Midnight with My Diary and My Water Bottle

Midnight with My Diary and My Water Bottle
Taken at Goodale Park, June 2010, during Comfest, by Scott Robinson (1963-2013)

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Continued From Blog on LiveJournal

For entries prior to April 2010, please go to and read there. Nothing has changed about this blog except its hosting site.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hitting the Road, Jack

Due to recent problems and technical difficulties with Blogspot, I am packing up my blog and moving it.  As of the next entry, look for me at

This blog, and its predecessor on LiveJournal, will remain online.  I am not going to delete them.

See you at WordPress!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Sounds of the Universe Coming in My Window...

On the SoHud Facebook page, there has been an ongoing conversation--almost like watching a stock ticker--about the varied and scattered explosions around Olde North and SoHud.  One poster got the ball rolling by saying, "Sure hope that was fireworks twenty seconds ago."  There has been speculation about the origin of the sounds, with people reporting their locations and where they traced the sounds.  Were we hearing firecrackers?  Gunshots?  Or, since Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, did this mean a return of the bottle bombs that were so ubiquitous last year?

The explosions seemed to be consistently timed at one point, so a poster suggested we all stand on our porches and try to triangulate, and maybe figure out where these originated.  The suspects range from the residents of the various Xenos Christian Fellowship group houses, to a house on Medary Ave. where a heavy metal band seems to enjoy practicing regardless of what time of the day or night it is.  Also, today was the last day of classes for Columbus Public School seniors, so there are parties all over the place, and I have seen open containers galore all over a two- or three-block radius around my place.

I dealt with the problem in my usual way.  I was at the laptop reading friends' blogs online, and I just turned up the volume on the music I was playing--a potpourri that ranged from Steely Dan to Gordon Lightfoot to the Alan Parsons Project to Seals and Crofts.  I heard a few more scattered explosions shortly after sunset, while I was taking a nap upstairs in my bedroom, but I was too woozy from being awakened to go outside to see where it originated.  (Later on, while I was walking outside, there was a slight odor of gunpowder in the air, but nowhere near as strong as it would be immediately after a firecracker or M-80 had exploded.)

Before I go any further, I should note that I cannot take credit for the title of this post.  The title comes from a spoken-word track Jack Kerouac recorded on Poetry for the Beat Generation, the 1959 album he recorded with Steve Allen.

I have wanted to blog about other sounds of the universe coming in my window.  The day I received the keys to this place, I was standing on the back deck and clearly heard the quarter-hour chimes of Holy Name Church, which is about a quarter mile southeast of here.  With the windows open, and minus any noise I create from music or TV, the chimes come through quite clearly, including the Baptism of Bells at noon and 6 p.m.

I have always found the sound of bells to be comforting.  Having grown up in the orbit of Marietta College for the first 19 years of my life, the quarter-hour Westminster Chimes from atop Erwin Hall, which is the most iconic building at the Marietta College campus.  Additionally, the hour and half-hour chimes from the Washington County Courthouse downtown produced a pleasant sound audible almost anywhere in town.

Erwin Hall, on the Marietta College campus.  Photo is from Wikimedia Commons.

Around Easter, Marietta College held (holds?) a festival known as Doo Dah Day--it may be called Etta Fest now.  When I was 13 or 14, the most exciting event was not trying to persuade servers that I was old enough to buy beer, but when a friend from the Marietta College Mountaineering Club let me come into the tower with him.  (I think they planned to rappel down to the ground, but they were overruled by the College, and they settled instead for flying a banner from the tower roof.)

One of my favorite recordings is Mercury's 1812 Overture on its Living Presence label (Mercury 434 360-2), because it features cannon fire from an authentic weapon used by Napoleon in his 1812 Russian campaign.  Even better, the ending includes the bells from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Canon at the Memorial Church in Manhattan, all of them turned loose and recorded by microphones hanging at different levels in the tower.

