A Glimpse at My Daughter Tonight

The title of this post sounds a bit sentimental, I know.  And people who know me (either in person or through reading what I write in here) may be wondering, “What’s he talking about?  He and his daughter live under the same roof.”  I’m writing about the downside of moonlighting.  I saw Susie tonight for less than five minutes this evening, and it was the first time I had seen her since she went up to bed Sunday night.

Susie catches her school bus to Dominion before my alarm goes off in the morning, so this week the most I’ve been able to accomplish is hearing her moving around in her bedroom and in the bedroom, getting dressed and ready to leave for school.  She’s in bed for the night by the time I arrive home from the bookstore.

Her cough is the only reason I was able to see her tonight.  While I was downstairs having some soup Steph had saved for me in the Crock-Pot, I could hear a very productive cough issuing from the direction of her bedroom.  Susie sounded absolutely miserable, so after I finished my meal, I went back out.  This time I went to Kroger, where I bought some Big K diet cola (to take to work tomorrow) for myself, and a bottle of Kroger Nite Time Cough for Susie.  I was away for about a half hour, and when I came home, I went up to Susie’s bedroom.  She had been asleep, but woke up a little groggily when I told her I had cough medicine for her.  She sat up, and I don’t think she was ever 100% awake, but I poured her a dose of the cough syrup (thankfully, the bottle came with one of those little plastic cups), and she was with it enough that all of it went down her throat, and none of it on the blankets or her pajamas.  I think she was dead to the world before I turned out her bedroom light.

The hours at the bookstore are the reason I’ve neglected the blog this week.  In my defense, I can boast that I’ve written in the holographic diary every day this year thus far (there are less than 20 pages to fill in the current volume), but I usually write during my breaks and lunches at work.  There is no Wi-Fi access at work, and Blogger is blocked, so I can’t post entries during the workday.  So, readership, it’s not that I don’t love you.

While helping customers at the Discovery Exchange, sometimes I feel like a magician giving away secrets.  (Which is a no-no in the illusionists’ trade; Harry Houdini stipulated that all his notebooks and journals be destroyed after his death.)  However, I tipped my hand, by necessity, several times when helping people find their textbooks.  The textbooks are arranged alphabetically by subject and course number (e.g., Biology 101) on shelves from A through N.  N (nursing) through V (veterinary studies) are arrayed along the perimeter of the back wall.  Small cards with the course names and numbers appear on the shelves, along with the titles of the books required and/or recommended.

Whenever someone is uncertain as to which book is necessary for his/her class, I have made it a point to ostentatiously check the ISBN on the back, by the UPC code.  On the shelf cards, we’ve printed the ISBNs alongside the title of the appropriate books, so I have let customers know that if they’re unsure, they should make sure these numbers match.  (This is not exactly classified information, but more than one person seem impressed by this feat.)  I’ve even used the phrase “When in doubt…” before showing this to them.  (When I was in seventh and eighth grades at St. Mary’s Middle School, my English teacher, the late Sr. Elizabeth Donovan, O.P., was fond of using sentences beginning with “When in doubt…” when informing us about rules of grammar or composition.  In the yearbook, we predicted she would make a fortune from her bestselling book, When in Doubt…)

Example of an ISBN on a textbook bar code.
This is from the University of Saskatchewan’s 
Website, so this diagram is not necessarily
universal for all textbook stores’ price tags.

Many people are crestfallen when used copies of textbooks are not available.  Like most textbook stores, we don’t separately shelve new and used books, so they’re disappointed when I tell them that if they don’t see the yellow or orange USED stickers on the spines, there are none to be had.  (I’ve also seen a disproportionate number of books that are fresh off the press and in use for the first time.  The wound to the pocketbook is often mortal.)  In desperation, many people pointed to the spines of the books and asked, “Does this mean the book is used?”  It breaks my heart to have to explain that no, that’s an anti-theft device.
The price of calculators is appalling as well.  Many of the math class, even the 100-level introduction to algebra classes, require expensive calculators.  I noticed several of them require the TI-84, which is an expensive graphing calculator made by Texas Instruments.  The customer has to buy the calculator at the cash register, since we don’t stock them on the shelves.  (Calculators used to be on the shelves, but they began evaporating by the dozens.  Something that expensive and that portable led many into what Catholics call “an occasion of sin.”)  It reminded me of wanting to have something in common with the math geeks in high school, and saving stray pennies and nickels to buy a TI-30 at True Value Hardware.
The coveted TI-30

