Holy Day of Obligation for Diarists

Samuel Pepys, we who are about to blog salute thee!  On this date, in 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote the final entry in his diary.  He was a member of the English Parliament and Naval Administrator under Charles II, and discontinued his journal (begun New Year’s Day 1660) because he feared (mistakenly) he was going blind.  So, every May 31 is the day that I feel I must post a blog entry, or write in my holographic diary, even if I abandon it all other times.

I started my first real diary on New Year’s Day 1974, when I was in fifth grade.  As a belated Christmas gift, my dad bought me a blank diary (blue cover with My Diary One Year on the cover, and a lock.  The lock was as impenetrable as Fort Knox unless you had a bobby pin.)  He bought me the diary at Sugden’s Book Store in downtown Marietta, and for the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s, I was itching to start writing in it.
I made my first entry New Year’s afternoon, as we were driving back from Richmond, Va. to Marietta.  We had gone there on December 28 to be with my aunt (my mother’s older sister) Jean and her family while her husband Roger was in the cardiac care unit of a Richmond hospital, undergoing treatment for the congestive heart failure that would take his life the following spring.
That diary, along with all the ones from 1974 to 1989, is long gone, since I stored them in a storage locker and never maintained the payments.  I distinctly remember writing the first entry with a dull pencil, even including a dateline (“Somewhere in Virginia,” which sounds like a Union Army dispatch to the War Department during the Civil War), writing about Uncle Roger’s return to Intensive Care, watching the ball drop at Times Square on the television, and how hard it was to find a gas station that was open.
I was hooked from then on.  My friends (particularly my male ones) thought it weird, but it was just another proof that I was completely nuts and 100% different from them.  (When I had friends staying over, or if I spent the night with them, they were respectful when I would get out the diary and a pen and go off by myself just long enough to fill a page.)  I even defended it with words I echoed from my dad: “You like to watch Star Trek, don’t you?  Well, when Captain Kirk does his captain’s log, that’s his diary.  Besides [I added, doubly righteously], the most famous diary in the world was kept by a man!”  It did take me a long time to get over the picture of the girl lying on her stomach writing when I heard the word “diary,” however.
I haven’t maintained a perfect day-to-day record, even in the many volumes that were lost.  I have gone days, weeks, and months between entries.  Overall, I am a pretty conscientious diarist.  I have used a variety of books as diaries.  Growing up, every Christmas I received a new one-year book (never another one with a lock), but when I was 16, I began to use blank books that were not predated, so I wouldn’t be confined to a page per day.  I varied in book types then, too, ranging from big red legal ledgers to spiral notebooks.
For most of my 20s, I used bonded leather blank books (usually the Anything Book brand), with the occasional stenographer’s notebook or appointment diary thrown in for variety, plus whatever books I received as Christmas or birthday gifts–when in doubt, get Paul a journal, was the wisdom.
From about age 35 on, I have–with some exceptions–written in simple composition books, inspired mainly by movies such as Se7en, Joe Gould’s Secret, and Henry Fool, where major characters make liberal use of composition books.  They’re cheap (often about $1 at places like Family Dollar) and much more durable than many of the more expensive variety.  That is the type of book I am now using.  (The current 200-page Mead composition book is 70% full, and its successor sits in my desk drawer right now.)  I have received expensively bound blank books with parchment pages, but they’re so beautiful you almost feel guilty marking the page.  Plus, I have good penmanship, but I can’t write without lines–the words go downhill almost immediately if I write on an unruled page.)
Steph vowed several years ago she had stopped reading my diaries.  There was no higher principle involved–the matters of trust and secrecy.  She had read them when she thought I may have had something to hide, or if there was something on my mind that I wasn’t sharing, but she quit for a much more practical reason.
“Your diary is boring!” she said.  She read page after page of my rehashing of a union meeting and its aftermath, where I would write something like:

John seems to think that this policy will help with the mandatory overtime, and he thinks that they should be adding five more people per shift per area.  I told him that he’d be playing right into Management’s hands if he did that, because they’ll be accusing the union (and I’m not sure they’d be wrong) of deliberate featherbedding, which will bite us in the ass come contract time.

 Steph’s remark that my diary was/is boring may well be true, but at the time neither of us knew much about the Reverend Robert Shields (1918-2007), a retired United Church of Christ minister in Washington State who kept a very detailed diary of literally everything that happened to him from 1972 until a 1997 stroke made the job impossible.  I first heard of him in a “News of the Weird” column in 1996:

According to a Seattle Times feature in March, Robert Shields, 77, of Dayton, Wash., is the author of perhaps the longest personal diary in history–nearly 38 million words on paper stored in 81 cardboard boxes–covering his last 24 years in five-minute increments.  Example: July 25, 1993, 7 a.m.: “I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin.”  7:05 a.m.: “Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine.  Used 5 sheets of paper.”

I thought this had to be a joke or hoax, until shortly after Shields’ death, when excerpts from this mammoth diary were published on National Public Radio’s Website:

 One of the more exciting pages I could find in
Rev. Shields’ magnum opus.  Click on the
image to read the entries more easily.

This entry was written on my 31st birthday.

I bought a small white one-year diary at a junk store years ago for about a quarter, and used it for appointments, etc. until it disappeared with the coat where I carried it.  Most of the pages were blank, so I was able to fill in appointments under the appropriate preprinted dates.  There were a few penciled entries, such as “Me and Donnie told jokes at class today walked home there’s a good chiller movie on TV tonight.”
During my white-tornado blitz cleaning of the office the past few days, I christened the finished project with pictures from my new Kodak digital camera (see last entry).  One of the shots I made was of my own diaries.  This isn’t even complete, since some of the volumes are locked in my desk at work:
These are more or less in chronological order.
The current volume stays with me, so I can
write in it whenever the urge strikes me.

