Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘arts’ Category

She came into my life like thunder when I recited my poetry at the Taylorville, Illinois public library, in March 2009. Lenore is not her real name, but I’ve referred to her by that name in Honey & Quinine before, and though she’s been out of my life since May of that year, I still respect her.

After the recital, Lenore and I shared some happy conversation and soon after, she moved into my house just a little bit which is to say clothes in a chest of drawers I emptied to accommodate her, some food she often shared with me, a few towels and things.  She slept on my living room sofa, I slept on my bed, and that was that.

If I had been smart, we’d still be friends today, but I was not smart; I was about as dumb as I could be. We had so many things in common, so many reasons to be friends — love of poetry, love of photography, pretty urbane outlook on life — it took me about two weeks for me to start dreaming of more than friendship. I wrote more poetry and songs about US than for any woman who inspired that kind of ardor. We were connecting intellectually in a way that I had not connected with former sweethearts, and the prospect of a future with her had me panting like a hungry Labrador, pulling on a chain that would keep me “at bay.” That was exactly the wrong thing to do. It became not a passionate interest in affection, though that was a part of it. It became an interest in more time. She had other ideas, told me she wanted me as a friend and nothing more. I should have accepted that, and I didn’t. The parting of our lives was not pretty, and I remain sorry to this hour for things I did which no gentleman should do. Suffice to say I didn’t lay a finger on her, and I didn’t utter an obscene or hurtful epithet at her. She left me. I don’t blame her. I was certifiable shark food for my part in the coming apart.

Since then, I have held on to a part of her.

botwat1

Lenore didn’t care for water from the tap. She drank it from bottles purchased at the supermarket. Since she left, I’ve not touched the bottle, not even to clean the shelf.
botwat-3
Keeping it provided some miniscule solace in allowing me to be close to a small part of who she was. I thought of her — and missed her . . . and thought I was a blithering idiot — every time I opened the refrigerator.  After four years of this angst and regret and absolutely no hope of ever speaking to her again, or seeing her  . . . I decided it was time to say “goodbye.”

How should I say goodbye? Slit my wrists? The thought probably crossed what was left of my mind a time or two in the two or three months right after she left, but it didn’t occur to me on the 4th of the 7th of the 13th. I didn’t want to just pitch the thing into the kitchen waste basket. I wanted to do something symbolic. Plunge a large knife through that bottle and letting it drain into my freshly cleaned kitchen sink? Too violent and not really my style. I know I was less than princely during our parting ordeal. For her anger toward me in the withering tumult, I took my revenge as well, in ways I won’t share here, but I say again, I did not put a finger on that beautiful woman. I did not raise my voice to her. She is right to think that to this day I am pond scum. I had to find a way to say goodbye via constructive outcome of the inevitable.

So I drank Lenore’s water and then threw the empty bottle into the kitchen trash.
botwat=4Yes, there was some concern for the outcome of drinking four-year-old bottled water. If I had writhed in agony all over the kitchen floor as some viral toxin from the water ate me up inside . . . . . I would have been okay with that. Such a fate was not to be. The last trace of Lenore in my refrigerator nourished me. In penance for this act of saying good-bye I have fasted all day today except for four cups of coffee and Lenore’s water. I’ll have dinner at sunset today, about 8 pm, and I’m okay with that.

I’m sorry I waited so long to say goodbye. I hope Lenore is well and happy wherever she is.

This has been my Independence Day lesson lived the hard way. But I am the better man for having lived it the hard way . . . . . . than not to have lived it at all.

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

Read Full Post »

For most of my life, I’ve considered me a “living room guitarist.” In recent weeks I’ve concluded I had way too high an opinion of myself in that regard.

In 6th grade, my parents gave me for Christmas a $15 Kay guitar they had purchased at Sears. After learning how to tune it with help from a book from the library and the family’s Chickering upright piano, I lasted a year without learning how to play a chord on it. The hard-bound books were technical, for grown-ups. I was 10 years told. Even so, in spring of 1959, in a classroom at Black Hawk Elementary School, I “pantomimed” (they call it lip synch now) “Problems, Problems” sung by the Everly Brothers on a big hole 45 RPM record. The kids loved the “performance.”

