By Bill Monson

It’s the Monday after "Carl Sandburg Days," and I’m feeling puny. Dragged through a keyhole. Rode hard and put away wet. I have a throat like I’ve been gargling Draino (hello, Vachel Lindsay) and I’m nursing it with cough drops I purchased a Walgreen’s on the corner of my old stomping grounds, Blaine Avenue. So much for flying 1,901 miles, enduring 90-degree heat one day and cold, 45-knot winds the next, and talking talking talking.

I met some great people, but I knew I would. Galesburg has a lot of great people. Some I already know (like my beloved Virginia Hinchliff) and was glad to see again. Some I met for the first time and hope to meet again.

Bad news greeted me. The closing of Butler was like a body blow. I did some important growing up there – both as a writer and person – and seeing it go is like losing a friend. I haven’t had time yet to really deal with it, but I know I’ll have to. It’s festering in me.

There was good weather Saturday for the big day of celebrations. My writer’s workshop had a good turnout – from eager hopefuls to those already building their own reputations in the business of writing. Including a young lass who knows now what happens when you do a column that touches raw nerve.

I didn’t know about her column before I did the workshop or I would have said what I’ll say now: Write what you see and feel. Sometimes you’ll anger people. Sometimes you’ll sing with the angels. But if you write always to please, you’ll wind up a mediocrity or worse. So make your mistakes on the side of what you see to be truth. Put passion in your prose. Put heart as well as hard work. Put love and caring. Then right or wrong, you’ll be read – and that’s what columns are for. Writing that makes people read and think.

The ushers will now take up the offering.

From what I saw of it, "Carl Sandburg Days" was a big success, and I salute Elizabeth Rinehart for her coordination of it. Thanks for including me.

The Festival "star," illustrator Marc Nadel, proved to be a warm and wonderful person, and even knew who Will Eisner is. I think Galesburg impressed him, too. I know he said as much, and he never seemed to weary of our bragging on the town and its people. I wonder if he’s as tired today as I am. At least he’s younger.

I regretted having to leave after a mere two days in the old home town. I could easily have spent a week just soaking up sights, sounds and stories. But I wanted to spend at least the evening of Mother’s Day with my wife – so I checked out of the New Delhi Inn on the Square at 6:45 a.m. and had Main Street and I-74 pretty much to myself as I drove east to Peoria International Airport. Naturally I got stopped by a freight.

I also got pulled out of line for my belt buckle at PIA security check-through – but I’m pulled out all the time; and a cardinal on the building’s roof had sung me a personal farewell – so I was in a good mood.

Then I rode the future of U.S. aviation – a regional jet – to Chicago. Quiet, swift, comfortable – it was the best ride on any American Airlines plane I had. I understand it’s more efficient and economical, too. It will make for big changes as it phases in. Airports like PIA and Moline will soon have more. The Saabs and Embraers will be phased out. There will be fewer flights to airports with short runways or ones which don’t pay. Even major airports like Lambert in St. Louis and O’Hare in Chicago will feel their impact. And those of us who travel will have fewer flights to choose from!

I wouldn’t miss the prop planes nor the cross-country 737s or the Super 80s – even with their increased leg-room that AA brags about. The seats are still the size of a baby’s highchair and AA still gives you a Bistro Bag as your meal. If you haven’t encountered a BB, let me introduce you. A bag containing half a sandwich, some mustard, potato chips, a little sack of baby carrots, and a 3x3-inch chocolate crumb cake plus a napkin. You pick it out of a cooler on your way aboard and can eat it any time. Most eat when the cabin attendants serve the "complimentary beverages". The Super 80 has no in-flight movie nor music. The 737 I rode showed "Cheaper by the Dozen" but I balked at paying two dollars to buy the headset which could also give me the audio channels for music. Most people read or sleep. Babies cry.

I also rode aviation’s past – the piston engine propeller commuter hedge hopper. As a matter of fact, on my last leg, I was aboard two of them. The first failed to leave the ground. The pilot arrived after the passengers had boarded and then couldn’t get the port engine started. We were"deplaned," "debarked," or just plain "off-loaded," and "re-terminaled" to wait for a second Saab. (Pronounced SOB as in S.O.B.) This one managed to make it very quickly to San Luis Obispo, where I finally met my wife, who had been waiting at the airport restaurant for over two hours and watching a vintage WW2 B-17 and B-24 give passenger rides at $400 a head.

She’d already eaten so we talked as she watched me eat my half of our Mother’s Day dinner. One nice thing about the delay – and the very kind of coincidence which makes one ooze "small world" remarks was that my seat mate for my LAX-SLO hop was Jean Vogel, a perky little lady who graduated from Knox College in 1940, saw Sandburg speak at the 1937 Centennial celebration, and was once herself a columnist for the Ventura edition of the Los Angeles Daily News. She saw my bag from the Welcome Center with the Galesburg logo and remarked on it, then we talked of Knox, Sandburg, Martin Litvin, and both being columnists and members of the brand new Grover Beach Community Library. It turns out she lives just six blocks down the street from my writing hideaway in G.B. So I made a new acquaintance who will share some of her Galesburg past with me – and maybe with you, if the lady is willing to let me publish it.

This column seems to be a lot of little pieces about a lot of things – with little coherency at times – but that’s my brain today.

Did I really see a security policeman riding a Segway two-wheeled, standing person-mover through the terminal at O’Hare? I think I did, but yet…