Happy Birthday to Me!! and We Live in Springertown

I’m jumping the gun a little with my birthday greeting to myself.  I don’t actually turn 44 until 12:34 p.m. (EDST), but Steph and Susie have already lavished gifts on me–books, a Samsung MP3 player, a new tape recorder, and lunch at Tommy’s Diner later on.  The books included His Holiness, which is Carl Bernstein’s biography of Pope John Paul II.  Another was a book of sacred love poetry throughout the ages.

Both Steph and I panicked when we took the MP3 player out of the case and began pushing buttons.  On the LCD screen, the only thing we could get was an icon of a battery with a diagonal slash through it.  I was at my wit’s end, but finally I saw there was a slip of paper in the package with Samsung’s customer service number.  While Steph and Susie were downstairs grooming Diana the Springer spaniel (I think they’re still at it right now, but I’ve cranked up Bob Dylan on the boombox to drown out Diana’s peals of joy).  As it turned out, all I needed to do was plug the MP3 into the jack on my CPU and wait for about six hours while the battery charges.  It’s kind of like a cell phone.

Steph and I are going out for “dinner and a movie” later this afternoon.  For the second time this year, I’m seeing a first-run movie.  This time it’s The Hoax, which is about Clifford Irving and his bogus “autobiography” of Howard Hughes.

Next, to the “Springertown” allusion above.  In the house to the immediate right of ours is a family who hasn’t paid rent (they have the same landlord we do) since before Christmas.  They have no visible means of support, and Dad is currently in the county jail.  Their four kids (three girls and one boy) are okay–Susie has befriended Georgia, the little girl who is about seven or eight.  Susie doesn’t care much for the 13-year-old daughter, Tawny.  (Great name–she has a great future in the adult entertainment industry.  Tawny is what you name your daughter if you want her to be a topless dancer.)

All of the above are tolerable–the bipeds are all right.  They have four or five dogs, most of which are tied up outside 24/7, regardless of the weather.  This means one or more of the dogs are howling, barking, or whimpering.  They are tied up practically under Susie’s bedroom window, so we gave her a big fan to generate some white noise to offset the barking.

I hate cruelty to animals, but it’s gotten to the point where I wish one of my ex-neighbors lived around here.  In the summer of ’83, I was living in Somerville, Mass. in Tufts University’s student ghetto.  I was typesetting The Harvard Crimson, which meant I was usually working all night, and when I was home, I was usually too exhausted to do much except sleep.  Usually I was a Flying Dutchman eternally back and forth between Cambridge and Somerville.

Anyway (let’s get back on point, shall we?), there was a dog two or so doors down from my place that barked practically round the clock.  If it ever slept, I didn’t know about it.  I could tune it out, since I was rarely awake when I was at home.

But one night, I didn’t have to go in to work, so I was sitting up with the late-night movie and some junk food.  I could hear the dog outside, but I figured I could turn up the TV if the dog got on my nerves too much.

So the dog kept barking, and then suddenly I heard a click-click outside, followed by a single gunshot.

Silence.

Nobody ever came forward to ‘fess up about killing that dog.  I’m sure he would have gotten a ticker-tape parade down our block.

Friday in Cincinnati

Susie and I had a ball in Cincinnati last Friday, and it surprised me that she had as much fun as she did.  My primary reason to go to Cincinnati was the 22nd annual Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention, held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel out in Springdale.  I try to go whenever I can (i.e., whenever I’m flush for the things I want to buy), and this was Susie’s first time.  She was also the first pre-teenager to go to the convention.

What Susie enjoyed the most was meeting Bob Hastings, who played the title character on The Adventures of Archie Andrews.  He was also on McHale’s Navy (which I’ve never watched).  I did see him when he played Tommy Kelsey the barkeep on All in the Family, and Susie has recently heard him voicing Commissioner Gordon on the animated Batman series.  She used Diane (my microcassette recorder) to tape an interview with him; they went into an empty ballroom.