Just before Steph went to The Cleveland Clinic for her heart surgery, she made out a last will and testament.  I realize now I should have done the same thing, both as a gesture of solidarity and as a practical matter.  (I should have made one out when I got married, and again when Susie was born.)  I have no vast financial holdings–my net worth can be calculated by what’s in my wallet when I die, plus how many pennies are in the jar in my office, so I don’t have that many assets to distribute.  If I died intestate (as I am now), Steph and Susie would automatically inherit everything.  However, I do plan to bequeath my diaries to either Alden Library at Ohio University or the Ohioana Library here in Columbus–can’t decide which.
Whichever place finally gets the honor, I do have daydreams of the day they arrive, when the librarians march all my diaries around the facility in procession and people touch their garments to them.
Steph puts up no objection to my diaries ending up in a library vault somewhere–they didn’t interest her when I am alive, after all.  In this, she was probably a lot like Evelyn Yates Inman, whose husband Arthur, a reclusive and hypochondriac poet, kept a 155-volume diary.  Arthur Crew Inman kept his record while living off inherited money in a Boston hotel, living as an invalid because of a long list of imaginary ailments.  He began the record in 1919 and ended it in December 1963, when he took his own life.  Professor Daniel Aaron of Harvard University began editing the 155 volumes and 17 million+ words in the 1980s, while I was working for The Crimson, and Harvard University Press published a very abridged version in 1985.  A movie, Hypergraphia, about Inman’s life, is currently in production.  This Website for Hypergraphia is the place to go for the background and news on the film.
I discovered this Website 100% by accident last month.  It’s one that makes me feel like I’m a little less alone in my fascination with notebooks, diaries, etc.  The title is Notebook Stories, and I feel like I have a personal kinship with everyone who posted there.  I used to think I was the only one who would go back into my burning house to rescue diaries and notebooks (once my daughter and wife were safely outside).
And while I’m on here:

I slept until almost noon, then I got up, took a shower, and dressed.  My friend Jacques took me to lunch at Cazuela’s Grill at N. High St. and W. Northwood Ave.  (Normally, he’d be in Mineral at the Feed My Sheep food pantry, but the pantry is closed today for Memorial Day.)  He drove me back home, I loaned him two or three issues of The Catholic Worker (poor is having to buy a Catholic Worker subscription on layaway). I took Susie to our friend’s apartment so she could feed and water the cats, then she and I came back home.  She may go swimming later, once we’re 100% sure the cloudbursts are finished for the day.  (It’s in the low 80s right now, and the pollen count is in the stratosphere.)
And then I came home and wrote this entry.

Hardly a Day of Rest

The last entry ended on a note of suspense, kind of.  When last we saw our fearless blogger and diarist, he was planning to walk from Fallis Rd. in Clintonville to his abode two miles south, all the while carrying a La-Z-Boy recliner on his back.  The recliner was in perfectly good shape, so no idea why its owner put it at curbside.

Well, I lasted about a block and a half before I aborted mission.  However, I didn’t think it’d be right to ditch the chair in front of someone else’s house, so I reversed direction and put it back where I found it.  My back made a crack sound that resembled a piece of firewood when you break it in half.
Now that that’s out of the way…

I am soooo glad that the weekend continues tomorrow!  This Sunday, which we’ve heard is the “day of rest,” was anything but.  Now that my new Hewlett Packard Pavilion Entertainment Notebook PC no longer sits amidst clutter, I am typing my first blog entry on it.  Susie must have been exhausted, ’cause I have my music on fairly loud (not wall-shaking) in my office, which is just down the hall from her bedroom, and she’s sleeping  right through it.  (I have Windows Media Player on “shuffle,” so it’s a tossup as to what will play next.  Currently, it’s America’s “Today’s the Day.” I’ve already heard Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Shadow Captain,” and LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.”)
The busy day began at 12 midnight, not at sunrise.  Midnight found me still hip deep (almost literally) in cleaning up my office, a task that I never truly completed since Steph and Susie gave up trying to use it as a sewing room.  The arrival of the new computer was also the excuse I needed to get to work and finally try to make the office neat.  I’m still Walter Mittyish enough to try and imagine this room many years from now, the entrance door gone, and a cable-thick velvet rope across the doorway, while tourists gape through the doorway to behold the room where HE wrote the…  As I was making this room presentable, I subconsciously had that in mind when I envisioned the finished product.  (TANGENT ALERT:  When my friend Robert Nedelkoff and I toured the Newseum in Washington in March, one of the exhibits we saw was the NBC News office of the late Tim Russert, Meet the Press host.  It wasn’t a pigpen, but there was clutter enough to make it appear that Russert had put in his share of long, sleep-deprived hours there over the years.  Ironically, the Newseum is now the site of ABC News’ This Week Sunday morning program.)

I had enough momentum going that I was reluctant to actually finish the task, even though I knew I was in the home stretch when I began taking bag after bag of accumulated trash downstairs to the big trash cans in the alley behind our house.  I was appalled at how many bottles of flat bottles of Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist I found.  Thank God I don’t smoke, because I would have burned down any of my dwellings long ago.

It was still dark out when I decided to immortalize the moment for posterity.  That meant that I decided to christen the Kodak EasyShare C180 that came as a free gift with the computer.  I posted the finished products directly to Facebook, but I would die before neglecting my Blogspot readers:

The center of operations, featuring my new HP open
on the desk, and the usual overloaded bookcases.

Yes, Virginia, there were reference books before
Wikipedia.  Under Big Boy and the Smith-
Corona Galaxie XII manual typewriter, my New
English Bible occupies a carefully chosen spot.  It
is nestled in between The Art of Fine Words, a tribute
to Arthur Hopkins (1897-1965), who was The Harvard
Crimson‘s head linotypist for 36 years, and the Thorndike-
Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary.  My logic: The
first printers were monks who produced Bibles, sacred sheet
music, and illuminated manuscripts; the Bible is The Word; and 
the dictionary is all words.

I’m not sure if I tried for the juxtaposition of the
different types of notebooks here.  The plastic
drawers contain MP3 disks of various radio shows,
money order receipts, some rings I no longer wear,
etc.  The screen-saver is a rare picture of a smiling
Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), along with his then-captain, Christopher
Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), from “The Cage,” the original Star Trek pilot–
later incorporated into Part I of the episode “The Menagerie.”
If I look up, here’s what I see.  The headstone marks
the grave of my friend, Cincinnati-born novelist
Robert Lowry (1919-1994), and below that is a 1962
article from the University of Cincinnati News Record 
about his book Party of Dreamers.
Simple explanation for this picture:
This is the gallstone Dr. Campbell removed
(along with the gallbladder) at Grant Medical
Center last February.  I like it better where it is now.