Edgar Allan Poe apparently shared my love for bell sound.  Many kids resented having to memorize his poem "The Bells," and I admit I never fully appreciated it until I heard Phil Ochs set its words to music on the album All the News That's Fit to Sing.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Muslims who sought to build new mosques in their hometown have often faced petition drives and town meetings to deny them zoning, building permits, and all the paperwork that a new house of worship has to complete before even breaking ground.  These are similar to all the hand-wringing and protests around the non-issue of the Cordoba Center (misnamed "the Ground Zero mosque") in New York.

One of the lame excuses, in a futile attempt not to clothe their protests in white sheets and hoods, is that the sound of the adhan (call to prayer) five times per day would be distracting.  Most of us have grown up around church bells--and we even sang about them in nursery school.  (The third line of "Frère Jacques" is Sonnez les matines!  Sonnez les matines!)  The Muslim call to prayer would be no more distracting, and would quickly fade into the white noise common in all neighborhoods, within days of a mosque's opening.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

No Longer "The New Place"

I spent most of April moving my belongings from one half-double to the other, and I am happy to say that my new place now looks more like a home, and not like the warehouse in the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  April was the month for transporting possessions, and May has been the month for unpacking and arranging.  (I want to take this opportunity to thank the friends and neighbors who ran relays of books, records, and furniture to the new place for me, and who helped me move the more cumbersome items, especially the furniture, into my new home.  You all know who you are.)

I am not posting pictures yet.  (And I am also striking the phrase "the new place" from my vocabulary... this is now home.  As of this moment, 1:54 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time, May 10, 2014.)  Susie will be here for most of the month of June, arriving on the 30th of this month, and I want her to see her new home in all its 3-D glory before I share with readers far and wide.

When I moved in, I saw a frame for a flat-screen TV hanging over the fireplace mantle.  The owner told me it would be cumbersome to take down, and said it was mine.  I have no desire to own a flat-screen; I doubt I watch enough TV to justify that expense.  Plus, the previous tenant on E. Maynard left behind a big JVC TV, which came with me when I moved.  So, rather than horse around trying to take down this frame, I ordered a framed poster of "Blown Away" (although I briefly flirted with the idea of buying a "Dogs Playing Poker" poster), and hung it over the frame.

Steve Steigman's Blown Away.  Many of us probably saw this as part of Maxell print ads in the '80s and '90s.

My enthusiasm aside, leaving Maynard Ave. was heartrending.  No, I don't want to be paying higher rent to a landlord just to keep the place where I had settled.  But, as I blogged when Susie and I moved here to Weinland Park, there is a sense of community on Maynard.  We learned that less than a month after we moved, when our new neighbors invited us to a backyard showing of El Mariachi one autumn night.  It was Susie who summed it up best: "I'm not used to having neighbors we don't hate."

Especially telling was last month's Festival of Hilaria--all of us on Maynard Ave. being silly together, hosting a parade, and a joyous after-party at Café Bourbon Street.  I put on a jester's hat and carried the banner at the head of the procession, along with a photographer from the Maynard Avenue Methodist Church and his granddaughter.  Had Susie been there, her initial reaction would have been, "I do not know any of these people!"  I'm sure she would have come around and become one with the festivities within minutes.

Truly heartbreaking to part from neighbors like this (I'm to the left of Henry the Octopus, of The Wiggles fame.  I rest assured, however, that once Maynard Ave., always Maynard Ave.

There does not seem to be the sense of community here on E. Blake.  My landlord told me that the house diagonally across the street used to be the home of three or four metalheads, who often blasted their "music" until the wee hours of the night.  Since my bedroom faces the street, I am glad this is no longer the case.  I am dreading football season, because I anticipate finding my yard scattered with discarded Solo cups and beer cans (there are students on this street).  I had way too much of this in Weinland Park, where the rule seemed to be to blast car speakers loud enough that the bass rattled windows and registered on the Richter scale.

