“We Admitted We Were Powerless…” & Hal Stone (1931-2007)

Don’t worry, that subject heading isn’t the lead-in to an Alcoholics Anonymous commercial.  But early last evening, we were literally powerless.

Steph had been to a matinee movie with a friend of hers, and Susie and I had put in a full day with lots of mileage.  (Her musical theatre class, her Yoga class, time at the main library, and then she went swimming at the YMCA pool.)  So all of us had been home about 15 minutes, just as it was getting dark.  Outside, we heard a sudden loud thudding noise, which lasted about a microsecond.  I thought it was a truck running over a steel plate in the road.  The lights flickered and then went to brown-out.  Steph and I looked at each other.  Neither of us said it, but I think the question passing back and forth between us was We did pay the electric bill, didn’t we?  Susie was in the other room, because we had just sent her out to the kitchen to get some cold meat.  (Dinner is, except for the big noon meal on Sunday, pretty much a do-it-yourself thing on weekends at our house.)

Steph was the first to put together the loss of electricity with the sharp noise we had heard outside; a transformer had blown.  I went outside, and everybody on our block was without electricity.  Steph was able to call American Electric Power (AEP–also an abbreviation for America’s Environmental Polluter), and was able to talk to flesh and blood.  They weren’t promising power restoration until 9:30 or 10 p.m.  (The lights went out a little after 6.)

I walked to the Family Dollar to buy a few things.  West Park was entirely blacked out, and so was the part of W. Rich St. that crosses it.  Amad, working at the Family Market convenience store, could only take exact change for purchases, since he was locked out of his register.  I saw no lights in the houses on Yale Avenue, but didn’t think too much of it.  Most of the houses are deserted and in varying stages of dilapidation.  (This is no exaggeration–I’m just counting the days until one of these houses goes up in flames because a homeless person fell asleep inside with a lit cigarette.)

I had been back less than 10 minutes when there was a flicker, and then our power came back on.  Steph and Susie had lit every candle they could find, and Steph was reading by the light of one of them.  I think Susie was a little disappointed that our adventure ended so soon.

This morning, I saw what caused the blackout.  At the corner of Sullivant and S. Glenwood Aves., there was a city truck and the block was barricaded by one police car horizontally in the lane at each end.  There was a telephone pole on the northeast corner, and it had been snapped like a twig.  The two traffic lights for Sullivant were in the street, because their power line had come down.

I ventured out into the drizzle this afternoon to buy two pair of shoes.  I went on a westbound bus, and walked through the depressing emptiness of Westland Mall.  (The Macy’s store in that mall is folding, so I wanted to see if I could get shoes more cheaply there.  No, I couldn’t.  The place was a madhouse.  These people looked like gulls fighting over a discarded sandwich.)  I was very happy to leave there, and I went to Staples and bought a three-pack of microcassettes.  (I found my long-unused microcassette recorder, an Olympus Pearlcorder, awhile back.  I’ve decided to try to put it to use.  Its name is Diane, after FBI Agent Dale Cooper’s never-seen secretary on Twin Peaks.  He dictated all his thoughts and memoranda into a microcassette recorder, and each entry began with “Diane…”)

Susie wants to come with me to the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati on April 20-21.  I think she may be bored by it–a big meeting room at the Cincinnati Marriott full of dealer tables selling cassettes, compact disks, and MP3s of radio shows.  I usually spend about $100 when I go to it.  One year I got waylaid by the president of the Soupy Sales Fan Club.

Unfortunately, the person Susie wanted to meet passed away last week.  Harlan “Hal” Stone died last week at the age of 76.  He played Jughead on Archie Andrews, the radio program based on the Archie comic books.  She was intrigued by the show when I told her about one of Jughead’s signature lines–a loud braying, “HEY, ARCHIE!” that he used in place of ringing a doorbell.  Hal Stone (whose hand I shook at one convention) wrote his autobiography, which used another Jughead catch phrase.  The book is called Aw… Relax, Archie!  Re-laxx!  I may be ordering it on interlibrary loan.  To get Susie more in the swing of things, I may buy the MP3 of the complete Archie Andrews program from EarthStation1.com.

