Three Hours I Would Like to Have Back

Even though preparing and delivering dockets, not to mention transcribing orthopedists’ reports, is hardly what I would call exciting, I was yearning for it today while I was in a three-hour workshop about the new computerized Workflow system at work today.  Besides being bored out of my skull, the worst part was that 95% of the workshop dealt with Hearing Orders, which are handled in a different section–hell, on a different floor–than where I work.  Most of the time I’m transcribing, and the orders I do type are ex parte orders, which are a totally different thing altogether.  I was in the front row, so I couldn’t write a letter in my steno notebook under the guise of taking meticulous notes, as I have done in the past.  (As a onetime typesetter, I learned early on the art of reading upside down, and I’m paranoid enough to think anyone can do it.)

I got a big thumbs-up from Susie when she read the manuscript of The Sad Hospital last night.  I Xeroxed the original typescript, and now it will face a much harsher critic–Steph.  She has a blue pencil and she’s not afraid to use it.  Once I see her suggestions and editing, and decide what I am and am not going to use, the next step is to type the manuscript in Microsoft Word (I composed it on one of my two manual typewriters) and get it onto a disk before I try to peddle it.

Motivation is coming so hard for me these days, but finding the MS. of The Sad Hospital is slowly drawing me back into activity.  But I’m used to bursts of energy followed by months of lethargy.

Post-Work, Pre-Choir

This entry is a little time-killer while Susie and I are at the Whetstone Library.  She has kids’ choir practice tonight at the Unitarian Church, and this library is on the way.  The practice is only a half hour long, but the ride from downtown is almost 30 minutes exactly.

Not too much to be writing about.  I’ve been neglecting correspondence (except for E-mails) and the holographic diary as much as this blog, so no one needs to feel offended.  I’m back on my Lamictal and my Wellbutrin SR, but I have yet to see any real change.  This past weekend was one of those weekends where the depression hit me so hard, I had to drag myself to do anything… get out of bed, take Susie to the library, go to church, etc.  I even supplemented my prescribed meds with St. John’s Wort, which (I have heard) is not always a good idea.  I was able to rise above it enough to go to work both yesterday and today, although I think I was cruising mainly on massive doses of Diet Pepsi to keep going.  I’ve been transcribing up a storm–I’m fortunate this time around that the doctors’ dictations are short and sweet, and the longer ones are psychologists and psychiatrists, which make for much more interesting listening.

Susie’s friend Gianna spent Sunday night with us.  Her mom, Tanya, teaches the home-schooled kids history (they burned a dummy of Guy Fawkes Monday, as hands-on learning about the Gunpowder Plot), and I understand that both Gianna and Susie did quite well, despite the fact they were lying awake talking until way past midnight.  (At least Susie says so–she has no clock in her bedroom, so she is probably guesstimating on the time.)

Elaine!! Elaine!! Elaine!!

I have about 5 pages to go, but this morning, as I was taking the bus to work, I began reading Home School, by Charles Webb.  The title wasn’t what first appealed to me, even though we are home-schooling Susie (Steph is doing the lion’s share of it, of course, since I’m at work during the day).  The reason why I reserved it from the library is that it is the long awaited (at least by me) sequel to The Graduate, which is one of my favorite movies.  (I am such a Graduate fan that I can spot both Mike Farrell and Richard Dreyfuss in it, in their uncredited roles.)

I first read The Graduate when I was about 13… I didn’t see the movie for another year or more.  At a library discard sale, I bought a yellowed Signet paperback of it for about a quarter.  It took me awhile to read it, but when I did, I liked it quite a bit, although the “good parts” were kind of tame, even for a kid like me who was attending a Catholic school at the time.  After that, I jumped at any chance to see the movie when it came on TV or when it played at Cinema 75 on the Marietta College campus (so named because the movies were $.75).  When I lived in Boston, and worked as a typesetter for The Harvard Crimson, it seemed that at least one movie theatre in Harvard Square was showing it every weekend.  I can’t say I went to every viewing, but I did see many of them.

I would have loved the book even if it didn’t introduce familiar characters.  The culture in general is much more receptive to home-schooling than it was when the book takes place (circa 1974–there is a scene where Elaine takes their two sons and one of their friends to see a matinee of The Towering Inferno, which was released that year), but we have encountered many of the questions and some of the problems associated with home-schooling that the Braddocks have.