Next weekend is Rock on the Range at Crew Stadium, just on the other side of the railroad tracks from Maynard Ave.  Chris Rock, Slayer, and Guns N' Roses are the biggest acts this year.  Besides the noise, the biggest inconvenience is that all the cell towers in the vicinity are severely overloaded.  Very few people keep land lines anymore, and many people have mentioned at Block Watch meetings that they worry about being able to access the police or 911 should the need arise.  I think I am far enough away that I won't be hearing this, or having to deal with all the noise and the drunkenness from the Crewanderthals after a home soccer game.  (A friend of mine has taken me to task for my use of the word Crewanderthal, and testily informed me that they are, at the very least, Crew-Magnons.)

One change from the house on Maynard is that I do not have an "office" anymore.  I am writing this blog entry (and the ones to come) at a desk in my dining room, which is also the mooring place for the trike (which has not been out much this spring).  I've hung up the staples for any home work space: a picture of Susie as a toddler, and a drawing of Lev Tolstoy rendered like an Eastern Orthodox ikon.

I think that today's rain and gray skies are a sign to me that I should be at home and bringing this long neglected blog up to date.  I've unpacked enough that I am not constantly having to veer around boxes, clothes baskets, and stacks of books and records.  (Ironically, Susie's bedroom was the first room that looked organized and settled.  I moved the furniture--bed, dresser, and desk--in the first load, along with boxes of clothes and her belongings (books, journals, posters, jewelry).  She has an L-shaped walk-in closet, with much more space than she had at Maynard, and yet I am sure that I will never see the floor again once she starts to settle into the room.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hand and House News

Today marks my second day minus the wrist splint.  The doctor at the OSU Hand and Upper Extremity Center says that I should wean myself off of it, but I am so thankful that my hand is close to healed that I am going "cold turkey" away from it.  Not being to hold a pen, not being able to use silverware, and not being able to wear a glove on the cold days we have had recently (yes, even after the start of the vernal equinox)--none of this will I miss.  There is still some pain in my right wrist, when I try to bend my hand too far forward or backward, or to either side, but I think it will soon be gone.  I am able to keep it at bay with naproxen.

When I last blogged, I was in limbo about where I live.  In case you missed the last entry, I had just gotten my heat back after weeks of having to sleep in my clothes, wear layers of sweatshirts and jackets in the house, and place unreturned phone calls to the property manager.  (If there had been no forward motion about the dead furnace, I was going to print off a copy of Section 5321.04(6) of the Ohio Revised Code, which deals with landlord responsibilities, and enclose it with my next rent check.  That was when I learned that the landlord had washed his hands of the place by neglecting his property taxes.)  The property was on the verge of being sold at sheriff's auction when a new owner and property manager stepped up to the plate, bought the place, waterproofed the basement, and replaced the furnace.

About two weeks later, I played a voice mail message on my phone at work.  The new owner wanted to increase the rent to $1200 per month, which was a jump of 43% over what I had been paying in the 2½ years I have called this half double my home.  (I realize this is incomprehensible for any readers who live in New York, Boston, or the San Francisco Bay Area, but for under $700 per month, I was renting a three-bedroom half double.)  This near-doubling of the rent is especially insane in a neighborhood like this, where entire houses rent for around $1000 per month.

I had first dibs on the place at the new place, but I knew it was not realistic to think I could afford such an increase.  The new owner said I could stay until the end of June (I had been month-to-month since October), but I immediately got online and began to look for a new place.  I was also going around the SoHud neighborhood, notepad and Pilot EasyTouch ballpoint in hand, jotting down any phone number on FOR RENT signs I encountered.  The latter was not an easy task with a hand in a splint.  Looking over the pages in my notebook right now, I am surprised my penmanship came out as legibly as it did.

Mercifully, the search was a short one.  Walking toward High St. late one afternoon, I saw a sign in the front yard of a half double on E. Blake Ave.  I called the number on the sign, and made a date to meet the owner the next day after work.

And I liked what I saw.  It's only $20 a month more than what I am paying now, although it is two-bedroom, instead of three.  The floors are freshly varnished.  A washer and dryer combination is in the basement.  (I have been renting to own a set from Rent-A-Center.  There is a lot of truth to something FBI Agent Dale Cooper said in Twin Peaks: "Leasing may be the fast track to an appearance of affluence, but equity will keep you warm at night.")  Furnace and central air are brand new and flawless.  And the owner is current with property taxes and mortgage payments.  (He and his wife did live in my half of the duplex, but they've moved to a bigger place in Beechwold, since they plan on having children in the near future.)