I don’t remember if I ever bought it.  Then, as now, my math skills were quite limited.  I still count on my fingers when I figure tips, and I never passed Algebra I in high school.  The extent of my ability with calculators was knowing that 58008.618 spelled BIg BOOBS if you turned the calculator upside down, or that if you punched in 7734 2 06, it spelled gO 2 hELL.
How do we bookstore clerks keep ourselves entertained when there are few customers?  Usually, there are two or three carts of buy-backs sitting by the manager’s desk, and so I will push one of the carts (they’re identical to library carts, or the carts I use at the Industrial Commission) up and down the aisles, and try to figure out where these books belong.  Often, two or three of us are walking around, books in hand, looking at the shelves.  (Some titles are easier to place than others.)  It becomes a group effort, especially with the more difficult books.  I’m surprised no one has considered making some kind of game or contest of this project.
I will be working at the bookstore through next week.  I thought that next Sunday would be my final day, but Stacey, the supervisor who interviewed me and hired me, asked me yesterday if I’d be willing to come in Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday next week.  Realizing that would mean a fatter paycheck, I readily agreed.  (Discovery Exchange is open one Sunday a quarter, and I’m working it.  I’m sorry to miss church–although I’m a Unitarian Universalist, I have strong Roman Catholic tendencies when it comes to church attendance.)
I posted two or three Gerry Rafferty videos from YouTube to my Facebook account yesterday, after learning that he had died.  (I was a big fan of “Baker Street” and “Right Down the Line” when in high school, and City to City was an album I bought soon after it was released.)  I was too exhausted, however, to post a blog entry.
And I may have made a mistake here tonight.  I opened a diet cola to take my Lithium, but had a second one so I’d have enough fuel to finish this entry.  My alarm is set for 6:45 a.m., and another 13-hour workday begins at 8 a.m.  So, I may have to take a melatonin to counteract the caffeine if I’m going to get anything resembling sleep.
Therefore, we now conclude our blogcast day.
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Our Revels Now Are Ended

(I can’t take credit for that line in the title, by the way.  It’s Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act IV, Scene i.)

They say it takes two weeks to develop a habit, but two consecutive three-day workweeks is a habit I picked up quite easily and adapted to almost immediately.  Unfortunately, it won’t be a habit.  In less than 12 hours, I’ll be back in civil service mode, with such pressing concerns as typing lump sum advancements and ex parte orders, transcribing doctors’ reports, and so on.  Then, once 5 p.m. rolls around, I’m trudging the near-mile to Discovery Exchange, and facing the first-day-of-class onslaught.  Customers have arrived consistently in the few days that I have worked at Columbus State’s bookstore, but there were periods of time when I did nothing but walk around the shelves and straighten the spines of projecting books, put silver security strips someplace inconspicuous on the book covers, and re-shelve stray buybacks.  My work day will end 9 p.m.

Someone asked me why, just for this week, didn’t I end my Industrial Commission day at 4 p.m., so I’d have some “breathing room” between one job and the other.  He pretty much answered his own question when he phrased it that way.  I won’t say it’s fun to go straight from one job to the other, but it’s better because I’m still in work mode, and haven’t had time to lose the momentum and mental energy that’s geared toward work.  (The same issue arose in the summer of 2001, when I was working full time as a header entry clerk at Medco Health, and three or four evenings a week I worked in the stock room and loading dock at Sears near Westland Mall.  I insisted on going straight from one job to the other.)  A Marietta friend of mine used to be an operator for AT&T, and he often worked split shifts.  He’d work four hours, was off for four hours, and then back for another four.  That would drive me up a brick wall backwards if I ever tried a schedule like that.