Snow Has Melted, Lots of Ice and Slop in Its Wake

Now that the temperatures are in the upper 30s and low 40s, I can actually be outside with only a sweatshirt with a work shirt underneath.  But with all the snow melting, it seems as though I’ll need a raft to get across some of the puddles.

I guess I should be flattered.  I couldn’t go to Highland Avenue Elementary last Thursday, because I was going to a one-day conference.  Richard, who coordinates the Columbus Reads program, informed me that Shayla went into total meltdown when she heard I wasn’t coming.  The woman who filled in for me had absolutely no luck with her, and–adding insult to injury–the woman found out later that Shayla had head lice.

Shayla wasn’t hostile, but keeping her on point seemed to be impossible.  I would love to understand the progression of the thoughts in her mind (or mine, too, now that we’re on the subject).  She had this idea the PEAK teacher and I were criminals, and that we had her in jail.  (This may have been because of the protective mesh over the PEAK room’s basement-level windows.)  Then she got the idea we were cops.  Then she said somebody named Todd was hurting her.  I am definitely going to follow up with that next week.

I took Susie to auditions last night for Bugsy Malone, Jr.  The auditions–both for dramatic roles and for dancing–took about 2.5 hours, so Susie and I didn’t eat dinner until after 9.  (Her bedtime is 8:30.)  It’ll be about two weeks before we hear one way or the other.  There were auditions last night as well, so the director and dance leader have quite a few kids to sift through before they choose.

Susie’s musical theatre class (which meets on Saturday mornings) is doing Hairspray.  Susie is very proud that she got cast as Motormouth.  (I promised to refrain from any comments about typecasting, so will not do it here.)  She has a jampacked Saturday morning–musical theatre class at 11 a.m., followed immediately by Yoga from 12 noon ’til 1.  Both Bugsy Malone, Jr. and Hairspray–and the Yoga class–are at the Davis Fine Arts Center.

I am irritated at Time-Warner Cable.  There was an Ohio State basketball game on last night, which meant that Jericho (which Steph likes) and Criminal Minds (which she likes and I am fanatical about) were preempted.  On the programming grid, both shows were listed, at 12:35 a.m. and 1:35 a.m., respectively.  We TIVOd both of them, but everything was off due to the game, so I only got to see about 2/3 of Criminal Minds.

Boomerang has been showing one of my favorite cartoons, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon I would watch religiously every Saturday morning when I was a little younger than Susie.  Susie’s been crazy about it since I first showed it to her.  (I used to think the title of the show was “Stop the pigeon!”  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, tune it in on Boomerang at 4:30 p.m. EST.)  The show didn’t intend it, I’m sure, but mental health advocates should love it.  Klunk, their inventor, according to the Wikipedia, has Tourette’s syndrome.  Everything he says contains beeps, pops, howls, and bizarre facial expressions.  (Tourette’s syndrome is not screaming obscenities in inappropriate places–like the workplace, church, or library.)

If anyone recorded the last part of Criminal Minds, please touch base with me!  I’m going to see if I can stream it from CBS’ Website, but I’m not hopeful.

A Little Bragging

Since I’ve laid off the caffeine, I have drunk only the following:

Sprite or 7-Up
Grape juice
Cranberry juice

I may be overdoing it on the water.  During the work day, I almost always have a water bottle in my hand, and I try not to let it get more than half empty.  I practically slosh when I walk.

My Dear, Neglected Diary

This past week has been sheer madness, due to the weather.  Until last week, it has been a mild winter, but that all changed beginning a week ago Friday.  That was when the temperatures started their nose dive.  Sunday night, snow began falling in earnest, so Steph and I watched the local news channels to see if Columbus Public Schools would cancel.  They did, but it was more because of the temperatures–in the single digits, but with wind chills well below zero.  Columbus Public Schools also waited until 6 a.m. to announce they weren’t going to have school.  (Steph alternated between checking the stations’ Websites and watching the pre-Good Morning America and -Today news shows.)  Susie was happy to miss school, while I, on the other hand, trudged out to catch the bus.  