The owner agreed to rent it to me after about 15 minutes of conversation, and he faxed me a lease the next day.  The big day will be April 1, when I meet him and he gives me the key.

Susie has been spending spring break with me, and has enjoyed everything except the weather.  I came close to blogging about my good fortune in finding affordable new living quarters as soon as I had sealed the deal, but I reined myself in so I could surprise Susie by pointing out the new place as we walked by it.  (She still has not seen the interior.  She will be returning to Florida late Sunday afternoon, and I do not get the key until Tuesday.)

The only planned "special" activity that Susie and I did was visiting COSI (the Center of Science and Industry) on Sunday afternoon.  While we were emailing and IMing back and forth about Susie's spring break visit, I mentioned the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at COSI, and both of us wanted to see it.  We were both underwhelmed.  My favorite part was the mock-up of the interior of 221B Baker St., and it was complete, right down to the Holmes mannequin in the window (to fool a criminal into thinking Holmes was actually there when he wasn't), to the "VR"--Victoria Regina--spelled out in bullet holes above the fireplace.  (When bored, Holmes would resort to either cocaine or indoor marksmanship.  I am not sure if he ever combined the two.)  Holmes' file of correspondence was where it was in the stories.  It was pinned to the fireplace mantle with a jackknife.  The exhibit was the first time I had ever seen original editions of The Strand magazine, where many of the short stories (and a serialized Hound of the Baskervilles) first appeared, and, almost as rare as a Gutenberg Bible or a Shakespeare First Folio was a copy of Beeton's Christmas Annual, where Holmes first debuted in A Study in Scarlet.

The exhibit was not worth the $56 I paid for two tickets.  As for the interactive part of the exhibit, the mystery-solving was on a par with "It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick."

I will have the façade of wealth throughout the month of April.  I have paid the April rent at my soon-to-be-former home, so during that month I will have two residences!  This is purely for practical reasons, so I can move over piecemeal, especially the more cumbersome job of moving the books and records.  (I had a modest assortment of LPs when I moved here in the fall of 2011, and that has quadrupled--at least!--and then there are all the 78s.  I have imposed a moratorium on buying books and records until the move has started, to lessen what needs to be moved.)  I will save the furniture until the very end, and will probably hire a professional mover for that.  (Moving books is the only time I will ever wish I had a Nook!)

This is a still from The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and what I envision every time I have to move.  This time, however, I am hoping to stay put for the foreseeable future.  (My new landlord seems more conscientious than my last one.)

Susie, a friend of hers, and I walked to dinner at the Blue Danube tonight.  We passed the new place en route, and were happy to see that the FOR RENT sign was gone from the front yard.  I am looking forward to the exchange next Tuesday (I give him a cashier's check, he gives me the key), although I wish the move was already behind me.  I'll feel much better once I am actually settled into the new place.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Typing Through My Tears

The title of the post is not literal, but it is true that typing this post is not coming as easily as it usually does.  I'm also using the keyboard here in lieu of being able to write diary entries, because holding a pen requires much effort and much patience for the time being.

Remember the fall on the ice that I casually mentioned in my last post?  I slipped and fell on a patch of ice, and put out my right hand to break my fall.  (I thought I was stepping into snow, unaware of the ice beneath it.  I suppose you could say I slipped on white ice.)  I underestimated the severity of the fall.  I kept thinking that it was just a bruise, and that it would improve.  I continued to think so--until earlier this week.  The pain in the wrist, whether I was moving it or not, kept getting worse, and was radiating into my fingers, particularly the index finger and the pinkie.  So, on Monday, I made an appointment with my general practitioner, and was fortunate enough to be able to get in to see her that afternoon.