To whet her literary interest, she met Francis M. (“Mike”) Nevins, Jr., biographer of Cornell Woolrich, and author of several mystery novels, such as Publish and Perish and Into the Same River Twice.  I had met him at the convention several years earlier, and we have been in intermittent E-mail contact since then.  He lives in St. Louis, and is a retired professor at the St. Louis University College of Law.  Mike sold me a Cornell Woolrich anthology that was just published in England, and for which he wrote the introduction.

I gave Susie $20 to spend, and she put it to good use.  The cassettes were selling for practically nothing, since all the dealers are converting their stock to MP3s.  She bought some comic books, some DVDs, and several MP3s, including The Shadow and The Lone Ranger.  She tried (in vain) to find tapes of The Aldrich Family (I played that for her once, and she gets quite a kick out of the opening “Henry!  Henry Aldrich!”  “Coming, Mother!”)

I bought some DVDs of CBS-TV’s coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  What I found intriguing was that, for the first 10 minutes of the first disk, they show As the World Turns, commercials and all, until Walter Cronkite breaks in with the first bulletin.  I’m a sucker for anything about the Kennedy assassination(s), so I was glad to have that.  I also bought an MP3 of Monitor broadcasts.  That was an NBC radio show that was analogous to what Good Morning America or Today would be now.

Susie is at play practice as I type this, and I’m sure she’s loving it.  She gives it 110%, and is always eager for practice.  I’m just wondering if she’s burning the candle at both ends–a trait she could easily have learned from me.  (That was why I had such a caffeine habit for so long.  If you’re burning the candle at both ends, caffeine gives you more wax.)

Speaking of caffeine, I am still off it.  I cannot say, however, that I totally abstain from soda pop.  When I arrive at work, I usually buy a bottle of Diet Rite (0 calories, 0 sugar, 0 caffeine, 0 taste), and I often buy Faygo from the corner stores in my neighborhood (if they were run by Hispanics, I guess they’d count as bodegas).  I buy the Faygo products without caffeine, such as the orange and the grape sodas.

Virginia Tech

I am still reeling over Monday’s news.  I am a bit worried about how each correspondent and each network kept reiterating the fact that this was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.  I am wondering who is sitting somewhere making plans to break the record?

I first heard about it on Yahoo! when I went to its homepage.  For some reason, I thought that the massacre was happening at Virginia Military Institute.  I think I saw all the uniformed people in the picture.  A little later on, I streamed some of CNN’s news stories, and the campus pictured looked familiar to me.  I had spent a week there at a conference several years ago.  The newscaster then mentioned Blacksburg and Virginia Tech.

That was when the fear grabbed me.  A good friend of mine from Cincinnati is on the Virginia Tech faculty, teaching Romance Languages.  I didn’t have his unlisted phone number handy, so I E-mailed him c/o his university account and asked him if he was okay.  He called me at home just a little later and reassured me that he was safe at home, and that he had read the initial E-mail alert and did not come onto campus.

That night, I was stretched out in the master bedroom watching Wolf Blitzer interviewing Virginia Tech kids when everything on that side of the room–the TV, the cable box, the fan, Steph’s clock radio–went out.  I tried flipping switches at both circuit breaker boxes (our place has two–the top and bottom used to be separate apartments) and there was nothing.  I called my landlord and told him what was happening.  He was in New Jersey, where his mother is in hospice.  He told me he’d look at it this morning.  (He’s a retired electrical engineer, so I figured this would be right up his alley.)  He did, and he’s totally puzzled.  All the outlets on that side of the room are active.  He’s calling in an electrician.  In the meantime, no cable and I have to run a long extension cord for the fan to work.  This house is astonishingly low on electrical outlets.

Amazing What I’ll Do for My Peace of Mind

Yesterday, Steph gave me a batch of documents she had to mail to New York State so they’d send her a copy of her birth certificate.  I put them in my knapsack and went to work… or so I thought.

I was going over to the post office anyway, so on my break I unzipped my pack and looked in… No documents.  I took an hour of personal leave and took the bus back home.  (There wasn’t total urgency about these things, but if I didn’t see them for myself, I’d be so worried I’d lost them that I’d be unable to concentrate at work.)  Sure enough, when I got home, there they were.  (Copies of utility bills, forms that she had completed, etc.)  I copied them for her, and mailed them that afternoon.  As I type, they’re en route to Albany, N.Y.

