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Archive for the ‘folksinging’ Category

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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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.

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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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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
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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.

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At the Chicago History Museum gift shop I had purchased a Dover Press edition of Carl Sandberg’s book Chicago Poems (first published in 1916) and a unique souvenir shot glass with a metal medallion attached to one of its four squared sides. The woman behind the counter (beautiful, Nordic/Swedish, friendly) had begun to put them into a paper sack after carefully wrapping a generous layer of packing tissue around the glass, but I waved off the sack. “I’m a tree hugger,” I explained, and she graciously handed me the wrapped shot glass which I put into my front right jacket pocket, and the book which I had put into my inside left jacket pocket. I knew I’d be reading it on the train, and it was time to boogaloo back through Lincoln Park and onto Union Station. From my previous foray into the Windy City Wilds, I had learned to travel light and to return to the train station early. I didn’t want to be the 196th of 200 people boarding the southbound #305. The timing was perfect.  We arrived at 4:15 for the 5:15 departure, and there was an unexpected bonus.

En route to the bonus, a near panic as I entered the ground floor waiting area and stuck my hand inside my jacket to retrieve the ticket I had put into my shirt pocket. It was not there! I knew that’s where it would be, and the prospect of trying to board the train without it flashed before my eyes! I groped, guessing that if it hadn’t fallen out the bottom of my jacket, it might still be close to my shirt . . . . and I was right. I found it. Chances are that if I had n0t worn my vest to Chi’ from Spring’ that ticket would be blowing over the hinterland between the History Museum and Union Station. “CHEEses,” I thought to myself. “That was close!”

I arrived early in line at 4:20 with only eight or nine travelers standing or sitting on the floor. One was a late 20s fellow, sitting on the floor against a structural pillar, surrounded by about 8 pieces of luggage. He was in line for the southbound train that would depart from Gate C after mine. We talked briefly, and he asked if I’d watch his luggage for him while he went outside for a cigarette. “It’s been too long, man,” he said. “I’ve gotta have a smoke!” I wasn’t going anywhere, and I was happy to keep my place in line by his bags. He returned in about 20, a happier, satisfied man.

One thing about traveling with a guitar. I seem more inclined to talk with strangers, and strangers seem more inclined to talk with me. Hell, I could be James Taylor with a theatrical beard for a disguise. And any stranger could be an entertainment booking agent which I need badly.

About 4:45 a pubic address announcement advised all passengers planning to board the #305 who were under 18 and traveling alone and all passengers 62 or over to make a separate line at the entry portal. We would be the first to board the train. WONDERFUL!  GREAT IDEA! THANK YOU AMTRAK!          And so we did.
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It was a breeze. This time I placed my bag and guitar in the overhead rack. At 4:50 I sat down in a window seat that would be fine for photography, even though it was getting too dark for any pictures. Ten minutes after I sat, the rest of the passengers came aboard. Again, every seat had been sold. The train began to move at precisely 5:15.

Among them were several disappointed Chicago Bears fans festooned with a variety of “officially authorized” NFL attire. From their long faces, it was obvious their team had lost to the Green Bay Packers. Passenger Dave was a Bears fan. He sat next to me for the next few hours.  We said all of 10 words to each other for the duration.

It was what he didn’t say to me that moved me. Early into the trip he closed his eyes and sat quietly. When a call came in on his cell, he explained to the caller he was on his way, the Bears had lost and that he couldn’t talk now; he’d call back. Not long after, a second call came. It was obviously the person he had cut short earlier. He called her Jodie.  Their 11-year marriage were coming to an end. In the course of the conversation, Dave told Jodie he considered the 11 years “wasted.” They had two kids who would stay with her. He would stay at their house until the new year for tax and accounting purposes, but he would move out in January. Several times he tried to make it clear to her that even though she had not explicitly told him she didn’t want him in her life, it was obvious to him, and he was making it clear to her it was over. He didn’t understand why she wouldn’t say it.  Conversation over. Twenty minutes later,  another phone call. One of the kids. No conversation about the coming separation. Soon after, another call from Jodie.  Dave was concerned that she would not be there at the station to pick him up. Was he going to have to take a cab? He wanted to know. I don’t know that she agreed to be waiting. It was unsettled when he ended the call.