I finally ran out of steam sometime around dawn.  I could hear birds singing outside, and it was just starting to get light outside, but not bright enough to shut off the streetlights.  I think meteorologists refer to it as civil twilight.  When I went to sleep, I knew it would only be for a few hours, because Susie and I planned to go to church–the first time services were at 10 a.m., something that will continue until after Labor Day.
Susie went to a friend’s house after the service, and I went to Kroger to buy an Entenmann’s cake for a party she and I were attending in the afternoon (going all out!).  My energy levels were beginning to flag, so I forced myself out of the house to buy bread and mail some letters at Giant Eagle.  It didn’t perk me up as much as I would have preferred, because the walk to the party seemed to take forever, and it was only a little more than a half mile from our house.
The party (especially the company) invigorated me quite a bit.  Good hosts, good people, good food, and good conversation all around.  Our hosts are dear friends, but this was the first time I had ever been to their house.  (Susie had been there before, several times as a toddler, and just last month for a baby shower, but it was my first time.)
Susie and I left the party to head north to our friend’s apartment to feed the cats, change the litter boxes, and make sure the two cats were fed and happy.  Susie and I did manage to arrive at Olympic Swim and Racquet for the last hour it was open.  I didn’t bring a towel or swim trunks, because I had no plans to get in the water.  Susie changed in the locker room and was in the drink the minute they blew the whistle to announce that kids were allowed in the pool once again (the last 15 minutes of every hour are for adults only).  I had brought my trusty portable office–the blue bag complete with diary, books, MP3 player, and Diane the microcassette recorder–along to entertain myself while Susie was in the pool, but I slept in one of the plastic deck chairs at poolside until someone came on the loudspeaker to announce the pool was closed for the night.
And now it’s midnight, and I’m wide awake!  I thought I’d collapse over the keyboard while typing this entry.  Susie has remained asleep, through comparatively high-decibel pieces such as Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” and The Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.”
I’m having lunch with a friend at 1 p.m., so I can theoretically sleep until 12:45 if I want.  I doubt I will. 

Summer’s Unofficial Beginning

Later this weekend, I will be making my first blog entry using my new computer, the Hewlett-Packard DV6-2152NR Entertainment Notebook PC.  But for now, I’m using one of the computers at the library, since the office isn’t 100% clean (a little superstitious on my part–I wanted the new computer to be in a nice setting, at least at first), plus I was too damn exhausted last night to type an entry that resembled English.

The true sign of summer’s arrival here in Clintonville is that Olympic Swim and Racquet Club opened its summer season at noon today.  They’ve been teasing us for weeks, with the

POOL OPENS
MAY 29
sign on their parking lot marquee.  Susie and many other neighborhood kids were acting like they were counting down to Christmas morning, counting down the days to May 29 (It was significant for me because JFK would have been 94 today).  Susie has a busy weekend.  She’ll spend much time at poolside, I’m sure, but she’s feeding cats for a friend who is out of town for the entire weekend, so she and I go to that friend’s apartment at least once a day.
I had less than three hours of sleep Thursday night-Friday morning, and would have called in sick to work yesterday were it not on the eve of a long weekend.  (If you’re sick on the Friday or Monday of a three-day weekend, you need to provide a doctor’s excuse for those days.  Too many people were “falling ill” on days that would “coincidentally” make a longer weekend.)  I was on a sudden jag to clean the office and make it much more presentable than it has been in months, mainly because of the new computer’s imminent arrival, and also because I was looking for a patchcord I know is buried amidst the scatter of notes, papers, CDs, and mail that coat my desk and every other flat surface in the office.  (The office is half public library, half town dump.)
This presented Steph with the quandary familiar to every bipolar person’s spouse.  What do you do when the person’s in some kind of manic episode, but he/she is cleaning because of it?  (I guess it’s like the man who tells his psychiatrist that his aunt thinks she’s a chicken.  “How long has this been going on?”  “About six weeks.”  “Why didn’t you come to me sooner?”  “We needed the eggs.”)  I had been to the dentist earlier in the evening, and may still have been flying on the residual effects of nitrous oxide, of which I had ingested plenty during the cleaning and filling process.
A new Kodak digital camera came with the computer, and I will be using it to take pictures from now on.  I’m sure the quality will be better than the grainy ones I took at the OSU/AXE Undie Run earlier this month, especially since I have fresh batteries in this new camera.  I haven’t christened the camera yet, although I have loaded the software to the new computer.
My workout for today is just about to happen.  The library is closing in 15 minutes (and they let you know–repeatedly–over the loudspeaker if you’re not remembering this), and while walking here from Olympic, I saw a perfectly good La-Z-Boy recliner at curbside at a house on Fallis Rd. (save your sneering–it rhymes with Wallace).  I plan to carry it home, all 1.8 miles.  I’ll carry it on my head, like a big football helmet.
Once I get it home, then I’ll figure out if there’s a place to put it.

I Came Into the Federal Building With a Weapon Today

There are few chores I dread more during the workday than making a trip across High St. to the post office in the Federal Building.  Fortunately, it’s seldom a necessity, but when I need to go there, I can never be finished soon enough.

Today was such a day.  I usually carry some postage stamps in my billfold (much easier since the Postal Service went to peel-off stamps), but I needed to mail a postcard, and didn’t want to waste one of the few $.44 stamps I had left.  So, at my three o’clock break, I resigned myself to the inevitable and made my way across High St. to the John W. Bricker Federal Building and the Christopher Columbus Station of the post office contained therein.

TANGENT ALERT: The building is named for Senator John William Bricker (R-Ohio), the 54th Governor of Ohio, and Thomas Dewey’s Vice Presidential running mate in the 1944 election.

Elaborate security precautions prevail on the first floor of the Federal Building, and they were in place seven years before 9/11.  Before the destruction of the Twin Towers and the damage to the Pentagon, there was Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma City.  So now, if I’m going into the post office lobby to spend $.28 to buy a postcard stamp (as I was today), I have to wait in line, empty my pockets, have a security guard go over my person with a handheld metal detector, and step through a scanner.

I began the ritual in the usual way.  Before going through the scanner, I took everything out of my pocket: coins, wallet, MP3 player, notepad, pens (always about five of them), cell phone, and key ring.

That last item on the list, the key ring, was what caused the short-lived panic.  I have about eight or nine keys on the ring, a rubber Minnie Mouse standing next to a large letter P (a co-worker brought it back from Disney World for me), and a ring knife.

The ring knife is a souvenir from my days at the main post office in Cincinnati.  You wear it on your finger like a ring, although it barely fits past the middle knuckle.  Protruding from the top is a J-shaped blade, used for cutting open bundles (of newspapers, magazines, etc.).  The Cincinnati post office always seemed to be short of them, and when I was working in second- and third-class mail, sorting and routing periodicals, half my shift seemed to consist of scrambling trying to find a blade to split open bundled magazines.  So, one night, I was lucky enough to find a ring knife within minutes of clocking in to work, so I put it on my key ring, and there it has remained to this day.

The guard asked me about it.  I told him what it was, how I used it, etc.  I don’t think it would have made an effective weapon, even if I had wanted to try.  The blade is nowhere near as sharp as it was 15 years ago, and I doubt it could cut butter.  (Crazily, I tried to picture myself putting that ring knife on my finger, waving my arm around in a large arc, and shouting, “Okay, everybody lie down on the floor, nobody gets hurt!”  There was a guy in Cincinnati who tried to rob a bank with a butcher knife once, just as effectively as I would have been.)

