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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 http://aspergerspoet.livejournal.com and read there. Nothing has changed about this blog except its hosting site.

Monday, December 26, 2011

More Productive Than I've Been in Months

I will be back on the job in less than 12 hours, and I mentioned in my last entry that I was banishing all mention of "work" from my vocabulary for the four-day Christmas weekend.  That does not mean that I've been completely idle since I left work at 5 Friday evening.

I wasn't exactly a white tornado, but the too-long cluttered living room is almost presentable for company now. Part of the reason I launched into this project was to find a notebook from earlier this fall that seems to have been buried under all the flotsam and jetsam that Susie and I generate.  (I think being a bureaucrat is hard-wired into my DNA--I can generate paper and other paraphernalia almost logarithmically.)

My longest (but most welcome) respite came on Friday night, courtesy of my across-the-street neighbors.  I was taking a break from excavating cleaning the living room, and was walking to a convenience store up the street, and my neighbor was tending a barbecue in the postage stamp of front yard.  "You alone tonight?" he asked.  I told him I was; my daughter was in Florida visiting her mom.  "Well, party going on.  We'll be serving the food around 11!"  I bought some Coke Zero to bring to the party, since I figured (correctly) that I would be the only teetotaler in attendance.

But that didn't matter.  The company was fantastic, and, although I was probably the oldest person there, most of the music was from my high school and young adult days--lots of ELO, Gary Numan's "Cars," and a series of one-hit wonders, such as The Zombies' "Time of the Season" and Dexy's Midnight Runners' "Come on Eileen."  The turkey and the spare ribs filled me up quite well, and I enjoyed the many conversations.  The down side was that, since I was drinking Coke all night, even though I came home around 2:30, it was well after dawn before I actually slept.

Earlier in this blog, I posted the dilemma faced by every bipolar person's spouse: What do you do when your bipolar significant other, not famous for cleanliness, goes on a cleaning jag, quite likely as a result of swinging toward the manic end of the arc?  I do have a clean(er) living room, master bedroom, and office to show for it (pictures are forthcoming in an entry or two, I promise), but the down side is that I ended up missing both Christmas Eve services at church.  I didn't want to lose the head of steam I'd managed to generate, because I know from bitter past experience that if I stop work on a project like that, it takes forever for me to resume the work, if at all.

The worst part of missing the Christmas Eve service was missing the dedication of my friend Ramona's little daughter.  I learned about it the next day, when her folks, Steve and Kittie, invited me over for Christmas dinner.  I ate quite well, and enjoyed the company of Ramona, her daughter, Steve and Kittie, and Steve's grown children (including his daughter Amelia, my companion on the journey to Washington last year for the One Nation Working Together march).  I ate buffalo meat for the first time, and loved it.  TBS was running A Christmas Story over and over for 24 hours beginning at midnight, and after seeing it for three or four times in a row, Kittie got a little bored with it, so she popped in a DVD of The Polar Express, which I had never seen before, but which I enjoyed.

Susie left me a voice mail message thanking me for the books I sent down to her in Florida.  (I made Steph promise to hide them from her until Christmas morning.)  In the message, she told me where she had hidden her present to me.  It was a book that was ideal for someone with a love of trivia and other minutiae--World War II: 4139 Strange and Interesting Facts.  It's not the type of book you sit down and read from cover to cover, so I've enjoyed going from entry to entry.

I guess I'm still a little shell-shocked from the ordeal of NaNoWriMo, but other than this blog and diary entries, I have not done any writing.  In my defense, I am already planning next year's NaNoWriMo project, but I am not going to tip my hand here, so publicly.  The rules say that you can take all the notes and write out all the outlines, etc., you want, but writing the novel proper cannot take place before 12 midnight on November 1.  I was hoping to get back into the mood by re-reading James A. Michener's generically titled book The Novel, which I enjoyed when I bought it in Cincinnati in 1991--one of the few hardcovers I bought new.  I liked the book (and I was in the minority, even with Michener fans), and I've been carrying it around in my knapsack the past week or so, although I am not all that interested in Pennsylvania Dutch culture--the backdrop of much of the story.

This is the ultimate "Keep it simple, stupid!" when it comes to titling a manuscript.

I'm hoping it won't take the next NaNoWriMo for me to start producing again.  The title of this entry is a little misleading--I was more productive on the domestic front than I have been when it comes to anything literary.  As I was getting my study arranged, I found the fat New Yorker diary from 1983 that I've used as an idea log and a place to write notes for future projects.  (I thought I had left it behind when I left Weinland Park.)  Maybe I need to keep it in my pack so I can jot down ideas for next fall's NaNoWriMo project.

Who knows?  Maybe now that my work space isn't quite as much of a shithole, I may actually be able to bear to spend time in it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Banishing Thoughts of Work Until Tuesday

When I left the job today at 5 p.m., I made it a point to shut off the weekday and Saturday alarms on my cell phone--your faithful blogger/online diarist does not have to work anywhere until 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.  I did set the 8:45 Sunday morning alarm, so I can go to the informal 11 a.m. Christmas service at church on the 25th, but, other than that, my sleep will be open-ended.

The only downside to this news is that Susie is not here to celebrate the holiday with me.  Late Wednesday afternoon, she boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando, so she can spend Christmas with Steph.  My friend Steve took us to Port Columbus International Airport, and her flight left on time, at 4:50 p.m.  She was due to arrive in Orlando at 7:05 p.m., but, according to Steph, she actually arrived a few minutes early.  After I saw that her plane took off on time, I went to the Discovery Exchange and worked the usual 2½ hours.  (I had given my supervisor a "definite maybe" about whether I'd be there.  If Susie's flight left on time, I would be in for work, but if it was late, I would not come in.)  The last day of school at The Graham School was Tuesday, and Susie will return to Columbus on January 3, the day before Winterim starts.

I won't be totally alone for the holidays.  I will be having Christmas dinner with Steve and his family after the service at First UU, and I am planning to go to the 10 p.m. Christmas Eve service.  Nor did I go overboard with gifts.  I bought for Susie, and she will open my gifts to her on Christmas morning in Florida.

My period of solitude at work has ended.  Due to an organizational shuffle at work, I am in a new department, and I was working alone in its new area on the 10th floor, but my co-workers joined me this week, so now I have other people around me while I'm working, and I am glad to have them.  My desk is near the south-facing window, so I have a good view of the Leveque Tower, and a not-so-scenic view of the back of the YMCA.

One of our supervisors has donated a small library of audio books.  Currently, when I have been scanning documents, and not listening to doctors' audio dictations, I have been listening to The Stand (the original edition, although I hope Stephen King decides that The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition should be recorded.  (A co-worker has generously reduced this large novel to three optical disks by recording it as MP3 files.)  I have that and It (also on MP3 files) at my desk, along with cassettes of Kerouac's On the Road read by Matt Dillon.  The only other audio book I have is an abridged reading of Thomas Merton's Run to the Mountain: The Story of a Vocation, which is the journal covering the years between his conversion to Roman Catholicism and ending a week before he entered the monastery in Kentucky where he spent the rest of his life.

I was excited when my supervisor sent this email about the collection of audio books she was donating.  I went over to see what she supplied.  One was To Kill a Mockingbird, and there were some Nicholas Sparks novels (the only one I ever read was The Notebook), and some abridged James Patterson novels, not all of them Alex Cross novels.

However, she did have--unabridged--all of the Twilight novels.  I probably will not read them.  Except for Dracula, vampire stories have never interested me that much, and my attraction to Dracula was because Stoker told the story in an epistolary format.  Susie read the first two novels in the Twilight series, reading them over her friends' shoulders.  Since then, she has come to agree with Stephen King, who so famously wrote that

Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity.  Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.
Before I worked for the State of Ohio, I worked as a data entry typist (known as a "header entry operator") at Medco Health Solutions.  I had brought my love of audio books with me, a love that began in the summer of 1986, when I was working as a temp for the State, in the Division of Elevators (and Boilers before that).  At Medco, enough of us listened to audio books that there was a lot of swapping and borrowing back and forth.  Because of this, I read things I would not normally have read, such as Sue Henry's Murder on the Iditarod Trail and the novels of Clive Cussler.  The only time I voluntarily did without was when the only books available to me were Tim LaHaye's and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind novels.

Their lunatic theology aside, the books are not that well written.  I learned this when I was waiting for a bus, and someone had left behind a copy of Glorious Appearing: The End of Days at the bus stop.  (This is apparently Volume XII of the series.)  Bored, I read the first few pages, and shook my head and left it behind for the next poor bastard.  (I think the person left it behind the same way some people do with the little religious comic book tracts of Jack T. Chick, in a bizarre way to proselytize.)  The late Christopher Hitchens (I won't call him great, because no one who supported the Iraq War is great) described the Left Behind series most eloquently and accurately as "generated by the old expedient of letting two orangutans loose on a word processor."

I had thought that I would be working at the bookstore tomorrow morning, but a four-, instead of six-hour day.  Yesterday morning, however, there was an email from my supervisor, wishing me a merry Christmas and telling me the bookstore would be closed Christmas Eve.  So, I am going to stay up as late as I want to tonight, and sleep as late as I choose.  With the 12-hour work days I have been logging lately, that is indeed a welcome gift.

It's 100% irrelevant to the entry, but here is a plate from Christmas 1988, depicting the President's House at Marietta College, a scene from my home town.  (My dad was never president of Marietta College--nor did he want to be--but I went to three or four functions here in my day.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

An All-Too-Short Breather From Moonlighting

I can tell that the end of the academic quarter looms at Columbus State Community College when I begin logging 12-hour workdays--my usual "day job" at the Industrial Commission, and the 2½ hours I work afterwards at the Discovery Exchange.  I wasn't expecting to be back at the bookstore until Christmas, but I emailed my supervisor there to find out when he wanted me to start, and he asked me if I could start the first week of December.  My finances--or the lack thereof--made that an easy decision, quite a no-brainer.

So, starting Monday evening, I have been working at the bookstore, arriving home just before 9, and by then I'm usually so exhausted that I tumble into bed right away... and still don't feel all that refreshed when the alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning.

It may some lingering NaNoWriMo mindset.  Even though I no longer have to type at breakneck speed to produce writing of questionable--if not outright nonexistent--literary merit, I still feel like I've expended an enormous amount of energy during the day, and just the proximity and practicality of sleep is enough of a suggestion that I tumble into bed at an early hour, often times before Susie.  (Even when I do stay up late, it is difficult to pinpoint when exactly she falls asleep.  She often dozes off reading or writing in her journal, so there's light coming from under her bedroom door regardless of how late the hour.  If I'm passing her room at 2:30 a.m. en route to the bathroom, I'll see the light, and long ago I came to realize that she's sound asleep and has no problem sleeping in a brightly lit room.)

Susie and I are at Kafé Kerouac right now, just north of the Ohio State campus.  This is a good post-NaNoWriMo location, and a good place to host a write-in next year.  Kerouac wrote the version of On the Road that catapulted him to literary fame (and fortune--most of which he drank) in a style that NaNoWriMo writers would make famous over 35 years later.  After many false starts, Kerouac wrote On the Road in about three weeks, fueled by amphetamines and black coffee, writing on a long scroll of Teletype paper and getting up from the typewriter only for trips to the bathroom.  I am 48 years old now, so I have outlived Kerouac by a year, but I doubt that I would ever have had the spontaneity or the stamina to try such a project in such a radical way.  Several years ago, Viking published Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954, and the work notebooks show that the writing of On the Road may have been spontaneous, but the text and the story was quite premeditated.

The famous scroll manuscript of On the Road.


This is the calm before the storm at the bookstore.  I have spent most of my workdays (-evenings?) re-shelving returns as students return them.  There are usually about five of us working on the second floor at night, and as one quarter winds down and the new one has yet to begin, there is not much customer traffic.  Sometimes I have to combat boredom, but shelving is a task that I genuinely enjoy.  During the lull in activity, when there aren't even any books that need to be put back, I remind myself about how much I'll relish moments like that once the onslaught starts again after Christmas.

One of my favorite isolated lines in Stephen King's The Stand describes one of the heroes, Larry Underwood, tending to his mother when she becomes ill with the flu that eventually kills her and 99.4% of the human race.  Before anyone realizes just how deadly this is, he helps settle her in bed, moves the TV to her bedroom, buys her some paperback books at the corner store, and fixes her a small meal.  "After that," says the narrative, "there wasn't anything to do except get on each other's nerves."  To a much lesser degree, that's kind of what we're like on the second floor when there are no customers and no books to shelve.

The cashiers and customer service people downstairs place returns on a library cart, and when one is full enough, that's when someone from the second floor (lately, me, but not exclusively) will come down and get it, exchanging it with an empty.  Because a loaded cart weighs so much, we take it up in the bookstore's freight elevator.

One of my coworkers is a young woman from the Republic of Guinea in West Africa, who is taking pre-med classes at Columbus State.  She was a little scared when I told her the books had to go up in the freight elevator.  (I had seen her wheeling the cart toward the passenger elevator.)  Having worked at the Cincinnati post office, I have no fear of freight elevators.  The one at the Discovery Exchange could accommodate a small Toyota, but it has a mesh gate that raises and lowers, and the heavy steel external doors smash together with a sound that can make you jump.  As she and I waited for it, I'm sure my casual references to the "Elevator of Death" didn't put her at ease.  (I suppose I should never let her see the L.A. Law episode featuring the death of Rosalind Shays.)

When I was 15 and living in Marietta, I helped a friend of mine deliver newspapers in the business district.  He had several customers in the Dime Bank Building at Second and Putnam Sts., across from the Washington County Courthouse.  The Dime Bank Building had an old, antiquated hand-operated elevator, complete with an old, antiquated elevator operator.  You got in, he would slide the accordioned gate shut, flip the lever (I always thought it looked like a ship's engine order telegraph), and up you would go, watching the floors go by as you rose.

I made an all-too-quick trip to Cincinnati the first weekend of November, while Susie was at a church Coming of Age retreat in the Hocking Hills.  One of the people I took to lunch was George Wagner, who managed the apartment building where I lived.  George worked part-time as a clerk at Ohio Book Store on Main Street, and he had a healthy fear/respect for its freight elevator.  He emphatically stated he was not afraid of the elevator.  "I burn incense to it.  I pray to it.  I recite the 23rd Psalm before I get aboard it.  But no, I am not afraid of it!" he told me many times when I lived in Cincinnati.

Friday, December 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo - 30 -

And this year it ended triumphantly for both Susie and me!  Completely in character for me, I was working on my project until the bitter end, logging 50,028 words when I submitted it to the NaNoWriMo Website for verification.  I sent it in around 4:40 on Wednesday afternoon, and Susie followed around 9 p.m. the same evening.  Very little incentive to cheat, since bragging rights and a neat little graphic for your Facebook page are really the only "prizes" you win.

The contest has not been without cost.  Susie has been sick with a sore throat and a headache (she even stayed home from school today, which has been completely out of character for her since she started at The Graham School), and I have been rather draggy and unmotivated in both physical and mental energy.  I've had a hard time focusing at work, and seem to want to sleep more than usual.  I've always liked wintertime, so I can't rightly attribute it to seasonal affective disorder, but I do find myself in a bit of a slump mentally.  My way of celebrating the completion of the project was going to bed before midnight for the first time in God knows how long.  I am hoping that this cafard will only be temporary, and, since Susie is going down to Florida for Christmas break, I really need to keep it from getting out of control.  (Again, cafard is a word that I picked up from reading The Journals of John Cheever.  He experienced enough of it for 10 people.)

Just by re-reading the two paragraphs I just typed, I can see that I've made some progress in coming out of NaNoWriMo mode.  To wit, I am using contractions again.  As a way to pad my word count, during the narrative of the novel, I stopped using contractions.  (I continued to use them in dialogue, and I admit that dialogue has never been my strong suit when it came to writing.)

My manuscript was called Founder's Day, and Susie's was/is Vengeance is Sweeter.  I am not sure what the fate of mine will be.  Even as I was writing it, I knew that I am capable of much better, and that I was pouring on the excess verbiage for the mere purpose of increasing my word count.  If you have ever seen You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, or listened to a recording of the music, you would understand what I was doing by following Lucy's part in "The Book Report."  Right now, Founder's Day is hermetically sealed on my hard drive, and I can't even bring myself to open the file, let alone start editing it.  I have a feeling that I may be working on it from the ground up if I ever decide to write it with an eye toward publication.  (And yes, I do have fantasies that it ends up being my breakthrough book, and then years later, I'll do what Stephen King did with The Stand and publish "the NaNoWriMo edition.")

I left work early today to run some errands (paying rent and getting a long overdue beard trim headed the list), and when I came back home, Susie was fast asleep in her bedroom.  I followed her lead and collapsed for an hour or so in my room.  But, she is awake now, and it is amazing what a little food did to perk her back up.  (I think the fact that she wants to go to the Marriage Equality rally downtown with me tomorrow morning, and see her friend in Romeo and Juliet at Dominion Middle School tomorrow night, may also have played a role.)

Another temporary casualty of NaNoWriMo has been that--completely out of character for me--I have barely written in my diary for all of November.  I guess what energy I did have, I poured into the NaNoWriMo project, and I was either too written out or too exhausted to turn my attention and energy to the pages of the composition book that always comes in my knapsack with me.  One of the reasons I'm writing in the blog tonight is to see if that will kick-start me toward resuming daily diary entries.  I don't want to be as meticulous or as compulsive as the late Robert Shields, but when I go back and open the book, with my pen in hand, I am going to feel like I'm meeting someone and having to explain to them why I haven't called them back.

I posted on Columbus Underground about needing to find someone to repair my Royal Royalite manual typewriter, and have yet to follow up on the suggestions folks posted in response.  I wish I could have used it for NaNoWriMo, but that would not have been practical, since you need to cut and paste your finished product into their Website so they can verify your word count.  Here is a picture of the Royalite, which has been on the receiving end of much abuse from me, in my old home office in Franklinton:


I loathed almost every TV series he produced, but, in the pre-YouTube days, I always loved seeing the ending credits of any Stephen J. Cannell program.  (Cannell, who died last year, produced 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, and The A-Team.)  It is especially appropriate to post, as someone who "won" NaNoWriMo:

(I can never decide which one I like best, so this one seems to be the most inclusive.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blog is the Victim of NaNoWriMo

National Novel-Writing Month--the annual race to write a 50 thousand-word manuscript in 30 days--is what literate people do in November instead of following college football.  It is also what has consumed all of my writing strength and energy.  Not only have I neglected the blog, I also have not written in the holographic diary since very early this month.  After working like mad to get in x number of words per day, I am too exhausted to produce any other writing.

Susie is participating this year as well, and she is ahead of me in terms of word count.  I currently am at 28,894 words, or about 58% of the minimum I need to "win", so I will be at the laptop keyboard any moment I can/should be between now and 11:59:59 p.m. on the 30th.  (The "prize" for winning NaNoWriMo is bragging rights, plus, I believe, a nice little icon to put on your Facebook page.)

So, I'm posting to the blog before I start tonight's writing.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so I can stay up as late as I want and sleep in during the morning.  Susie and I are having a quiet fête at home, which probably means eating off our laps and watching a DVD of The Social Network.  I have to produce about 2700 words daily between now and the end of NaNoWriMo to be able to "win."

This is because I went entire days (never more than one at a time) without writing, and playing catch-up is a nightmare.  On the fifth of the month, I was in Cincinnati for a Marriage Equality rally on Fountain Square, which meant leaving Columbus at 8:30 in the morning and not getting home until nearly midnight.  (Susie was at a Coming of Age retreat with the church, so she was in the Hocking Hills all weekend; otherwise, she would have come to the Cincinnati rally with me.)  The following weekend, both Susie and I were in North Olmsted for a youth conference (I was a sponsor, she was one of the youth) at the Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Church.  I brought the laptop along, but there was just too much going on, including lots of kids going in many directions at a mile a minute, that I didn't have the privacy or the concentration to get anything done.

For the first time with a writing project, I began keeping a work log with this NaNoWriMo manuscript.  At the union convention last August, OCSEA's Office of General Counsel gave away neat little black spiral notebooks, and mine has sat on my desk, blank, until NaNoWriMo started.  Some days, I record more work information than others:

The first few days, I was keeping meticulous track of what music I listened to while I worked.  You probably have noticed that my working music is quite catholic, lower-case C, when I'm going to be at the keyboard for awhile.

Last night, I felt really cruddy after dinner, with no energy and feeling lightheaded.  So, I decided to go out and see if some fresh air would perk me up.  Susie was in the living room, busily working at her laptop, being a role model to me by writing, while I was outside.

I drifted over to Mirror Lake.  The Ohio State-Michigan game is Saturday at noon, and I have zero interest in it, since I have zero interest in football, and because I attended neither school.  On the Thursday before the OSU-Michigan game, the students at Ohio State jump into Mirror Lake, regardless of the temperature.  Channel 10 had predicted thunderstorms, and the Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper, thought that lightning would deter anyone would making the jump.

There was no lightning, but I knew that would not stop anyone.  I remember inviting myself to an after-hours party in the spring of 1986, after the bars on High St. (the bars themselves razed a long time ago) had closed for the night.  The party was in the courtyard of an apartment building near High and W. 10th (where the Taco Bell is now).  There was a hot tub in the courtyard, and there were about eight or nine people in it, even though the sky was very cloudy and at some point before dawn, there was thunder and lightning.

I came early to Mirror Lake.  I had no plans on diving in--I would not go in Mirror Lake if you paid me.  At its best, it smells like Roadside Rest pump water.  The bacilli that live in it, and all the rocks, broken glass and other trash that line the bottom, would not make me go in it at all.  (I remember during Comfest 2010 seeing some high school kids swimming in the pond at Goodale Park.  I had the same feeling, and thought someone should have a booth offering free tetanus and hepatitis shots.)

Maybe I was too early, but I didn't see that many people there at 10 o'clock.  I have seen videos of previous jump-ins where kids were shoulder to shoulder in the Lake, but I don't think I saw more than 20 or 30 people in at a time.  It was very popular to jump in groups of four, so you could stand in the Lake and do the O-H-I-O with your arms.  (O = Arms over your head with your hands joined together above your head.  H = Arms over your head, the palms held parallel.  I = Like O, except that your fingers form a point.)  What I found funny was how many people would swear up and down they had no intention of going in the water, and then would suddenly bolt in and do it, often holding hands with a friend as they jumped.  Two young women planned, I think, to swan dive into the Lake.  They had stripped down to bikini briefs and sports bras, scampered hand in hand to the lip of the water, and then decided to sit down and slide in, like they were entering a wading pool.  When they came out, their teeth were chattering and they were running like mad to put on their dry clothes.  (A lot of people who jumped in fully clothed didn't have that option.  The temperature was in the mid-50s when I got there, but it dropped almost into the upper 40s by midnight.)

I never saw the allure of football, college or otherwise.  When I was younger, my dad took me to Saturday afternoon games of the Marietta College Pioneers at Don Drumm Stadium, but I was not very good at masking my boredom.  (I went on my own when I was older, but because it was free to me, since my dad was on the faculty.  Since it was free, I would take advantage.)  I went to a few Marietta Tigers games my sophomore year of high school, but paying to be bored was even sillier.

When Susie was first learning to read, I went to Abebooks' Website and ordered a copy of All Through the Year, the Harper and Row reading textbook I had in second grade.  I had always liked the book, and put off ordering it until I tired of reading the Berenstain Bears and Mr. Brown Can Moo!  Can You? repeatedly.  The only section of the book I disliked as a second-grader was called "Captain Sam," and it was about one of the major characters' hero worship of the high school football captain.  Besides the fact that I didn't care about football, I remembered one scene that bothered me.  David, the boy who looks up to Captain Sam, will have his birthday the same day as the high school home team goes against their arch-rival.  (It's apparently their version of OSU-Michigan, or Harvard-Yale.  In Cincinnati, the big high school sports rivalry seemed to be between two boys' Catholic schools, Elder and Archbishop Moeller.)


In the story, David tells his parents that he doesn't want a party or a birthday cake.  All he wants to do is go to the game.  His parents agree, but also add that he would not get any presents.  At the time, I thought that was a bit mean, and I still did when I read the story to Susie--knowing a story about football would put her to sleep with little difficulty.  I came around a little when I saw that David's parents paid for all his friends to go to the game, plus paying for their hot dogs and soda pop, I suppose, which does demand a significant outlay of money.


Football and writing in the same blog entry...  I am as surprised as you are, folks.  I first heard about NaNoWriMo when we were still living in Franklinton.  I was at the library, using the computers there because we didn't have any Internet at home, and I overheard one of the kids that worked behind the counter tell one of his co-workers that he knew a woman who entered this contest every year.  I Googled "novel writing in one month" and that was what led me to NaNoWriMo's home page.  It was mid-October by then, so I didn't have long to prepare for the project.


I usually have tanked by now.  In 2008, I didn't even make the effort, since my mother had died on October 30, and I was preoccupied with her memorial service and cleaning out her apartment in Athens.  Today is the 23rd of November, and I'm farther along than I ever have been before, but I am not going to get cocky.  I guess it's good that this guy never attempted NaNoWriMo.  It sounds like he won it on a weekly basis.


I am multitasking while I write this.  Susie and I are having a little pre-Thanksgiving meal tonight, so I am upstairs with the computer, typing away, and trying to keep track of the turkey and potatoes I have in the oven in the kitchen.  Unless the next entry describes a house fire, you can safely assume that we had an edible meal tonight.



My very amateurish footage of the beginning of the Mirror Lake OSU-Michigan jump-in last night.  One of the funniest moments I captured was a guy berating his friend for losing his lab goggles in the Lake, and insisting that he submerge himself to locate them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hubris Can Hurt

Mrs. Curtis, an English teacher at Marietta High School, taught a Greek mythology class.  I took the class my senior year, and one thing I never forgot was a sentence she wrote on the blackboard and never erased the entire semester: Beware excessive pride.  (She was a bit of a grammar Nazi--I've been called that as well--so I suspect that was why she never wrote the rest of the sentence, for it is a failing we are all open to.  There were certain things up with which Mrs. Curtis did not put!)

"Beware excessive pride" is a maxim that lay deeply buried in my subconscious until this week.  As I'm sitting here in my study typing this entry, Susie is downstairs watching a video, I have Jethro Tull comfortably blaring from my speakers, and I am in pain.

The pain is an aftereffect of my own hubris ("excessive pride, presumption, or arrogance (originally toward the gods)", per Wiktionary.org).  A co-worker of mine has been ribbing me for weeks about my avoidance, if not complete aversion, to joining the gym at work.  He has even offered to pay for my first month's membership.

He and I trade barbs about my lack of physical fitness and I come back with remarks about his age.  (He is several years older than I am, and played football and baseball in high school, and coached track when he was in the Army.  He spends every lunch hour on the treadmill or working out with weights.)

Last week, he challenged me to walk with him from our floor in the William Green Building (the 10th), all the way to the topmost floor.  He knows that I enjoy walking long distances and for hours at a time, so I guess he wanted to see just how fit I truly was.  (According to body mass index charts, I'm constantly straddling the dividing line between overweight and obese.)  I shrugged this off, thinking, "Piece of cake."  Walking was walking, wasn't it?  After all, I reasoned, I did plenty of walking during the six years I lived in Cincinnati, and no two neighborhoods are on the same level there.

Chuck, my co-worker, said, "Tuesday morning, 10 o'clock.  Meet you at the door to the stairs."

I told him I'd be there.  When I got back to my desk, I logged into GroupWise (our combined email and scheduling software platform) and under October 25, 10 a.m., I logged, "Walk to the top of the building with Methuselah," making sure he would get a copy.

So Tuesday at 10, I met him at the door to the stairwell.  Usually, I spend my 10 a.m. breaks in the Bureau of Workers' Compensation library, reading The Columbus Dispatch or The Wall Street Journal, but I decided that I would forego this until lunchtime.  So there I was at 10, and Chuck was at the door.  We exchanged the banter about whether we had the paramedics on standby, should we have a defibrillator waiting, etc.

The William Green Building, my workplace since 2004.


And then he and I began trudging.  I knew he would be faster, since he habitually uses the Stairmaster in the gym.  I sailed up the first two or three flights, and then I took 10- or 15-second breaks after I had gone up four or five floors.

The William Green Building is 530 feet tall, and it has 33 floors altogether.  I did not realize, until this trudge was in progress, there were three additional floors.  The Industrial Commission's executives' offices are on the 30th floor, known either as "Thirty" or "the Vatican."  I had assumed that was the topmost floor.  But, as we kept going upward, Chuck informed me that there were 33 floors altogether.  Floors 31-33 contain the air conditioning equipment, the elevator mechanism, and generators.

The walk up to 33 was not fun.  I have occasionally walked from the lobby to the 10th floor, and came through the door at the conclusion of the walk thinking someone would have to jump-start my heart.  My legs were aching, but I felt okay as far as my breathing was concerned.  Chuck told me later he worried a little when I stopped to take the mini-breaks.  My legs were hurting a bit by the time I triumphantly placed my hand on the door to the 33rd floor, like a mountain climber planting a flag.

Then came the trip back down.  When I've started the day (or returned from lunch) by going up to the 10th floor by stair instead of elevator, at least I could be sure that I'd be sitting for awhile thereafter.  According to my stopwatch, Chuck and I took 8½ minutes to go 23 floors.  I shut the stopwatch off once I touched the door with "33" painted on it, so I didn't time the trip back downstairs.

We hadn't descended very far before I felt like my legs were going to buckle.  I've heard expressions such as "It's all downhill from here" all my life, and that would lead me to believe that downhill would be easier.  Wouldn't gravity be doing most of my job for me?

Yes, it would, and if I wasn't careful, gravity would be doing the job too well.  I had to make sure my shoes were firmly planted on each step, and I held onto the handrail until my knuckles were bloodless.  This was one of those situations where you just had to ignore the pain.  I had taken Monday off from work, so the untyped ex parte orders and doctors' reports were piling up on my desk.  I couldn't just stay in the stairwell indefinitely.  So I paced myself, gritted my teeth, and made it back to the 10th floor.  "I'm proud of you, man!" Chuck said.  He had been worried when I wanted to take a break on the way up, but I did it.

Once I got back to my desk, that was when I began to sweat, and that was when the pain in my gastrocnemius muscles really began to hurt, and the pain hasn't let up yet.  Since Tuesday morning, I have dreaded stairs, especially when I have to go down them.  When it's necessary, I hold my legs rigidly, like a wishbone, and you can tell from my expression that it's an ordeal I want to finish as soon as I can.

Compare this to when I was at Ohio University, in the fall of 1986 through the spring of 1987, when I steadfastly refused to use elevators, in an effort to lose weight.  (During high school, I resembled Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! cartoons, more so when I grow the scraggly goatees that preceded my first real beards.)  I drove my friends crazy by insisting on using stairs, thinking I would burn off any excess weight.  Never mind that I was going to bars almost nightly and drinking beer by the gallon.)

So where do I stand right now?  The pain is still there, and it's not limited to when I'm climbing stairs.  I usually carry a bottle of Aleve in my knapsack, since I'm so prone to shin splints, and I've been using it pretty heavily these past few days.  Tonight, I walked the 1.2 miles from Giant Eagle to my house.  (I had gone to the Whetstone library to pick up reserves, and, as I left, Susie asked me to pick up some bread.  I took the bus from home to Whetstone, and from Whetstone to Giant Eagle, but decided to walk back home.)  I'm not sorry I did it, but I was hoping I could walk out whatever cramp or knot I gave myself during my marathon stair climb on Tuesday.

Pride goeth before leg cramps.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Here I Come to Save the Day!

When the start-of-quarter rush ended at Columbus State Community College, I left the bookstore thinking I would not be back again until December.  I was grateful for the extra money, and usually the job is fun, but at the same time I felt bad about leaving Susie home alone.

Yesterday, I came back from lunch and read a panicked email from my supervisor at the Discovery Exchange. The night manager was unable to come in on Wednesday, Thursday, or Monday.  I know it's last-minute, but could you possibly...?

It didn't take long for me to hit Reply and say "yes," I would be there.  I left Susie a voice-mail message, and typed an email to her, telling her I'd be home late, and to leave me some food in the Crock-Pot, and be sure her homework was finished.  And when 5 p.m. came, I did not head north to Baja Clintonville, but walked the 0.8 miles to the bookstore.

Once I stepped through the front door, it felt like I had only left the day before, not two weeks.  Cashiers who worked with me before said hi, the coordinator handed me my old apron (a black apron with my round name tag and my Buy Local! pin), and I had been upstairs less than a minute before I was pushing a book cart and shelving buybacks and returns.

No class at Columbus State uses this textbook, but the title is just too good not to share!


The temporary bookstore gig has also been helpful to my mood.  After the initial euphoria and adrenalin about the move, and the splendor of our new place, wore off, I began to sense the red flags that signal a depressive episode.  We often tell children, "Listen to your body" when we toilet-train them, so they don't have accidents in their pants, but too often we don't "listen" to the symptoms that indicate a depressive (or manic) episode is just around the corner.

The lack of energy, the urge to sleep all the time, no motivation (despite having a crap ton of work to do to get this place ready for visitors and to look like we live here--as opposed to crashing here), all of it was starting to worry me.  I made it a point to refill my lithium prescription at CVS on Tuesday, since this would not be the time to run out of it.

So, armed as I was with a 30-day supply of lithium carbonate, the email from my supervisor was an added bonus.  I felt honored that he turned to me in this semi-crisis.  It would be unrealistic for me to write or believe that I am unneeded--as a single parent, and as a full-time civil servant, it would be the epitome of self-pity, and completely unjustified at that.  Nevertheless, it improved my mood and my overall mental level of functioning when I received this email.  Feeling needed in a crisis is a positive supplement to the extra money I will earn as a result of this.

I'm glad to be inside.  The rain is falling outside.  No thunder or lightning, but there is a steady rainfall just outside my window, an interesting counterpoint to the crickets.  It's 61 degrees outside--I walked from the bus stop to my house with my shirtsleeves up.  We had spaghetti ready to go in the Crock-Pot when I arrived home, but I had to run an errand to the little market around the corner to buy some vegetable oil and Parmesan cheese.  It was misting at that time, but the sky was cloudy.  Now the rain has begun to fall.  And it's having a tranquilizing effect on me, which is a good thing.  (I was virtuous and drank Diet Rite this evening, which is caffeine-free and taste-free.)


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Planes and Backyard Movies--All Under the Harvest Moon

Every day I'm happier about Susie's and my move to Old North.  The cleanliness, pride, and simple respect the neighbors have makes it infinitely preferable to Weinland Park, but the friendliness has made me feel even better.

After Susie came home from Youth Group yesterday afternoon, she and I were walking to the bus stop, so we could go shopping at Kroger.  There were about five people standing on the sidewalk as we went by.  I recognized one of the men as someone who often rides the 4 bus to and from downtown with me every morning.  (He's in the minority on these particular schedules, since he works neither for the State of Ohio nor Nationwide Insurance.)  They invited Susie and me to a backyard movie at 8 p.m.  Without even asking what they were showing, I accepted.

The movie was El Mariachi, which I had never seen (neither had Susie).  Our hosts, Jeremy and Deborah, made us feel welcome right away.  The temperature was in the mid-60s, and I was perfectly comfortable, since I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but Susie was wearing a T-shirt and was about to head back to the house to get a blanket, but Deborah very quickly produced one, so Susie was all set.

Fortunately, Jeremy put on the English captions.  My knowledge of Spanish is confined to counting to 20, and I only know this from years of Sesame Street.  Susie is taking a Spanish class at The Graham School, and she mastered counting to five, thanks to Dora the Explorer.  Jeremy and Deborah hung a bed sheet across the back wall of the garage for a screen, and put brick-sized speakers at either end of the row of chairs.  (There were six of us there altogether.)

Airplanes seem to fly over every four or five minutes throughout the movie.  (And El Mariachi is not a long movie--it's less than 90 minutes.)  Sometimes the planes flew so low their navigation lights cast shadows on the ground.  None of us had ever seen that many commercial planes flying over the neighborhood with so little time between them.  (When I lived in Franklinton and Weinland Park, police helicopters, along with their mega-candlepower searchlights flashing around the neighborhood, were so common that we paid little attention to them.)  Last night, we only saw one helicopter, which was flying at high speed, and which I suspect was on its way to Riverside Methodist Hospital.  All of the planes were eastbound, so I suspect we're in Port Columbus' flight path.

The moon is not officially full until tomorrow night, and it is the harvest moon.  The Wikipedia says that October 11 is the latest that the harvest moon can be.  (The harvest moon is the first full moon after the start of the autumnal equinox.)  The moon was very bright last night, and there were white ringlets of clouds in the night sky almost directly above the yard.  The movie, the moon, and the company made the evening a very pleasant one.

The movie Susie and I saw last night in our neighbor's back yard.

Susie and Rising Voices sang "Night Winds" at the 9:15 service yesterday morning, so we had to be at church early.  (I almost always go to the 11 a.m. service, and rarely am out of bed before 8:45 Sundays.)  We left just before 8, because Rising Voices' director wanted to have a small rehearsal on the risers, and wanted all hands on deck by 8:45.

I was glad I went to the early service.  Susie and the kids sang quite well.  I shot the first non-test video with my new Kodak Easy Share C143 (my DXG camera gave up the ghost this summer, so I replaced it, going back to the model which worked the best for me) when they sang.  Below is the video I made:


There was a Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown stalks into the panel fit to be tied.  He had gone to the store to buy a Hallowe'en mask, and the store didn't have any.  One of his friends asked if they were going to order more.  Furiously, Charlie Brown said no, they weren't.  "They were too busy putting up Christmas decorations!"  This afternoon, I received a Facebook invitation to the church's annual winter concert, which will be December 18 at 4 p.m.  (Mark your calendars now, folks!)  I will be front and center, since Susie will be performing.  I'll be missing her for Christmas, since on the 21st, she'll be flying to Florida to spend Christmas and New Year's with Steph.  Susie will be headed to Orlando on the last day of school (she'll be leaving school a little early that day), and will be flying back the day before Winterim begins at Graham, January 3.  (Steph forwarded me Susie's Southwest Airlines itinerary the other day.)

I wasn't the dynamo I planned to be today when it came to getting this place completely ready.  I had vague memories of hearing Susie getting ready for school--getting dressed, fixing her lunch, shutting the front door, etc.--but it wasn't until almost 11 a.m. when I hauled myself out of bed.  I bought some kitchen and cleaning supplies at Dollar General, and managed to set up my Crosley phonograph, but there is still a scatter of boxes in the living room.  And I confess I wasn't all that organized when it comes to list-making. I don't realize we don't have something until the need arises.  I took some lasagna out of the oven tonight and then saw the only knives we had were butter knives, so I put the lasagna on top of the oven to cool and then dashed around to the corner market and bought a cheap set of steak knives so I could cut the lasagna.





Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Upside of Autumn

I grumble about the end of summer as much as any schoolkid (including my own), but one of its bonuses (at least for those of us who toil in the vineyards of civil service) is that, from September until February, there is at least one paid day off per month.  Monday will be such a day.  Tomorrow night, I will not set the alarm, but that tomorrow will still be a semi-work day for me.  My goal is to make some serious headway in making our new home look more like a home--we've hung up clothes, and the office is starting to take shape, but we still look like we're in transit.

Susie turned 14 on Thursday, and she was quite happy with the Seventeen subscription I bought her, although the first issue has yet to arrive.  (I remember receiving a subscription to Mad for my 11th birthday, and feeling just as good.)  I bought her subscription through Amazon.com, and they sent her an email Thursday morning notifying her, so now she'll haunt the mailbox until the first issue arrives.  Susie's grandfather sent her a sketchbook and a pen, and her mom mailed her clothes.  Susie and I had chicken soup at home (the same chicken soup I made two weeks ago--freezers and Crock-Pots are wonderful inventions) and then I took her for dessert at Groovy Spoon, a frozen yogurt restaurant on N. High St. just south of Whetstone Park.

She had a sleepover last night with a girl from The Graham School, so I stayed up almost until dawn, but was awake again by 9.  Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, although we declined the chance to dine with the Klingons.  (We ate lunch at Burger King beforehand.)  Between lunch and the movie, we went to a garage sale on E. Weber Rd.  Susie bought a purse and a scarf.  There was an entire rack of women's clothes, but nothing she liked fitted her.  I bought a DVD of Kissing Jessica Stein and a two-disk set of Beethoven's Favourite Piano Sonatas (I'm listening to the "Moonlight Sonata" as I type this, which is appropriate, because the moon is very bright tonight, although it's not officially full until Tuesday).

Where Susie and I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.


The downside of a three-day weekend is that my sleep schedule is now off track.  Since I didn't get to bed until close to sunrise, and was awake again a mere four hours later, I crashed for an hour or two almost as soon as Susie left for dinner and a movie with her godmother.  Susie is singing at the 9:15 service at church, so we'll be out of the gate sooner tomorrow morning than usual.  And I'm hardly leading by example!  It's nearing midnight, and I'm sitting here typing this entry with a bottle of Coke Zero at my elbow.

As I was unpacking, I was scared to death that I had lost the manuscript of my memoir about my friendship with Cincinnati novelist Robert Lowry during the move.  (Most of the text was on the hard drive of the stolen laptop.)  I sent a panicked letter to my friend Robert Nedelkoff just outside D.C., since he has been my consultant and father confessor for much of the project.  (I sent a letter rather than emailing so he could have a hard copy of my new address.)  About two hours after I dropped the letter in the mailbox, I was unpacking one of the big Staples boxes (my packing lacks organization--it always has, it always will), and, voilà, there it was.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  A day or two ago, RobertNed sent me an email thanking me for notifying him of the change of address, and he attached the Word file of the Lowry manuscript, as well as other items.

Now that I have an extant copy of the hard copy, rewriting should head the "to do" list, since--as Robert has not so subtly pointed out--I am in the home stretch of finishing this book.  (Lowry died in December 1994, and the last time I added anything to the manuscript, I was describing the period between the spring of 1992 and the summer of 1993.)  However, it has been so long since I wrote anything, the voice has changed, I've fallen out of love with some of the prose I wrote, etc., so it's best if I did the whole damn thing from the ground up.  Before she moved to Florida, Steph made some invaluable comments and edits in pen and ink on the manuscript, and I plan to incorporate some of these changes in the next incarnation.

An aside here--I changed the music while writing the last paragraph.  Currently, I'm listening to Vivaldi's "Double Trumpet Concerto for Two Trumpets, Strings, and Continuo in C Major, RV 537 Allegro," from the album Greatest Hits of 1721.  I love this piece.  What's funny is that it first came to my attention when I saw All the President's Men.  During the scene when Woodward and Bernstein suspect that Nixon's people are wiretapping them, they sit at a typewriter and "converse" by typing, and Woodward blares this music on the stereo to drown out the sound of the typing.

As I was rereading the pages of the Lowry manuscript, I seem to mark the decline of my daily conduct with him to my return to gainful and stable employment, particularly my third-shift job at the main post office in Cincinnati.  I've often said that my conversations with him at the Bay Horse Café started off as resembling William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, since Lowry's life and work fascinated me since I read about him in a 1989 Clifton magazine article.  Toward the end, as Lowry declined mentally, it more resembled Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

All Within Reach

Pictures of our new place will appear soon in this blog.  There are two reasons why they have yet to appear.  One is that Susie's and my new, beloved half double is still quite cluttered and disorganized.

The other is that the cord connecting my digital camera to the laptop seems to have been a casualty of the move.  Replacing it cost me less than three dollars online, and there was an email yesterday saying it was in transit.  So, even if I had taken pictures of my new abode, they are hermetically sealed in my camera until this new cord arrives.

Because of Columbus Day, I have a three-day weekend, and my numero uno project will be getting the place in order.  It still won't be guest-ready for awhile, but I will be able to share some pictures quite soon, if I can stay motivated and focused enough to keep working.

I was not a little kid let loose in Santa's workshop when I went to the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio last Friday, so I am still furnishing the place piecemeal.  On Saturday, my friend Steve and I made a few trips back and forth from my former place in Weinland Park (that has such a beautiful ring to it!), and between trips, he helped me move some of the more cumbersome furniture.  Thanks to him, Susie's and my desks are now in place, as is my dresser.  It took him, Susie, and me, working and sweating together, to get my king-sized mattress up the narrow stairway.  (Once on the second floor, moving it into my bedroom was easy.)  During moves, I have said (and heard) that recurring reassurance, "This isn't heavy, it's just bulky [or unwieldy]," but I didn't dare insult Steve's intelligence by saying that, especially when it came to the desks.

As I started to organize my study, I cursed myself for not taking the long table with me from Weinland Park.  I paced the small room (where I am now writing), thinking about what to do in the meantime until I made a trip to Goodwill to buy a table.  Then, I made my first trip to the basement since the leasing agent walked me through the place the first time.  I wasn't sure why I was going down there.  Susie and I hadn't taken anything down there.

Soon, I was glad I made the trip.  I found an old door leaning against the basement wall, and hauled it up to the office.  I stacked milk crate bookcases two high on the left and the right, and put the door across them.  I plan to go to Family Dollar and buy a folding chair for Susie's and my desks, but in the meantime I am sitting on a small wooden workbench that I found downstairs.

The people who live on N. 4th St. between Maynard and Hudson must have had a good laugh early yesterday evening.  Susie is currently sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor, since the Furniture Bank didn't have a box spring.  While I was between projects at work yesterday, I sneaked a peek at Columbus Underground's Website, just in time to see a notice from a woman pop up.  She had a queen-sized box spring free for the taking, and she lived in Clintonville.  She had brought it from her previous apartment, and found her stairs were too narrow for the mattress to fit.

Three or four emails later, I was headed north on N. 4th St. wheeling a dolly a friend loaned me.  (This friend works at Lowe's, so obtaining dollies is as easy as my bringing home pens and tape from my job!)  This person's house was several blocks north of Maynard, north of Hudson and near the rim of the Glen Echo Ravine.  She and I managed to get the queen-sized mattress onto the sidewalk, and she centered it onto the dolly.

And then the fun started.  She was trying--mostly in vain--to suppress her laughter as I made my way back toward Maynard.  I decided to pull the dolly, holding the mattress up against it with one hand and letting it rest on my shoulders.  Pushing it ahead of me was out of the question--I would have no visibility.

The half mile distance never seemed so long.  The mattress was just too wide, so I had to stop and turn it sideways for telephone poles, or to avoid breaking limbs off small trees, or tearing off the mirrors on parked cars.  The mattress completely dwarfed the dolly.  (It was like when a friend and I moved a queen-sized box spring and mattress on the top of his small car, tied there only with bed sheets.  I'm sure we resembled a ladybug trying to carry a two-by-four.)

Crossing Hudson Street was a nightmare.  It is a major entryway to Interstate 71, so there is traffic almost constantly.  Many motorists stopped for red lights sat behind their steering wheels with dropping jaws looking at this bearded lunatic with his pathetic dolly and his gigantic burden.

The railroad bridge near the intersection of Hudson and N. 4th Sts.  (The bridge crosses above Hudson St.)  The picture is from Amymyou's Photostream on Flickr.

I was frustrated enough to consider abandoning the box spring in the nearest obliging alley, trying to be as inconspicuous and innocent-looking as possible as I leaned it against someone's garbage cans and then beat a hasty retreat, dragging a clattering metal dolly behind me.

A young (late teens, early 20s) couple walking their dog took pity on me.  The guy and I carried the mattress at waist level the two or so blocks (but never had two blocks seemed so long than it did last night!), and his girlfriend followed us with the dolly.

The box spring is on the front porch.  After I clear a path, I will make an attempt to get this unwieldy piece of furniture up to Susie's bedroom, although I think I'm procrastinating because I'm afraid I'll discover the same thing my benefactor did--that the stairs are too narrow, and this box spring can't fold in two, the way a mattress can.

And if this turns out to be the case, the next step for the box spring is the Columbus Freecycle.

Susie turns 14 tomorrow.  She understands that her big gift was the new computer, replacing the one the thieves took.  She and I will split a small cake, and on Saturday I'll take her to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: Chekov Screams Again The Wrath of Khan.  I have already ordered a gift she has wanted for some time--a year of Seventeen--but the first issue has yet to arrive.

Despite my loathing of Bill O'Reilly, I am reading his current book, Killing Lincoln, mainly because any new book about the Lincoln assassination is a must-read for me.  Already his narrative style is starting to grate on me.  He has introduced Lincoln several times as "the man with 14 [or 13, or 12] days to live...", which reminded me of a Discovery Channel show I liked, Final 24, describing the last hours of the lives of notable people, such as Jim Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, and Nicole Brown Simpson.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't Know My Own Strength

In less than two hours, it will be October 2011.  Indeed a red-letter day for Susie and me, since we will officially be in residence in Old North Columbus (informally known as Baja Clintonville).  As I was there today, I saw all the external signs that the place is indeed our new residence.  (You'd think that the three new keys on my ring would be assurance enough for me, but I still seek other evidence as well.)  There was a change-of-address acknowledgement from the U.S. Postal Service, a notice from the credit union letting me know my change of address went through okay, and a letter to Susie from her grandfather in Wisconsin.

The first piece of mail addressed to me at the new place came from my ex-employer.

 The books came over on Tuesday night.  My friend John, who labored with me in the purgatory known as Medco Health, helped me transport two pickup truck loads of books from Weinland Park to Old North.  (We stopped at Tee Jaye's for a late meal in between runs.)  Wherever my books are, that is home for me.  So, one whole corner of the living room contained stacks and stacks of milk crates.

Today marked the arrival of the furniture.  In the previous entry, I included a plug for the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, and thanks to them, we have furniture in the new place.  My associate pastor Eric met me at their headquarters on S. Yale Ave., not too far from my old house in Franklinton, and I went through the warehouse picking out dressers, mattresses, box springs, a love seat, and a La-Z-Boy.  Susie and I have identical desks--heavy oak desks that were once in dormitories.

Two thirds of the way through the selection process, the warehouse foreman casually mentioned that it was curbside delivery.  The truck driver and his assistant would not carry the furniture inside the house.  That was totally on me.

I was happy to pay the $55 delivery fee, so I didn't fume too much about their not bringing it into the house.  The title of this entry came from my realization that, although it wouldn't be pleasant, I could indeed haul everything inside.  It took the better part of two hours, and I had to resort to such creative tactics such as pushing the dresser end over end, and singlehandedly moving Susie's dresser up the stairs.  (Gravity was not my friend during that experience, and I am still marveling over the fact it did not shift and come down on top of me.)  During the time I was moving the mattresses upstairs, I came away convinced they were alive.

Common sense prevailed enough to keep me from being completely foolhardy with the furniture moving.  There is a large TV sitting on top of the refrigerator, but under no circumstances will I bring that down by myself.  The desks are so heavy that tonight they are sitting on my new front porch.

Tonight was Community Presentation Night at The Graham School, where Susie is a freshman.  Each class presented its Septemberim projects, including Susie's "Writing for the Internet" class.  (During the first month of school, the students spent entire days in a single class of their choosing.)  Of course, Susie's blog was among the many displayed in the classroom.  (The teacher arrayed laptops around the room, each open to the home pages of the students' blogs.)

This indeed has been one of those overloaded days.  I came in to work for two hours before I headed over to the Furniture Bank, and that was the slowest moving part of the day.  There were no doctors' reports awaiting dictation when I logged on at 8 a.m., but the rest of the day went manic really quickly.  I filled out two pages of paperwork before I went to the warehouse to select furniture.  As soon as the furniture guys left (around 12:45 to 1 p.m.), I immediately went to work getting the furniture indoors.  It looked like a cross between an eviction and a yard sale when the truck left, so I moved everything out of the yard and either onto the porch (the desks) or into the house (everything else).  As soon as I finished that, I headed straight to Columbus State to get my paycheck, and then to the credit union to cash it.  (It wasn't until I was back downtown and walking from Rhodes Hall to the credit union that I realized that I had done the entire furniture-moving project on an empty stomach!  Next stop was Subway.)

Susie has a slight cold, but she's soldiering on with school, and her enthusiasm about the new house is keeping the symptoms at bay.  I think that all the heavy lifting (literally!) gave my immune system a boost.  I'm one of those people who doesn't get sick easily, but when it happens, I make up for all my health all at once and get dreadfully ill, with a vengeance.

As long as I get sick once this move is finished, and not during, I won't complain too excessively.









Monday, September 26, 2011

What Hath God Wrought?

I guess the first words Samuel Finley Morse sent by telegraph are an appropriate way to christen my new computer.  After the theft earlier this month, I spent much time on the phone and online with Purchasing Power, a union benefits which enables me to buy computers through payroll deduction.  (Thirty-nine payments, and this baby--and the computer I bought for Susie--will be ours free and clear.)

So, this is the first blog entry on my spankin' brand new Hewlett Packard Pavilion dv7.  The two computers (along with the various accessories and program disks) have been arriving all week, but tonight I finally cut the boxes open and set up both machines.

My new machine.


This afternoon, the leasing agent gave me the keys (all three of them) to our new half double on Maynard Ave.  Officially, Susie and I will be in residence Saturday, although we're going to begin moving in piecemeal during the week.  (I am leaving most, if not all, of the furniture behind.  One of the reasons I'm leaving Weinland Park is to get away from the two-legged pests around me.  It would be counterproductive to take six-legged ones with me.  Thanks to the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, I'll be able to start over from the ground up with new furnishings in our new place.)  Susie was happy as ever when she came home this afternoon (from a Unitarian Universalist Youth Conference in Kirtland, Ohio) and walked through the house the second time.  The floors smelled of fresh varnish, and all the keys worked.

Susie and I are "in exile" this week.  Last Sunday afternoon, I was jumped and robbed on E. 6th Ave. while walking to Kroger, after cutting across Weinland Park Elementary School's playground.  If I wasn't already vacating the neighborhood, I think I would be much more traumatized by the event, especially if I had the feeling that there was no escape.  The kid that ran up behind me and sent me sprawling across the sidewalk didn't cause any physical damage, other than some pulled muscles in my shins and two skinned knees.  A bizarre byproduct of the mugging was that I am so grateful that I use a debit card much more often now.  If this had happened anytime before this spring, I would have cashed my paycheck on payday and carried one or two weeks' worth of wages around in cash in my wallet.  So, as it was, this thug came away with $7 in cash, but I still had money available, even with payday almost a week away.  So, we've been staying with Pat and his family until we officially move into our place in the Old North.

I spent much of this weekend working.  The fall quarter started at Columbus State Community College, so I worked eight hours yesterday and four hours today.  The four hours today were much more boring.  I was operating at a serious sleep deficit, because Pat, his daughter, and some of his friends and I went to see Metropolis at the Grandview Theater.  It was the first time I had seen Fritz Lang's dystopian 1927 movie, and it was Fritz the Nite Owl's September offering.  The show started at 11, with the latest episodes of Aidan 5 and Metropolis-related music videos.  I wasn't in bed until nearly 4 a.m., and out of bed again a little after 7:15.  I ran outside after showering and dressing, and barely made it to work on time.  As Messrs. Lennon and McCartney would say, I made the bus in seconds flat.

So what was the high point of the work day?  Nationwide Insurance's world headquarters looms to the east of the Discovery Exchange, and I watched workers on a scaffold (like high-rise window-washers use) install a letter t at the top floor of One Nationwide Plaza.  They've already installed Nationwide's trademarks and the letters N and a.  Looking out the windows facing west, I could watch the workers as they set the t in place.

Even a four-hour work day, on very little sleep, seems to drag on forever.  It was a little more bearable because there were two overflowing carts loaded with returned books, so I disappeared into the shelves and put the books back where they belonged.  I was a little disappointed that I wasn't at church, but this is the only Sunday of the quarter that the bookstore is open, and every little bit of extra cash comes in handy.  It was both a blessing and a curse that I had something to look forward to--Susie's return from the conference, and getting the keys to our new abode.

Amazing that I'm able to hit the right keys, and so post a blog entry that looks like passable English.  I am still learning this keyboard--it doesn't quite feel right to me yet, although I know I am going to spend many quality hours with it in time to come (especially if I make another quixotic attempt at National Novel Writing Month come November).  Add to that the fact that I am quite exhausted, and I'm surprised this post doesn't resemble a spilled type tray.

Another milestone of the weekend: I made a pot of chicken soup for dinner tonight, a very generous portion that served all six of us, with ginormous portions left over.  Tanya walked me through the procedure step by step, and I ate two whole bowls of it, and everyone was sated.  I received a lot of compliments.  Next week, I'm learning split pea soup.













Saturday, September 17, 2011

Susie Sees Her New Home--Inside and Out

Around dusk last night, Susie and I took the bus from our soon-to-be-ex neighborhood (Weinland Park) so I could give her a brief tour of the half-double in Old North Columbus (known more informally as Baja Clintonville).  I was racing the sunset, and only expected her to see the exterior.  I won't have the keys in my possession until a week from tomorrow, and we don't officially live there until October 1.

Our timing was excellent.  We got off the bus and were walking westward on East Maynard, and the first thing I noticed was that our half double was blazing with light.  I looked up and I saw Jerome, the leasing agent I've been emailing, speaking with, and meeting with since the word go, as he crossed the street from his truck, paintbrush in hand.  I was glad to see him, and asked if I could give Susie a brief tour of her new home.  He said sure, so we went in.

Normally, a house full of empty rooms doesn't attract much interest, but Susie walked from room to room, quite enthralled.  The fact that it's not in Weinland Park is 95% of the charm, to be sure, but she was already mentally planning where her bedroom furniture will go in the new place.  (She's decided she doesn't want to have the head of her bed under the windowsill, because she's tired of hitting herself in the head upon awakening.)  She took over the master bedroom when Steph moved out, but I'm reclaiming it in this new place.  All of the rooms smell like fresh paint, and Jerome said the only major project remaining was to stain and varnish the floors.  (I like hardwood floors, especially since I don't own a vacuum cleaner at present.  There was shag carpeting on the upper floors when I took the first tour of the place, but it's gone now.  That was mainly because the previous tenants had a big dog they let run wild--which may be okay if you live out in the country, but not in a half double in the big city.  The shag carpeting smelled of dog urine, but when I came to hand over the check for the deposit, the carpet was gone and the second floor deodorized.)

Susie and I spent the next hour at Kafé Kerouac, using their computers.  I thought about writing a blog entry last night, but I was using a computer that dropped its Internet connection whenever somebody sneezed, and a machine that was very slow to respond to anything I typed.  I am a very fast typist, and using that computer last night reminded me of what I heard about Linotype operators back in the days of molten lead and hot type.  The mark of a good linotypist was that he would have to stop and wait for the machine to catch up to him.  For me it was just frustrating.

We walked south on Indianola most of the way home.  The evening was young, and students are starting to return to Ohio State for the fall quarter, so there were students wandering around with cases of beer.  It was barely 11 p.m., and already quite a few of them were under the influence.

We began to smell smoke around Indianola and E. 11th Ave.  At first, it was a sooty smell, like someone had been barbequing and had removed the food from the grill.  But the smell kept getting more intense the further south we walked,  and before long I suspected there was probably a fire somewhere nearby.  We were close enough to campus for me to think at first it was someone being careless with an impromptu bonfire or couch-burning, but as we walked further from campus, we began heading east toward our house.

It says a lot about Weinland Park and how unsafe we feel when I told Susie we should walk toward the fire.  I knew we would be safe there, because a fire would have police officers and firefighters everywhere, so nothing could happen to us.  We were walking past St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral at Indianola and E. 9th Ave. when I looked east and saw a column of black smoke rising up against the night sky.  I knew the fire had to be pretty much under control, because I saw two fire engines leaving the scene at a rather leisurely pace.  As we walked, I saw a few embers of flames glowing here and there on the roof of a building, and I guessed right away where the building was.

There was a 1969 comedy movie called If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.  A similar phrase would be, "If it's burning, this must be N. 5th St."  (I've explained it before, but to avoid confusion: The numbered streets in Columbus are the exact opposite of Manhattan's.  In Columbus, streets run north-south, avenues run east-west.)

And sure enough, a white frame duplex on N. 5th St. was on fire.  To my untrained eye, it looked like a total loss.  I've walked past it before, when headed toward OSU or anywhere else north of Weinland Park, and the doors were boarded up and the windows painted shut.  Whether this was arson or not, I have no idea.  Before I began typing this entry, I looked at The Columbus Dispatch's Website, and there was no story about it.  Fires on N. 5th St. no longer count as news.  My neighbor Rory's blog hasn't mentioned it yet, and he has had an ongoing series about Weinland Park fires.

Weinland Park's official flag.  

Last night's fire made me more thankful than ever that we will be leaving this dismal neighborhood.  During the year it has been home, I tried to reassure myself I was living there ahead of the curve.  (I have vague memories of when the Short North was a neighborhood no sane person would venture into after dark, and now it's the trendiest neighborhood in Central Ohio.)  If anything, the neighborhood has deteriorated even further in the past year.  The drug peddling, the mugging, and the burglaries have become more brazen.

Susie wants out of Weinland Park as much as I do, and it is two weeks before we officially live in the 'Ville again.  However, she did show a naivete about the neighborhood that almost made me laugh.  I went ahead and ordered two new laptops, and asked that they be shipped c/o a friend's house--he works at home a lot, and his wife is usually home during the day.  I wondered about bringing them home to Weinland Park, and our neighbors seeing us bringing in new computers.  "We can do it while everyone is at work and school," Susie suggested.

Work?  And school?  Weinland Park residents?









Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Memorable 9/11 for Susie and Me

In perusing the blogosphere and Facebook posts today, it would almost seem like self-indulgent sacrilege to post anything other than reflections and reminiscences about the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Maybe, like me, you are 9/11'd out.  I do not downplay the horror, bloodshed, and tragedy, but I write of personal matters today because it may be a little while before I will have access to a computer for blogging purposes.

Why?  Both Susie's and my laptop computers, as well as our Wii console, were stolen last night/early this morning.  I am just thankful that Susie was not in town when it happened.  She was at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Dayton, at youth chaplain training.  It may be fortunate that I was not at home.  I was at a concert at the Dude Locker in Clintonville, and discovered my back door ajar and both computers missing upon my return.  (It shows how little I use the Wii--Susie noticed it was gone; I didn't.)

The event finalized any lingering doubts that I have had about getting the hell out of Weinland Park.  I moved there last year with the same high hopes and enthusiasm as I did when we lived in Franklinton, eager to do good and go a step beyond the people who were full of solutions about a blighted area, retreating at 5 p.m. to the safety of Worthington or New Albany.  Now I see it's an area where the children are out of control and where the civic leaders who see it as the next Olde Towne East seem to think of mugging, burglary, and drug pushing as performance art.

Happily, I can report that our exodus from Weinland Park is a fait accompli.  Soon after Susie came home from Dayton, I met a leasing agent and handed over a cashier's check.  As of October 1, Susie and I will be returning to the 'Ville (Clintonville).  I found a three-bedroom half double in Baja Clintonville, around the corner from the Maynard Avenue United Methodist Church.  The price is affordable, and the landlord has been hard at work on improvements in the week or two since I first looked at the place.  The previous tenants were two graduate students who liked to party and who must have thought it was bad karma to housebreak their dog, so the leasing agent, I think, was happy to be renting to a single parent and teenage daughter.

Aerial photograph of the general area where Susie and I will live.
The news about the burglary was pretty upsetting to Susie, so I was glad that I was able to offset with the news that our time in Weinland Park is very brief.  I think she had begun to despair of our ever getting out of there, and I admit that I was mysterious about the fact I was meeting with a rental agent this afternoon.

We don't have the keys yet.  The owner still wants to do a little more work, but he will hand me the keys on the 25th (two weeks from today), and that is when the move-in process begins.  Since my soon-to-be-ex-landlord was not all that conscientious about keeping vermin at bay (the two- and six-legged variety), Susie and I will not be moving as much.  The biggest pain, as always, will be books.  (I have three milk cartons consisting of diaries alone.  You can imagine what the rest of the library is like!)

I am hoping the computers are insured.  I am buying them through a purchasing plan my union sponsors, and theft should be covered under that.  If not, back to the drawing board and start buying another computer.  This is the one time in my life I've been thankful for a dry spell, writing-wise.  I have to admit there is not much writing that was lost on my laptop.  I wrote The Sad Hospital on a typewriter, and my memoir about Robert Lowry (which has been in the home stretch for over a year and a half, "in measurable distance of its end," to quote the telescreen announcer in 1984) exists in several incarnations, including a hard copy I printed out and an optical disk.  Susie, I am afraid, has lost several poems, stories, and projects with the theft of her machine.