On the way to Chi’ they announced we would accelerate to 110 miles per hour on a stretch of newly improved track. From my window, looking at the countryside, it felt like we were going 110 mph. On the return trip at about the same place, they announced that typically we would travel at 110, but not tonight. There had been an “equipment malfunction.” No problem. I was in no rush.

In the meantime, I was getting sleepy and began to worry about missing Springfield. I went to the dining car tor a can of Coke with a glass of ice and brought it back to my seat. It gave me some energy, and I knew I’d be fine.

When the train stopped at Bloomington, several passengers exited the train, and Dave moved to sit with a friend a few rows back. I now had two seats to myself, and just to experience the view from the aisle-side I moved one to the right and brought my overhead book bag down. Then I took a self portrait.
PP1216-27Until I had departed the train, the trip had been terrific. It went south when I discovered there was not a single taxi waiting outside the station. This was a first for me. I roamed the lot; found not one. I even asked a few people obviously waiting for a ride if they were waiting for a cab. Three polite shrugs and shaking heads and one “No, I’m waiting for my husband who is coming to pick me up.” (lucky man) I was told by station personnel that cabs often parked by the curb on Washington at the “designated (there was a sign) cab parking place.” There was no cab, but a fellow was standing there. I asked if he was waiting for a cab, and he said yes, he had called one. I am guessing he was a first time cab caller from our station because I knew cabbies park near the entrance to the station. At that instant, I saw a Yellow Cab arrive probably 200 feet from us, close to the station entrance. I said “I see a cab right now. He’s over there,” and began walking toward it. . . .

I knew I had not called it, so my first words were “May I share this ride?” The driver asked if I can called, I said I had not and pointed to the fellow walking toward us. “It’s up to him,” the driver said. After determining that the other fellow’s destination was on the direct route to my home and that he would get out first, I took a seat behind him.

The ride was a breeze. I walked the last half block from the nearest street corner to my home. I walked through my front door and glanced at my watch. 10:01 precisely.

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

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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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I could have spent an hour photographing the sanctuary.

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

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

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Looking back up in the direction from whence we came.
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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.

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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 . . .

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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.

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I had been on the train to Chicago about two hours before I toot the first picture. PP1215-1  The burned out  building across the track from our stop at Pontiac, Illinois  was typical of the mood of the rainy, dark and drab morning since leaving the Springfield Amtrak station at 6:32. The land tells a tale of woe in winter. The one ray of sunshine that entered my picture was a young woman who boarded the coach class car a few minutes after me, who approached as asked if the aisle seat beside my window seat was taken. “It is if you would like to sit in it.” is what I should have said, and whatever I said worked because  she sat down. From that point on, as the Number 305 began to roll, I knew I was one of the luckiest passengers on the train.

I was in no rush to be chatty, and neither was she; a good thing.  Thanks to the rainy sky and hour of the new day, the whole car seemed hushed. A few passengers, obviously aboard since St. Louis or before had taken advantage of the seats with spare empties and stretched, to occupy both in blissful slumber through the night. There would be ample time for talk in the coming 3 1/2 hours. I glanced peripherally in her direction as she pulled out a Sports Illustrated, thumbed through it, stopping to read an article, it seemed, then looked over some papers from a computer printer. This took about an hour and a half.  I stared out the window at the darkness, mildly perturbed that the seat was positioned awkwardly behind the closest window. To take pictures when the sun rose to the occasion, I’d have to lean forward. It was really going to crimp my modus operandi, but as the light began to creep into the morning, I knew I wasn’t going to photograph anything significant anyway with the rain drops all over the window. There was no point in gazing into the dark so I began to read a small biography of Wolfgang Mozart I had brought for such a glum circumstance.