She seemed quite concerned as she manipulated my hand, squeezed to see where pain was, etc.  She then wrote up an order for a wrist X ray, and emphasized to me not to put it off.  So, I went over to Doan Hall at the OSU Wexner Medical Center promptly the next morning.  (With a doctor's order, I was able to bypass the emergency room and go straight to Radiology.  Even on a Tuesday morning, I am sure the emergency room would be mobbed.)  The technician took four views of my right wrist, and told me she would send the images to my doctor at once.  I left and went to work.

Shortly before noon, my phone at work rang, and it was my doctor.  She had read the X rays, and she told me that she had been on the phone to the Hand and Upper Extremity Center, and she hoped I could get in immediately.  The hand clinic called me shortly thereafter, and in an hour or so I was on the bus en route to the clinic.

The doctor showed me the X rays of my wrist, and said that I had one, and possibly two, fractures in my wrist.  I wasn't sure what I was seeing.  I could see bones, but I wasn't sure what was the injury and what was the shadow in the pictures.  Dr. Ryan Klinefelter, the doctor, said the best course of action would be to immobilize the wrist.  He would splint the wrist, and I am coming back on the 25th for another X ray, and hopefully the splint will be gone.

Being a two-finger typist has never come in handy more than now.  I am a bit slower at the keyboard, and have difficulty manipulating a mouse (especially the one at work, which is external and on a cord), but I have not had to take any time off from work.  I do have to stop and take prescription painkillers (Naproxen and Tramadol) periodically during the day.  The splint (molded plastic; I wear a stockinette underneath it to prevent chafing) does leave my fingers free, although my thumb is extended at an angle.  I wear the splint 23½/7, taking it off only when I'm in the shower.

What I have not been able to do is write with a pen.  (I usually don't use pencils.  I'm fully in agreement with Pontius Pilate: "What I have written, stands." (John 19:22))  My diary entries usually average at least two pages, but the most I have been able to write at one time has been a fax cover sheet.  I have always taken pride in my penmanship.  It's almost classic D'Nealian script, but since I started wearing this splint, it looks more like diary entries I wrote when I was drunk (none of them since 1997, of course!), or like it came from a seismograph needle.  At one point this weekend, I jotted a phone number in my notebook, and just writing those seven digits took forever, and looking over the page, I can barely read what I wrote.

I thought about venturing to Studio 35 to catch Fritz the Nite Owl's 11:30 showing of The Goonies, but I was (am) not up to the walk back home, since the movie would end long after COTA had stopped running for the night.  Frankly, I hear the movie is a lot of fun, but it didn't sufficiently whet my interest to justify the walk back home with the temperature in the upper 30s.

Susie will be arriving here Saturday afternoon.  She's already making plans to see (and host at least one sleepover) with friends.  The only events we have scheduled have been a trip to see the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at COSI (the Center of Science and Industry) on Sunday, and a tour of Ohio State on Monday afternoon.  (Susie is also looking at New College of Florida in Sarasota; I very unselfishly hope that she chooses OSU.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Blogger Who Came Into the Cold

My horde of readers must be wondering what accounts for the latest silence in this blog.  The reason this time around is 100% unique, and without precedent in the years that I've taken to the Internet to vent my spleen.

Ever since the time of the first polar vortex to blast through Columbus, and until last Monday, my half-double was without a furnace.  In the 2½ years that I have lived here, the property management company has been very dependable and prompt with whatever problems that came up with this place.  So, when my furnace conked out soon after the new year, I took for granted that it would be up and running within days, and certainly ahead of the days when the mercury would remain below 0 for days.  (At first, my thought was that, like Archie Bunker, I had a "religious furnace; it never works on Sunday.")

I texted the property manager, and the company's HVAC guy came to look at the furnace.  The igniter had worked erratically for much of the fall, so he came fully prepared to fix that.  (This was a gravity furnace, about 20 years old, and had no pilot light.)  I was not a happy man when he told me that the furnace no longer worked, and needed to be replaced.

