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Archive for the ‘Shymansky’ Category

December has been a hard month for me on more than one occasion. On December 12, 1994 I discovered my father, Job Clifton Conger, III, had died in bed when I went to check on him on a bright, sunny morning like the one outside my office window as I write today. On the day after welcoming a MAJOR military service person to my aviation museum, I suffered a stroke, and by the grace of God and the good will of my employer who drove me to the hospital I received medical attention very fast, and the stroke turned out to be minor, though not inconsequential. I was treated the first half day (December 4), the next full day and was discharged before lunch the next day. I’ve been taking children’s aspirin and two prescription drugs every day since. All of my checkups have been excellent. Everything is “in the green.” Today I weigh a few pounds less than 200, the slimmest I’ve been since I was about 30, haven’t used a salt shaker since (not even for pepper) and I return for checkups every SIX months instead of the past every month or two months. My three-day “vacation” was over. I had lived and dined better than I do at home, people  (even friends) had visited,  and there was a working television which I’ve not had at home for FOUR BLEEPING YEARS . . . not that I MISS TV (I think). I walked into my bedroom and found the bag of Frito munchies I had enjoyed in the wee hours of the 4th after taking it to bed — the most “delectable company” I’ve taken to bed in more than 10 years (don’t  get me started about that; I’d only embarrass myself. )
Bed1
The picture above and the rest of them were “re-posed” (no pun intended) a few days ago for this blog post. The bed has not looked this “made” in probably three years.

I kept the Fritos with me just to stay close to my favorite snack before the stroke. Over the year past, I ate not ONE of the contents, not a salted chip or Pringle since. I haven’t even looked inside the bag. To be honest I did fondle it a little, gently, when I was setting up these pictures.
Bed2
And since December 6, I’ve had a HELL OF A YEAR which finally showed a true blessing of a change for the better when I was able to arrange for a house renovation fellow who trusted me (I STILL OWE him a lot of money, drat it) to repair the devastated upstairs duplex and some friends from the arts community decided to rent it from me. It’s still been a hell of a year.

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

The covenant I made with the partly consumed bag of Fritos Twists snacks served its purpose. The day after I spent the first night back in bed with them, I decided to spend a year with them. They kept me focused, my “eyes on the prize” of a healthier outcome, which — indeed — HAPPENED! The day after a year had passed, December 7, I removed the bag from the bed and it will not return to the bed. The bag and remaining snacks are now at the bottom of a bottom desk drawer. If  I ever feel like doing something to curtail my future, so to speak, I will probably munch the rest of the bag before taking a final giant step into the infinity of oblivion. I’m almost there today. I am dead to the arts community which I loved and which loved me for about 20 years. I know as well as I know how to pronounce my name that a lot of this circumstance is a torment I brought upon myself. That’s okay. I don’t hate anyone. And it is easier — no more arguing, no more disappointments — on ME this way, wallowing in the quietude of solitary reverie.
bed3
I miss my family like crazy, but those I loved so much up to about the time Mom (divorced from my father in about  1970-something) died in about 1986 and Dad died, are estranged from me too: my widowed older sister Dorothy, nephew Steve and niece Julie . . . . all have almost nothing to do with “the guitar picker who never moved away  from Springfield like every single one of them did.” Doctor Steve has sent me a Christmas card annually through the years, never with a note, once or twice without a signature. I am a mite  doubtful that one will come this year, though I don’t know why. He could have died in a train  wreck for all I know. Ditto Dot and Julie. Such is life.

December is a hard month for me.

I’ll be okay.

Merry Christmas!  🙂

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When I took the last sip of Carlo Rossi Burgundy in the duplex I was renting in about 1989, I had no inkling that I”d have that bottle with me in a duplex I owned 22 years later. It moved when I moved: from 326 S. MacArthur to 521 S. Glenwood to 1213 Interlacken to 428 W. Vine, and today it moved to my WELCOME Room office of AeroKnow Museum at the airport.a bottle of good cents

a bottle of good cents

It came to the airport  because the thought of someone breaking into my home and stealing this investment of time and memories was more than I wanted to live with. At best the burglar would have taken it. At worst, he or she would have dropped it to the floor from where it sat on my bedroom chest of drawers since 1997 and left me to filter the valued metal alloy from the shards of broken glass — pretty much what I’ve been doing recently, metaphorically speaking, as I approach the big SIX FIVE.

It came to the airport also because putting every penny I brought home from purchases here and there was not filling the bottle fast enough for me. I was determined that I would not go to a bank and exchange a $20 bill for the equivalent in pennies. That would be cheating.

