances and friends and lovers who have come into my life and passed (some, too DAMNsoon) through the window, out the door, down the road . . . .from it.

Anyone reading these words, men and women younger than me as I live my first day as a 69-year-old should understand a few things. If you are younger than age 65, if you imagine you will be even slightly “famous” some day, you will find personal comfort and saving of time from believing — as I do on this day — that if fame is intended for you, other people will take the pictures of you that need to be taken for your future biography and memoir. When friends hurt you and disappear, deposit the pictures you took of them into the nearest dumpster so they will be out of your life for GOOD and for goodness’ sake.

So goes this man’s life on his 69th birthday.

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

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