Charles Webb, the author, has had a rather rough time of it.  He foolishly signed away the rights to the movie, and had no say in the screenplay (although the movie is quite faithful to the book until the action shifts to Berkeley), and has made a poor living from his other books (all I can think of at present is a book called Love, Roger).  His wife has had many mental-health issues, and the two of them were raked over the coals for home-schooling their children–which makes me think this book is semi-autobiographical.  They managed a nudist colony in New Jersey for awhile, moved to England, and had scut jobs during most of that time–department stores, picking up trash, etc.  The advance for Home School came just in time to keep them from being evicted.

Susie presented me with some homework when I got home from work.  She and Steph did geography today, and the two of them devised “Daddy’s Trip Around the World.”  She gave me a list of latitudes and longitudes, and it’s my assignment to fill in just where I am.  I’m glad to see they’re taking a more hands-on approach than just borrowing DVDs of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? from the library.

Susie’s Hitchcockian Appearance on Last Night’s News

Yesterday was a Federal holiday for those of us who give 40 hours per week to the State of Ohio.  I wish I could say I spent the day in thoughtful contemplation of Dr. King and his dream… but instead I went to see my shrink (for the first time since August), ate lunch with Steph and Susie’s friend Tierney (aged 14) at a Mexican restaurant just north of the Ohio State campus, farted around at Kafe Kerouac, and surfed the Web at Sullivant Hall.

Susie, however, was my proxy.  Since returning to homeschooling, she goes to Tanya’s history class on Monday morning.  Yesterday, this was followed by their participating in the parade honoring Martin Luther King.  When Tanya dropped Susie off, after the program at Vets’ Memorial and a feast at the Spaghetti Warehouse, she told us that the kids would be on the news, since they helped carry the banner.  I set the VCR up to record the 10 o’clock news from Channel 28, the Fox channel, and the 11 o’clock news from WBNS-TV, Channel 10.

Here is a clip from Channel 28.  Just click on the below link:

and look at the kids carrying the banner.  Susie, Gianna, and Sasha (Gianna’s brother, aged seven) are all quite visible.  I should add that Steph made the coat that Susie is wearing in this clip.

I’m gradually easing back into taking meds, something that I was hoping to avoid.  Steph has said that I seem more depressed and angry than I have in years, and it’s starting to take its toll on my relationship with her and with Susie.  So, I told all this to my psychiatrist yesterday, and he has put me back on Lamictal (which I have to start at a small dosage and work my way up) and he wants me to resume taking Wellbutrin SR (generic name is buproprion).  I’ll resume them tonight.  The doctor gave me a free starter kit for the Lamictal, since I have to slowly increase the dosage over the next month, and he wrote me a prescription for the Wellbutrin.  I think I have some of the pills I didn’t take sitting on my desk, but if not, I’ll fill the prescription later in the week.

And I’m checking back with him in two weeks.

Susie and I are at the Whetstone Library right now.  She has children’s choir (Peace Pals) rehearsal tonight at the Unitarian Church, so she met me at my office, and we’re here before we head to the church for dinner and rehearsal.  I’m at a computer in the Periodicals section, drinking a Coca-Cola Zero and posting in here.  I wrote in the composition book diary during my 3 o’clock break and yesterday while at Kafe Kerouac.

Hoping I Won’t Succumb to Laziness…

It’s a mixed blessing that I learned how to post YouTube videos here to LiveJournal.  I promise that I will do my best not to post them just for the sake of filling up space.  (I’m guilty of that with the holographic diary.  Each time I begin a new composition book, I tell myself I’m not going to make it double as a scrapbook–it’ll serve only as a journal, damn it!–but it never seems to work that way.  By the time I retire the volume, some 200 pages later, I have several pictures, newspaper clippings, cartoons, and other memorabilia Scotch-taped inside.)

To inspire me to be a better diarist (I started the current volume in mid-June, and I’m down to its last 25 pages now), I printed some reproductions of the Robert Shields diary (scroll down a little ways for my thoughts on his death), a retired Washington State pastor who kept a meticulous record of everything he did, dreamed, bought, excreted, or ate for over 30 years.  He was, I think, a case of OCD mixed with hypergraphia, but it’s better than I’ve been doing lately.  I printed five pages of it and stapled them to the back page of the current composition book.