On Tuesday, all the buses were running behind schedule, but I was only 21 minutes late.  My latest PagePlus cell phone died after about a week, so I couldn’t call my supervisor to let her know I was en route.

The State of Ohio expects a lot out of its employees, including a devotion to work that equals that of letter carriers (You know, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”). The last time the State of Ohio shut down was during the ’78 blizzard.  I lived in Marietta while that blizzard was happening, but I remember the late unlamented James Rhodes at a press conference calling the storm “a killer out looking for victims.”

The State of Ohio defied the pattern of other businesses who were laboring under common sense.  Columbus State Community College, Ohio State, and the City of Columbus all closed up shop and sent their workers home.  Nationwide Insurance closed at 1 p.m., so it was a bit galling to look across the Atrium we share with Nationwide and watching people putting on coats and heading out.

I left work at 3:15 (this had been scheduled before the weather had turned foul), so I walked in the ice storm to what remains of City Center Mall.  There are more empty storefronts than there are stores, so the place always looks forlorn.  I went to a flower shop and to Bath and Body Works, to buy Valentine’s Day gifts for Steph.  (Who cares if there was an ice storm with gale force winds blowing?  I knew better than to forget Valentine’s Day!)

My Valentine’s Day did not get off to a wonderful start.  Again, I braved the snow and the sleet and made it to work on time.  As I was waiting to catch the elevator to our fifth-floor office, Cathy, a claims examiner, greeted me with, “You didn’t hear, either?”  I asked her what she meant.  Apparently, the State of Ohio announced–around 7:35, when yours truly was already on the bus en route to work–that workers could come in up to two hours late.  I shrugged it off; I was already there, so might as well be working.

And tomorrow’s a holiday–Presidents’ Day.  This morning, I shoveled the front walk and steps and broke up the sheet of ice on the walk leading to our porch.  I probably should have stopped and rested at some point, but that would have delayed finishing the job, and I had a good enough rhythm going that if I broke it, starting back up again would have been more trouble than it was worth.

Forgot the Latest Shayla Chapter

We seem to have found a method that works on Shayla–until it doesn’t, of course.  Her kindergarten teacher and I took her down to the PEAK (detention) room, and I worked with her there.  She and the PEAK teacher seem quite well acquainted.  Shayla was a little hostile at first, and wanted to play the Foos-Ball machines that were pushed away in one corner of the room, but I was adamant.  The PEAK teacher sat down at the table with us, and although she was balky at first, Shayla came around.  She let some of the hostility go, and lit up whenever I said she was doing a good job, or read a word right.  She held hands with the kindergarten teacher and me when it was time to deliver her back to her room.  We worked mainly on little letter books, small pamphlets that have about three pages, 90% in big type and the other 10% used for illustrations.  She was so far behind on her letters that I just fanned the cards out in front of her like a poker hand, and did the old “pick a card, any card.”

I will definitely be in front of the TV for Part II of the Criminal Minds episode that began last night.  This killer seeks out people who have “sinned,” and, using the Book of Revelation as his guide on how to kill them slowly and painfully.  I am sure that there are people like that in this country and elsewhere, the moral equivalent of the Islamic Jihadists.

As for the Book of Revelation itself, the best definition came from Thomas Jefferson.  In a letter written the year before he died, Jefferson–who understood the Bible better than most Popes–wrote:  It is between fifty and sixty years since I read the Apocalypse, and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy, nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams. what has no meaning admits no explanation.”

High Today: 9 Degrees Fahrenheit

 No, that is not a typo!  Just before I began typing this entry, I clicked on The Weather Channel’s Website to look at the local forecast, just to make sure I was right.  Currently, it is 6 degrees F., with a wind chill of -9.  School was cancelled, and I decided to take the day off from work.  At first, it was so someone could be home with Susie while Steph went to the gym, but she and her friend got their signals crossed about that, so Steph worked out at home and Susie and I braved the cold and came to the Franklinton library, where I am now typing.  Suiting up to go outside felt like the Apollo astronauts suiting up to go to the moon, but I didn’t feel all that cold.  (Two sweatshirts, a hat, a scarf, and gloves are a big help!)

