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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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During my day away from the blogosphere, I savored 13 hours at the airport, my perspective regarding my zenith in the bell curve we call LIFE buoyed by more best wishes from Facebook friends than I cared to count.  Since making the decision to share those three little words (“Happy birthday, Job.” is 95% of the effort that goes into the process of sharing a “best withes” sentiment, I was floored by how many good people took that time to share those three words and the many who shared more. I was also floored to receive a birthday card in my conventional mail box, waiting for me when I returned home September 4, and today, I received a salutation and invitation to lunch sometime. As I told that person “and wag” in my response, my birthday is now officially adjourned until next year. I can’t think of a better time to adjourn because no salutation means more to me than the final one and the depth of friendship residing in that invitation.

I won’t be posting every day now, but I will be more inclined to post on a whim than I was in the past. My “Approaching 65” series of 31 consecutive posts brought several new “Likes” and some “Followers” to Honey & Quinine. I am warmed by that response as well.

Some mornings when I awaken early — before 3 am — I nod in and out of sleep, conscious long enough to stare at the clock radio for ten minutes, find another pose suitable for sleep, drifting off and returning to sentience 20 minutes later. I had time to burn before 3 today because I would not be working at the museum a little after 5 a as I have done most of the last week. I had to stretch until 7:30 so I could arise, deposit a few checks in the bank which doesn’t open until 8 and then drive to the museum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I tolerated this drifting in and out action about an hour and a half before rolling out of the sack and into productive action.

For the last few years, I’ve let idle detritus lie. My livingroom table where I had gone on a tear before last Thanksgiving, pulling articles, poems and cartoons I wanted to harvest after three or four years of subscribing to The New Yorker before quitting last April because I have no time to savor each issue . . . the table was essentially untouched since October last. A few pieces of paper had been added, a few things removed over the months , but the scissors and Scotch Tape from October were still there.

Is it obvious I don’t host visitors at home the way I used to?

This morning I cleared it: pitched many grocery store receipts, unopened junk mail, the odd poem of mine that somehow found its way there. CLEARED it. Even the salt shaker, the Kraft Catalina and Wishbone “Green Garden” (or something like that), the half-consumed jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy — Those essentials were moved to a small end table to the right of my recliner chair.

The same treatment was given my home office where I spend so little time my home office printer is unplugged. I haven’t touched it for at least two years.

Then came the kitchen. I had neither coffee nor iced tea for the first time in a place where I live. Just had not been to the grocer in time for more tea.  I absolutely refuse to buy my Lipton iced tea mix at Shop ‘N’ Save there I buy the rest of my vittles because they don’t stock the larger “king size” cans of it. I see this as a crime against good people less fortunate than I. The leadership at S’N’S knows many of their customers have no choice but to buy the smaller containers which collectively over the course of a summer provide more profit to the business than the larger sizes.  I resent Shop’N’Save for what I consider larceny, but I still shop the store. Cheeses, I will drink water with ice before I buy their frikking iced tea mix.

And I took my time with the kitchen, cleaning every counter, the top of the stove, starting a new bag of garbage and setting the full one aside to bring to the dumpster at my employer (with his permission). I went looking for dishes in the office, my bedroom, in the parlor where I expected to find none and found none. When I return home tonight about 7 with my new traditional “birthdays only” meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken with side dishes, which I expect to consume over the next two or three days, I will return to a house in considerably better shape than it was during my solitary- and-house-in- natural-disarray birthday. The house tonight will reflect a significantly improved home-made possible with friendships shared September 5, my 65th birthday.  

It will reflect a significantly improved impression of myself, as well.

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

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On Facebook today I encountered a nice picture of Laura Bush, whom, you may recall, married the son of a man I admire and respect: George Herbert Walker Bush. With the picture was text of something she said, “I have always been proud of my country.” With the picture and quote was an exhortation to “Click ‘Like’ if you believe Laura Bush is a great American.”

Right from the “giddyup” as her husband might say, I did not believe her. To believe her, I would have to believe that during her lifetime . . .
Laura Bush was proud of the dogs and police that assaulted hundreds who stood up in Montgomery, Alabama for their rights as ordinary citizens of her country. . .
Laura Bush is proud that tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen and probably hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died because two of her country’s wars in the years since the Korean War were fabricated on a foundation of lies.. . . . . . .
Laura Bush is proud that “cronyism and, good old boy politics” taken to new depths by President Obama’s predecessor make Richard Daley Sr., Huey Long and Marion Barry look like Mother Theresa.
Laura Bush is proud that a national presidential  election can be made null and void by a court whose constitutional dictum does not permit court action to play a role in deciding outcomes.