The guy decided to let me go through, mainly because he sensed my impatience.  My afternoon break is only 15 minutes long, and I wanted to buy my stamp and get back to work, possibly picking up a Sierra Mist on the way back.  I would have offered to let him hold the key ring for me until I was finished at the post office.

I headed for the post office with the key ring (ring knife included) securely in my pocket.  The guards there can be a little paranoid, and I’d think that people guarding a Federal building should learn the art of the poker face.  They don’t have to be as rigid and emotionless as the Grenadier Guards at Buckingham Palace, but they seem to overreact to innocent situations.

When you enter the building, you empty your pockets into a shallow plastic bowl, and it goes down a conveyor belt, where they X-ray it and see if there’s anything you shouldn’t have.  When the bowl emerges on the other side, the guard will pick up the cell phone and push buttons on it, to make sure it’s a real cell phone, and not the remote control for a bomb.  When I go on break, I set my phone’s timer to 00:15:00 and press the “start” button, and it beeps when my 15 minutes ends.

Awhile back, the security guard turned white as paper when he took my phone out of the bowl and pushed one of the buttons.  The display lit up, and he sees a timer that is counting down to zero.  Visions of spending the afternoon with some of Homeland Security’s brownshirts came to my mind while he stared at my phone display.  He looked me a question, and I told him what it was all about.  He looked a little deflated as he handed the phone back to me.  He probably envisioned being interviewed on Good Morning America as the hero who thwarted a bomb plot.

“Good vibes” and “bad vibes” were popular phrases in my late teen and early adult years.  I’ve never taken the concept seriously.  That may be a side result of my Asperger’s syndrome, whose symptoms include an inability to “read” other people (tone of voice, body language, etc.), but the Federal Building was one I never liked, even when I came to work every day.

I got off on the wrong foot with that building.  In April 1995, I interviewed for a job with the Agriculture Department.  The appointment was at 1 p.m., and I took a morning Lakefront Trailways bus up from Cincinnati.  My friend Ivan and his stepson met me, and Ivan told me about the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which had happened just as I was getting on the bus in Cincinnati.  (I listened to CDs or slept all the way up, so I wouldn’t have had a radio going on the journey.)

Security was tight that afternoon, because at that time no one knew who had bombed the Oklahoma City building, whether it was an isolated nut or a well organized conspiracy, or whether other buildings elsewhere in the country would be attacked.  I went through the metal detector, and even though I presented my IRS ID (I worked at the IRS Service Center in Covington, Ky. at the time), they still insisted that I empty my pockets, remove my watch, and let the man pass the metal detector wand (actually, it’s about the size of a fraternity paddle) over me.  Then a guard stepped forward and said, “Sir, I need to pat you down,” which brought a “Why?  Don’t you get enough at home?” from me.  (I was a tad bit surly at that point.)

The building is as dingy on the inside as it is on the exterior, and I sometimes wondered about sick building syndrome when I worked there.  My main responsibility as an Appointment Clerk was scheduling audits, so I was always on the phone with taxpayers and/or their representatives.  When someone was coming from out of town, he or she often asked, “Which building is the Federal Building?”  I often said, “It’s the monstrosity at the corner of Spring and High, on the northeast corner,” which usually evoked a chuckle.  (I showed rare self-control the three years I worked there.  Never once did I yield to temptation and say, “It’s at Spring and High, and there’s probably an abandoned Ryder truck sitting out front.”)

I’ll let you, beloved readers, be the final judge as to the building’s beauty.  Here’s a picture, courtesy of the General Services Administration:

John W. Bricker Federal Building,
200 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio

Exile on High Street

Steph’s Saturday calendar was packed to the rim today (even more so than usual), and so, though she didn’t specifically order it, I’ve made myself scarce today.  I’m blogging at the Whetstone Library, one of the many stops I’ve made on High Street this afternoon.  I’ve been a regular on the 2 bus today.

Steph taught some voice and piano lessons this morning, and when I left, a double rehearsal for her a Capella women’s group, The MadriGals, had just started.  I slinked (slunk?) slowly and unmissed from the house, headed to Cartridge World to exchange ink cartridges for my Hewlett-Packard DeskJet printer/scanner.  (I’m too stingy to break down and buy a laser printer.)

There was rain last night and some this morning, so all of Columbus has a mildewy smell about it.  I seem to have outgrown most of the environmental allergies that plagued me as a kid, otherwise my eyes and nose would be running, and aforementioned eyes would be bloodshot right now.

I finally did buy the notebook I was seeking on Thursday, before my friend Scott and I found ourselves in the midst of the OSU AXE Undie Run.  (I’m still old enough to remember when having your underwear showing was the ultimate humiliation.  At the Ohio-Meadville Youth Con last weekend, I came to the conclusion that exposed bra straps are now a fashion statement of some kind.)  I bought a blue Mead 3″ x 5″ notepad, and christened it last night by making notes for a short story.  I haven’t typed a word of the story itself, but I think I know what I want to do with it.

I turned around and headed north here to Whetstone, mainly to return interlibrary loan books.  If they’re overdue, the fines can be prohibitively expensive.  I also picked up a Book on CD, Haiku, the most recent Andrew Vachss novel.  (I was a bit leery, since he’s permanently retired the Burke series, but what little I read of this book in print sounds fantastic.)

I’m not sure where Susie is.  She was in her bedroom with the door closed when I left.  I doubt I could have interested her in a trip to Cartridge World, so I didn’t bother to knock.  I had company on the errand; I’ve begun a long overdue taped letter to a friend of mine, so I was communing with my tape recorder (the Memorex MB1055 standard-sized one, not Diane the Olympus microcassette recorder).  As I was waiting to catch the northbound bus, a gaggle of four or five sorority women walked by (I was in front of the Newport Music Hall), and one leaned over and shouted “Hi!” into the microphone while I was talking, sounding like a nursery school kid on Romper Room.  The time-and-temperature sign in front of the Ohio Union said 12:45 p.m., and these women were already quite drunk.  It made me wonder how long they’d been at it.

I’m going to a wedding on Second Life tomorrow night–one of my rare forays into that domain.  (Its national anthem should be the Alan Parsons Project’s “In The Real World”: “Don’t wanna live my life/In the real world.”)  Steph and I are tux-shopping for me tonight.  I’ll enjoy that as much as I enjoy real-world clothes-shopping, I’m sure.  (I’ve worn a tuxedo only once in my life, when I was best man at a friend’s wedding.  When I saw myself wearing the tux, I wondered if it came with a hurdy-gurdy and a monkey, or if I’d have to buy them separately.  I didn’t even wear a tux to my own wedding!)