In 8th grade at Benjamin Franklin Junior High, during a school sock hop, I had been chosen to be one of three disk jockeys who spun records from the gymnasium stage. In the middle of my allotted time, with help from my friend Tad Baumann, I disappeared from the stage and came back in a sport coat and guitar as Elvis Presley and pantomimed “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog,” to an astounded audience. For the rest of my time at my favorite school of all time, friends and strangers occasionally called me Elvis.

In 9th grade, in Mr. Nika’s choral music class, I played my own guitar and chords I had learned from a Mel Bay book for beginners. I sang three songs, but the one I remember is “Undecided,” a big step BACKWARD from Mr. Presley’s repertoire.

My family loved my music. They seemed to think I was some sort of a child prodigy — WAIT — Well… maybe THEY didn’t . . . but I sure did.

There are days I still do.

In high school and college, I was part of three folk groups; played at some interesting venues in the groups and as a solo singer-songwriter in Springfield, Jacksonville and Bloomington=Normal, Illinois.

Guitars have always been part of my life though I have gone months without practicing and playing. Though I’ve written songs inspired by religion, my love life (about as successful as my music career) and politics all my life, I never found a body of good people who listened to me regularly, apparently enjoying the music, until I joined the local Poets & Writers Literary Forum in the early 1990s. The connection has been relatively steady through the years, though I’ve “dropped out” occasionally.

As an adult, my connection with my instrument has become more tenuous than it was in my 30s. By the time I was that old, I had played many open mics in the area. The audiences were always kind. One fellow asked where I’d been playing in the area, flatteringly assuming I was more popular than I was. Glances from friends and strangers began to tell me I was IMPOSING myself on them. They were too nice to say “STOP! GO HOME!” and because I was a “performing artist” I continued playing despite growing disappointment with MYSELF (because I wasn’t practicing enough and my finesse with the finger picking was going to hell) and the audiences weren’t as communicative as they used to be.

Since spring 2013, friends whose attention and conversation I valued IMMENSELY have literally disappeared after I finished my set of three or four songs at open mics. At parties, twice, I’ve felt like a blind man with a tin cup, waiting to play a few songs. Someone tolerated. People looked through me as though I were a ghost.

Part of the circumstance is self-induced. I’m not as accepting of the incapacities of others. People resent me for that and the snowball to self-oblivion continues.

So a few days ago, I did not include my guitar on the guest list at a party a long-time friend, cherished friend, invited me to attend. I Invitations had been sent to a relative privileged few, and I was one of them. Since had departed two previous parties attended by many of the same people, two parties from which I departed unhappy with myself and a few almost-strangers, I left my guitars at home. It was my decision. No one asked me, directly or implicitly, not to bring my guitar. This was the best way I could avoid getting angry at good people who would likely exercise their God-sanctioned Constitutional right not to pay attention. I could not play badly if I didn’t play at all.

I left early and unhappy anyway. When the usual musicians began coming together to jam, I decided I would not be in the room where they would play. Better yet, I should leave anyway; avoid the inevitable discomfort of coming face to face with my own stupidity. I wasn’t rude to anyone. I departed via the back door so most of my friends would not see me leave.

When I arrived home, I was still terribly out of sorts. I decided I would not play my guitars for a year or forever, whichever comes first, on Facebook, and I did. Reaction to the post touched my heart. Many who haven’t even heard me play shared concern.

One friend LIKED the news I wasn’t playing guitar for a long time. Total bummer! I guess that was “payback” for an opinion I voiced several years ago. But we’ll never be even; never be square, and we’ll never be friends. And that will likely cost me more friends.

I commented on Fb that I would blog about it on Honey & Quinine. This is the post.

It’s the post of a kid who failed in his assumed career as a living room guitarist. At least I’ve gone on hiatus. I’m not going to play at home where only the mice are listening, I”m not going to practice. The guitar I kept at my aviation museum is in a corner of my bedroom at home now, along with the others.

I’m not anti-social over this. I will recite my poetry and Vachel Lindsay’s poems where I feel good doing it, and today I’m going to start smiling and attempting to engage friends who are still my friends in convivial conversation.

The music has died. Maybe it only fainted, but looks and feels demised. We’ll know . . . in a year or forever . . . whichever comes first.

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

Read Full Post »

So It Seems
by Job Conger

I’ve had me some sweethearts who said they thought me wise,
Traded love for some bountiful baskets of lies.
It was all so mercantile, I recall with a sigh.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

Hysterical romances all ended in a huff.
I haven’t loved often or even enough.
But I’m done with this fool’s game of wondering why.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

(refrain)
There were no greater thrills, passions more fine
Than lusty tussles, kisses sweeter than wine.
But those were yesterday’s joys. Now I contemplate
Life chasing different dreams as master of my fate.