I could go on . . . . . . .

If Laura Bush is proud of her country, she is the Blagojevich who believes her husband innocent — not because she doubts he did what he did, but because of the principal of the thing. It’s not patriotic to speak out against evil, just as it was not patriotic to try to change Lieutenant William Calley’s mind before he and his platoon slaughtered an entire village of “slopes” in South Vietnam. It’s patriotic not to ask about the stench wafting through the countryside from the new “prisoner of war camp” near Belsen. It is not patriotic to call into question a presidential candidate’s real LOVE for defenseless doggies.

I have been proud of my country most of my few days short of 65 years. I was proud when Dwight Eisenhower was elected President of the United States of America. I wore an “I Like IKE” button all the time at Lawrence Elementary School. I was proud of my country when any US astronaut flew in space and particularly during the entire Apollo program; when  President Lyndon signed the civil rights act into law; whenever American athlete medaled in the Olympics; when Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin signed a peace accord brokered by our nation’s diplomats.

I could go on . . . . .

Laura Bush is a “great American” the way my new sofa is a “great house,” the way Robert Frost’s wife was a “great poet”, the way an easel is a “great painting.” Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Mary Todd Lincoln, Anne Boleyn were — and two still are — major contributors to the story of their countries and to their spouses. All are complete, marvelous examples of important lives lived well — okay, except for Anne. In terms of being a “great American” I suggest Laura and her sisterhood are not “the fire” but they are an all important, essential fuel that made the fire bright.  I will not declare Laura Bush a “great American,” but I say honestly and sincerely that she is a very nice American.

And if she HAS ALWAYS been s proud of her country, I still “like” her in my own way. I hope you do too!

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

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Job Conger, a few moments during the summer 2004

This post is being “dupli-posted” at two of my four blogs, starting with Honey & Quinine. The other post is at my AeroKnow Museum blog  —  http://aeroknow.wordpress.com 

The most recent post at the AeroKnow Museum (AKM) blog was July 3, 2012. I am way late with an update due to other priorities, and I’ve been sharing a LOT at Facebook which is becoming my cheap narcotic way to be a socialperson, especially with my “Approaching  65” series on Honey & Quinine. If you are reading these words at the AKM blog, please visit Honey & Quinine for more about me as a hummin’ bean and not a garden-variety aviation history enthusiast. The blot is at https://jobconger.wordpress.com

My purpose in posting at both is to see if there is a significant response to “aviation” at either blog. Significant response to the AKM blog will soon generate more aviation photographs and news there while I reduce my injecting  so much cheap narcotic into my Facebook aviation photo albums.

The six pictures starting here are a small piece of my activity at AKM.

Cessna Conquest

Piper Tri-Pacer based at Springfield’s airport

SPI scene

Canadair 601 Challenger

Challenger 601 galley

This is an exercise to see how things look in final presentation on the Web.  I will likely re-arrange them on the AKM dupli-post.

The point of the  H & Q post is to acquaint you with the real passion of my life that doesn’t wear a bra. The point of the AKM post is to let you know the museum is growing by the day.  Before I head for home about 6:30 pm, I will have been at the airport from 6:35 to 9:50 and from 2:20 until 6:30, blessed by the fire that gives me the motivation to “do what needs to be done.” Sunday I will be here from probably 5:10 am to about 5:30 pm, doing more of it. I am still the poet, the folksinger, the showroom manager at a great metropolitan stone fabricator, but until I meet “Miss RIGHT” my heart will be here at the airport. During the times I’ve dated seriously — and I’ve had my share — there has never been a day in the life of “Couple US” that I have considered aviation more important than the relationship. That’s how it’s  always been, but as Carly Simon sings, “The river doesn’t seem to stop here anymore.” and that is okay. That’s life. Que sera sera. And “Don’t cry for me Argentina.”

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

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Ten Things For Which I Am Grateful that Begin with H

1. HUMILITY  – and my friends who give me opportunity after opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to demonstrate mine.

2. HARMONY because the world is lovelier to those who can sing in a complimentary fourth to the tune the world sings instead of going along with the melody.

3. HUMOR because when you laugh, the world laughs along . . . or at you, and that’s okay because at least they’re paying attention.

4. HUMANITY because the more we accept our own, the more readily we can accept others.

5. HELVETICA — my favorite sans-serif font. I ask you: What is not to love about helvetica?

6. HUNTER — What we all used to be before we put down roots.  I am still the hunter, but under a different modus operandi. I am a searcher now.

