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December has been a hard month for me on more than one occasion. On December 12, 1994 I discovered my father, Job Clifton Conger, III, had died in bed when I went to check on him on a bright, sunny morning like the one outside my office window as I write today. On the day after welcoming a MAJOR military service person to my aviation museum, I suffered a stroke, and by the grace of God and the good will of my employer who drove me to the hospital I received medical attention very fast, and the stroke turned out to be minor, though not inconsequential. I was treated the first half day (December 4), the next full day and was discharged before lunch the next day. I’ve been taking children’s aspirin and two prescription drugs every day since. All of my checkups have been excellent. Everything is “in the green.” Today I weigh a few pounds less than 200, the slimmest I’ve been since I was about 30, haven’t used a salt shaker since (not even for pepper) and I return for checkups every SIX months instead of the past every month or two months. My three-day “vacation” was over. I had lived and dined better than I do at home, people  (even friends) had visited,  and there was a working television which I’ve not had at home for FOUR BLEEPING YEARS . . . not that I MISS TV (I think). I walked into my bedroom and found the bag of Frito munchies I had enjoyed in the wee hours of the 4th after taking it to bed — the most “delectable company” I’ve taken to bed in more than 10 years (don’t  get me started about that; I’d only embarrass myself. )
The picture above and the rest of them were “re-posed” (no pun intended) a few days ago for this blog post. The bed has not looked this “made” in probably three years.

I kept the Fritos with me just to stay close to my favorite snack before the stroke. Over the year past, I ate not ONE of the contents, not a salted chip or Pringle since. I haven’t even looked inside the bag. To be honest I did fondle it a little, gently, when I was setting up these pictures.
And since December 6, I’ve had a HELL OF A YEAR which finally showed a true blessing of a change for the better when I was able to arrange for a house renovation fellow who trusted me (I STILL OWE him a lot of money, drat it) to repair the devastated upstairs duplex and some friends from the arts community decided to rent it from me. It’s still been a hell of a year.

As this month approached I wasted a lot of time pondering my mortality. And as this month has continued, I’ve wasted a lot MORE time pondering my mortality and what to do with my life. I’ve pretty much disengaged from the literary and artistic community that meant so MUCH to me before I threw my heart and soul into the airport museum. Too many disappointments with too many people, too many times. Too many heartaches which appear irreconcilable. All I  have left is the aviation community and not much of one at that.  Still I speak to more airplane people than I do poetry and songwriting/performing people. So I guess this is my fate. But I digress.

The covenant I made with the partly consumed bag of Fritos Twists snacks served its purpose. The day after I spent the first night back in bed with them, I decided to spend a year with them. They kept me focused, my “eyes on the prize” of a healthier outcome, which — indeed — HAPPENED! The day after a year had passed, December 7, I removed the bag from the bed and it will not return to the bed. The bag and remaining snacks are now at the bottom of a bottom desk drawer. If  I ever feel like doing something to curtail my future, so to speak, I will probably munch the rest of the bag before taking a final giant step into the infinity of oblivion. I’m almost there today. I am dead to the arts community which I loved and which loved me for about 20 years. I know as well as I know how to pronounce my name that a lot of this circumstance is a torment I brought upon myself. That’s okay. I don’t hate anyone. And it is easier — no more arguing, no more disappointments — on ME this way, wallowing in the quietude of solitary reverie.
I miss my family like crazy, but those I loved so much up to about the time Mom (divorced from my father in about  1970-something) died in about 1986 and Dad died, are estranged from me too: my widowed older sister Dorothy, nephew Steve and niece Julie . . . . all have almost nothing to do with “the guitar picker who never moved away  from Springfield like every single one of them did.” Doctor Steve has sent me a Christmas card annually through the years, never with a note, once or twice without a signature. I am a mite  doubtful that one will come this year, though I don’t know why. He could have died in a train  wreck for all I know. Ditto Dot and Julie. Such is life.

December is a hard month for me.

I’ll be okay.

Merry Christmas!  🙂

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The progress I’ve made since my January fall from my front porch, the legs surgery and rapid initial recuperation has been slowed to a crawl since, say, May. I worked myself pretty hard until I could locomote without the four-legged folding walker. Another major milestone in mid-May was finding myself improved enough to pull myself up to the flat top of a floodlight stand overlooking the airport tarmac where the airplanes (Cessnas, Bonanzas, Learjets, etc.) park to refuel or overnight while flight crew and passengers do business and pleasure in the city. The big advantage of climbing up on that raised base is that I can take pictures of arriving and departing airplanes without the fence getting in the way.


This was the single most important accomplishment  since losing the walker. There should have been more significant accomplishments, but they’ve not happened. Until July 8,  my first day back at my employer after a four-day temporary “parole” away, spent mostly at the airport museum, I had been okay with using the railings on stairways to pull myself up the steps and brace myself to keep from falling forward and tumbling, coming down the steps.  Two events happened over the four-day hiatus from the plantation . . .  okay, from my employer if you insist.

Number 1 was my discovery that I’ve not had a working telephone land line since APRIL. Part of my life as been a daze of depression and simply denying the rest of my responsibilities because  I’ve been so bleeping SAD. I don’t receive many phone calls at home, and I just assumed life was going on as normal.  I’ve not tried to call anyone from my home in several months. When I need to call someone I use my employer’s phone or my cell phone. I rely a lot on e-mail. Even so, I wanted to keep my land line phone number. To do that I had to re-establish my phone line. I did that this afternoon. Paid the past due bill over the phone, and an e-mail from the phone company informed me that I’m re-connected.