Together-forever hopes, duets in the sun.
I had my chances and I blew every one.
Panning for gold in the waste of woe — you know it’s folly to try.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

No more quilt and antique shopping, there’s more room to stretch in bed.
I don’t have to pretend to like her friends; I just have to pretend to like my friends instead.
I’ve not vacuumed my living room since last Fourth of July.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

=============================================
I wrote this song several years ago, knew I wanted to sing it as one of four pieces I intended to share at a local open mic night. I could NOT find a copy at home, and I could not access my office computer until the next day, so over the course of the day at my employer, I gradually recovered an essential five lines from searching the long-term memory in my brain. I was amazed that I could do it. Then I printed the song at work to take with me to the open mic and practiced the song, with my guitar at work (it’s okay; it was a slow day) but I didn’t practice it enough. The performance of this song was the worst I’ve done in public, and that’s saying something! It’s not easy for me to sing this song — nobody wants to make himself look like a looser — , but I am somehow compelled to share it as I get older. It’s a legitimate part of the man I am. I DO plan to sing it again after I’ve practiced it a hellovalot. Thanks for sharing it here.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

Read Full Post »

Reflections of a Single Male Approaching 65
by Job Conger
8:40 pm Monday, July 16, 2012
extensively revised March 24, 2013

Some things fade from memory:
the name of the grandfather
you met on his farm in Cochran, Georgia
when you were five,
The best friends of your mom and dad
who had more than you do —
their “social associates” —
by definition you’re ahead on that score.
You remember your sister’s prom night,
all the fuss she and mom made over the prom dress,
with lots and lots of petticoats.
She was the queen of the senior prom that year
Nineteen hundred and fifty-four or thereabouts.
You would turn seven three months later.

As you look back over the years,
grateful for every one, I might add,
trying to remember what you forgot —,
and for what positive benefit you cannot imagine —
you are glad for what you can’t recall:
the names of those who declined your invitations to dance
at the Ben Franklin Junior High School sock hops,
and that’s okay because you danced with those who said “yes”
almost as much as you wanted to dance.

Also long forgot the names of those
who you dated once or twice
and neither celebrated nor suffered after that

And as you remember mostly
all the cataclysmic epiphanies,
revealed in burning bushes, from trying and failing.
you chew your cud of solitary solace. Your heart remains true as you continue your quest
for Nirvana or Dulcinea or Snow White and, God bless her,
Ellen H, the woman who came closest
to your pre-pubescent, adolescent and post teen and post 30s and post 40s and post 50s and post 60 aspirations . . .
swallowing echoes, stark in truth, inexorably evolved from moonlight masquerades and made plain to see,
illumined by the burning wisdom of the sun.
The lies of moonlit truths reflected
and savored in soft shadows.

That siren song patina, the reason to live until tomorrow,
melodious hopes penned by writers of fairy tales
and you harmonized with them, a willing accessory to the
cosmic delusion: love and living happily ever after.

Underneath the patina, what you wanted to be close to
to touch and kiss and devote your life to:
the heaven-on-earth of a smile
and a few wet inches.

================

As I engage challenges I did not imagine less than a year ago, I’ve decided that instead of “wearing purple,” I’m going to be more of who I am. Perhaps doing this will inspire you, dear readers, to do the same.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

Read Full Post »

Take Two
by Job Conger

(introduction)
For months President Bush fed us lies
Served by pious, righteous cronies sleek and wise.
Some of us didn’t care to dine on their siren soup du fear
.Now digestion time is over, and the truth is odiferously clear . . . .

He’ll sing and dance like few Yale frat brats can
When W’s feces of lies hit the fan.
Though he sold us a war, second guessing is a drag.
It’s amazing what some folks take home when you wrap it in a flag.

He has stained our proud Stars and Stripes true
With new colors of brown, black and blue.
Those who saw through his blow,
We ain’t real Americans no mo
As W’s feces of lies hit the fan.

Front yard PATRIOT signs are the rage
Like armband fashions of an earlier age.
The feared weapons are as real as “the emperor’s new clothes.”
The facts should be clear to all who breathe through their nose.