7. HOPE, the sister of Faith. There is a third. Her name is Margaret.

8.  HAIR — Above my ears most of it is still the same color as when I was young. How many good people approaching the start of their 66th year can say THAT?

9. HOROWITZ — His first name was Vladimir. The day after I watched and heard Mike Wallace interview him on 60 Minutes,  I bought my first CD of classical piano played by this gentleman. There are more Horowitz CDs in my collection than any other solo music artist, including Tiny Tim.

10. HEART — “All you really need. . . .When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win, that’s when the grin should start.” — words and music by Adler & Ross

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

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Today ground was laid for what portents to be a near-term departure from the employer I have frequently nicknamed “the jibbering marmoset.” At Facebook I have ranted about the circumstance. I will try to be more civil and charitable here . . .

My employer — I’ll call him Simon — has an uncanny ability to treat all of his employees as though the year is 1860, and his last name is Legree.  Look it up. Every day is a contest with him. He has the diplomatic finesse of a sledge-hammer in his consistent disparaging and scolding of his employees and disregard of obligations to customers after he has taken their money. He has ignored at least one firm he has owed money to since last January will cavalier dismissiveness. When talking to first time visitors to the show room, he is a fawning, smiling, convivial veneer of engagement, a patina of civility over a foundation of fetid, festering insolence to those who owe their employment to him. I’ve worked for him for about four years. Before that I was a journalist and substitute teacher. I stopped substitute teaching when he promised me daily employment. At my urging, be began opening his store on Saturdays, and my obligation to him since I started AeroKnow Museum has been a knife in my hindquarters, even though I declare time off on Saturdays when I have obligations elsewhere.

When my car threatened to be a serious safety concern due to horrible brakes and other problems, Simon loaned me a pickup truck which I have driven  since 2009. My car, a Ford Escort I inherited from my deceased father in 1994 was partially restored by a friend who bought it from me as was, and he eventually sent it to a junkyard. I purchase the fuel for the truck, but Simon pays the license and insurance fees. Recently he had to purchase two new tires for it. I would have purchased them myself, but could not because I do not earn enough to buy tires, or insurance. I soon may have to.

Simon hasn’t paid me for a month. This has happened more times than I can count. He says he doesn’t have the money. By the grace of God, I have income from the upper half of a duplex I live in on the ground floor and basement while renting the upstairs. I also make a little more than a hundred dollars a month, sometimes less, never more than $300 from journalism.

Today Simon became upset with my asking when I would be paid, and he reminded me he wonders why I’m making a big deal about it since (according to Simon) I don’t need the money. He thinks I’m getting rich from journalism. Many people do. They are mistaken and I’m too proud  of being paid for my writing — anything at all — that I’m not going to burst their bubble of respect for me (there ARE bubbles of respect evident from some) and compromise my appearance of pride in this “profession.”

Today I told Simon I am having a hard time working so many hours that I cannot take time off, and even if I could FIND a better employer (which seems horribly unlikely only 11 days away from turning the BIG SIX FIVE) I am sure Simon would tell me to leave my key to the pickup truck on the showroom counter while he calls me a taxi and awards me a 10-spot to pay for the ride home. Without a vehicle I could no longer develop the museum at the airport. I am afraid to risk FINDING a better job since I would not be able to work (with no transportation and yes, I know about busses and taxicabs) after I was hired. I have seen  Simon behave ivengeful.. In the course of this “significant blurt” of frank discussion, he told me he would not do that.

He said he knows that working in a stone fabricator’s showroom is not my “job.” Simon said, “Working in the arts, being creative, writing, poetry, history, photography, music, that is your job. I know you’re just getting by. THIS is not your job.”  Simon is correct.

So the table is set differently now. We don’t know if the one-time girlfriend who was working twice a week at the showroom for Simon will EVEN BE AN EMPLOYEE after scho0l resumes and her beautiful kids are occupied, allowing her to work and give me the time I HAD for a few months earlier before summer  vacation time to write and maintain things. If she doesn’t come back I will be asked to work more. I am not ready to do that. I must find a way to convince an employer with some sense of humanity and fairness, who is sharp enough to recognize my potential, someone who will HIRE ME as a communicator and/or photographer.

The writhing is on the wall, splattered all oooooooover the frikking wall: red, yellowy, purple — what’s that brown goo? OH! Don’t tell me; I just sniffed it, I know what it is, and I know what it is not.

It is not the aroma of hope.

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

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I have never gone looking for luck, but sometimes luck comes looking for me. Today we connected, and I’m a happy man.

prelude to the three pictures; not one of them

The C-47 here has been restored to depict a Vietnam War special version designated AC-47, complete with “gatling gun” rotating guns that don’t work (they say), bristling like stingers out of windows on the left side of the airplane. Google “Douglas AC-47” to learn more about the bird; this post is about how I took the pictures that follow.