Worse than that, the manager told me that he could not tell me when this would come to pass.  The Band-Aid solution he offered was to lend me space heaters, and these presented problems all their own.  If I had the lights, TV, and space heater on simultaneously, the circuit breaker would trip.  (The switches on the box downstairs were unmarked.  When you live alone, this is a colossal pain.  If a circuit breaker tripped when Susie was living here, I could always flip the switch, and yell up the stairs, "Did the lights come back on?"  Now, it meant running up and down the basement stairs to see if I had made the right choice.)

Even with the space heaters, I could not wear short sleeves in the house, and walked around in a sweatshirt and often a down-filled work shirt.  This began to take an emotional toll as well.  My mood plummeted, as did my energy to do anything other than get myself to and from work every day.

Common depression symptoms are insomnia or hypersomnia--either not sleeping enough, or sleeping too much.  Since being under the covers was the only place I felt warm enough, there were many nights when I was in bed by 7:30 or 8.  Far from being restorative sleep, I would awaken in the morning feeling exhausted from the hard sleep.  (My dad described the condition as being "sleep drunk," and it is quite fitting.)

Soon, the property management company was not returning my phone calls.  I was debating whether to escrow my rent, or whether I should report the situation to Code Enforcement, but I was afraid of retaliation by the landlord and/or the management company.  Then, during the second week of February, I learned some news.  The property had been foreclosed, and was scheduled for sheriff's auction on the 28th.

I did not learn this from either my landlord or the property manager.  I learned it from a neighbor who works at a law firm downtown.  He had seen it in The Daily Reporter.  As soon as I could, I went to the Franklin County Sheriff's Website, and sure enough, there it was.  A day or two later, I looked up this property on the Franklin County Auditor's Website, and I almost choked on my Diet Pepsi.  There was a new owner listed, with an address on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.  A day or two later, I received a phone call from a person introducing himself as the new property manager.  The place has a new owner, and new property manager, and the entry for the sheriff's auction was withdrawn.

The first thing this new property manager did was hire a company to waterproof the basement and install a new sump pump.  This was good news, because it was getting to the point where I would start sneezing the minute I came downstairs to do laundry (or check the circuit breakers).  He then told me he would have a guy come and look at the furnace.

The new HVAC guy met me at my door after work a day or two later.  The minute he took the faceplate off the furnace, his jaw dropped open.  The furnace's exchanger was not working properly, and he said it may have been blowing carbon monoxide up into the house.  I thought that this may explain my overall lethargy, depression, and fatigue.  The levels were nowhere near fatal, because the rooms are so big and because, this being a house built in the 1920s, the rooms are not well insulated.

He shook his head as he looked at the furnace's electrical wiring.  Much of the insulation had been burned through, and some of the wires were wrapped in black electrical tape.  Apparently, I have dodged a bullet here.  He told me that he was very surprised that there had not been a fire or an explosion.

My mood improved over the weekend, and on Monday morning, as I was dressing for work, the HVAC guy called.  He was coming that day to install the furnace, and wanted to make sure I was leaving him a key.  That was great news to begin the day, so I was like a little kid on the last day of school throughout the work day.

And I was not disappointed!  On Monday, I stepped across the threshold of my abode, and a Glenn Frey song came to mind: "The Heat is On."  There was even a new thermostat, a white digital model about the size of a deck of cards, mounted on the dining room wall.  It was set at 65 degrees, but I moved it up a little to 72, and felt myself wanting to stay home for the first time in weeks.

On Friday, he is coming back, and this time to install central air.  This will be a first for this property.  Oddly enough, the place came with central heat, but no central air.  Even though I vowed that I would not complain about the heat this summer, even if it remains in the triple digits for weeks on end, this indeed was welcome news.  I bought a window unit last year, but it was only able to cool off one room at a time.

To supplement the torpor brought about by not having heat, I fell on ice last week and mildly injured my right wrist.  Of course, I am right-handed.  I put the hand out to break my fall, and was in immediate pain (although I knew I had not broken the hand or the wrist).  I had to stop diary-writing, which always makes me feel like I'm going through withdrawal.  I had been looking forward to christening the journal that I bought at the Barnes and Noble in Merritt Island when I went down there at Christmas.  My diary entries tend to be at least two pages long, and even something as simple as filling out a fax cover sheet was enough writing to cause my wrist to hurt.  So, I waited until I could write without pain (I was able to type, because the pain was not as bad) before I wrote the first words in the new journal.

