Riding the Storm Out

My plan yesterday was to head directly to the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club immediately after the work day ended at 4 to see Susie’s swim meet.  As I was standing at the bus stop near N. High and W. Spring St., I saw the sky was dark gray, and only getting grayer.  I began to wonder if the meet was going to happen.  I was trying to figure out what direction those clouds were headed, and I was sure it was only a question of when–not if–the rain was going to happen.  I rode the 4 bus that went up Indianola with my eye looking up at the sky the whole time.

I was the first one to the pool.  Their rule about meets, practices, and diving competitions is that rain is not sufficient reason to pull the plug.  There had to be lightning for that to happen.  I had been at the pool about 10 minutes when I heard–with proper credit to Pink Floyd–the delicate sound of thunder.  It had to be pretty far off, because I hadn’t seen any lightning.

That soon changed.  The lifeguards were standing on their perches and yelling through bullhorns saying, “Clear the pool at once!”  There was no argument there, because the storm began in earnest at that point.  The thunder was the type that makes your whole body vibrate like a tuning fork, and the lightning was so close that I could actually hear a “Pfft!” sound when the lightning bolt flashed, and the thunder came right on top of that.

The inevitable decision to cancel the rest of the meet came about 10 minutes later.  (There had been a diving competition in progress, but the lane swimming had yet to start.)  Steph, Pat, Tanya, and all our little darlings came to pick me up just before the pool officials announced the “abort mission” for the meet.  We had a long, filling dinner at BW3 in Graceland (the shopping center just south of Worthington, not Elvis’ mansion), although I was less than stellar with the electronic trivia game.

After lights out, Steph and I were sitting up in bed with the TV on.  On Channel 4, there was no Jay Leno.  Instead, the screen was dominated with a weather radar graphic, and all of Central Ohio, along with voice-overs from their meteorologists, saying that there were funnel clouds in various stages of formation.  Most of them were in the western part of Franklin County and headed eastward–which meant that once they crossed the I-270 Outerbelt, we would be in the path of it.

And then the tornado sirens began whooping.  At first I thought it was on TV, but sure enough, it was outside, and they were getting louder and louder.  I muted the TV to make sure that I was indeed hearing the tornado sirens.

We wasted no time after that.  I pulled on a pair of trousers, Steph put on a nightgown, and we had a very hard time getting Susie awake.  (It had been a big day for her.  When she saw her bed at the end of the day, it was like someone had taken the switch that powered her body and threw it to “off.”  Groggily, we got her on her feet and we headed down to the basement.

I have to confess that your humble blogger, Mr. Radiophile, does not own a transistor or battery-powered radio, not even a weather radio.  However, we did take Steph’s laptop down with us.  We punched up the National Weather Service’s site, http://www.nws.noaa.gov/, but it was of limited help.  The images were not posted in real time.  The one we saw was about 10 minutes old, and the nearest NWS station is down I-71 in Wilmington, on the road to Cincinnati.  Outside, we could hear the wind bending tree limbs, debris flying up against the house, and the sirens blaring louder and louder.  (The one basement window is boarded shut, so we couldn’t glance out to see what was happening.)

During our mad flight down to the basement, I racked my brain to remember what the proper procedure about windows was during a tornado–open or shut them all?  Steph told me the only thing to do is to leave them alone.

Then there came the quiet.  I exhaled an almost comic book “Whew!”, but Steph said that the center of the storm is always the calmest, so we weren’t free and clear yet.  The only sound we heard were the tornado sirens, and a thunderclap now and then.  At last, just after 12:30, we emerged from our basement and headed back upstairs, because that was when the tornado warning was to expire.

We got Susie to bed and I was trying to decompress from being keyed up about the storm for so long.  Per the weather radar on TV, the storm had missed us and was heading east toward Licking County, but the sirens were not shutting off.  If anything, they were gaining in intensity, and there was plenty of thunder and lightning.  (I remember once when I was a teenager, I was in one of those portable tool sheds getting something and there was a very loud blast of thunder.  The whole shed rang like a gong, and my ears had a high whistling sound in them for several minutes.  I remember that thunderclap–It sounded like a scream inside a helmet.)

I was worried that if another storm was just around the corner, would anyone believe it?  It was kind of like the little boy crying wolf.  On the news this morning, I heard that it was all the excess electricity in the air, and that was causing the sirens to go off randomly and not shut off when they were supposed to be silent.