Today is one of those cold days where facing into the cold actually gives you a headache.  I went shopping at Aldi this morning, and came home $127 poorer.  It took us awhile to put away all the groceries, but the larder is well stocked… at least until next payday.  Since I was waiting for Rent-A-Center to open (to pay them their every-other-week pound of flesh for the dryer and oven), I killed some time in McDonald’s drinking Diet Coke and eating a Big Breakfast (their eggs are atrocious).  I read Bobby Fischer’s obituary in The Columbus Dispatch–when Steph texted me yesterday when the news of his death, I jumped to the conclusion that it had been suicide.  He was never the picture of stability to begin with, but he went even more insane the last 10-15 years of his life.

I used to think that writing poetry was like riding a bicycle; once you’ve learned, you know it for life.  It doesn’t seem to be the case this week.  After washing dinner dishes and taking out the trash this week, I twice retreated to the blessed solitude of my study and sat at the typewriter with several poem ideas going through my head, but–with only two exceptions–all of my product went straight from the typewriter carriage to the trash.  I wrote a poem about my love of hanging out in cemeteries when I was a child, and also one about Sleepy, a morphine addict who owned Clock Billiards, a pool hall in Marietta, when I was a teenager.  After putting away the groceries, Steph and I watched the first 30-45 minutes of Pulp Fiction, but stopped it when Susie got back from the library.  (I hope we’ll resume it again soon–it was the first time I had seen it since it came out, although I listen to the soundtrack quite often.)  Steph plans to show us Great Expectations–all three hours of it–tonight.

Some Work Being Done

It’s too soon to declare victory in the writer’s block struggle, but p. 66 (its second incarnation) is finally out of the typewriter.  As you may have recalled, I left off at p. 66 when the writer’s block hit me in mid-November, and when I decided to try to get back in gear and start working again, I reread the last section that I had written.  Around p. 62, I made the decision that the story could go in an entirely different direction and would probably be better.  So I started over from there, got midway to p. 66, and then stalled for a day or two.  (I was not worried that was some cursed number, because then I’ll truly be walking the floor once I hit p. 666.  Writing that page number doesn’t bother me either–it’s a ways down the road.  I truly concur with Thomas Jefferson.  A man who understood the Bible better than most Popes, he said this about the Book of Revelation: “It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [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.”)

I took Susie to her children’s choir practice last night, and when we got home (having to brave 40 mph winds downtown while waiting for our bus), I worked on about two pages, getting over the p. 66 hump, while Susie watched a DVD in her room and Steph had a voice lesson downstairs.  I would have written more, but her student paid in cash so we decided to order in a late Donato’s Pizza dinner.

Whether I’ll work on the manuscript tonight remains to be seen.  After dinner, we’re probably going to have a Family Game Night.  I hope it’s not The Game of Life Sentence.  I’m hoping it’s something relatively simple like Uno.  If/when I do get to the typewriter tonight, I’ll probably be writing with Criminal Minds and Law and Order on the black-and-white portable in my study.  (Sometimes I’m tempted to get rid of that set altogether, but it’s yet to happen.)

Steph and Susie are still finding their way with homeschooling.  Susie passed the fourth-grade math proficiency test, which is probably the last level at which I could manage–fractions are about my limit, although I found myself remembering more about quadratic equations than I thought I had.  Steph texted me during work today to inform me that Susie had a 100% on her spelling test, which was good news.

A Football Heretic, and Damn Proud of It

Ohio State is playing in Louisiana tonight (maybe even as I type, don’t know), and I am going to be looking at the TV listings to see what else will be on the tube besides the game.  I have never seen the allure of football–or most other sports, since we’re on the subject.  Everywhere you turn in the Industrial Commission, on the bus, in the elevator, or wherever, is talk of the game.  When someone asks my opinion, I usually turn and say, “How many innings are they going to play?”  That usually puts a stop to the conversation and flags me as a lost cause, which is just fine.

The last football game I went to was the Harvard-Yale Game of ’83 in New Haven, Conn.  At that time, I was living in Cambridge, Mass. and working as a typesetter for The Harvard Crimson, and I heard about The Game (capital T, capital G–that is the way it was always printed) almost from my first night manning the CRTronic Linotype.  So, I decided one year I would make a road trip (via Trailways) to New Haven just to see what all the hooplah was about.  It was also the 100th time The Game had been played, so that made it worthy (barely) of interest.  A friend of mine attending Yale bought me two tickets and mailed them to me in Cambridge, so I asked another friend to come with me.  He lived in Queens, so he took the train to New Haven and met me there.  Our schedules were such that we missed most of the first half.