So now, as of this Ash Wednesday, I have things I used to be able to take for granted in this house.  I have heat and a dry basement.  Just in time for the arrival of the vernal equinox.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My First eBay Bidding War--Definitely Worth Recording

Susie went out this evening for dinner at The Spaghetti Warehouse, and then to the 11:30 showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35.  So, it's just the laptop, the blog, and me here right now.  (Susie flies back to Florida late Monday morning, but she has managed to see many of her good friends while she has been visiting here in Ohio.)

While I was in Florida, I ventured where I had never been--but in territory which is familiar to many people I know.  I found myself in a bidding war on eBay.

A day or two before Christmas (and going down to Florida to celebrate the holiday), I set my sights on a Lafayette RK-710 reel-to-reel tape recorder.  I picked the brains of my fellow members of the Reel-to-Reel Enthusiasts' group on Facebook, since I had never heard of Lafayette.  All reassured me that the Lafayette Radio Electronics Corporation was a reputable company.  So, I submitted a bid a dollar or two above the price listed in the posting.

To my surprise, eBay sent a notice to my email saying that someone had bid higher than I had.  I immediately jumped onto eBay and raised the price by a dollar.  It was after placing the bid that I realized that my "opponent" had only raised the stakes by about $0.11 or $0.12.  I raised it a dollar, and saw that bidding would close the next day around 8 p.m. EST.

Steph pointed out to me that I was the one who was driving up the price.  Apparently, the other bidder realized this as well, since he/she automatically set the account to raise the price a dollar each time I placed a bet.

I sat out the next 12 hours, although I set the alarm on my cell phone to go off five minutes before bidding closed.  Patiently, I watched the timer run down, and discovered that the other bidder had placed a $40 ceiling on automatically raising bids.  As time was down to about 15 seconds, I increased the bid by $0.50, and received the good news that the tape recorder was now mine.

A Facebook friend told me that there was another--far more universal--tactic for bidding on Facebook.  It is called "sniping," and it involved not driving up the price by matching and exceeding bids.  It involves sitting there quietly as the time runs out on bidding, and, as close to the last second as possible, putting in the highest bid.

The recorder came yesterday by FedEx Ground.  Susie was home to take it off the porch, which was a good thing, since there has been a rash of package thefts here in SoHud during the Christmas season.  She emailed me at work that the package was here, so I was on the edge of my seat the rest of the day, willing the clock to move more quickly to 5 p.m. so I could get home and try out the new machine.

My new toy, the four-track Lafayette RK-710 recorder.

Oddly enough, this would be the third reel-to-reel machine to be under my roof.  This past summer, I met my old friend Scott--we met in seventh grade at St. Mary's Middle School.  As the only non-Catholics in the class, we naturally gravitated toward each other.  In high school, we discovered a mutual fascination with radios and iron oxide tape, so we spent many hours immersed in tape, patchcords, and microphones.  
When Scott and his wife moved to a farm in Licking County, he decided to unload many of the possessions he no longer needed--a lesson I have yet to learn!  So, we met for brunch at the Blue Danube, and, after long conversation and the usual filling meal, he gave me two portable tape recorders, a Sony and a Penncrest, both of which were familiar to me from the afternoons and evenings we spent using them.

I wanted to buy yet another machine because neither portable machine could accommodate seven-inch reels.  Also, the motor on one machine seemed to be DOA, and the other did not record, at least not with the microphone that came with it.

The new Lafayette machine (pictured above) had one cosmetic flaw.  The tone and volume knobs are both missing, so I turn them with a small slothead screwdriver that fits just perfectly.  (The missing knobs did not concern me; I changed channels with a pair of pliers on the TV I had when I lived in Cincinnati.)  Also, the machine's 1 7/8 inches-per-second speed did not seem to work.

I tried some of the tapes that Scott had given me.  (Since he no longer had the equipment to play them, he gave me his reel-to-reel tapes as well.)  One was a three-inch reel of the audio of Star Trek's third-season episode "The Tholian Web" (Stardate 5693.2), and the sound quality and speed was erratic, which had me worried.  I had better results when I took a five-inch reel at random, and heard a crystal-clear recording of Side 2 of Pink Floyd's Animals.

My next concern was whether I had a two- or four-track machine.  When I lived in Cincinnati, I bought a Wollensak reel-to-reel recorder from my across-the-hall neighbors, who sold it to me one night when they were desperate for beer money.  (When you've got 'em by the addiction, their hearts and minds will follow.)  Soon afterwards, the College Conservatory of Music had its annual record sale.  At this sale, they featured commercially produced reel-to-reel tapes for $0.25 apiece.  I bought two operas, plus a recording of an Israeli string quartet.  (I had no idea what music was on the latter tape, since the liner notes and listings on the box were all in Hebrew.)

I came back to my apartment eager to try out my new treasures.  I threaded one of the opera tapes into the Wollensak and pressed the PLAY button, and was utterly crestfallen.  I had a two-track machine, and it was a four-track tape.  While playing side one, the machine played side two backwards at the same time!

This afternoon, while Susie was having lunch with her Coming of Age mentor, I went to Used Kids (where, as faithful readers of this blog will remember, I bought four milk crates of 78 RPM records for $20 in November).  The manager was nice enough to give me a piece of equipment I desperately needed and which did not come with the recorder--a seven-inch take-up reel.  I spent $3 on a four-track commercial reel-to-reel album, Tribute to the Big Bands under the Tape-Mates label (TMS-102).  It's a three-hour tape which includes all the big names of the Big Band era, such as Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Duke Ellington, etc.  With trepidation, I put it in the Lafayette, and lo and behold, it played crisply, and only one side at a time.

My fascination with recording, and my tendency to want to hang onto things "in case I need them later" was the cause of an ongoing battle Steph and I had whenever we contemplated a move.  The Wollensak came with me in 1995 when I moved from Cincinnati to Columbus, although I kept the same spool of tape on the machine and never played it (and never found a microphone for it).  Steph kept urging me to get rid of it, but I was adamant that where I went, it went.  The conflict was similar to a friend of Steph's son, a teenager who refused to part with his Fisher Price farm set, which had been in a box collecting dust in the basement since he had been in grade school.  He balked at allowing his mother to give the set to Susie, who was a toddler at the time.

I have owned a variety of tape recorders since I received my first one as a gift on my eighth Christmas.  Most of them have been cassette recorders.  As is the case now, I did not collect eight-track tapes or recorders.  (Eight-track is the only medium that is explicitly unwelcome in my home.)  Tape fascinated me so much that I began avidly following Watergate once Alexander Butterfield disclosed the existence of Nixon's secret taping system.  I also looked forward to Mission: Impossible reruns so I could see the way that Dan Briggs and Jim Phelps retrieved the recordings that would explain their next assignments.

(I was quite happy when one technophile posted a YouTube video showing the different makes and models that Mission: Impossible employed in the series.)

Susie is not a fan of Big Band music, so while I was trying out the new (to me) tape that I had bought at Used Kids, she put on her earbuds and listened to music from her laptop.  I was in the dining room (which, among other things, is the place where I moor the Schwinn Meridian) with the tape recorder on a bookcase, and she was typing away at her TV Tropes and fan fiction pages, listening to the music she liked while I was listening to the various Big Band instrumental numbers, this time more to see how reliable the machine was, although I developed a liking for swing and Big Band music through my association with the old-time radio circuit.

Maybe I'm older than I realize.  Just after I won the bid for the Lafayette, I proudly posted a picture of it on my Facebook page.  One of my fellow bookstore co-workers, who is 20 or 21 at the oldest, posted, "What is that?"  He had no idea what it was, or what I did.  So, I explained, and then posted a link to Wikipedia's entry on reel-to-reel recording.

That way, I can tell myself I educated someone, as well as spending money on a new toy.