When I went to catch the bus for work this morning, there was no street flooding, like there was in the storm last week (I posted pictures of it in one of the previous entries), although I downloaded a clip from WBNS’ Website, http://www.10tv.com, which showed some towns where the baseball fields had flooded, and the water level was up to nearly the top of the scoreboard.

During my high school and bachelor years, I would still be up and functional at that hour of the night.  I was addicted to late movies more than to talk shows, so often times I would watch Nite Owl Theatre on Channel 10, and would stay in front of the set until I was tired, even if it was after the station had played the national anthem and signed off the air.

And now I’m doing well to get through the 11 o’clock news and Leno’s monologue.

Thomas Pynchon?

The pictures I posted in the blog last night were even more thorough than I thought! I used the mouse to click on them and enlarge them, and I was amazed that you could actually read most of the book titles! On the last shot, with the CAPOTE poster, you can see my collection of the published novels and short stories of the mysterious Thomas Pynchon. This is a YouTube video which shows (quite possibly) what the evasive and pathologically private author actually looks like.


When I first got the computer, I loaded a wallpaper of the cast of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, but in light of the recent monsoon in the block, I chose a different picture–one that I took.  Here it is:

Cartoon Capers, Attack of the Killer Freemasons, & Housekeeping

If you’ve been reading Steph’s blog concurrently with mine, you will see that on Friday, she, Susie, and several other girls in their orbit took a belly dancing lesson.  I spent the evening roaming around campus, loitering around the Barnes and Noble there, going shopping at Giant Eagle, and getting my hair cut.  At Giant Eagle, I literally filled my shopping cart to near overflowing.

On Saturday, I took Susie and her friend Sydney (who spent the night with us after the belly dancing lesson ended) to The Ohio Theatre for Cartoon Capers.  Susie and I were both happy that it was all Warner Brothers cartoons, but we weren’t happy that two of them were Pepe le Pew, the only Warner Brothers character I actively dislike.  (He is a one-joke character, much the way Cheech & Chong comedy was one-joke).

The movie started at 10 a.m., and when we left, around 11:30, the grounds around the State House were in utter chaos.  High and State Streets seemed to be invaded by many people carrying staffs, bagpipes, and in different Masonic regalia.  If I had looked at the Short North Gazette, I would have known that this soiree was to honor the bicentennial of Freemasonry in Ohio.  After the parade on Capitol Square, the Masons would re-enact the laying of the cornerstone of the first Masonic lodge in Ohio.

Quite a cross-section was downtown.  There were men from the historically Black lodges, Mason bikers (their denim vests had the “Eye in the Pyramid” symbol rather than Harley-Davidson logos), etc.

I took the girls to lunch at the Subway on S. High Street, and waited for the bus reroutes to be terminated.  (COTA is never clear on where to pick up re-routed buses, or how far behind they would be running.)  Sydney wondered about the “Eye in the Pyramid” symbol, so I took out a dollar bill and showed her the reverse side.  Maybe I should show them National Treasure.

For the record, a friend in high school encouraged me to join DeMolay.  I declined for some silly reason or another–I think it was because a TV show I really liked was on the night they met, since this was in the pre-VCR and -Tivo days.  My paternal grandfather was a Knight of Columbus and a Knight of St. George, and my maternal grandfather was a 33rd-degree Mason and his wife was in the Order of the Eastern Star.  (It’s too bad my grandfathers never met; they could have had a blast comparing secret signs and handshakes.  They could have buried the hatchet and founded the MasonKnights.)

I sell Freemasonry short when I equate it with Fred Flintsone and Barney Rubble’s Loyal Order of Water Buffalo or the Racoon Lodge that boasted Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton as members.  I know that Masons were quite influential in much of American history–and important enough that Roman Catholics were forbidden, by order of the Vatican, to become Masons.  (That may have changed during Vatican II, but I’m not sure.)  Now, I doubt being a Mason opens or closes any doors politically.

The girls and I had to make a large circuit on foot around downtown until finally we heard the reroute was over.  We camped out at the Riffe Center until the Sullivant Ave. bus came and took us home.

I had an evening at home last night.  Steph, Susie, and others went to JoAnn’s to buy fabric, and then to meet for a meal later.  Going fabric shopping is about #690 on my Top 10 List of Things to Do.  (They had planned to go swimming as well, but the evening was too gray, and soon enough there was rain.  Not like the squall we had earlier, but there was lightning.)