At this time in the blog I concede there is nothing artistic about the process, I do not intend to write a poem or folksong about it, proclaim the name of Cheeses (when I talk to myself I call myself Cheeses as in CHEESES, that was stupid of me!), talk about restaurants, silver dollars,  Facebook, how much I love Chicago or Fort Monroe or Ft. Wayne, Indiana or Manitowoc, or the Shymansky family (my sister Dorothy’s side) Johnny Appleseed or Vachel Lindsay, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and yardcare. I’ve been ticking off these items on my categories list so I can suggest to readers this post is about them . . . . . and thus court additional readers who pay attention to blogs when these categories are mentioned. NOW . . . . . . . where was I?

the bottle and the barefoot boy with cheek of tan

Oh, yes, I remember. . . . The photograph of the boy behind the bottle is of the same boy ahead of it when the picture above was taken.  If I was three years old, the year was 1950. I will post more about the picture as I approach September 5. Suffice to say now that I show that picture to darn near every visitor to AeroKnow Museum. My goal, starting this morning, is to give visitors who don’t care to share heavy dough-re-mi with the museum will lighten their pockets of pennies. I want to fill this the bottle by my birthday.

There’s a nearby donation jar for those who care to be extra-nice with larger coins and folding money.

So if you find yourself of mind and spirit to see this bombastic enterprise in the weeks ahead, please bring pennies. The dollars . . . . almost . . . . won’t . . . . matter.

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

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Yesterday at work at my employer’s granite showroom, for the four pre-teen daughters of a visiting couple, I shared,  on the new violin finish Ibanez guitar I bought for Christmas this year, a song I created about 48 years ago. The song was improvised on the second guitar I ever owned, in the living room at 2016 S. Whittier Ave. in Springfield, Illinois. It was my childhood home. My sister Dorothy Shymansky, her husband Robert, first son Robert and second son Steven, my mom, dad and brother Bill were gathered after a storybook supper, and I was the star of the show. I could play six chords on the guitar.  I was 16 years old.

We had sung some Christmas carols, and I had played “Puff the Magic Dragon” at least once — they loved the song — and then Bobby asked me to make up a song.  (I had done this kind of thing before. It was predictable fun.)
“Okay, smart guy,” I said, laughing and pointing my guitar at him from my seat on the edge of a blue velvet high-back chair. “I’ll make up the song after you make up the title!”

Bobby’s eyes — all of the Shymanskys’ eyes including their sister Julie who had not yet joined the world and my sister who had adopted the name — sparkled when they smiled in a way that made a leprechaun’s glittering eyes seem as dull as a dead carp in the sand at the lake. He took a breath and blurted “See-op, Bee-op, Shabalang!”

The melody and words came as easily as “White Christmas.”. . . .
See-op, bee-op,  shabalang.
Fra-fra! . . . fra-fra!
See-op, bee-op,  shabalang
Fra-fra! . . . fra-fra!
(repeated and then into the refrain. . .)
See-op, bee-op,  shabalang it’s very strange you see.
See-op, bee-op,  shabalang is what my mother calls me ” —
and the two boys HOWLED with laughter
and I repeated the first verse twice more, and that was the end of the song.

They asked me to play it two or three more times in the course of the evening, and they loved it. So did I. Every time I visited the Shymanskys out in Wheeling, West Virginia or they returned to Springfield in later years while the kids were growing up, my guitar was always close, and they asked me to sing See-op Bee-op Shabalang.

December 28, 2011  a young family visited my employer where I’ve had my new guitar since the 27th. I had played some carols and children’s songs, and then I introduced the song I had played in my parents’ living room when I was sixteen years old. The kids loved it, and so did the smiling parents who had stopped chatting with owner George when I started that song. See-op is older than their parents. I will never forget yesterday’s magic.

And I cannot not forget Steve Shymansky, a bright, generous kid who loved his brother Bobby (who died of Muscular Dystrophy before he turned 20) and Julie and mom and dad in a storybook-perfect way. Every year, he or Laurel his beautiful wife, send me a picture of their kids, usually without proud parents in the picture. I’ve not said a word to a Shymansky in 16 years but I remember the joys of knowing them. My sister Dorothy wants nothing to do with me for reasons she made clear long ago in a hell-fire monologue over the phone line to Wheeling. I don’t know if Julie or my sister are even alive . . . . but I hope they are. . . . and I wish them well. 

Some day, perhaps, the four vivacious young ladies who came to a natural stone showroom on Springfield’s northeast side will remember a man with a guitar who played a funny song inspired by a boy named Shymansky, and they will smile.

Bitterness is not my way. Give me See-op Bee-op Shabalang any day!  🙂

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

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