Item B was a better understanding of how precarious my balance is. It was always an issue (Lousy sense of balance) in physical therapy (PT) at the hospital, and they urged me to practice; showed me the exercises, which — after they released me from further required visits for an hour PT — I of course did not do.   Starting July 8, a realized I am almost ASKING for another accident to happen if I don’t get serious again. Solution? I am making myself ascend and descend steps without touching the railings. I’m doing it s-l-o-w-l-y  now, but I’m doing it every time without hands on railings. As I get my balance back, the speed will come.

Part of my daze, really since the discharge from the hospital, has been my avoidance of the hospital bills. I am not earning enough to pay much, but I did qualify for Medicare with help from someone at the hospital, and I am s-l-o-w-l-y turning my attention to those bills. This is really going to be hard. But I have made a few steps in the right direction. I spent part of the 4th of July sorting the bills by companies indicated in the upper left corners of unopened envelopes. I’m summoning the strength of mind to open everything, pitch all by the most recent bill from each provider and go from there next week.

There are some more concerns awaiting the attention of a civil, intelligent citizen which I am trying to become. Maybe I’m running out of days and don’t know it. Things need to be set right whether I leave this world next week or 20 years from now. I need to do  this not because I’m running out of time but because it’s the right thing to do.

As the BeeGees used to sing, “The road is long with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where.” As I once wrote in one of my songs, “I haven’t found the flavor, but I’m getting there.”

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

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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.


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.
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.

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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.

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I’ve been a fan of Springfield, Illinois-born poet Vachel (rhymes with HAYchel) Lindsay for more than 30 years. Vachel was a man. You’d be amazed how many people hearing the name pronounced correctly for the first time are surprised to learn that. He lived from 1879 to 1931. For years Vachel’s “place” was at the house on South Fifth Street and in the hearts of those who had read his poetry or heard him speak it to packed theaters and auditoriums all over the USA, Canada, England and even his own home town. I recite his poetry and talk about his fascinating life to anyone who will listen, and in the course of that reciting (not the same as reading it to pieces of paper while those gathered near listen and quietly plan their grocery shopping) I have witnessed countless Midwesterners come to appreciate the man and his gift to the ages: a legacy of beauty that touches our hearts today. Two of the newest “comers” to know Vachel are my friends Peter Pero from Halstead Street in Chicago and his friend Greg from near Galena. On Saturday, June 1, the three of us motored to Oak Ridge Cemetery where Vachel “rests” with his mom, dad, sister Olive and three sisters who died of illness early into their lives. Here we found Vachel, and we reflected on some of his poems.


The best way to find Vachel is to visit Oak Ridge Cemetery’s administrative offices on Monument Avenue during weekday business hours. There you will be given a map of the grounds with the location of the Lindsay graves clearly marked.

Peter and Greg at Vachel's headstone

Peter and Greg at Vachel’s headstone

If the office is closed. drive to Lincoln Tomb which “towers” above the stones of lesser mortals and drive northwest on the well-maintained lanes. Look for the sign with the name and the arrow.

Job Conger poses beneath an important lane-side sign.

Job Conger poses beneath an important lane-side sign.

The gravesite is inspiring to this writer. To be close to the stones is to be touched by the spirit of the poet, PARTICULARLY if you have read or heard 10 of his poems — any 10 will do — or known of him longer than a week.

Almost two years ago Peter had arranged for me to recite and sing some of Vachel’s poems which I had set to music for guitar accompaniment at Chicago’s internationally known College of Complexes. On that occasion I also explained Vachel’s close ties to “The Windy City” of which there are many. One reason for his arranging for his friend Greg to come to Springfield was so I could acquaint a new friend with the poet and his works.

Peter Pero of Chicago

Peter Pero of Chicago

Earlier in the day I had recited Vachel’s “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” in the Senate chambers during our visit to the Old State Capitol in lyrical downtown Springfield. At the end of our tour of the Dana-Thomas House, the most completely restored home designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright during his early years. I recited Vachel’s “On the Building of Springfield” for Greg, Peter and the others who had taken a wonderful guided tour. I will describe that tour soon here at Honey & Quinine. At Vachel’s place, I recited some more.

Job Conger reciting "The Mouse that Gnawed the Oak Tree Down" the first Vachel poem he ever recited in public.

Job Conger reciting “The Mouse that Gnawed the Oak Tree Down” the first Vachel poem he ever recited in public.

There was no hurry. There never is at a cemetery. There was time to consider the life of probably the most famous native son of our city and be glad that he has touched our lives with his example and his poetry.

Soon it was time to depart. Supper time was approaching and there was a Shop N’ Save Supermarket calling to our appetites. We obeyed. I was grateful for Greg’s and Peter’s interest in Vachel’s place. They may never return to Oak Ridge Cemetery, but I am confident they will return to his poetry.

left to right to Job's right, the headstones of Vachel Thomas Lindsay, M.D., Katharine Frazee Lindsay, and Nicholas Vachel  Lindsay.

left to r8ight to Job’s rigtht, the headstones of Vachel Thomas Lindsay, M.D., Katharine Frazee Lindsay, and Nicholas Vachel Lindsay.

I know I will too!

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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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.

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.

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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.

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