The airplane belongs to a Kansas aviation museum. There it is maintained and spends most of the year when air shows aren’t a part of the national aviation celebration during warmer weather months. Often, a Springfield area pilot and Facebook friend — former pilot with some major airlines, nice fellow, flies the ’47 to air shows and parks it at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport’s east general aviation ramp. Staging (placing an airplane at an airport closer to its next scheduled destination) saves fuel and wear on the airplane. The ’47 has been here about two weeks; not open for tours inside, but visible from the hurricane fence that separates the airplanes from the “hoi and polloi” — as Ernest Gann never ever said.  I knew that today the bird would be departing this city for its next air show appearance a few southern states away, and I was a mite sorry because I believed I would not witness the departure because I would be serving the employer who keeps me in Burgundy wine and Jiff Extra Chunky peanut butter. . . . . . . . . What can I say? Luck found me.
As I approached the airport a little after 5 today, I saw the airplane taxiing into the run-up area at the end of Runway 31. This is the place where pilots rev the engines to maximum power, briefly, to be sure they will generate the power needed to successful rise to the occasion, so to speak. They also test the controls and receive takeoff permission from the air traffic controllers in the nearby control tower.  In less time than it takes to type, I revved my vehicle to something approaching maximum power to arrive at my parking place near my museum office at the airport. I would have an excellent view of his departure IF I COULD get stopped in the parking lot on time.

If I had not come to a green light when I had to turn left and had not had to wait for oncoming traffic to pass before turning left onto the airport drive, I would have missed it. If I had not had my Sony Cyber-shot camera WITH ME, I would have missed it. If I had decided to run into my office to grab my larger Canon SLR camera, I would have missed it. Instead I RAN near-instantly after parking to a special elevated position I use for pictures of departing airplanes using Runway 31. As I arrived there, I heard the sound of engines rising to their full power at the start of the take off run.

It was hard to find the airplane through the view finder. I was looking INTO THE SUN, and virtually into the shadow. The right side of the ’47 facing the parking lot fence and me,  was NOT illuminated beyond the natural ambient light in shade.  By the time I saw it in my camera, I HAD to steady my hand and concentrate. Still it was hard to see him, thanks in part to the camouflage paint applied to the airplane and thanks to the dim background of trees and hangars in shadow. Already his tail was off the ground.

tail is up and acceleration to lift-off speed continues

I did not get a full view of the airplane because I could not see it very well and I had no time to properly frame it. Still it’s a passable picture that shows the general aviation t-hangars across the airport and a Piper Cherokee sitting outside one of them. I did not crop the picture here. This is as I took it.

The delay of about three seconds while my Sony Cyber-shot “point-and-shoot” camera processed the image onto its memory card seemed like thirty seconds. I could not see the airplane while the camera was doing that, and I had to search for it all over when I was able to see through the camera again. AGAIN I was concentrating mightily on moving the camera up and down as little as possible. The Cyber-shot has a stabilization capability in the side to side, and I once I FOUND him, gently panned the camera as he moved. I saw the control tower come into view, waited another whole second or so to take picture number two.

gently, gently, allowing the speed to build, plenty of clear space on and beyond the runway, no reason to rush the ascent to cruise altitude

I consider this the best of the three. Visible is the illumination of the sun on the wings. Note the landing gear had not yet started to retract into the wings. AGAIN I WAS BLIND while the camera processed! I had to start searching again, and I was running out of time. FINALLY I found him! No need to compose the picture. The plane was surrounded by sky.  I would snap the picture as soon as I could while holding the camera as steadily as I could. I just did not want to blur the picture because if I did, I would LOSE the picture!

sucking up the left

A few minutes later, in my office, I “composed” the picture with careful cropping of a LOT of sky around a relatively small airplane. For an image processed on my computer at 300 dpi and about 5 x 7 inches the picture is okay. It shows me (and perhaps you) that the landing gear on the left begins to retract first. It’s a matter of how the hydraulic system is arranged.  Many airplanes have a similar “left strut first” sequence.

I walked to my office and processed the three pictures. It took about 20 minutes, and I posted the middle one on Facebook for my Fb friends.

Photographing airplanes in motion is especially rewarding to me; a lot like going fishing or hunting is, I suppose, for my friends so inclined. I never know, really, what I have “brought home” until it’s time to dress it out by the kitchen sink or backyard gutting table, or office computer. I, for one, am happy with the result of my visitation of luck, and I hope you are too!

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

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