I’ll probably regret using that one hour of leave, but it was worth it to know I hadn’t lost all that stuff I was supposed to mail.

No Explanation for the Lack of Entries

I can promise to do better, to write in this blog much more often than I have been.  Diaries and blogs, I think, are truly one-day-at-a-time enterprises, to take a page from the 12-Step groups.

Yesterday was pretty much Sunday for us.  We did give Susie an Easter basket, but other than that and our ham meal at about 6 o’clock, we didn’t do anything special.  Easter passed unmissed from my life once I was too old to dye eggs.

On Palm Sunday night, my friend Scott and I went walking.  We stepped off from the Park of Roses, and took a very leisurely, circuitous route toward Morse Rd., in a vague northbound direction.  We cooled our heels at a meeting Scott goes to, in a Lutheran church on Morse Rd.  On the way back, we went straight down High St. to get back to Whetstone.  Steph says my walks with him have been more therapeutic than psychotherapy.

Susie and I went to Riverside Hospital on Saturday morning, since my blood needed to be redrawn.  My psychiatrist wants to evaluate how my body metabolizes Lithium (I’m currently taking 1350 mg a day).  I already went for a blood draw in mid-March, but the results were skewed because it was too long after my last dose.  So I went Saturday morning, with Susie in tow.  (She brought along some books, markers, and blank paper, because we didn’t know how long the wait would be.)

It turned out to be 10 minutes, and the blood draw itself was about 90 painless seconds.  I only owed them one test tube, and I filled it.  I barely even felt when the needle pricked my skin.  The results were messengered to my shrink today, I think.

I have been productive this weekend, I’m happy to report.  This morning I mailed an essay to Tikkun and a poem to The New Republic.  I’ll be surprised if either one is published, but I try to remain optimistic.  I also haven’t touched my diary since Thursday or Friday, although I have been fairly good with the taped diary I started right after my microcassette recorder came in the mail.  I’ve already filled up one C-60 cassette with my august musings.  (I think the reason why I’ve been so good with it is because I can use it while I’m walking or standing at a bus stop waiting.  No can do with a pen and notebook.)

No Explanation for the Lack of Entries

I can promise to do better, to write in this blog much more often than I have been.  Diaries and blogs, I think, are truly one-day-at-a-time enterprises, to take a page from the 12-Step groups.

Yesterday was pretty much Sunday for us.  We did give Susie an Easter basket, but other than that and our ham meal at about 6 o’clock, we didn’t do anything special.  Easter passed unmissed from my life once I was too old to dye eggs.

On Palm Sunday night, my friend Scott and I went walking.  We stepped off from the Park of Roses, and took a very leisurely, circuitous route toward Morse Rd., in a vague northbound direction.  We cooled our heels at a meeting Scott goes to, in a Lutheran church on Morse Rd.  On the way back, we went straight down High St. to get back to Whetstone.  Steph says my walks with him have been more therapeutic than psychotherapy.

Susie and I went to Riverside Hospital on Saturday morning, since my blood needed to be redrawn.  My psychiatrist wants to evaluate how my body metabolizes Lithium (I’m currently taking 1350 mg a day).  I already went for a blood draw in mid-March, but the results were skewed because it was too long after my last dose.  So I went Saturday morning, with Susie in tow.  (She brought along some books, markers, and blank paper, because we didn’t know how long the wait would be.)

It turned out to be 10 minutes, and the blood draw itself was about 90 painless seconds.  I only owed them one test tube, and I filled it.  I barely even felt when the needle pricked my skin.  The results were messengered to my shrink today, I think.

I have been productive this weekend, I’m happy to report.  This morning I mailed an essay to Tikkun and a poem to The New Republic.  I’ll be surprised if either one is published, but I try to remain optimistic.  I also haven’t touched my diary since Thursday or Friday, although I have been fairly good with the taped diary I started right after my microcassette recorder came in the mail.  I’ve already filled up one C-60 cassette with my august musings.  (I think the reason why I’ve been so good with it is because I can use it while I’m walking or standing at a bus stop waiting.  No can do with a pen and notebook.)