My trainmate sat still, eyes closed, no doubt, dozing. I know this because people don’t open their months slightly when they are meditating or feigning slumber. When I first noticed, her head faced pretty much forward, but over the miles it rolled to her left. I know this seems crazy to confess, but I felt I was watching something sacred as she slept. I glanced at her probably five times over that quiet hour, and never for more than a few seconds at a time. I didn’t want her to awaken to see me watching her. After her nap we began to lob remarks back and forth, and gradually began to converse. The entree to what would be civil, convivial patter for the rest of the journey was my asking her, “Are you a dancer? I noticed you reading the Sports Illustrated when we started, and I thought you might be with a ballet or something.”

No, she was not a dancer although she volunteers for an arts organization in Quincy, Illinois where she lives and works. She was coming to Chicago to go shopping and take a break from the home town. We chatted about Quincy and the times I had enjoyed there when on the road selling Encyclopedia Britannica. I was surprised she had not yet visited the Quincy museum, across the street from what used to be the Lincoln-Douglas Hotel where I used to stay, now a home for senior citizens.  I introduced myself; told her my name is Job and asked her first name.
She was Anna Lee. BEAUTIFUL name! Later, after we had talked awhile, I asked if I could take her picture. She said “yes.”

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When I boarded the train, I had put my laptop computer carrying bag in the overhead luggage, but had placed my guitar, soundbox to the bottom and neck up, between my legs. Eventually, it entered the dialogue as I explained I was going to entertain at the Christmas party of some Chicago friends, Peter and Byung who had been visiting the Vachel Lindsay home State Historic site in 2010 when I was featured speaker at an event there.

As we rolled along I snapped a few pictures of the scenery outside, but my heart wasn’t in it. The weather was not my friend.  I recognized a lot of the scenery from my trip last year when I spoke, recited and sang at Chicago’s College of Complexes, thanks to the invitation and hospitality of my new friends Peter and Byung. I took probably three more pictures, and, two days later,  after reviewing them, decided none were fit to share.

As the train began to pull away from the Joliet station, I remembered to call Peter to let him know I was this far into the trip so he could start out for Union Station to meet me curbside by the CVS Pharmacy, I dialed his number.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . .   and discovered no answer and no voice mail! DANGIT! Peter had lost his cell phone and had told me earlier in an e-mail he’d be borrowing his wife’s on Saturday morning. I called her number five times. The only result was that I learned, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that his charming wife, Byung, had not set up voice mail! I had noticed Anna Lee using an Android or something like it earlier, so I asked if she could access e-mail with it. She could. And did. I gave her the information and we found Peter’s e to me in which he had given me Byung’s cell number. YES (surprise!) I HAD copied it correctly! I tried a few times more. NOTHING! Back to Anna Lee . . . Could she go back to that e-mail from Peter since all his e-mails include his home and office phone numbers. Maybe he had found his phone and didn’t tell me. . . . I called both numbers  . . . twice! No joy.  Anna Lee suggested she could e-mail him a note to call me on my cell. At least I would answer it. So we e-mailed him something cryptic with my cell number. . . . . . . . And in five minutes or so my phone rang.  WHHHHEEEEEEW!

Okay, all was set. No worries.  I gave Anna Lee my “Balladeer For Rent” folksinger card, and to my surprise and delight, she gave me her business card with an e-mail address.  As the train entered the dark part of the station, slowing to a stop, Anna Lee rose to get her luggage, and asked if she could pass me my laptop case. “Absolutely,” I said, and reached into one of the pockets, removed a copy of my book Confluence of Legends about my visit to Urbana, Ohio where I read a Vachel Lindsay poem and played/sang folk songs.  I explained I would wait for most of the passengers in our car to depart before following with my bulky guitar thanked her profusely for being such terrific company! She indicated the same satisfaction from our serendipitous encounter and went happily down the aisle.