Were it not for the threat of rain, and my overfilled over-the-shoulder bag, I might have walked from campus to here, all 20+ blocks.  The musty after-rain smell didn’t make me as miserable as it would have during my childhood, but it was still triggering an itchy palate.

I probably should have walked, because I dozed off a few times on the relatively short bus ride north.  I slept rather well last night, but I recognized the dozings-off on the bus as narcoleptic attacks; I was going straight into REM sleep and dreaming in a matter of seconds.  It’s happened a lot on the way home from work lately, too.  Last week, I was riding the northbound bus and reading The New Yorker, and at least three times I dozed off, awakening only when my magazine hit the bus floor.  (The article I was reading was far from dull, too.)

The cough seems to be 95% gone.  I do still cough from time to time, but the tickle in my throat doesn’t trigger the long and loud bouts that have plagued me through much of March and April.  The chest pain episode on my birthday turned out to be pleurisy, so I’m willing to bet it’s all part of the same package.  There was a woman on the bus the other day whose cough sounded as bad as mine, although I could tell by the sound that she had a much more productive cough than I did.  (Mine was dry 99 times out of a hundred.)  I’d look over toward her seat and her face was red from the effort of all that coughing.

She got off the bus before I did, and I saw her opening her purse as she stepped off the bus.  I thought she was getting out an aspirator (for asthma), or her cell phone (so a friend could take her to Urgent Care), but I was wrong on both counts.  I was just shaking my head in disbelief when I saw her pulling out a lighter and a pack of cigarettes.  No doubt where her cough originated.  (Mine was probably an opportunistic infection that came when I was still recovering from the gallbladder surgery.)

How Far Removed I Have Become…

My friend Scott and I went walking for the first time this calendar year.  Much has interfered with walking these past several months–the snowfall, my persistent cough, the gallbladder surgery and the recuperation.  Tonight, all the stars were in alignment.  Our schedules meshed, the weather was beautiful, and I actually felt energetic.

We toured the new Ohio Union for the first time tonight, a beautiful structure with an excellent food court (we ate dinner there), and I was amused to see the lyrics of “Carmen Ohio,” the OSU alma mater, chiseled inside the main lobby.  We each worship at our own unique shrines, I suppose.

Scott and I didn’t do as much walking as we planned.  A friend had asked Scott to make sure all the doors were locked at a rental property he owns east of campus, and once that was done, I told Scott I wanted to swing by FedEx Office and buy a new notebook.

Getting close to FedEx Office (nee Kinko’s) was much easier said than done.  The music at the O Patio and Pub was deafening, and the patio was at capacity.  It almost had the atmosphere of Michigan weekend or pre-Notre Dame football.  We asked around, and the first annual OSU AXE Undie Run was launching from there at 9 p.m.  The idea of this event was to wear clothing you will donate to the homeless and run a little less than a mile in your underwear.  (AXE, the sponsor, manufactures men’s toiletries.)  The race kicked off in front of the O Patio (near the corner of E. 15th and High) and would end at Pearl Alley and E. 16th, about a block north, via a circuitous route around Iuka and Woodruff Aves.  Ohio State was competing with nine other universities–whoever donated the most clothes (by weight) receives a half-naked statue.

As nine o’clock drew near, I admit I forgot all about buying a notebook.  There was a genuinely fun atmosphere as both women and men stripped down to their briefs and bras.  (The oldest participant was a man in his 60s, a memory I’m trying to exorcise from my head.)  Scott and I enjoyed watching it.  The atmosphere was festive, and I doubt any woman or man felt threatened in any way.

The title of this post refers to my realization (something I keep having to learn and relearn) that I’ve moved a generation away from the college crowd.  I have haunted college campuses and environs for most of my life.  My late father was an English professor at Marietta College, so we lived within blocks of the campus, and even at a young age I knew his students, as dinner guests, as babysitters, and later as friends.  As a teen, I frequented the Gilman Student Center on the Marietta College campus, since it had the best pinball machines and the first video games in Marietta.  In high school, I often hitchhiked to Athens (50 miles away) to drink or lose myself in the stacks at Alden Library.  When I landed in Boston, I lived in Boston University’s student ghetto and earned my living typesetting The Crimson, which brought me in close proximity to the Harvard campus.

So now I am a generation removed.  As Scott and I watched everyone stripping down for, and participating in, the Undie Run tonight, it came to me that these students were young enough to be my children.  Many of them were born while I was at Ohio University in Athens.  It was easy for me to forget this fact, since I didn’t become a parent until I was 34, but that is the exception, not the rule.  (I still shudder, however, when I think of a woman who worked alongside me at the Cincinnati post office, 30 years old and already a grandmother.)

College is often the happiest time of many people’s lives, but there are certain college towns that students and alumni love so much that they never leave, and they become fixtures.  Ann Arbor is like this, as is Athens, and so is Chapel Hill.  I knew people in Athens who stayed and worked for degree after degree, and once they had exhausted this, took low-paying jobs in town just so they could remain in the college milieu.

The most obvious (and tragic) example of this was a guy I knew in Athens, whom I’ll call Dirk.  He went to O.U. on the GI Bill in the late ’50s and graduated with a degree in education.  He taught in several elementary and secondary schools in Appalachia, and in the mid-’80s, about when he turned 50, he decided to return to Athens for a master’s in special ed.

Dirk lived in an apartment off campus, and went to classes at O.U. for about a year and a half.  Finally, his faculty advisor told him he was just wasting his money on classes, and that he would never be a good enough teacher.  Nonetheless, he stayed on in Athens, living on an allowance from his mother, hanging out mostly with students 30 years younger, taking his meals in the cafeteria, etc.  He was free with advice to students on how to conduct their romantic lives (though he was a lifelong bachelor), their academic lives (although he had washed out of his own program), and was a zealot about telling people to “act responsibly” (this from a man in his 50s living on his mother’s largess.)  I am not a Christian, but you gotta wonder if Jesus of Nazareth knew such a person when he spoke: How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-5)


I was in the cusp between my college years and the kids I saw tonight while I lived in Cincinnati.  As soon as I could afford it, I moved to an apartment in Clifton, near the University of Cincinnati, and the closest thing that Cincinnati would ever have to Greenwich Village.  I set up shop in the Subway restaurant across from my commodious W. McMillan St. apartment, and developed a rapport, if not deep friendships, with many of the people who worked there.  I was the one who made runs to the convenience store for cigarettes and beer, and, when the manager banned alcohol on the premises, the “sandwich artists” stored beer in my refrigerator.

