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Here are lyrics to a song I wrote, completed at 2:15 am, July 8, 2003 at home. It was published in my third book of poems and song lyrics Bear’ sKin .  I’ve sung  it whenever I believed people who had attended SHS in the mid-60s might be present, and even if none were, I believe in the song, the sentiment, and audiences usually seem to like it. I hope you do too.

Acappella Choir
by Job Conger

(opens with the chorus)

I never sang in acapella choir
Though I wanted to
In the very worst way.
So I bought myself a guitar
To sing my joys and tribulations
And as for now,
I’m doing okay.

I was a lucky boy to know
Mr. Daniel Sprecklemeyer
Acappella Choir leader
Brilliant with the harmonies.
He was more than just a teacher.
He was laughing inspiration
With a song in his heart
Full of sweet melodies.

(chorus)

There was magic in the music
Sweetly singing in the concerts
I was just a first tenor
But I was part of the team
Every challenge in rehearsal
Was a mountain that  we conquered,
And the view from the summit
Was the answer to a dream.

(chorus)

All the Robert Shaw arrangements,The world premiere of Lindsay’s “Congo”
Mormon Tabernacle’s “Battle Hymn”
Blake’s “Songs of Innocence”
Spring’s “Mardi Gras” productiion
Paper snow, “Sleigh Ride” at Christmas
Janet Boosinger’s great parties,
Joys unknown before and since.

(chorus )

I was a kid without voice training.
Others took their private lessons.
And my voice was immature
Like nouveau Beaujolais.
When I had my chance to solo
My voice crumbled like a Saltine,
But I loved that mighty chorus,
And I do to this day.

(chorus)
======================
Invite me to dinner and I’ll trade you a concert of this and more in your living room or auditorium.

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.

botwat1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

VLgra-2

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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Test post. My friends I drove to Oak Ridge Cemetery where we visited the Lindsay family gravesites. I recited “The Mouse that Gnawed the Oak Tree Down and we went to Shop N’ Save to buy food for dinner.
END OF TEST POST

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I could not let April end without posting one update, and it’s an update I would not have predicted when I posted the third of three in March. During that month, at my second post-operation visit with my surgeon, I had been given permission to remove the full-extension leg braces. I could keep them, make a sculpture out of them, burn them. They belong to me. This was a burst of sunshine to my outlook.

True, I had to continue with the bulky aluminum walker which was not much of a bother. In two weeks I was spending nearly all of my time carrying it — mostly to impress my physical therapists who wanted me to follow “doctor’s orders,” and a little bit to give an impression that I was experiencing significant discomfort when I was on my feet at my employer. Both efforts were charades, of course. I was still riding the disabled minibus service, Access Springfield, and starting in late March I begam entering and exiting on the steps after the entry door opened. I no longer needed the hydraulic lift that allowed me to stand, stabilized by my walker going up and coming down. On April 13, I took my last Access Springfield ride — home from the airport museum on a Saturday afternoon — and the next day I drove out to the airport in my pickup truck for the first time since January 12. THAT was another milestone in the recovery action! I’ve been driving ever since.

Since I began driving again, I’ve not bothered with the pretense of needing the walker. It’s all been going fine . . . until about April 2 when I began visiting the hospital for hour-long physical therapy workouts twice a week instead of the previous onceas, and things became real serious real fast. Just as I began to see “light at the end of the tunnel” — naiively imagining all the workouts would be over reasonably soon — as I religiously followed the physical therapists’ instructions for a series of excercises at home that took about 30 minutes every morning . . . they made the tunnel longer, adding some standing excercises involving some that involved simple but perilous (to me) squats to strengthen my upper quad area, stretching exercises for the hamstrings and balancing excercises because good balance is mandatory for maximum safety. As a result — and this is what I would not have predicted a month ago — I have begun to lose the sense of pride I had during the early recovery days when I was seeing progress almost every day, gaining confidence.

I’m still a 65-year-old fellow with no love life, fair social life, an employer I allow to drive me absolutely nuts and no real prospects for imporoving either. Also, I cannot BUY help at the airport museum. It’s hard to be creative when my head and heart are mired in disappointment. I’ve not written a new poem since leaving the hospital; haven’t blogged since May 23. The physical therapy and daily regimen at home are creating more physical distress by the hour than in the early days. Why the hell bother with all this theraphy?

At the end of today’s physical therapy session, my sour outlook was obvious. Therapist Alex (a woman) offered to reduce the twice-weekly sessions to one a week again, and I declined. At least I will do the exrcises at the hospital. At home, I’ve become less inclined to do ALL the recommended workouts.

I’m told that on my next visit to my surgeon, he will likely discontinue my sessions at the hospital and advise me to keep excercising and walking a lot. I will miss the visits with Alex and Heather there. I’m missing more than engaging. Missing what is not mine and engaging the surprisingly social life that is . . . all the while wishing I didn’t have so many things on my calendar. They’re on my calendar for a reason: I LIKE to be with people who like me.

So I will continue with this for awhile, try to be more conscientious, and will share a new poem come May.

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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