My laptop case was full of my books: the afore-mentioned Confluence, plus Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois and Bear’ sKin, two of my  three poetry books and Springfield Aviation from Arcadia publishing. I had also brought copies of some Vachel Lindsay poems (I recite what I’ve memorised at the drop of a hint) and the Mozart biography. In one pocket were my hair brush, a bottle of after-shave from a grocery store. I had forgotten my toothbrush and toothpaste, though I had brushed before leaving Springfield. Finally, I had packed a pair of clean shorts, Fruit of the Looms, for the return trip the next day. I needn’t have bothered.

The trek into the station up the escalator and over to the CVS to wait for Peter was a breeze, in light rain. I would have been as happy to be walking in magnificent downtown Chi’ if it had been raining cats and dogs. I had packed light, I had my guitar, some great memories from the trip with Anna Lee. I was looking forward to seeing Peter and Byung again. I wasn’t merely Springfield folk slinger; I was frikking James frikking Taylor! I was a frikking STAR! I was absolutely where I wanted to be!

. . . Coming next on “Return to Chi’ (or) I Didn’t Even Change My Shorts” part 2: I meet Peter and tour an art house preparing for a silent auction and the FABULOUS MAJOR University of Chicago Art Gallery!

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

 

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Since January, I have stopped being a poet so that I could pour my heart and soul into a major project at AeroKnow Museum. Most readers will laugh and then sigh as I explain the obsession has been the consolidation of less-than-whole page (8.5 x 11 inch) scraps of information into single-page amalgams of information. I finished the project last Thursday.

Last January I started pulling scraps from every file in the museum’s Research Room: — 15 file cabinets — filling 12 (case-of-reams-of-office-copy-paper-size) boxes with them, and then setting them aside in the Intake Room to be further processed through two of the three requisite tasks leading to the return of the information removed back to the Research Room. In the meantime, too much of the rest of my life as ceased to exist.

The task was time-consuming to be sure, but it was made easier, thanks to my almost completely walking away from good people in this community whom I have known and appreciated for years. Most of this walking away has occurred since last August when I  started coming to grips with the angst of my frail mortality as I approached my 65th birthday. I’ve attended far fewer poetry and visual arts events than I attended before launching AeroKnow Museum at the airport.

I have completely walked away from Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site. For almost three years, I had been inviting the site director — who, through her occupation connection to history might have (logically) enjoyed seeing it — to visit AeroKnow MUSEUM. Until August I invited her every time I attended an event at the Lindsay landmark. Until November, I had renewed my membership in the Vachel Lindsay Association and attended the annual meetings. Not any more. I have not walked away from my appreciation of Vachel Lindsay and his poetry. I will continue sharing my Vachel Lindsay program and reciting his poems for anyone who will have me. My profound disappointment with the  “Lindsay elite” would be harder if my treasured Lindsay scholar and friend Dennis had not taken his own life about a year ago as Vachel’s birthday approached. The positive outcome of all this is that I better understand what I believe Vachel was experiencing before he took his own life in early December 1931. Springfield killed the poet pretty deliberately and well. The people of my own hometown Springfield (“this, the city of my discontent” — Vachel Lindsay from his poem “Springfield Magical”) killed my friend Dennis pretty well. I will not allow myself the incapacity to live, an incapacity I have felt looming in their company. They will not kill me.

The last poem I wrote this year was inspired by a painting displayed at a gallery in October. I was delighted to have had the opportunity to write the poem “We Wander” and delighted to share it with an attentive audience, excellent people who delighted in hearing it — and other fine poems from poets inspired by other fine paintings. I WANT to be writing more poetry. People who read it, like it. So why the HELL have I not thrown myself into the pursuit of becoming the next Rod McKuen or Henry Gibson? Because I reap more direct reward from aviation and the few friends I have come to know from that on a daily basis than I have reaped from the SEVERAL (but not many) friends I have come to know, since about 1989 with my poetry and songwriting/performing. The  poetry connecting — now that I must work Saturdays for an employer whose last paycheck was given t me almost two months ago — comes once a month TOPS. Sometimes not even that. The aviation affirmation comes every day of my life.