The Congress feasted on pork barrel pie.
The “sounds of silence” was their battle cry.
They stayed cool and well-fed
While soldiers brave died and bled
And W’s feces of lies hit the fan.

Now he tells us “Saddam had to go!”
“Nobody ever really liked that guy, you know.”
Though the U.N. tried hard, they could not find a trace,
So the “compassionate conservative” threw war in their face.

So, as we hold noses tightly and pray,
It’s time to send CHIEF INSPECTOR O.J.
For gasless, germless blue skies
Can’t match a PRO’s alibis
As W’s feces of lies hit the fan. 

—– written June 26, 2003
================

The song was my “mantra” during W’s ‘rain of you know what,” but even songs, like wars, don’t seem to move folks the way they used to. I will play/sing Page Two in public for the first time in years at Springfield Poets and Writers Group’s Open Mike Night, March 20 at Robbie’s Restaurant on Adams Street — Springfield’s South Side of the Square along with my songs “Watching the Tide Go Out” and the song I wrote about my early days of treatment for my separated kneecap repair at Memorial Medical Center. I’ll also recite a favorite Vachel Lindsay poem as always. There will be talent and awesomeness a plenty, so please attend if you can. The fun begins at 6 pm. I hope to see you there.

live long . . . . . and proper.

Read Full Post »

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

(chorus)
Here’s to the spirit of hope in our hearts —
The spirit, the ghost or the flame —
That shows you the world with the gift of a smile,
No matter the credo or name.
In the darkest of winter a warm breath to brighten
Horizons of those who are dear.
Yes, here’s to the spirit that moves 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, blame 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 you care,
And you’ll reach where you’re going and more.

(chorus)

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

Yes, here’s to the spirit of hope in our hearts —
The spirit, the ghost or the flame —
That shows us the sun with the gift of a smile,
No matter the credo or name.
In the darkness of winter, a warm breath to brighten
Horizons of all we hold dear.
Yes, here’s to the spirit that leads us to love
And here’s to a happy new year.
Yes, here’s to the spirit that leads us to love . . . .
And here’s to a happy new year!

===============================
When I have an idea for a poem or a song, it’s as good as written. The challenge is to allow myself to make the time to be open, to let the inspiration come to me as it did December 21, 2005.  For several years, odds were pretty good that if I wrote a poem or song at ALL, it would be written toward the end of the year. I knew I wanted to write an exhortation that wasn’t “preachy.” Instead of saying “YOU SHOULD FEEL THIS” the approach was to TOAST The SENTIMENT in the chorus. Instead of “preaching” in the chorus, I wanted to “exhort,” and I believe I did. Listeners/readers aren’t asked or directed to do anything in the chorus. I’m simply toasting the day. I wanted something akin to an Irish sound to the melody, and that was easy. As the poem’s chorus lyric, the major element which I wanted to repeat, came together the melody came before I had written the first three lines. The verse varies only it words. It has the same melody as the chorus. I will record the song on Sound Cloud, and send it as a document to anyone who commends about the song and asks for the recording. Best wishes to you for a happy new year.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

Read Full Post »

I awakened about 9:30 after one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months. The location was Peter and Byung’s office-turned-guestroom on the ground floor of their condo, a scant 15 feet from the guest bathroom with the night light above the vanity. I had said my goodnights to my hosts and their friend Chris, a delightful woman whom I thought might go out with me if two of us lived in the same city. She was so charming that before I toddled down to the guest room with a final nightcap of all the Sauterne wine I could pour into a medium-size glass without likely spilling any, I gave her a copy of my book Confluence of Legends. It was third of three I parted with during my visit, the second of two I gave away.  I was so at peace with the world that I almost forgot about the pair of shorts (Fruit of the Loom if you must know) I had packed for the excursion. I did, in fact, think of them. I considered the circumstance. I hadn’t perspired much over the last day. Everything in the shortsall area was commendably clean and un-offensively scented. “What the hell?” I said to myself. “I’ll save these shorts for Monday.” And I did

!Peter had invited me to come upstairs to their living room and read when I was ready to meet the day, explaining he is a “night person (as is Byung) and would not likely join me until pretty well into the morning. I was fine with that. While waiting, I finished the Mozart biography I had started the day before on the train. It was a small book. Peter and I were munching sliced apple and sipping coffee by 11.
PP1216-1
Then it was time to roll. I can’t remember the names of the main roads traveled but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if Peter had not taken a liking to me when I recited at Vachel Lindsay’s house in October 2010, I would have passed to dust having never shared this vista on a Sunday morning in Chicago. I consider Peter to be the A.J. Foyt, the Mario Andretti, the Sterling Moss of high-speed driving!
PP1216-2
The second picture here has been slightly retouched.

