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Archive for the ‘Springfield’ Category

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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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
================

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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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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Story in a box.

The picture of the gentleman in the dapper hat (upper left) sat on his wife’s bedside reading lamp table when John Thornton Walker was serving as a liaison pilot with the U.S. Army in Italy.  It had been taken at a Springfield, Illinois studio but had moved with Gerri (Geraldine) Walker when she returned to her home town in Indiana.  It came back to Springfield almost a month ago.

For the better part of the past week, I have engaged what promises to be a long task of transforming the story of a World War II hero from Springfield, Illinois from a box of photographs, newspaper clippings, two pilot’s log books, documents, and certificates into a book which I believe people will purchase and read and cherish. The book will describe the life of Gerri’s husband who attended Springfield High School, whose father was a Springfield firefighter,  who learned how to fly as Springfield Commercial Airport (re-named Southwest Airport in 1947), joined the Illinois Army National Guard before Pearl Harbor was attacked and flew artillery spotting and forward liaison planes (commonly known as “grasshoppers”) . . . . and never came home.

The box of memorabilia and a remarkable, restored, 65 pound brass plaque which used to greet visitors to Walker Army Airstrip, Virginia (dedicated to her husband in 1951)  were donated to AeroKnow Museum by the Walkers’ daughter Connie and her husband Richard Strouse.

Left to right: Richard Strouse, Job Conger, Connie Walker Strouse.

John Thornton Walker seldom signed  his full name or even “J. Thornton.”  As Thornton Walker he wrote aviation column for the Illinois State Journal.  His friends called him T. Through most of the book I’m writing about him and through most of my “Book Reports” here at Honey & Quinine, I will call him “JTW.” Some of JTW’s story was shared in my book Springfield Aviation produced by Arcadia Publishing and available everywhere 

Last week I started transcribing the information he recorded in his two log books: every flight he made that begins with his first flight as a student pilot April 7, 1937 and ends in his second log book, October 11, 1942 when he was training to be a liaison pilot with the US Army at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.

Here are my transcription from the first flights recorded in his second log book. He was 26 years old when he started it. . . .

_____1938
11-8 – Decatur to Springfieldd – Taylorcraft BC — NC21221 —  :33 – picked up Dr. Turley’s plane
11-6 – Springfield to Springfield —  Fleet – NC726V —  :16 – took Gerrie for a ride
12-4 –– Springfield to Springfield  — Fleet – NC726V – 21 – vertical turns
12-16 — Springfield to Springfield – Taylorcraft BL —  NC21218  —  :05 – hop in new Lycoming 50 craft
12-17 — Springfield to Springfield –  Taylorcraft BL – NC21218 —  :08 – hop in new Lycoming 50 craft
12-24 — Springfield to Springfield – Taylorcraft 40  — NC19655 —  :15 – flying from right side
12-24 — Springfield to Springfield – Taylorcraft BC – NC21221  —  :04 —  hop with Metz
                                                                                                                  _____ 78:07
We know that he flew hardly at all during November, especially compared with 12 flights in April that year. Weather may have been a problem in November; perhaps a heavy work schedule or busy social life. We do know he was having fun in the air, picking up a friend’s airplane on the 8th, flying with his wife and later with a friend named Metz. He took many friends up for “hops” most lasting 15 minutes or less in the air.  He was also honing his new skills, practicing vertical turns, getting to know the new 50 hp Taylorcraft, but spending most of his time since his first lesson in 40 hp Taylorcraft. Before supper on Christmas Eve, 1938 he had logged 78 hours and seven minutes in control of a flying machine.

I don’t know for sure that I will include this transcription of when and where he flew, often the purpose of each flight, in what airplane and  its registration number, and how long he was in the air each time he flew as a student or pilot in command of the airplane. I believe JTW’s experience is typical of all Americans who learned to fly as civilians before World War II, and that is why I am inclined to include the transcription. I’m already laying it out in an appendix at the end of the book. I know that I will include pictures of most of the airplanes he flew, thanks to him being an avid photographer and to his family donating many pictures to AeroKnow Museum.

Every fact I have today was provided by a member of the Walker family. When Rich and Connie Strouse visited Springfield, they also visited Walker’s former home at 614 1/2 S. Douglas Avenue. I have contacted an employee of the State Journal-Register (modern version of the Illinois State Journal of Walker’s time, but was advised that their preserved newspapers (on microfilm I’m guessing) are not available to the  public at large, of which I am a member.  If  YOU know anything about the family of John Thornton Walker I cordially invite you to contact me by way of AeroKnow Museum or via my home telephone. The number is in the white pages.

FINALLY, I invite you who want to know more about JTW and his family — or have information and photos of the old airport, airplanes and pilots who flew from there to visit my AeroKnow Museum blog — http://aeroknow.wordpress.com  and my AeroKnow Museum Gallery of Flight blog — http://akmgallery.wordpress.com

I think when the book now in process comes off the press, we will have a record of a remarkable citizen of Illinois’ capital city who has been unknown or forgotten by almost everyone alive in Springfield today. What do you think?

Live long . . . . . .  . and proper.

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