Soon, I was permitted unlimited refills on soda pop, which I drank by the gallon, and even allowed to run tabs, which I paid off as soon as I was flush.  Here is a page from my notebook (actually a pocket 1994 appointment diary) which listed my tab.  The initials at the bottom are the manager’s, indicating that I had paid the debt in full.

TANGENT ALERT: Even as I was extending my adolescence well into my 30s, I did have my eyes out for bigger and better jobs and more exotic places to live.  Some were practical, some outright unrealistic, as another page in the same pocket diary will show:

Planning to live as an expatriate in the Czech Republic
at the same time I was rolling pennies for bus fare–
realistic, eh?

The first signs that I was moving beyond being a peer was when I was in a conversation with some students at  a bar near my place.  Somehow we got on the subject of when we were first allowed to stay up late.  I mentioned that the first time I was allowed to stay awake past dark was in July 1969, so I could watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon.  By the reaction this wrought, you would think I was reminiscing about seeing off the Santa Maria on its voyage to the New World.
And I knew I was different from the kids working there.  Some of the Subway workers called me “rabbi,” mainly because of my wire-rimmed glasses and my beard.  (If I had joined the Hasidim, it would make my wardrobe more colorful, to be sure.)  It was joking and respectful at the same time.
Many of the customers saw me as a fixture, as much as the fountain drink machine and the bright yellow booths.  I was the guy who would sit there for hours, either writing in a big red journal or poring over Kerouac or Hemingway.
I even felt this to a small degree when I first arrived at O.U. as a student in the spring of 1984.  I had the mystique of having lived in “the real world” for three years between high school and college–for a year unemployed, and two years working a “real” job.  This also brought the added bonus of being the only person in a freshman dorm who could buy hard liquor.  The age barrier goes up fast, but it was only tonight that I realized just how far removed I was.  I remember shaking my head at a 1990 editorial in Clifton magazine (U.C.’s literary magazine, published quarterly) which mentioned the Kent State massacre.  “We were alive then.  We couldn’t walk yet, but we were alive.”  I was in first grade then!
To make up for a somewhat depressing blog entry, I will post the few pictures I took at tonight’s Undie Run.  I apologize for their quality.  The flash on the camera was never that great, and the batteries are beginning to run low.  But here they are:
Not exactly a motto that would meet Mother Teresa’s
approval, but “Philanthropy Just Got a Whole
Lot Sexier” has more allure than “Give the shirt
off your back.”

AXE’s professional staff, handing out complimentary
socks and wristbands until they were gone.  GOOD
SAMARITAN GONE WILD might actually make
some teens return to Sunday school.

The man on the right manages the AXE Undie Run
Road Show.  If he can land an Undie Run at Brigham
Young University, he has my undying respect and
awe.

Preparation for the event–one of many
police cars and emergency vehicles, and
one of many photographers and guys
from the dirty-raincoat contingent.

Preparations for the run itself, as 9:30 p.m. draws
ever closer.  (They didn’t start until around 9:45,
actually.)

Day is done, gone the sun, and with it my
ability to take decent pictures.  All pictures
taken afterwards were mostly silhouettes.

Your Faithful Night Angel Blogging Here…

I’m typing this at church–the First Unitarian Universalist Church here in Columbus–around 2:30 in the morning.  I have spent many an hour in this building in the last three decades–as a guest, and as a member–but this is the first time I have spent the night.  Columbus is hosting the spring Youth-Adult Committee conference (known as a “con” in the lingua franca of the Unitarian Universalist Association) this weekend.  Susie is here, and I am a sponsor.

But how am I a night angel?  I am one of the adults who volunteered to take a shift walking around the church and making sure that all the kids are safe, doors to the outside are shut, that no one is doing anything they shouldn’t be doing, etc.  I have the 3 a.m.-5 a.m. shift, so I’m racing against the clock (and my battery power–I left my cord in the other room) to bring this blog up to date before I go on duty.

As the clock nears 3 a.m., many kids are still wide awake, playing games, singing, socializing, playing euchre, washing down Tortilla chips with room-temperature lemonade and playing the piano in Fellowship Hall.  (The piano selections have run the gamut from the “Ode to Joy” to “Piano Man” to “Eleanor Rigby.”)

When Susie and I went to the fall conference in Pittsburgh, it was a bit overwhelming for her, and for me I felt like I had come full circle.  In the spring of 1979, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the spring youth-adult conference of the Ohio-Meadville District.  (North America is divided into several autonomous geographic districts by the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston, somewhat analogous to a diocese in the Roman Catholic or Episcopal churches.  The Ohio-Meadville District covers most of Ohio, all of West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Southwestern New York.)  The camp was at Camp Tippecanoe, a YMCA facility in Harrison County, Ohio, and by the end of the first evening I was happy that I had gone.

For the next five years, I faithfully attended district youth conferences, fall and spring, as well as conferences at the national level (sponsored by Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), the national youth group, which, I soon learned, had an uneasy, and often very antagonistic relationship with many churches and with the denomination itself) travelling any way I could.  I rode Greyhound buses, I hitchhiked, I pre-arranged rides with friends headed to the same conferences.  All of this was before Internet and flat-rate long distance and cell phones, so I ran up astronomical phone bills at home and at church, impatiently awaited the arrival of the letter carrier daily, and developed many friendships that have lasted to the present day.

The youth have a much freer hand in governance than they did during my teen years.  I am eagerly looking forward to the worship service Saturday evening, because the one in Pittsburgh last fall was quite moving.

SEMI-TANGENT ALERT:  Compare this to a conference I went to in Massachusetts, which had no worship service on its agenda.  A musician and composer friend of mine at the conference and I were not happy about this.  He and I told the advisors (adults), “Just give us about 45 minutes in private, we’ll have a worship service for you.”  Locking ourselves in the minister’s study, we spread out several books of poetry, the Bible, and Hymns for the Celebration of Life (the predecessor to the current hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition), and a notebook.  We batted ideas and reading suggestions back and forth, hashed out an Order of Worship, and emerged with a service that went quite well.  I regret to this day that we didn’t think to record it.  One or two people were unhappy that two people ran the entire worship service, but if someone else had stepped up to the plate, we would have been happy to let them help us, or even take over the entire show.  Except for these minor rumblings, people complimented us on the service the rest of the weekend.

I do not know if Susie will be as enthusiastic or as zealous about conferences as I was.  It fulfilled a need in me that is far different from the way she is maturing.  It is no exaggeration (and this is neither the time nor the place for me to elaborate) that had I not found Unitarian Universalism, and through it the youth movement in its many incarnations, I would be in a very different place and situation than I am now.  It is not too much of a stretch to say that I would either be incarcerated or dead today.  I was listening to Steely Dan’s Katy Lied during work today, and the refrain of the penultimate song on that album is “Any world that I’m welcome to/Is better than the one I come from.”

If my life had a soundtrack, that would cover that aspect of my life.

Ohio-Meadville District of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Thinking of Adding a New Feature to My Entries

While I was writing about the Cincinnati road trip and the Radio Convention, at one point I started a paragraph with TANGENT ALERT: before proceeding to go off point to include a link to YouTube.

My thought now is to make that a permanent feature, so it can be as much a warning to the reader as it would be to me to try to stay focused on the subject at hand.  Earlier this month, I went to a Website called Blurb.com, because I’m considering downloading this blog’s LiveJournal years and ponying up the money for a professionally bound copy of it.  I had to format each page individually once they loaded (all 200+ of them), and I was appalled at how, in one entry, I could stray so far off the landscape from what I had intended when I logged on that day.

A Tangent Alert would probably amuse me as much as it would help me discipline my writing.  I can see it becoming an object of fun, both for my readership and myself.  Already I’m thinking it’s the blogosphere’s equivalent of a gimmick used in a 1966 thriller, Chamber of Horrors.  I saw this masterpiece on Channel 10’s Nite Owl Theater one Friday night as a teen with two friends.  We knew we were in for fun when this item appeared on the screen:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, the motion picture you are about to see contains scenes so terrifying, the public must be given grave warning.  Therefore the management has instituted visual and audible warning at the beginning of each of the FOUR SUPREME FRIGHT POINTS… the HORROR HORN and the FEAR FLASHER.  The FEAR FLASHER is the visual warning.  The HORROR HORN is the audible warning.  Turn away when you see the FEAR FLASHER.  Close your eyes when you hear the HORROR HORN.

The three of us were laughing until we were crying each time these “warnings” came on the screen, and the show’s host, mellow-voiced baritone Frederick (“Fritz the Nite Owl”) Peerenboom, was laughing right along with us.  For weeks, whenever one of us mentioned “the HORROR HORN” or “the FEAR FLASHER” in any context, it never failed to trigger gut-busting laughter.

Much of my writing–including in here–I’ve ended up having to delete because of just how far I have strayed off point.  I’ve gone so far afield that I’d look at the paragraph on the laptop screen and ask myself, Now where was I headed with this?  I’d even try to work my way backwards, because usually all these associations would make sense to me, at least.  If I couldn’t find the connection, and work from there, the passage would be gone.

The tendency has been there since day one.  My first “long” project was a 48-page (typed, single-spaced) personal narrative with the imaginative title, “Two Trips to Richmond, Virginia.”  I wrote it when I was 11, describing two car trips my mother, father, and I made from Marietta to the former Confederate capital (during Christmas break 1973 and February-March 1974) to be with my aunt and cousin while my uncle was hospitalized with the congestive heart failure that would take his life in March 1974.  Besides chronicling every hamburger stand, restroom stop, and gas station along U.S. Route 50, it took very little for me to write a page of two about something totally unrelated to this journey.  (I wrote a bit about Watergate, since we crossed the Potomac River at one point in the trip.  We passed through a little dot on the map called Belgium, W.Va., so I’d mention I’d heard of a movie called If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium.  Less than 20 miles from the Virginia state line is the city of Romney.  Since Romney is the home of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind, visited by Helen Keller in 1916, she would rate a long paragraph or two.  A motorist on U.S. 50 would leave West Virginia and enter Maryland, only to re-enter West Virginia less than 10 miles later.  John Wilkes Booth was a Marylander, as were most of his conspirators, so I was off and running about Lincoln’s assassination.  You get the picture.)

I am also not sure that I’m conscientious enough to be able to flag a tangent when it arises.  When I wrote the previous entry, I typed TANGENT ALERT: at the very start of the paragraph, knowing I was headed away from the main subject.  There will be many times, I am sure, when I’ll have to go back and insert it after the fact, or when I won’t notice it at all until the entry has been online for a few days.

During coffee hour at church Sunday, a woman who is a friend of Steph’s and mine asked about Susie’s and my day trip to Cincinnati on Saturday.  I gave her the Reader’s Digest account of the convention and the trip to Duttenhofer’s, and she mentioned that she’d probably read it in the blog when she came home.  I told her about writing TANGENT ALERT:, and she nodded very knowingly and approvingly, thinking I had at last seen reason.

While writing the entry about Saturday, I did show restraint, he wrote with some little pride.  I mentioned buying a $.50 paperback copy of James A. Michener’s Centennial, and began to write about something a friend had told me when we were in high school, when I made my first unsuccessful attempt to read this paper behemoth.  The friend told me that Centennial had literally been a lifesaver.  A man was sitting in a bar and a thief robbed the cash register at gunpoint, shooting up the place as he left.  The man in this story pitched violently off the barstool onto the floor, and was sure that he had been shot.  When he arrived at the E.R., the triage crew undressed him to search for bullet wounds.  (I’m sure you know the punch line to this story: The bullet had lost all its velocity passing through the book.  The man had not been shot at all!)  I doubt this story is true–I even Googled all the key words to see if there was a news story archived somewhere about it, and came up empty.

And in the previous entry, I refrained from writing about it.  I just noted that I bought the book, and didn’t mention I also purchased Cheever’s Falconer and Elvis: What Happened?.  I didn’t include this.

It can be done.




There’s Good News Tonight!

The title of this entry is an allusion many of my readers will miss.  It was the on-air greeting of Gabriel Heatter, a Mutual Broadcasting System radio commentator and reporter during the 1930s and 1940s.  Since Susie and I were in Cincinnati at the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention today (technically, yesterday, since it’s now 1 a.m.), I thought this would be a good title for the entry.

My friend Steve Palm-Houser, whom I know from church, attended his first OTR convention this weekend.  I had talked it up to him all year, and he was sufficiently fascinated to make his first trip.  This was Susie’s third convention, and (at least) my seventh.  It was at a new location this year, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blue Ash,  a Cincinnati bedroom community.  Annually, I say this year I will audition for the broadcast reenactment, and I’ve batted zero on making good that vow.  (They use authentic working equipment, but the final product doesn’t go out over the air.)

We arrived late in the morning.  The Crowne Plaza is a totally new hotel to me.  Since Blue Ash has almost no public transit service, I may have been there twice in all the years I lived in Cincinnati.  When we came in the lobby, the ballroom immediately off the lobby was very full, but very quiet.  The easel just outside the door said that it was a pinochle tournament sponsored by the Cincinnati Yellow Jacks Pinochle Club.  The room had almost a churchlike, monastic silence about it, like I’ve heard can happen at chess and bridge tournaments.  The OTR people were quite boisterous.

I spent less money than I have in the past.  Most of the programs available on MP3s, or tape cassettes, or compact disks are now available free of charge, mainly from The Internet Radio Archive and other sites.  I bought a two-DVD set of ABC News’ coverage of the 1981 Reagan assassination attempt.  (The day it happened, I was watching CBS, so I am looking forward to seeing the late Frank Reynolds, on camera, blow his stack at his staff when he kept getting conflicting reports about whether Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, had died of his injuries.  I have never seen that, except for an out-of-context clip on YouTube.)  I bought a CD-ROM which featured Spider-Man’s first 10 appearances (in 1962; Amazing Fantasy #15 and the first nine issues of The Amazing Spider-Man).  That’s out of character for me.  I was never a big superhero fan, but when I was, I was more loyal to DC than Marvel.

I even managed to resist the usual stray impulse purchase of something I knew I couldn’t use.  It only took me 15 seconds to decide not to buy an old radio transcription disk.  This was a 16″ acetate recording disk, and radio stations used them extensively until magnetic tape emerged after World War II.  There was a time when I would have bought this disk (and more in the box), regardless of the fact that I have no phonograph that can play it.  The tone arm pivot would get in the way, and the grooves are wider than on a standard LP, which means the needle would skate constantly.

For those who think I’m still speaking in tongues, here is a picture of a transcription disk I downloaded from http://www.auldworks.com.

From Bob Gardner of Vintage Publishing, I bought a disk called News Program Collection.  Other than the fact that there are 134 episodes, I don’t know what is on it.  I’m just praying the files are labelled properly when I load the disk.

Susie didn’t come away empty-handed, but she was disappointed that the vendor who sold Archie comic books at previous conventions didn’t come.  She bought some MP3s of Fibber McGee and Molly.

Steve showed incredible restraint; for a moment, I thought he considered it a wasted trip, but he said he was trying to be prudent.  He bought Cornell Woolrich’s posthumously published Into the Night, which featured an Afterword by my friend mystery novelist Francis M. (“Mike”) Nevins, Jr.  That was it.

Many people tuned into Internet radio heard Susie a little after noon.  Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger of Maryland broadcast live from their table at the convention, on their Radio Once More Website.  (In 2008, when I casually mentioned to Neal that Susie was the youngest person ever to attend the convention, he immediately stopped broadcasting Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and interviewed Susie.  Here is the link to my LiveJournal entry of that day:  LiveJournal Entry, April 12, 2008.  In it, I did err and say Neal was playing Boston Blackie when he made the snap decision to interview Susie.)  Susie took her place at the microphone just as the live broadcast was beginning, and she was much more at ease and much less tongue-tied than when she spoke in 2008.  Frantically, I tried to get onto Facebook through Steve’s Verizon Wireless phone to post a notice Susie would be on the radio at noon, but I couldn’t connect to my account.  I managed to text a few–very few–friends by cell phone about 11:53 (per the phone’s log) and send them the URL.  As far as I know, only Ivan in Vermont was successful in hearing the broadcast.  He texted me back: “I’m tuned in listening to Sus.  She sounds really grown up!”

Susie during the interview.  Across the table from her is Neal Ellis
(with the beard) and Ken Stockinger.

Susie reunited with two members of the Riverdale delegation.  In the hotel’s food court, we saw Rosemary Rice and Bob Hastings sharing a booth.  Rosemary Rice played Betty Cooper in the NBC radio program Archie Andrews, based on the comic books.  Bob played the titular role.  At an earlier convention, I met the late Hal Stone, who played Jughead.  Susie interviewed both Hastings and Rice for a school project in 2008, using a microcassette recorder.  Bob told her of his day-to-day working life in radio, and spoke in his Commissioner Gordon voice to her.  (He voiced Gordon in The Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Animated Series.)  As I was never a fan of McHale’s Navy (where he portrayed Lt. Elroy Carpenter) or General Hospital (Capt. Burt Ramsey), the first time I saw Bob on TV was as Tommy Kelsey, the barkeep on All in the Family.

Rosemary Rice and Bob Hastings (both from NBC
Radio’s Archie Andrews), with Susie in the food court
of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, May 8, 2010.

Tangent alert: This YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zY7HqCYgpM&feature=related is from “Judging Books by Covers,” a first-season episode of All in the Family.  Bob Hastings, as Kelsey, is behind the bar, most clearly visible beginning at 3:18.  This is an “ABC soap opera” episode.  Both Bob and Anthony Geary (Roger) would appear on General Hospital.  Geary would play Luke Spencer (as in “Luke and Laura”), America’s sexiest rapist.  Philip Carey’s (Steve) long career as One Life to Live‘s patriarch Asa Buchanan ended only when he died in 2009.

Steve loves bookstores as passionately as I do, so when we decided we had seen enough of the convention, we drove into Clifton, my erstwhile neighborhood.  The neighborhood is a lot less shoddy than it was, but it has become so brand-named and cookie-cutter sterile, and is losing what made it vital and unique.  It is not the Clifton that I loved.

One of the holdouts against the big brand names taking over (or property seizure by eminent domain) is Duttenhofer’s Book Store.  I moved to W. McMillan St. for the express purpose of living near it, and I was there constantly, and I visited about a dozen times for each time I actually bought something.  Russell Speidel, the current owner, is a very good man, and was generous with me when I was broke, either loaning me small sums, or buying books of little or no value so I wouldn’t be totally broke.  There were quite a few times, I’m sure, when he thought of himself as Mr. Wilson and me as Dennis the Menace.

I was disappointed not to see him behind the counter.  I actually bought something, so that may have been too much for his heart.  I bought a Fawcett Crest paperback of James A. Michener’s Centennial for $.50 and two other books.  I got a kick out of the fact that a thick hardcover of The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh, which I sold him when I lived on W. McMillan, was still on the shelf, untouched for at least 15 years.  (I knew it was my copy because of a phone number I had penciled in the margin of one of the earlier pages of the book.)

All three of us were home by late afternoon, and I’ve maintained my good mood ever since, save for a battle with Facebook when I tried to load pictures I had taken in Cincinnati to my photo album.

It’s almost 3 a.m.  Susie and I are leaving for church a little after 8, since she’ll be singing at the 9:15 service.  I’ll be sleep-deprived, and I feel a little bad about neglecting the holographic diary, but I wanted to post my impressions here while they were still fresh.