I had zero interest in Super Bowl XLI, but I was forced to watch the final plays and the post-game ceremonies because Criminal Minds was going to be on immediately afterwards.  I watched it in bed and turned on the captions, because Steph was asleep and I didn’t want to wake her.  I waited until it was over before I took a sleeping pill, and watched two Family Guys before I finally drifted off to sleep.

Yesterday, I bought my latest cell phone.  The PagePlus that I bought at the Family Market in Franklinton began acting strangely not long after I bought it–turning off and resetting itself a dozen times a day, not completing calls until the 13th time they were dialed, etc.  Finally, the other day it died for good.  So I went down to Herbert’s Market (corner of Sullivant and South Glenwood) and bought a new phone.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  So far (I’ve owned it less than 24 hours) it’s working just fine.  The only incoming and outgoing calls thus far have been test calls, to see if it was dialing out okay, whether I had set up the voice mail properly, etc.  I view cell phones as a necessary evil–they’re almost essential if you’re a parent–and just the few days I had to muddle through without one were a pain in the butt.

There hasn’t been any snow, but I was surprised by how early Columbus Public Schools decided to close.  Usually, they don’t make the call until about 5 a.m.  But while I was watching Criminal Minds, WBNS-TV began running cancellations down at the bottom of the picture.  Most every Franklin County School was closed.  Susie was overjoyed, and went downstairs and began watching some of the programs she had TIVO’d.  (We limit her to an hour of television a day during the week, and two hours per day on the weekend, so I suggested that she not use it all up at once.)  While Susie and I were walking over here (a walk of about five minutes), I was glad I had my old pair of glasses in the pocket of my coat.  Unlike my regular glasses (okay, bifocals), my older pair tint when exposed to bright light.  (I didn’t like them because they didn’t seem to un-tint fast enough.)  Even with no snow, it’s very bright out, and the sun reflecting off a white house diagonally across from ours was blinding.

Maybe I Should Be Eating Sausage Tonight

After all, it is February 2, and it’s Ground Hog Day.  Sausage would be the perfect meal–it is ground hog, after all.

My late father had another way to celebrate Ground Hog Day.  February 2 was also the birthday of James Joyce.  So, Dad’s edict to his classes was this: If the groundhog saw his shadow, the class would read Ulysses.  Whether he ever carried this out, I do not know.  (Reading–and giving up on–Ulysses is a common college rite of passage, especially in a liberal arts school.)  I made several attempts to read Ulysses, but it was almost impossible for me to get past the big capital S at the beginning until I worked at Medco, and listened to the unabridged Recorded Books edition.  Both narrators–a man and a woman–were Dublin natives.  Joyce’s story takes place on June 16, 1904, and is set entirely in Dublin.  His boast was that if the city were completely demolished, builders could use Ulysses to rebuild it.

Susie bought a snow shovel today.  To earn extra money, she wants to go around the neighborhood and shovel snow.  The only problem is that there has hardly been a dusting of the white stuff this winter.  It’s only been recently that the mercury has been below 40 degrees.  We have had some bitterly cold days, but the snowfall is miniscule.

I am now a week caffeine-free, and I exhibited some great self-control last night.  We ordered in from Pizza Hut, and the deal that we selected featured a two-litre soft drink.  We ordered Sierra Mist, but the woman on the phone said they were out of it.  So we bit the bullet and ordered a two-litre of Diet Pepsi.  And when it came, we gave it to the family next door.

There have been no withdrawal symptoms except for the first day.  I’ve almost constantly had a water bottle in my hand at work, and I refilled it endlessly.  Last Friday, though, I looked like Frank Sinatra in The Man With the Golden Arm, without any help from Eva Marie Saint.  (That’s a movie I highly recommend.  Go to http://www.liketelevision.com and stream it.  I’m surprised it’s in the public domain.)