I am most proud of the fact that I spent much of the afternoon cleaning out my office, even though it would have gone faster if I had used a snow shovel.  Any work space of mine will always look like a cross between the public library and the town dump, but it got to be too messy even for me.  (Clutter is good–a pigpen is not.)

Since it probably won’t last, I borrowed Steph’s Nikon digital camera and took pictures, so I could freeze my office’s cleanliness in time.

This is my desk, my sanctuary and fortress.  The Royal Royalite in the center is the one I bought for $.80 and which has survived quite well, up to the present day.  Atop the right-hand stack of crates are boxes of breast-pocket notebooks and different projects in various stages of completion.

The view to the south.  The plastic bookcase in the center will probably collapse sometime in the near future, but I try to shore it up as best I can.  The plastic Big Boy bank contains whatever net worth you won’t find in my wallet.  The green alien doll is a gift I gave Susie.  She named him Roswell and asked me to keep him for her.  The huge stuffed frog was a Father’s Day gift from Susie last year.

My east wall library, although nowhere as organized as a public library’s.  I know where most of the stuff is, but sometimes even I have to dig once in awhile.  Down by the two plastic wastebaskets are shelves of my handwritten diaries, kept since 1990 (I still grieve the loss of my 1974-1989 journals.  Maybe I should have kept paying the mini-storage rentals.)

A hodgepodge of decorations and inspirations: A Classics Illustrated comic rendition of The War of the Worlds, a Star of David that Susie made for me; RFK; Thomas Merton; an envelope from the late Robert Lowry, a novelist I befriended in Cincinnati in the early 1990s.

Let me go on record as saying that the TV has been on maybe a total of 10 hours since I brought it into this office.  I refused to have a cable tap installed in this room because I was afraid that I would vedge out and watch it when I should be doing something else.  Various friends and relatives’ pictures hang above the set.  I have also hung a crayon picture of Lev Tolstoi, drawn by Susie.

My three choices when I feel productive–a laptop, a ballpoint pen, and a portable typewriter.  I never watched ZOOM when PBS resurrected it, but I wonder what they used as an alternative to “Take your typewriter, pencil, or pen, and if you make a mistake, you gotta do it again!”

Here is the least organized section of the room, to the immediate right of the desk.  Abraham Lincoln had a folder in his law office that said, “If you can’t find it anywhere else, look into this.”  Those two boxes on the right (under the Capote poster) fill that purpose for me.

There you have it, folks.  You got to see it before they build a reasonable facsimile in some museum later on.

Gargantuan Task of Adjusting My Schedule

As time went by, I began to see the logic of Governor Strickland’s idea of schedule adjustments to ensure 40 hours’ worth of work from those of us who serve the State of Ohio.  Today, due to numerous submissions and re-submissions of my altered schedule, I had a supervisor who was fantasizing about having my head on a pole.

I arrived yesterday at 9:30, because Steph didn’t feel up to taking Susie to the pool.  I called in to work, told my supervisor I would be there, just later than normal, and took Susie up Indianola Ave. to the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club.  I had just enough time to buy a Diet Pepsi from the United Dairy Farmers store near the pool before I saw a bus headed back toward downtown.

I need to leave work early on Friday to run a few errands that have to be done on Friday.  So I’ve shortened lunches all week, and I’m staying at work an hour later on Thursday.

In other news, an article of mine has been posted online.  Its popularity will depend on how favorably it’s rated.  So, to help your humble diarist along, please go to http://www.Printnpost.com/articles/7319/1/The-Keys-to-My-Heart/Page1.html, read my deathless prose, and then rate it for me.  I have no illusions I’ll be the most popular (or prolific) author they have, but you have to crawl before you can walk.  Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, after all.

We’re The Cops Of The World (WARNING! Upsetting Photos in Video)

We are now 42 minutes into Flag Day 2008. My way of celebrating will be to propose that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be replaced by this song, written and performed by the late Phil Ochs. It would be perfect if this were the national anthem, since it is much more true. A serious caveat: You may want to scroll past the video part of this, as it shows the effects of Agent Orange on both Vietnamese and the soldiers in Southeast Asia. Listen to the words, and this will be the truest national anthem we’d ever have.

Tom Brokaw Reports Death of Tim Russert

I could not write the blog tonight without at least once mentioning this sad bit of news. I didn’t know about it until I was in the cafeteria at Grant Hospital. When I boot up the laptop, the MSNBC home page is what automatically appears. I was sad to hear the news, especially since I was looking forward to how he would cover the ’08 campaign.

Tim Russert RIP.


Yesterday, I posted a few pictures of the rain squall’s aftermath in Franklinton.  One of my personal favorites was the picture of the two kids who commandeered a plastic wading pool and turned it into a raft.  While I was running an errand at the credit union during my lunch break, I happened to walk past a New York Times vend box, and there was a color picture on the front page of some people rafting in a plastic wading pool.  (I think it may have been in Iowa; I didn’t buy the paper, and when I went to http://www.nytimes.com to look at the front page, the picture was visible, but the cutline was too small to be legibile.)

We had a much shorter rainstorm this afternoon.  I camped out in the main library downtown after work, since Steph and Susie were hosting their book club (they just finished reading Animal Farm).  Afterwards, as I wrote yesterday, we had planned to see Macbeth in Schiller Park.  At 5:30 p.m., Susie E-mailed me and said that the play had been cancelled.  I checked out my books, and when I went to the library’s main lobby, the thunder was slamming down the street, and for that brief moment it did sound like angels bowling, which was the explanation I heard when I was a kid.  The kid at the front desk gave me two plastic library bags to wrap the laptop (I had it in an over-the-shoulder bag with no zipper), and when I walked toward the front doors, it sounded like we were in a car wash.  The rain was falling so hard that it was hard to see across S. Grant Ave. to Grant Hospital.

I made a dash for the hospital, and I made it across the street in one piece.  That’s amazing, since I took off my glasses and put them in my shirt pocket, which meant that I wasn’t seeing much more than moving, luminous blurs, and I was heading toward a big lit blur I assumed was Grant Hospital’s front lobby.  The glasses would have been useless in any case, since the lenses were covered by rain in less than five seconds.

Genesis 7:11-12:  In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.  And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.


That’s what was running through my mind as I was making the mad dash to the comparative safety of the Grant Hospital lobby and cafeteria.  (The story can be summarized like this: For God so loved the world that He drowned all but eight people.)

My cell phone was pretty much useless in the hospital.  Somehow, Revol and Ohio Health hospitals don’t seem to gel.  I was able to get Wi-Fi in the cafeteria, so I logged on and E-mailed Steph.  Steph suggested I come home, and use a cab if I had to.  I finished my Lorna Doones (shortbread cookies) and my Diet Pepsi, closed up the laptop and rewrapped it in the plastic bags, and went down to the lobby.  (The hospital cafeteia is on a mezzanine just above the lobby.)  It was still raining a little, but it was nowhere near as torrential as it had been.  I walked up to the bus stop at Broad and Grant and took the 10 home, which saved a bit of cash.

Some Hearty News, and Opening the Floodgates

Since I last posted in here, we have some news about Steph’s surgery.  On Tuesday, as I was taking Susie to the Davis Center for her  Isabella e la Bestia practice, my cell phone rang.  It was Steph, letting me know that she had just hung up from the Cleveland Clinic.  They have set a date for her open-heart.  It’ll be on August 1, which is a Friday.  However, they want her to be in Cleveland earlier in the week, so they can run some more tests and studies.  While we’re happy about knowing when this will happen, the timing isn’t the greatest.  Our 12th wedding anniversary is the 30th of July, and that is also the day the play debuts.  We can’t promise her 100% that both of us will be on hand the day the curtain rises for her play.

The Rev. Wayne B. Arnason, the senior minister of West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church (http://www.wsuuc.org) in Rocky River, Ohio, is being a great help to us.  I knew him when I was a teen, and at the time he was the director of youth programming for the Unitarian Universalist Association–in the early 1980s, that was truly a thankless job.  We last saw each other circa 1982, when he and I were both living in Boston.  Once Steph’s doctors suggested the Cleveland Clinic, I wrote Wayne a letter telling him about the whole heart situation, and he and I have been E-mailing back and forth.  He’s helping with finding us a place to stay during the surgeon and immediately afterward.  (I won’t even attempt to guess how long Steph will be in the hospital afterwards.  In ’99, she sailed through the procedure and was out of the hospital long before anyone thought she would be.)  I won’t write any further about the housing plans until they’re more set in stone than they are now.

All the years I’ve kept diaries, I’ve always thought that when a diarist focuses on the weather, it was probably the type of day they should have skipped altogether.  Today was definitely the exception.  Early this evening, your intrepid blogger set out for the Kentucky Fried Chicken on W. Broad St. to buy dinner for the three of us.  I was about halfway there when the torrents of rain suddenly began pounding.  This was the type of rain that feels that you’re being pelted with gravel.  (I did think it was hail for a half second.)  Lightning hit very close to where I was walking, and I could tell because I’d see the flash of lightning and the type of thunder that you can feel throughout your body.  The whole idea that lightning never strikes twice in the same place is bullshit; lightning has no memory.