First stop on the day’s itinerary was the Chicago Zoo.
PP1216-5This part of the zoo is a small farm which is there to educate children of Chicago who will never see a farm: denizens of the city deep, who will never travel to rural USA far removed from a four-lane highway. I know this because Peter is a Chicago historian and tour guide for hire among other laudable attributes.
PP1216-4  PP1216-3

We parked in a free parking curbside area near the lakefront. “On a clear day, you can see Indiana from here,” he explained. I was happy to see the lake; mad a memo to self to see more of it after the weather warms.  The zoo was closed for the winter, but the walking paths we well engaged by many on foot.

From this board walk, visitors in summer rent paddleboats to putter around a large, sheltered pond close to Lake Michigan. This area is part of Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
PP1216-6
One way to be certain you’re in Lincoln Park is this statue of Ulysses Grant on horseback close to the lake. At Chicago’s Grant Park, they boast a fine statue of Lincoln so visitors will know they’re in Grant park. This is a long telephoto pic, and I would looooooove to spend an entire morning or afternoon roaming this territory and getting close to Grant’s statue and beachfront.
PP1216-7
Another way to know you’re in Lincoln Park is this statue of Benjamin Franklin. That’s Peter posing for a picture he probably never thought would appear in this blog. The morning was chillier than I looks here. We were walking into a moderate headwind. It was good to know that the return to the car would be helped by  a tailwind.

PP1216-9

Mr Franklin was in good spirits. Must have been his hardy Boston lifestyle!

We were heading for the Chicago History Museum, a major attraction which should be on every visitor’s itinerary. It’s across the street from a major evangelist’s church, a beautiful brown stone complex with a sanctuary that seats about 3,000, Peter explained. He knew that the Sunday service had concluded shortly before we arrived on the museum side of the street, and he was curious about the place. So was I. There were still many attendees exiting the building after socializing, and the atmosphere was incredibly warm. Not a frown to be seen. We had no trouble entering that famous sanctuary and taking a few pictures. No one approached us and asked who we were or the purpose for our visit. Everyone was focused on their reason for being there; not ours.
PP1216-10

I could have spent an hour photographing the sanctuary.

PP1216-12

PP1216-13This is the view of the Chicago History Museum from the front of the church.
PP1216-14

Photography inside the museum is a challenge because of  the contrasting bright lights and moderate overall ambient light. Human eyes adjust to it better than cameras, but the displays are a real “tour de force” not only of Chicago, but of the culture of the USA as well.

PP1216-15

The woman is reading a very interesting, nutshell chronology of the land and the city. I knew the instant I saw her that I wanted to photograph her, but she was moving to the right faster than I hoped.  I neither know nor care what the door is on the right, and I know it’s a visual “ersatz element in this picture, but I did not want to interrupt her to ask her to “pose” for a picture more to the left.  I would have lost the authentic moment, and I do like how she stood at this fleeting half a second as she read the text on the wall.
PP1216-16

My true “photo harvest” from the museum came as we approached the stairway to the ground floor.
PP1216-17

The second picture is from the same position at the top as the first, but I stood closer to the edge to reveal the poster.

PP1216-18

Looking back up in the direction from whence we came.
PP1216-19
A final savoring of line and form.
PP1216-20Visible to the right of the fountain (closed for the winter) is the Chicago History Museum. Across the street is Ellie’s where we ate a fantastic lunch. It was terrific.

PP1216-22

A last look at a memorable museum.

I had a train to catch (that would depart Union Station) at 5:15, and we wanted to be arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare. En route back to Peter’s car — in fact almost across the street from it in Lincoln Park — we encountered this steel sculpture, another amazing presence . . .

PP1216-23
PP1216-24
A pose of the wayfaring folkslinger (photo by host Peter). With Peter’s talent at the wheel, the trip to the station was a breeze.
PP1216-25Live long . . . . . . . . . . and proper.

Coming next on Return to Chi’ (or) I Didn’t Even Change My Shorts,  I have a picture perfect return to my home town as a sobering story unfolds before my ears. Look for it Sunday.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »