Back in Columbus

Susie and I returned from Columbus around 12:30 under cloudy skies.  We left North Olmsted with our ride from Columbus a little after 10 a.m., along with Susie’s friend Eliza, who conked out before we crossed the Cuyahoga County line.  I slept on and off during the night in the pew at Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and managed to stay awake during the ride back.  I talked with Heather, our driver, and glanced at Faye Kellerman’s Sacred and Profane from time to time.  (I’m re-reading it.  Now that the entire Peter Decker-Rina Lazarus series seems to be available on CD, I may start at The Ritual Bath and “read” them all in sequence.)

I feel fortunate that I was awake before the “official” wakeup this morning.  Drake Dunnett, who stepped in at the last minute to run this Con, informed me on the q.t. that Andrew, whom I’ve seen at every con since last year in Pittsburgh, would be doing the awakening.  And I knew what this meant.  Drake swore me to secrecy, especially around the kids.

Sure enough, around 7:30 a.m., I was clearing my bed pew, closing up and unplugging my laptop, when I heard a loud rendition of “Scotland the Brave” blatting down the hall on the other side of the sanctuary door.  Andrew’s bagpipes were accompanied by groaning and moaning wherever he went, and I followed his progress by paying attention to the Doppler effect.  I came outside to see kids burrowing deeper into sleeping bags, putting pillows over their heads, etc.  They faced the morning the same way I did, and I’m on record as saying there is no kind way of awakening someone.

Having come of age in the early 1980s, whenever I hear bagpipes, my thoughts always go to Spock’s funeral at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when Mr. Scott played “Amazing Grace” while the projectile containing Spock’s body launches into space and onto the surface of the planet just created.

Andrew finished playing his pipes once he had been to every room, and I’m sure he had to dodge some airborne shoes, socks, etc.  (At the spring conference in Columbus, Jodi the conference dean just went from room and room and screamed “WAKE UP!!!”  Susie said she was on the receiving end of a thrown slipper at one point.)

Drake is nothing if not thorough.  A few minutes after the bagpipe music ended, he sent in reinforcements.  I heard long and loud blasts from the didgeridoo that appeared prominently in last night’s talent show and worship service.  (The readings for last night’s worship were quite diverse–St. Lev Tolstoy, Robert Frost, and William Blake.)  I had never heard of or seen this instrument before (and I doubt it’s that well known, which is why I included the Wikipedia link above), but I loved the sound of it.  I imagine it’s different when you’re being awakened from a sound sleep by someone blowing it right into your ear.

Susie performed “Unhappily Ever After” by CJaye LeRose as part of the talent show, but she and her new friend Harriet really wowed ’em with a duet of “For Good,” from Wicked.  (Susie’s mom and friend Joanna performed the same duet at the ordination of Rev. Suzan McCrystal at church last fall.)

Another one of Susie’s new friends wanted to sing a solo (her original composition), but was afraid she would drop dead from stage fright before finishing the first verse.  Harriet and Susie stood behind her as moral support, and she sang her song quite well and left the stage under her own steam.  Harriet and Susie would have been all too pleased to catch her if she fainted, or to bodily push her to the microphone if she decided that she wasn’t going to perform after all.

One year, when Susie was about eight, we took her to the Columbus Symphony’s annual performance of The Nutcracker.  They sponsored a drawing for the kids–whoever won would get to conduct the orchestra while they played a medley of different holiday songs (mostly Christmas, with a token “‘Tis the Week of Hanukkah” thrown in).  Susie entered but didn’t win.  The little girl who did win was about six.  Since the conductor’s back is to the audience, her face was on a JumboTron above the orchestra, so we could see and watch her.  I was touched to see that she brought her friend (or maybe her sister) onto the conductor’s platform with her while she took the baton in hand and led the orchestra.

The closing circle took place on the church’s front lawn, and the outside temperature was in the upper 50s.  I think the hugs lasted even longer than they usually did (and that’s saying a lot!) because many of the kids were still in shorts, T-shirts, sock feet, or barefoot.  The closing circle is always an emotional time, but nowhere near as gut-wrenching as the ceremony in spring when the high school seniors bridge out of the conferences.

An Attractive Nuisance in the Sanctuary

Typing once again from the sanctuary of the Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Congregation in North Olmsted, Ohio, on the west side of Cuyahoga County.  The kids have eaten breakfast and lunch, enjoyed morning workshops, worked and played hard.  There’s another activity going on in the common rooms and areas right now, so I’ve retreated to the comparative peace and quiet of the sanctuary.

The youth–with some flexible exceptions–are forbidden to be in this area; it’s an adults-only area, but some have poked their heads in to look for their sponsors to retrieve medication, misplaced belongings, etc.  The biggest incentive for keeping some of the more mischievous ones out of here is the rope that hangs from the ceiling just to the left of the front door.  It’s the pull rope for the bell in the tower.  With some of the more adventurous kids, I’m sure it would be a temptation.

Insurance companies introduced the concept of attractive nuisance when it came to liability about certain issues, and the aforementioned rope would be one here.  The bell in the tower above the front door (see picture below, which I shot this morning from across the street from the church) was used to signal the beginning of services, fire warnings, and tolling the deaths of members.  All in a day’s work for a church bell.

Exterior shot of Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Congregation
on Porter Rd. in North Olmsted, Ohio.  The stained glass
window I posted in yesterday’s entry is above the double doors.
Bell tower is partially obscured by leaves.

Looking at the exterior plaque, I see this congregation has occupied this building since 1847.
The attractive nuisance doctrine says that an owner can be held liable for injuries on his property, even if the injured people were trespassing, if he took no action to safeguard the nuisance.  The classic example is an unfenced swimming pool on private property.  If kids trespass on the property and swim there, and one of them drowns, the parents can still sue the pool’s owner, even if the child was trespassing.
I’m sure the kids here would find the temptation to ring the bell too attractive to pass up.  I’m not expecting any physical danger to come from it, although for all I know the bell wheel and housing are too weak to support sustained ringing, but if the kids know it’s there, I’m sure the “Hey, guys!  Watch this!” factor would kick in before long.
Whenever I mount my soapbox about something like this, I always try to come clean about when I’ve run afoul of this particular situation.  I was sorely tempted to own an attractive nuisance at one time.  In 1979, while delivering The Marietta Times on Front Street, daily I passed the long unused Harmar Railroad Bridge, which spanned the Ohio River and connected downtown with the West Side.  That spring, they opened the first section of the bridge to allow a tall barge passage down the Ohio.  It was a swing bridge; the first section was on a big lazy Susan, and when the bridge was opened, the first section was sideways, and remained that way.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, which owned the bridge, never got around to closing the first section, which was a pain for people who used it for bike and pedestrian traffic.  (I always used the pedestrian walk; I was too “chicken” to walk on the ties.)  There were rumors the bridge was for sale for $1, and I thought about emptying the Ball jar on my desk that was half full of pennies and buying the bridge.  One, it’d be fun to own a bridge; two, maybe I could sell the metal for scrap.
Dad told me if I did buy it, I’d have to buy lots of insurance, because if kids were playing around on it, and fell, or lost limbs, or gashed their heads, guess who’d be responsible in the eyes of the law?
I even have a past when it comes to bell towers as recreation.  For years, beginning at the age of 16, I had the run of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Marietta, which was truly my home in Marietta.  The house where I lived with my dad, stepmother, and stepsisters was just my address.  I was immediately drawn to the bell tower, and loved watching parades from it.  (The church is on Putnam Street, which is the main west-to-east street in Marietta.)
I also enjoyed inviting my friends up there, making a pain of myself by saying, “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints” very piously.  I was in no way put off by the fact that the roof’s hatch was open, and that when you reached the top of the tower you waded through an ankle-deep pile of pigeon droppings and dead pigeons.  (I volunteered to clean it, but Justin Lapoint, the minister–my mentor–didn’t want me ending up in the hospital with histoplasmosis–which used to be called spelunker’s disease or silo disease.)  I was thrilled by the view from the tower, a great place to watch people.  (On a rafter by the bell, I had written “Tower power!”)
The bell was beyond ringability.  The bell wheel was almost kindling, the pulleys were rusted, and the floor probably couldn’t stand the vibration.  The only time it ever rang was after the Iranian hostages were freed in 1981.  All the churches in Marietta pealed for that, and Justin, who had been at a movie at Marietta College when he heard them, went down, yanked the rope, and managed the weak “Ding!”  Anything else would have been too dangerous.
Susie (right) and her new friend on the swing set.

While the Wi-Fi Deities Smile Upon Me

The dateline for this entry is the sanctuary of the Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Congregation in North Olmsted, Ohio.  Susie is here for the fall Ohio-Meadville District Junior High Youth Conference (“con,” in the in-house terminology), ArtistiCon, and I’m a sponsor for several kids from Columbus.  Wi-Fi service has been very erratic in this building, so, while the kids meet in the Morning Circle, I’m going to take advantage of not having to share the service, and type this entry.

We’re in quite a beautiful building.  This was a last-minute location for the conference, since the larger church where it was supposed to be was unable to accommodate it I will post exterior pictures in a later entry this weekend, but I am quite proud of the one I took last night.  I was in the sanctuary (where the adults sleep–sanctuary takes on an additional meaning this weekend) staking out a place to sleep, and took this picture of the stained glass window above the church’s front door.

celebrating its 175th year this year.

This conference was a welcome retreat for me as well.  Work was hell yesterday.  My co-worker has permanently moved to another section, so my workload has doubled, and it seemed I could get very little done without constant telephonic interruption–both my cell phone, and the one on my desk.  I’m wondering if, on some level, I consciously decided to “forget” to bring the charger for my cell phone when I packed for this con.  The cell reception here (at least for Revol customers) is spotty, and I didn’t want to drain what battery power I do have hanging onto a signal.  So the cell phone is shut off and buried in the bags of stuff I brought.
The kids are as full of energy, as always.  This conference is about half the size it usually is, and Susie is a little disappointed that her friends from Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church (“where the ‘Universalist’ comes first,” their pastor, Rev. Bill Gupton, is fond of pointing out) in Cincinnati weren’t able to come, but she seems to have made friends with some girls whom I’ve not seen before.
Scenes from the Opening Circle.

And the adults congregate in the sanctuary.  (Since the
service will be here tomorrow morning, we have to be
even more on the ball about “clean[ing] up [our] own
damn shit” than our charges do.
I had “night angel” duty last night.  I walked around the church, making sure the rooms where the kids were staying had doors that were at least cracked open, making sure nobody was two to a sleeping bag, etc.  My shift was 3-5 a.m., so I grabbed some shuteye in a pew a little after midnight.  This is the first time I’ve slept in a pew (horizontally, anyway), and it was a little uncomfortable, but I’m rested.  One of the benefits of narcolepsy is the ability to sleep anywhere, where you want to or not.
Between breakfast and the Morning Circle, I heard some of the kids on the piano and the guitar.  As I came down to eat breakfast, three or four were in the hallway with their guitars, doing a decent cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” (although why the narrator, who “shot a man in Reno,” would be in a California penitentiary is something I’ve never understood), and when I began typing, I heard some of the kids in the other room singing “Imagine” with a good piano accompaniment, and then the pianist (not sure if it was the same one) did a damn near perfect rendition of “Maple Leaf Rag.”
I have the sanctuary to myself, except for a woman who is fast asleep on a big, queen-sized air mattress that just barely fits in the aisle.  If you just glanced at the inside of this sanctuary and didn’t know the context of this week’s events, you’d swear you were looking at news footage of the evacuation centers churches and schools set up in their common areas after floods or brush fires.  All we need is the Red Cross to be here serving us tepid coffee and stale donuts.

Helluva Prize I Won

Whenever I go to an open-air festival, such as Comfest, Pride Weekend, or Hot Times in Olde Towne East, I often make up for (usually) not buying anything at the vendors’ booths by entering whatever drawings or contests they have.  (This was how I acquired the Kings in Their Castles book at Pride Weekend last summer.)  Usually, I don’t count on winning anything, and I grudgingly accept the fact that I may be bombarded with emails and phone calls pushing the product.

I’ve entered contests just for the sake of entering them, even when the prizes I won were totally useless to me.  As a kid, I remember winning a two-year subscription to a hardware store distributors’ newsletter, and two free shaves at a barber shop in Bakersfield, Calif.  (I was too young to shave then, and–as my recent pictures will attest–the prize is just as useless to me now as it was then.)

This time I won a prize.  I am the proud recipient of three 100% free workout sessions at CORE Fitness Studio.  My reaction at first was that this was like giving a kid with a broken leg a pair of roller skates, but I decided to keep an open mind, got on the phone, and set up a session for this morning.  I am by no means the beanpole that I was in high school, and I naïvely thought that once I swore off booze for good, the pounds would just melt away and the beer gut would be a not-so-fond memory in a matter of weeks.

I came to the session with many misgivings.  I have had few positive experiences with sports, and physical-education classes were nightmarish for me.  I cultivated a small library of quotes to justify my hatred of any type of physical activity: “I am a brain, my dear Watson, and the rest of me is a mere appendage,” a quote by Sherlock Holmes (who was an excellent fencer, boxer, and equestrian), and my fellow Ohioan Thomas Alva Edison: “All I ask of my body is that it carry around my head.”

Being ridiculed by your fellow students in phys. ed. for your lack of physical prowess or ability was bad enough, but the worst part was when the teacher joined in or encouraged the ridicule.  This was the case in junior high, and another student and I who received the brunt of the teacher-encouraged ridicule were so angered by it that we plotted (I’m not sure how seriously) various ways of ending the treatment.

The trainer I worked with at CORE today was quite decent.  He evaluated my body mass, and calculated my ideal weight (my current weight minus about 40 pounds, I’m sorry to say), and the regimen he put me through today wasn’t totally pleasant, but I didn’t come out of it feeling sore, or vowing not to come back.  He was the antithesis of the stereotypical middle-school phys. ed. teacher who would organize a dodge ball game, explain the rules, blow his whistle, get the kids started, and then go back to his office and smoke a cigar.

The block on Parsons Ave. where CORE is located.

My trainer was with me every step of the way, spotting me during my first experience with bench-pressing (I won’t reveal the weight), small free weights, and the stationary ski/walk machine (I don’t remember the name of it.)  I surprised myself by being able to do about six or seven sit-ups and push-ups–I didn’t think I could do any!  I wasn’t too stiff and sore–I was able to walk the mile and a half from CORE (on Parsons St. in Olde Towne East, just south of Broad St.) to the office without wanting to collapse anywhere en route, and while I was more aware of some of the muscles and nerves in my body than I was when I first walked in, none of them were jangling in pain.  I didn’t even need water until I came in to work.  (I belong to the Water Club at work–about $2 per pay period for unlimited access to water from The Water Store’s cooler.  Yes, bottled water is a scam, but the water in the cooler is colder than what comes from the fountain.)

I was even planning to walk home from work, but once the tornado sirens began sounding around 4:30, I decided to come home on the bus.  My pod is right near a west-facing window, and I could sit there and watch the visibility lower by the minute.  I could see the main post office on Twin Rivers Dr., but it was blurry and indistinct, like I was looking at it without my glasses.  Off in the distance, the twin buildings of the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety were totally obscured.  If I looked hard enough, I could barely make out the steeple of St. Aloysius Church just west of ODOT and Public Safety, but if I didn’t know it was there, it wouldn’t have registered.

I am a floor warden, so when the alarms began to whoop outside, and the alarm lights began to strobe, I made sure everyone headed to the nearest stairwell to await further instruction.  It was so close to 5 p.m., the last quitting time for the night, that I had no one to shepherd to safety once 5 p.m. came, so I left as well, and waited for the bus with a nice background sound of tornado sirens.  Other than the rain, it wasn’t bad outside once I got onto High St. to await the bus.  (I saw one of the windows on my floor actually ripple once or twice during one of the wind gusts, so I was concerned about going out into the weather, but it turned out not to be anything major.)

Although I’m quite tired right now, I’m typing at a pretty frenetic pace.  I’m using the Stones’ “When the Whip Comes Down,” from the Some Girls album, as background music while I work.  (I’ve never had a typing lesson, but I’ve heard about typing classes where the students would type to music.)

The Move-Ins Have Begun

I took advantage of 69-degree weather, with little or no relative humidity, and walked home from work yesterday, all 4½ miles.  I kept up a pretty brisk pace, and made it home in one hour and 15 minutes, without stopping at all except for Walk-Don’t Walk signs, and I am usually pretty lax about obeying them.

I use Chittenden Ave. as my line of demarcation when I walk from downtown to Clintonville.  I walk up High St. until Chittenden, and then east one block, and finish the journey going northward on Indianola.  On the Indianola leg of the walk, I passed many apartment buildings and fraternity/sorority houses.  Ryder trucks and U-Hauls seemed to be parked in front of many places, often more than one on each block.

During my days as the son of an academic, and my days as a professional student, I used to internalize the academic calendars of the nearby college(s).  I kept abreast of Harvard’s schedule during the 18 months I typeset The Crimson so I could plan getaways from Boston or know when I had several consecutive days to myself.  Lately, I’ve been so removed from that world that I had forgotten that OSU’s classes for the 2010-2011 year have not begun.  (Never mind the football team has already played–victoriously–three games.)  I learned that the start of the year was just around the corner when I walked up Indianola and saw all the pickup trucks, U-Hauls, and other vehicles, complete with people bringing out furniture and their possessions.

When I lived in Cincinnati, I had a seasonal job as a customer service person and parking lot attendant at DuBois Book Store, the store where University of Cincinnati students went to buy textbooks and course material.  I worked there the three or so weeks that preceded the start of each academic quarter, and stayed on until the first 10 days of classes ended.

Autumn was the most hectic time, although my job in the parking lot was analogous to having a front-row seat at the circus.  I later wrote a novella about my experiences there, The Textbook Diaries, which remains unpublished to this date.  One of my first post-divorce projects will be to rewrite and -type this manuscript and see if I get any nibbles.  (I flatter myself by telling people to imagine George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying being written by Charles Bukowski.)

Most amazing was how much stuff kids, especially freshmen, brought with them when they left home to come to college.  I remember a young woman and her family coming to the store to buy her textbooks (she pointed to them and said, “They’re my money!” when she went in), and her next stop was one of the freshman dormitories on Calhoun St., diagonally across from the bookstore.  Her dad was miraculously able to finding a parking place right there on Calhoun, right in front of the dorm’s front door, so he put on the emergency blinkers and began unloading her belongings.

I remember seeing a wardrobe of clothes that would have put Warner Brothers to shame, an entertainment center (with all the audio-visual components that it would house), a rocking chair, and (my jaw dropped open at this) a treadmill.

You know the rest.  About 10 minutes later, the father came stalking out of the dorm spitting nails, hauling about two thirds of this stuff back to the U-Haul.  She was probably in a quad–four people to a room–and even if she and her roommates had brought no extra possessions with them, the room still would have felt cramped.  I mostly had single rooms the whole time I was at O.U., and I felt confined in them, even when I had the largest room in our suite.

The decorating style of my apartments owed a lot to students when move-out time came.  I’ve never had the illusion that a dwelling place of mine would appear in Better Homes and Gardens or even the late Apartment Life, but I will take credit for naming the particular style with which I decorated my bachelor apartments.  I called it Late 20th-Century Clifton Castoff, because most of my furniture came from curbside in summer, when the academic year at the University of Cincinnati was ending.  A lot of students had bought perfectly good, functional furniture at the beginning of the year, and didn’t want the hassle and expense of carting it home when the year ended.  So, it would end up by the side of the road.  I am no athlete, but I still managed to summon the energy necessary to carry chairs, tables, and appliances up to my room, if they looked clean and comfortable enough to still be useful.  My TV set was a black-and-white Zenith I found in a dump, and when I got it home, I learned the owner had discarded it merely because the channel selector was gone.  (I went to Laurel 5 and 10, bought a pair of pliers, and–voilà–the TV worked perfectly.)

I’m typing in the OSU Library, hearing many people crow about the Buckeyes’ victory over Ohio U.  I knew the Bobcats would lose, although I am zealously loyal to O.U. (“Athens, Ohio–2 libraries, 30 bars” read one T-shirt I saw today), because football has never been a big thing in Athens.  When I was there, getting to the 20-yard line was considered victorious.

My time has run out on this computer, so I will post this blog entry and head outside.  I’m just thankful that the computers here don’t freeze and need to be rebooted as often as the ones at the Public Library seem to these days.

The Need to Chronicle

The cover story in this week’s edition of The Other Paper is called “Busted!”, and it describes how Facebook is a valuable (invaluable?) tool for tracking down adulterous spouses, fugitives, errant kids, and deceitful employees.  “I love Facebook!” crows a divorce attorney very early in the story.

The late Robert Lowry, the Cincinnati novelist I befriended the last few years of his life, told me his mother’s reaction to his novel The Big Cage.  It’s an autobiographical novel about growing up on Cincinnati’s East End (although he calls it Turkey Bottoms), and Lowry’s hero, Richard Black, details his early literary, employment, educational, and sexual experiences quite thoroughly.

“You had to write it all down, didn’t you?” she said, dismayed.

The same accusation has been leveled at me.  How many times have I been cautioned, “Don’t write this in your diary!” in my lifetime?  (I was honored that my peers–especially the male ones–wouldn’t ridicule the fact that a guy was keeping a diary that I would give them my solemn word, and then go home and write about whatever they had told me or whatever we did.  Like the late Hunter S. Thompson, “off the record” does not exist.)

I question the sanity of some self-chroniclers as computers hunker in every corner of our houses, workplaces, and gathering places.  Facebook is everywhere, people Twitter everywhere–when they’re sitting across the table from you in the restaurant, when they dash off to a restroom stall, when they’re riding the bus.  Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living.  Maybe it’s not too far a stretch to say that the unchronicled life did not take place.  (I remember seeing a 1965 movie on Nite Owl Theater when I was about 13 called Bunny Lake is Missing, where a toddler disappears from daycare and her mother spends most of the movie trying to prove to all the other characters that the child actually exists.  That isn’t even a believable plot line today.)

The Other Paper story cites people who claim to have broken it off totally with former boy- and girlfriends, and then they’re featured alongside (or literally entangled with) the ex in quite recent photos.

The phrase You just don’t get it, do you? has been done to death, by Oprah, Dr. Phil, and other daytime luminaries.  I can’t get that out of my mind when I read about juveniles getting locked up for their various crimes–not all of them the usual status offenses which I piled up like baseball cards when I was a teen–mainly because the teens would record themselves doing it and then post it on MySpace or YouTube!  Then they wonder how they got caught.  The thesis of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Purloined Letter” is that the best hiding place in the world is right out in plain sight (an idea covered quite well in a first-season Mission: Impossible episode, “A Spool There Was”), but this goes beyond that.  As recently as earlier this month, I saw this gem while I was looking at the Website of a Huntington, W.Va. TV station, WOWK-TV.  The worst thing is watching a video like that, being powerless to help.  Every time I watch the Zapruder film, I silently urge the Secret Service agent driving the car, “Accelerate, goddamn it!  Now!” as soon as it’s obvious Kennedy has been wounded.

I’ve chronicled some of my errant behavior in the past.  When I was 12, long before caller ID existed, my friends and I delighted in prank phone calling.  (Part of it was loneliness on my part–connecting with another person over the phone, even to prank them, was better than nothing.)  None of the calls were threatening, mostly along the lines of “Hello, do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can?” or “Hello, is John there?”  “Wrong number.  There’s no John here.”  “What do you use then, a bucket?”  I bought a small suction-cup recorder that fit on the back of the phone and meticulously saved cassettes of these calls, conscientiously dated.  The neighbor kid behind me always said, “One day I’m going to break into your house and find that tape.  Then I’m going to play it for the police!”

He’s spent more juvenile and adult hours locked up than I have, as it turned out.

My Prophecy Was Not Fulfilled

The victory celebrations around the OSU campus after the Buckeyes’ victory over the Miami Hurricanes produced the usual drunken hooligans, but did not erupt into car-flipping, Dumpster fires, and couch-burning, as I had predicted and feared.  Saturday afternoon, after Susie was finished at Hot Times in Olde Towne East, I made a trek all the way to Upper Arlington to return some electronics at MicroCenter, and then went to Kafé Kerouac.  (I’m proud to say I was rather productive there–wrote my first poem in God knows how long and also completed a 2½-page diary entry, all of it in longhand.)

The poem had been percolating for some time, and I felt confident enough that I went to College Town while the game was in progress and bought a Roaring Spring single-subject notebook specifically for the purpose.  The finished product was almost three pages long.  I need to type it up, and then decide what lucky publication will get first crack at it.  I’m arrogant enough to be considering either The New Republic or The New Yorker.  I celebrated this productivity by buying (for $5!) a hardcover copy of I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg, by Bill Morgan, which I had not read previously.

Steve had borrowed my Kodak EasyShare camera, so I had to reacquaint myself with the other Ph.D. camera in the house, Susie’s Digital Blue camera, when I wanted to take pictures of the girls performing at the Hot Times Festival.  (Hot Times is 100% volunteer-run.  Some people describe it as a mini-Comfest, and that’s a valid comparison, but if it’s like Comfest, it’s minus the topless women, public urination, and pot-smoking.)  Susie and friends performed at high noon, so she and I had to be there at 11 a.m. for check-in and warm-up.

This meant we were there as the food vendors were setting up.  I bought her a hot dog after she left the stage, and I’m sure I made her want the earth to swallow her up when the man gave us the hot dogs.  He said, “Condiments are right there,” pointing to the ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, and mayonnaise in front of us.  I declined saying, “I don’t use condiments, I’ve had a vasectomy.”  (I recycled a line I’ve used when a co-worker who moonlighted as a Realtor tried to evangelize me about “why [I] need to buy a condo.”)

Suzie Simpson, the director of Girlz Rhythm and Rock Camp, was grateful to the girls who came, since quite a few seemed to be laid up by seasonal allergies and autumn viruses.  I felt badly for Susie because she composed a song at camp she wanted to perform yesterday, but her guitarist/accompanist was one of the ones who was sidelined by the bug.  (I’ve been sneezing so hard I thought I had broken my nose, so I have sympathy for the girls who weren’t there.)  As it turned out, Susie had to sing a non-original song a Capella to fill out The Moonlight Band’s gig, holding an MP3 player to her ear for accompaniment.  (When I lived in Boston, a trumpeter frequently played on the subway platforms.  At his feet was a boom box–then known politically incorrectly as “ghetto blasters”–the size of an attaché case–labeled The Band in big letters.)

Susie and her portable accompanist.

This is as good a time as any to mention that Girlz’ Rhythm and Rock Camp can always use donations and support.  Pearl Jam contributed $14 thousand several years ago, which helped with buying instruments, equipment, and electronics, but they will always welcome a tax-deductible contribution.  To that end, immediately after the show ended, Susie took the jar and went to work in the crowd.  We heard both the clink of coins and the ruffle of dollar bills.
Wouldn’t you be quick to open your wallet and 
checkbook to someone with this sunny a countenance
when she comes to solicit funds (fundz?) for girls to
go to camp?

I roamed High St. for much of the evening after leaving the sanctuary of Kafé Kerouac.  My motives were not pure.  If honest-to-God rioting broke out, I was going to take a few dozen pictures and let my blog’s readership be the first to see the action in all its glory.  (I take after my maternal grandfather, Charles Lester McKee, in that respect.  In September 1925, he was home in Caldwell, Ohio and saw the crash of the USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), the Navy’s first rigid airship, in a squall line, which tore the ship to pieces and killed its commanding officer and 13 of its crew.  My grandfather, aged 30, saw that the ship was about to tear apart and crash, so, being the Christian and Good Samaritan he was, what did he do?  He ran home and got his camera.  By the time he came back, there was debris scattered everywhere and people were tearing off scraps of the hull fabric as souvenirs.  I’ve watched eBay for hull fabric on sale for a year now, so far in vain.)
The worst thing I saw all night was a guy leading three or four boys, the oldest of whom was maybe 12, selling candy bars for Buckeye Youth Basketball.  They had boxes of the fundraising Anthony-Thomas candy bars, and they were out there around 9:30 p.m. amidst all the drunkenness, open containers, airborne bottles, and sidewalk vomiting.  Kids shouldn’t be out selling at that hour on the most tranquil of nights, and this definitely was not one of them.
I only snapped two pictures of the crowd, neither of which came out very well.  The flash on the camera illuminates a radius of millimeters, so after dark, you capture more silhouettes than people.  I took a picture of the interior of The Sloppy Donkey, a bar that occupies the site of the former Larry’s Bar, where OSU dropout Phil Ochs (“Draft-Dodger Rag,” “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore,” and “Outside a Small Circle of Friends”) had his professional debut.  Larry’s, the only bar which offered classical music in its jukebox, is now a sports bar.  (As a loyal Democrat, the name offends me.)
Post-game interior of The Sloppy Donkey.  May Phil
Ochs’ unhappy ghost haunt them night and day.

I was intrigued by the restroom at Kafé Kerouac.  Its walls are decorated, floor to ceiling, in items found between pages of books returned to the OSU Library over the years–letters, court orders, photographs, notes, scratch pad pages, postcards.  I could stay in there for hours and read them.
Some samples of the pictures displayed in the Kafé Kerouac restroom.  This holds my attention much more than “For a good time, call…” 

No Calm Before the Hurricane

My only long walk today was down High St. tonight, since I needed something from CVS.  The one near us closes at 10 p.m., and it was past 10 when I stepped out the door.  So, I headed to the one at Lane and High, just a little over a mile south.  I had a dim recollection that Ohio State would be playing the Miami Hurricanes tomorrow, but Saturday is so jam-packed with activity for me that even if I was a football fan, I wouldn’t have time to watch the game or go down to the ‘Shoe to watch it.

So, walking down High St., it was impossible to go a city block without passing porches loaded (and overloaded) with people, all of them drinking and cheering, with endless renditions of “Hang On, Sloopy!” and “O-H!”  “I-O!”  The game doesn’t even start until 3:40 p.m., and yet everyone is out on their lawns, porches, and the streets, and the drunken enthusiasm has begun.

The open containers of alcohol have been blatant tonight.  On my way home from CVS, I counted no less than a dozen people leaving private residences or their cars carrying open bottles and cans of beer.  The irony is that I worried about getting a police officer’s attention when I left CVS with an open bottle of Diet Pepsi!

Errands will take me far from the campus area for most of the day.  I am thankful for this, since I wonder if the enthusiasm of a crowd which is stoked already, when kickoff is still 14 hours away, can be dialed down once the game is over.  The outcome of the game really has no bearing on what a crowd–especially one fueled by alcohol and fan adrenaline–will do.  At OSU, people will riot as a way of celebrating victory, as happened in 2002 when the Buckeyes defeated Michigan (see below picture).  In 2002, one of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show monologues said that the first duty of the then-new Department of Homeland Security was “to protect Americans against Ohio State football fans.”  (Seeing Homeland Security’s stellar success at capturing and killing Osama bin Laden, as a Columbus resident I am thankful Leno was only kidding.  Bin Laden would have to text-message his GPS coordinates to Homeland Security before they’d even be remotely capable of capturing him.)

Aftermath of the OSU-Michigan game of 2002,
downloaded from

People are just as likely to take to the streets out of frustration when Ohio State loses a game.  This is impossible to predict, and I’m not predicting that the partying I saw tonight will lead to a disaster tomorrow evening.  In fact, the overall atmosphere (I shudder away from the word vibe–it’s a cliché I should avoid like the plague (get it?)) of the street seemed to be festive and fun, more like the Undie Run Scott and I happened into last spring.

That hasn’t always been true.  When I first lived in Columbus, in 1985-1986, there were many nights when I would be prowling the bars on High St. (many of which have long ago been razed) and would have a feeling that the street just seemed ugly.  There was a hostility and bad feeling that seemed to be in the air, almost like static electricity, and as much a part of the air as the carbon dioxide.  I didn’t feel that it was directed at me personally, but it was on those nights that I would still get drunk, and prowl in vain for a one-night sexual encounter, yet I would be doing it with my guard up, or as on alert as you can be when you’re getting hammered.  Those would be the nights I’d take a cab home instead of walk, or would go straight home after the bars closed, instead of trying to find an after-hours party.  My wariness paid off.  I didn’t pick up The Dispatch the next morning and find out that I had just escaped a full-scale riot, but at no time was I beaten, mugged, or pickpocketed.  I often think that maybe I was such a careless–if not outright sloppy–dresser that many a would-be thief thought I was too broke to be worth rolling.
In my entire drinking career, I was never cited for open container, because usually I was pretty conscientious about not carrying open containers of alcohol in public.  The closest I came was my last quarter or two at Ohio University, when the school began to crack down about where alcohol could and could not be consumed.  In the dorms, you were permitted to drink and serve alcohol in your room, but it was forbidden in any of the public areas.
An R.A. almost cited me for this once.  I was propped on my bed late one fall weekend afternoon, reading and drinking a beer, when I thought I heard someone knocking on my door.  (I lived on New South Green, in a single room.)  I had called out “Come in!” but no one turned my doorknob.  A little frustrated, I got up, opened my door, and went out into the hall.  It wasn’t until I saw my R.A. staring me down that I realized I had carried the beer can out with me.  She let me by with a warning, but I realized I should have taken the nanosecond necessary to set the beer down on my desk before I stepped from the sanctuary of my room.
Many people groaned about this new policy, but we all knew the alternative was a dry campus.  (The president of O.U. would have been lynched if that had ever become law, I’m sure.)  Even if I had been a teetotaler at the time, I would have thought this ridiculous.  It made no sense that the powers that be were proposing that it was okay for you to go up to Court St. and get blasted, and then stumble back down to your dorm and vomit in the hall or (as happened in my residence hall more than once) in the shower, but sharing a 12-pack with your legal-to-drink friends while watching videos in your room would be verboten.

I’m probably worrying for nothing.  I doubt many of the people I saw tonight will be sober by game time, and if they are, they will be hungover and in no condition to continue.  As for me, I have something to do that will consume most of my morning.  At noon, Susie and her friends from Girlz Rhythm and Rock Camp are performing at the Hot Times Community Arts and Music Festival in Olde Towne East.  She and the others will be on the grounds of the Columbus Health Department (formerly the Ohio School for the Blind), and I’ll be on hand for the performance.  I give you fair warning I’ll be posting pictures of this in the blog later this weekend.
Where you’ll find Susie and friends come high noon,
240 Parsons Ave. (corner Parsons and Main.)
Unfortunately, I will be missing the “Burn No Sacred Books” Day service at church, a service that will both honor the memory of the people who died on 9/11 in 2001 in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and counteract the lunacy of Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida and his plans to mark the anniversary of this tragedy by burning copies of the Koran.
The third event I am sorry I will miss is God’s Family Reunion, in the parking lot and property of Faith Believers’ Ministry in Mineral, home of the Feed My Sheep pantry that I visit with Jacques on those rare Mondays when I am not working.  I have known about this since spring, and was planning to take Susie to it, but her services are needed at Hot Times.

Can Safely Say the Foot is Healed

And I say that without a return visit to the podiatrist.  I spent much of today on the move, on foot.  I was in no pain when I was finished, and sighed a little when each journey ended.  (I let out a mental “Awww!” when I came to my destinations, much like a kindergarten class when playtime ends.)  I was not in pain at the end of any of these walks, nor am I now.

I took three major walks today, and I jotted down the times in my breast-pocket notebook once I ended them.  (I used the stopwatch on my cell phone.)  Taking the first step toward the divorce, I took the bus down to a law office in German Village this morning, and decided to walk back, since I left my return time open-ended on the affidavit I gave my supervisor.  The walk was 49:46.01 minutes long, and the distance was 2½ miles, according to Google Maps.  (I didn’t use the exact course it plotted, but its distance figures are good enough.)  The office was just south of Schiller Park, and I stuck to the streets the whole time and didn’t try to shortcut through the park itself.

Susie will be returning to her Monday home school history class next week, and several books from its reading list arrived at the Whetstone library during the day today.  (So did the DVD of The Accused I reserved last week; I have never seen that movie.  That’s odd, since I was living in Boston at the time the gang rape in New Bedford occurred, the “Big Dan’s” case on which the story is based.)  Susie was at the library already, and I took a different route than usual.  I rode the Indianola bus (as usual) north, but got off the bus at the corner of Indianola and Fallis (once again, cool the mirth: It rhymes with “Wallace”) and walked west until High St. and then north.  This was 19:04.76 minutes, covering 1.1 miles.  Susie and I walked home, which took 44:47.87 minutes to cover two miles.  The total was 5.6 miles.  I keep telling myself I should get a pedometer and track a day’s walking in earnest.  (I do have one, which came in a Happy Meal several years ago, but I never calibrated it, and I’m doubtful as to its accuracy.)  I was also carrying a knapsack full of the books for Susie’s class, so the walk was much more aerobic than usual.

In the ’70s, Mad published a Dave Berg “Lighter Side of…” cartoon that featured a young man boasting about the 100-mile hike he and his friends will begin the following day.  He tells his girlfriend they plan to cover 25 miles per day.  While going over everything he packed, he realizes he forgot to buy salt tablets, and he’d better hurry to the drugstore and get some.  The drugstore is just around the corner, and in the last panel we see him hopping in the car and driving there.  That’s one of the many reasons I’m glad that I don’t even have that option.

Today was “Would you correct my report?” day at work.  My co-pilot is in training, so I fielded her tasks, as well as my own.  I offset the boredom by listening to Oprah: A Biography, by Kitty Kelley, on CD.  I borrowed it more out of morbid curiosity than anything else, and I find myself thankful that Kitty Kelley will probably be dead by the time I reach any fame or notoriety.  (After reading The Lives of John Lennon and Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!!, I felt the same way about Albert Goldman.)

I began the audio book thing in the summer of 1986, when I had a less-than-thrilling temp job with the State’s Division of Elevators, typing elevator (and earlier, boiler) records onto a database as they were converting to computerized records.  I seem to remember the first extant book I listened to (borrowed from the library) was Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke.  My dad referred to it as my “offsetting therapeutic support.”  I used to love the narrator’s instructions preceding the actual start of the book.  My friends and I always got a laugh out of this:

Should a cassette fail to play properly, hold it flat in the palm of your hand and slap it smartly against a hard, flat surface.  If this does not work, and you cannot otherwise free the reels, call us at the number that appears on the enclosed copyright information card.  Give us the name of the book, and number of the cassette.  We will immediately send you a replacement at no charge.  Discard the broken cassette.

I normally loathe waiting rooms, but the one I visited today redeemed itself.  There was the usual scatter of dog-eared two-year-old magazines, and some toys here and there for children dragged along by their parents, but there was a waist-high bookcase with a sign HELP YOURSELF TO A BOOK! against one wall.  I came away with a Signet paperback of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

Making the Transition From Office to Office/Bedroom Permanent

I moved permanently into my study a few weeks before Steph and I decided that we would end our marriage.  However, I’ve decided to take advantage of the long weekend to give the office a long overdue cleaning, which made me more Indiana Jones than Molly Maid.  Before Steph and I sent the Google Document I cut and pasted into an earlier entry, Susie helped me move a twin mattress into the study.  This is a small room, so when I’m not sleeping, I upend it against one wall, Murphy-bed style.

Pictures will follow.  The project is not yet completed.  I marvel at my ability to generate clutter.  I am an incorrigible Oscar Madison, which is one reason why I’m sure that I’d be a bad roommate, as well as a bad spouse.  The room is now a bachelor pad of sorts, and the phrase has two connotations.  You either conjure the image of a total pigpen, barely fit for habitation, and the other is a lair for seduction (à la Glenn Quagmire on Family Guy).  I’d like to strike a happy balance between the two.

I have never been much for elegantly decorated living quarters.  The only reason I gravitate toward larger dwellings is because of my books.  I know that there are such things as Kindles and iPads, but they’ll never take the place of the feeling of being surrounded by literally thousands of volumes.

Because of financial necessity, in my late teens and 20s, I often lived in single rooms, such as dormitories, rooming houses, or the YMCA.  I was always willing to settle for less than optimal conditions in exchange for the chance to live alone.  While I was moving crates of books, I found a copy of Straight Talk from Prison, the autobiography of Lou (“The Convict Writer”) Torok, written while he was at the Chillicothe Correctional Institute in the 1970s.  In one of the early pages, there is a picture of Torok in his cell.  The cell looked almost like the room I rented in the Elmwood Place neighborhood of Cincinnati:

I corresponded with Torok while he was confined
at the Luther Lockett Correctional Facility in
Kentucky (where he died in 2000).  Ironic, when you
consider that one of the captions in the book said: 
“Lou at work in his cell.  Looming in the foreground,
his typewriter stands as a symbol of rehabilitation for
‘The Convict Writer.'”  Guess not!

While switching this room over to full-time living quarters, I took another step away from tokens of marriage.  On the wall to the left of my desk, I hang a large United States map that came from National Geographic.  Next to that was a framed needlepoint that Steph gave me on St. Valentine’s Day 1997, just after we learned she was pregnant with Susie.  It says: “Paul, You are my forever Valentine.”  I’ve put that in a drawer, and replaced it with a Beatles poster (the Abbey Road cover) which came from the Really, Really Free Market last Sunday.
I went to the Main Library downtown yesterday, and realized, after I checked online, that I needed to pick up something at Whetstone as well as downtown.  I thought about hoofing it the whole way (a little over six miles), but I didn’t because the temperature was in the 50s, and I wore a short-sleeved shirt.  So, for want of a hoodie…
And I wish I had walked it, autumn temperatures or no.  I rode most of the way up High St. on the bus with a guy who worked with me at Medco, and had a reputation as the plant’s resident malcontent.  He no longer has the job–mostly because of his being himself a little too often–but he still has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Leveque Tower about the place.  He holds me in awe because I was able to go “over the wall” and escape to a better job.
I needed a big walk today, and even though it’s midnight right now, I’m thinking about walking to and from Whetstone Library as soon as I publish this entry.  (That’s about 4½ miles round trip.)  I found some CDs that aren’t overdue yet, but I’d better return them before they’re buried again.

I needed a big walk because I had a big breakfast.  Most of the congregation of First Unitarian Universalist Church is at the Labor Day retreat in the Hocking Hills.  This is also the last three-day weekend that will feature really nice weather, so when I considered those two factors, I knew church would be a ghost town this morning.  So, Susie and I went to breakfast at the Clintonville Resource Center, where I generously partook of sausage casserole, scrambled eggs, potatoes, apple juice, and a pastry.  Not only did Susie eat less than I did, she burned most of it off working in their garden planting carrots and radishes.  I walked back with her and then took a siesta for several hours in the afternoon.  By comparison, I had a small and late dinner of two tuna sandwiches and milk.

According to the icon from The Weather Channel on my monitor, it’s 57 degrees outside.  So I’ll dress sensibly for the walk–either a hoodie or a windbreaker.  Monday also marks the end of the season at Olympic Swim and Racquet Club, and Susie wants to be there, even if she’s digging slush out of her ears after the final dive.  (Last year, when they announced the pool was closing for the season, a lot of the kids joined hands and dove en masse into the pool from the sides, which is a no-no per the pool’s rules.)

Susie and I were last there Thursday evening, after Steve came over to help Susie with her geometry homework.  (He ended up as baffled as she was, although he did better than I did.)  I had brought my Memorex MB1055 cassette recorder along, because I was in the midst of taping a letter to a friend.  (The friend doesn’t have a microcassette recorder, so I didn’t bring Diane.)  Yes, recording a letter from poolside smacks of John Cheever, but I wanted it to be in the mail before the long weekend.  I didn’t get very far, because the lifeguards decided to blare the OSU-Marshall football game over the loudspeakers.  They tuned the radio to 97.1 FM The Fan and put the microphone up against it.  I couldn’t concentrate with that blasting in my ear, and I’m sure my friend wouldn’t be able to pay attention to me with that in the background.

And so to walk…