I was marooned in KFC for about 20 minutes as it got grayer and darker, and the parking lot of the KFC and the gas station nearby were all flooding.  The water in the parking lot rose up to the hubcaps in the lot in just a few minutes.  (Finally, a woman who had been eating there when I came in gave me a ride home.)

I asked her to let me off at the corner of Brehl and W. Town St.,, because the water was rising so high on the street that I was afraid that either her car would flood or that it would be drifting.  After she had driven away, I saw that Town Street was already flooded up to above curb level, and kids were playing and splashing around in it.  After I dropped off the food, I borrowed Steph’s digital Nikon (the first time I had ever used it) and went out to shoot some pictures.

This is W. Town St, with Van’s carryout visible and Princeton Ave. in the background.  (Van’s is one of the two neighborhood markets where I buy most of my Diet Pepsi.  It flooded early this evening.)

Venice is much prettier than Franklinton, at least according to the View-Master reels I had when I was younger than Susie, but today the comparison was apt.  The cars were not actually floating, but I can see why you people out there in Blogland would think they were.

This kid and one of his pals (not pictured) suddenly appeared out of nowhere with a plastic wading pool, which they converted into a raft.  What is really shocking is that even with one–and sometimes two–kids in it, it was floating as easily as if it was in the Olentangy River.

The only thing that would have been helpful for this guy is if his minivan suddenly grew pontoons, like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

This picture really doesn’t do the evening justice.  I finally wiped off the lens and took this picture.  Amazingly enough, this guy did not stall out or end up drifting back down the street.  When the Franklinton Floodwall was finished, everybody thought the flooding that used to plague The Bottoms was a thing of the past.  That may be true, but that doesn’t mean the sewers and gratings can handle this much water at once.  (After nightfall, when I went to the alley to take out the trash, I saw that all the water had receded on Town St.)

The original plan for after work was for me to take Susie swimming, but I’m glad that we did an abort-mission on that, especially when the sky started getting grayer.  Going there (without the help of Pat and Tanya) means going downtown and then catching the bus north on Indianola Ave.  The Olympic Swim and Racquet Club is near the intersection of Indianola and Fallis (I know that someone out there is snickering at that; I hate to ruin your fun, but the street name rhymes with “Wallace.”)

Weather permitting, we’ll be seeing Macbeth in Schiller Park (German Village) tomorrow night.  My big plan for the weekend is to get a haircut and beard trim.  I’ve never let the beard grow to ZZ Top proportions, but it’s to the point where it’s constantly in my mouth, so time to get it cut.

And the Green Grass Grows All Around

We have been neglecting mowing the grass, mainly because the only reliable person in the neighborhood for hire does such a sloppy job.  (Our mower has been a man and his wife who live across the street, squatting in an abandoned house.)

Steph has been bartering piano lessons for mowing–and has this arrangement with two of her students.  On Friday, my friend Joe and I went out to Pickerington to pick up a free Scotts push mower.  Steph had located it on Freecycle Columbus, but the logistics of getting out there were horrific.  Finally, I asked Joe, and while Steph was out with Pat, Tanya, and the kids, we went in his minivan and retrieved it.  The woman giving it to us said they had never used it.  I was afraid that the blades wouldn’t even cut butter, but Joe cut a strip of the grass in back and it seems to work just fine.  (We opted for a push mower because of the ungodly price of gasoline, for environmental reasons, and for safety’s sake.)  I don’t know how much mowing I will be doing, since being around cut grass inevitably leads to watery eyes, itchy palate, and constant sneezing.

The heat is back upon us.  When I was paid Friday, I stopped at Family Dollar and bought two fans, and they seem to be doing the trick, at least for now.  At best, I was afraid all they’d do is stir the broth, but they have helped quite a bit.  The bedroom is the only room with air conditioning, so at least Steph and I don’t wake up every morning drenched in sweat.

My Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays until the end of July will include taking Susie to and from rehearsal.  Fortunately, she is becoming more comfortable riding the bus downtown, and we can bus together from my work building to the theatre.  It’s still light when rehearsal ends at 6, so it’s not like the entire evening is shot once we’re done.