Meanwhile, back at the airport, since last spring this year, at least two or three days a week, I arrive at the museum office between 5 (when the host business opens for the day) and 5:30 two or three times a week, and darn near every day but Sunday before 7. On Sunday, I sleep late and arrive by 9 without fail.  My consciousness is what I call “water seeking its own level.”

I am wrapped up in the web of what I call “syncopated sunshine” — a rhythm of life that is inconsistent and hard to swing to.

On days I shower, I roll out of bed at 4, and arrive at the museum at 5, sometimes a few minutes before, and eight of 10 times, the early arriver is already there at the occasional 4:55 and the building’s front door is unlocked. Other times, I am out of the sack at 4:30, teeth brushed, (no time for coffee) dressed and out to the museum by 5 or close to it.

In theory, I should be able to do this consistently by hitting the hay by 9, if not 8:30. I need no more sleep than six and a half hours’ worth. In reality, I am ALLOWING  the travails of my workplace to figuratively “tie one hand behind my back.”  I leave work at 5 — and go directly to the museum until 6:30 to avoid the rush hour traffic going home. I ALWAYS find something to work on. No big surprise there.  But, if I’ve had a really rotten day at work,  I go by to see if there is a Wall Street Journal I can have. The FBO that provides fuel and maintenance to local and transiting aircraft receives a State Journal-Register and three Wall Street Journals daily. Pilots and passengers departing the FBO after landing to refuel may take a WSJ to read about their airplanes in transit elsewhere. If there are any left when I arrive after work, the counter crew may approve me taking one or they may indicate a few more flights are scheduled for the evening, and all WSJs on hand need to stay until those flights have come and gone. THEN they will slide one under my office door.  WSJs are important to the museum because I read every issue I get and clip anything related to aviation so I can file it upstairs.

On a good night I’m home by 7, but if the day at work was better than typical, and my outlook is good, I will work at the museum until 8, sometimes until 9 and on really good days until 10. They close at 11 pm.

On a good night, I’m eating dinner by 7:15 and washing it down the hatch with cheap Burgundy. I am trying to drink more iced tea and less burgundy, but it’s not working out very well. Regardless, even with iced tea, I am exhausted from semi-combat at my employer. I am often asleep in my recliner by 7:40, and awaken most frequently around 11 when I turn off the lights and go bed, but even that isn’t easy. Late night radio before midnight totally stinks. Last night it was so bad, I listened to a “sports radio” station as my head hit the pillow, not because I’m a sports fan but because the only other two stations I can receive clearly in the bedroom are right-wing diatribe and financial advice (two separate radio stations). At least I’m not offended by sports radio.  Getting to sleep is easy. I don’t drink more wine when I wander in after the early evening “nap” because I’m already half asleep.

Getting back to sleep after AWAKENING at 2 am is the problem! It is pure, freaking purgatory. I DON’T want to get up and do something. What the hell is there to do in my house?  I have begun to work on AeroKnow tasks at home just to stay awake after dinner. Sometimes I delay dinner because I know I won’t go to sleep before I eat.  I REALLY want to confine museum work to the museum and my employer who doesn’t complain if he sees aviation material on my showroom desk because he knows my FIRST PRIORITY while I am there is MY EMPLOYER. That’s as it should be.  I am HAPPY to earn my pay  . . . whenever . . . he decides . . . . to pay me.

My home computer is an old laptop I purchased about two years ago with a small screen. I cannot work with the small screen, even with a full-size keyboard plugged into it. Sooooooo I am committing my resources to a new desktop computer for HOME this Christmas, but not before. In fact I will  go shopping for one AFTER Christmas because I expect prices to be lower then.

With the desktop computer at home I HOPE to sleep solidly for at least six consecutive  hours a night by not napping. If I’m tired after dinner with or without wine, I will to to the frikking bedroom after turning off the lights and the thermostat to 55. Then I will use the time from whenever the hell I do awaken to write poetry or songs or whatever, even AeroKnow Museum tasks.

The real hard part? Holding onto things until January. That will be the hard part.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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