I dressed wisely for this experience.  Our seats were in Yale territory at the Yale Bowl.  I wore a Marietta College hoodie that my dad had sent me from Marietta.  Marietta College and Yale have the same colors (blue and white) and the same motto (Lux et Veritas), so I could safely blend without betraying Harvard, whom I supported.

My friend Ken from Queens brought along a transistor radio, and he had it tuned to the sports station which was carrying the game, so he could get play-by-play descriptions of what was going on right down below us on the field.  (Harvard won that year, 16-7.)  A Harvard woman was seriously injured–major brain damage–when Harvard fans hauled down the goalposts when they swarmed the field.  (She later settled with Yale for close to a million bucks, since they failed to secure the goalposts.)  I even remember the mob taking over the field while there was still time on the clock.

The only sport that ever held my interest was bowling.  My parents discovered this quite by accident when I was a toddler, because when they would put it on TV and park my playpen before the tube, I would sit there enthralled by it for hours.  On Saturday or summer afternoons, Dad would often take me to North Hills Lanes or Pastime Lanes (Marietta actually had two bowling alleys–yet I was a teenager before its first McDonald’s arrived).  I usually bowled with an 8-lb. ball.

And I had a unique technique.  I would carry the ball with both hands, set it down just this side of the foul line, and then push it off with both hands.  And it would start to roll.  You could run out and grab a sandwich and a cup of coffee, and maybe read the front section of the newspaper, by the time it reached the pins.  Watching me hit the pins was like watching a slow-motion instant replay.  I even got a strike or two bowling that way, but I’m glad I never pursued my dreams to be a pro bowler.  (When you’re nine years old, the idea that people would pay you to bowl was exciting to me.)

Susie Will Have a Shorter Commute to Her Lessons

Steph and I decided that we are withdrawing her from St. Mary Magdalene School, and Steph E-mailed the principal with this news yesterday.  (School there doesn’t resume until Monday.)  The reason was the unresponsiveness and seeming lack of concern for students that the school has exhibited, particularly in the case of addressing Susie’s problems with eighth-grade boys who were bullying her constantly.  (The school’s handbook goes on for pages about its zero-tolerance policy for bullying, but that’s about as realistic as having a zero-tolerance policy for rain, and just about as effective.)  Susie suspected that she was being singled out for special harrassment because she’s not Catholic, and often complained that she was learning nothing about other religions during her classes.

(I told her that wasn’t unusual.  It is a Catholic school, so first and foremost, they will be teaching Roman Catholic theology, leaders, and tradition.)

Steph had a very unsatisfactory conversation with the principal about the bullying, the sum total of which was, “There’s only so much we can do.”  What makes this especially galling is that private schools–Catholic and secular–will spill plenty of ink about the smaller teacher-to-student ratio, and indeed that was one of the drawing cards for us when we decided that Susie needed to be in a private school.

So it’s back to homeschooling.  After work and a stop at the credit union yesterday, I met Steph and Susie for dinner at a pizza parlor near Lincoln Village.  They had been at the Westland Library, and came away with stacks of homeschool books for algebra, poetry, science, etc.  Steph will be flying solo for the time being.  There are homeschool groups here in Franklinton, but they homeschool so they can teach the oxymoronically named “creation science” and think Adam and Eve are historical personages as much as Lincoln and Jefferson were.

I’m back at work and back to a non-holiday schedule, although all of us are already counting down the days to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday later this month.  As New Year’s celebrations went, this was a very good year.  The most memorable New Year’s Eve anecdote I have ever heard was for New Year’s Eve 1960-into-1961, which was over two years before I was born.  I have heard the story told several times, and it never fails to break me up.

My maternal grandmother died in Asheville, N.C. on December 30, 1960.  She wanted to be buried at Olive Cemetery in Caldwell, Ohio, where most of my mother’s side of the family is buried.  (My mother’s family is one of the founding families of Noble County, Ohio.)  Anyhow, the family spent all New Year’s Eve on a train bringing her body back from North Carolina.

Just at midnight, according to my mother, two sailors, bombed out of their skulls, stumbled into the coach waving bottles of whiskey and shouting to everyone, “Happy New Year!  Hey, everybody!  They got a stiff in the luggage car!”  Apparently my grandmother’s coffin was riding in the same car as the baggage and the mail.

I have never been able to keep from breaking out laughing every time I hear that story, beginning when I was a kid younger than Susie.