Susie and I were out until 2 a.m. this morning, going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35.  The movie is crazy enough, as we all know, but in Columbus the madness increases a thousandfold, thanks to the antics of The Fishnet Mafia, who host the show the first Saturday of every month.  Susie prevailed upon me to buy the movie kit for $1 (complete with toilet paper, a piece of toast, newspaper, a glow stick, and a noisemaker).  I was glad that The Fishnet Mafia posted prompts on the screen, as to what to throw and when, etc., because I hadn’t been to the movie since 1980.  (For years, I had always wanted to rent it from Blockbuster and watch it at home, throw my own toilet paper, wear the newspaper on my head in the privacy of my own living room, etc., but never did.)  Susie eagerly took in all the activity around her, but she wants to see the actual movie at home, so she can see what actually happens in it.  (I did see it on cable once, when I was up here visiting my mother, watching it on QUBE.)  She enjoyed it all, except she was seriously creeped when she realized that Riff Raff and Magenta were both a couple and siblings.

Sleep-deprived though we were, we both made it to church by 10:30 a.m.  Susie went to her class, and I went to the service.  The service had been going for about 10 minutes when my cell phone vibrated.  (They always ask you to turn off and/or silence electronic devices when the service begins.  As far as I know, that does not include pacemakers.)  I was receiving a text message, Look behind u.  Sure enough, it was Pat.  I went back and sat with him.  He was in the service by himself–his kids were in class, his wife was at a birth (or resting after having been at one).

My stamina collapsed once I came home.  Steph had taken her laptop and gone to a coffee house on High St., so the house was quiet.  Susie immediately went on Facebook and her blog.  I made a cursory check of my Facebook page and my email, and then around 2 p.m. went upstairs and collapsed in the bedroom.  I was asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.  I took off my glasses, cell phone, and shoes–that was it.  I only meant to sleep for an hour or so, but it was dark by the time I finally woke up.  So I don’t completely skew my body clock, I’m afraid I may have to resort to melatonin to sleep tonight.  I do this reluctantly, because I always feel hungover once I do awake.

Melatonin – the centerfold

Writing has proved to be a task so far this year (when has it not lately?), but to get myself in the mode (or mood–either word will work), I started listening to the B-52’s’ “Planet Claire” when I began typing this entry.  That’s a good typing song, as I discovered on fall afternoons in Athens when I earned a little extra beer money typesetting The Athens News.  Other than the radio, the music selections were quite limited.  The office had about three eight-track tapes, and one of them was The B-52’s.  I wished there was a way to fast forward an eight-track, because I had heard “Rock Lobster” so many times on Boston radio that I wanted to scream, but “Planet Claire” was an excellent song for typing.  I know that junior-high typing classes often typed to music, and that would be a great choice.  (Currently, Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” is playing in my ear buds, and that is another song I’d add to the list.)  Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter” would be up there as well, but I’m not sure it’d occupy the top slot.

Happy MMXI!

Besides being the first day of 2011, this is also the first Saturday of the month.  To mark the occasion, I’m taking Susie tonight for her first showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35.  (It’ll be the first for me in a long time.  The last time I saw it was in 1980 at a theater in Albuquerque.  I was in the Land of Enchantment for General Assembly, my first time west of Indianapolis.)  It’s kind of my way of atoning for subjecting her to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians last Saturday at the Grandview Theater (even if she did get to meet Fritz the Nite Owl).

I rang in the new year at the Pirate House, site of the Mustache Party last month.  The concept was “Party Behind the Iron Curtain,” but the best I could do was bring (and flash) my International Publishers copy of The Communist Manifesto.  I had a beard trim on Thursday, which pretty much ruined my chances to try to pass as Fidel Castro or Karl Marx.

I never cease to marvel at how childhood toys continue to hold fascination for people even as they cross to adulthood.  A woman came to the party with a crossbow that shot marshmallows, a toy that cost her $2 at a thrift store.  Out on the rear deck, this became a very popular toy, with the added allure of a small gnome statue sitting at the base of a tree.  Everyone wanted a turn with this thing, and the weather was hospitable for such an activity.  The temperature in Columbus was in the upper 50s-low 60s for most of the day, even after the sun set, and I almost skipped wearing a hoodie when I left for the party.

This is where my prior experience as a postal
worker came in handy.

I even took a few pot shots at the gnome, and my unfamiliarity with weapons became glaringly obvious.  I don’t think I even came close to target at any of my three attempts.  (I am definitely not in the league of Hunter S. Thompson, who had an elaborate setup of targets and gongs for his shooting pleasure at Owl Farm in Colorado.  I thank God I don’t resemble William Burroughs, who killed his wife while bragging about his skills as a marksman and demonstrated by trying to shoot a glass off his wife’s head with a pistol.  He wasn’t as good a shot as he boasted.)  When everyone exhausted the bag of marshmallows, we went out to the base of the tree and recycled the marshmallows.  There will be some squirrels in that yard who will be on horrendous sugar highs for the next 1-2 days.

There were three hula hoops sitting on the back deck, and they received a lot of attention and mileage.  They require marginally more skill than the crossbow, so not as many people used them.  One person managed one, two, or three hoops at a time, twirling them around her waist and/or wrists, or using the hoop like a jump rope.

Administering the coup de grace to the gnome.
Notice all the “spent ammunition” at the base
of the tree.

I was probably the oldest person at the party.  I’m not 100% positive, but I am dead certain who the youngest person was.  My friend Ramona, aged 21, proudly brought her daughter Kiley, who will be six months old next week, to the party.  It’s a cliché to wring your hands about “where have the years gone?”, but I can remember when Ramona, a mere eight or nine years old, would fawn very lovingly over infant Susie.  (Susie, I think, even wore some of Ramona’s old baby clothes.)
We all watched the ball drop on Times Square at midnight, loudly starting the countdown “50!  49!  48!  47!” The pictures came from CNN’s live feed, although earlier we were looking (why, I don’t know) at a live feed of the front of the White House.  The only exciting thing that happened with that was when the exterior lights all shut off at once.  (It didn’t look like anyone was home, because there were no lights in the windows.  I think President Obama and family are in Hawaii, so the family quarters were probably deserted.)
All eyes are on the live feed from Manhattan as
the ball begins its annual descent from the top
of One Times Square.
Leaving the party around 4 a.m., I walked the nine long blocks back to Weinland Park.  Police seemed to be everywhere, either making arrests or patrolling loud party areas.  I saw just as many taxis as I did squad cars. “Be careful, they’re arresting everybody!” one guy cautioned me as I was walking south.  I didn’t have anything to worry about, since I hadn’t drunk alcohol.  (I brought Diet Pepsi, but since there was at least one recovering alcoholic at the party, the “buffet” had plenty of Coke and store-brand cola.)
One New Year’s Eve I remember from my childhood was when I was five.  I wasn’t awake at midnight, but my parents held a small party around the dinner hour at our small house on Third St.  Dad opened a bottle of red bubbly, and I don’t know what he did, but once the cork was out of the bottle, all of the champagne sprayed out of the bottle.  None of the adults had a drop of it, since it all ended up on the kitchen ceiling.  I was doubled over laughing so hard (it didn’t take much to amuse me at that age) that I was choking and coughing.  My dad’s sister moved into the house the following summer, and she immediately had to get on a ladder and wipe the remaining champagne from the ceiling.
When I lived in Boston, I went back to Ohio for the Christmas holidays, and saw in 1983 at a party in Rocky River, a Cleveland suburb.  About four of us, friends from the Ohio-Meadville District UU youth groups, went to the party of a friend of one of theirs.  The parents were gone, so everyone picked the liquor cabinets bare, and those with forged IDs made pilgrimages to the carry-outs whenever the beer ran low.  All pretty standard fare, but the party made me realize the importance of carrying a notebook and pen at all times.  I overheard several memorable lines that somehow never made their way into my fiction, although I remember them as if I heard them yesterday, and not almost 30 years ago.
One came from a guy who sounded very happy.  The tone almost suggested that he was going to be seeing an old and dear friend for the first time in ages.  “Great!  Rudy’s here–I’m going to beat the shit out of him!”  I overheard the second in an upstairs hallway, while I was waiting for the bathroom.  A guy and a girl were trying for minimal privacy in another section of the hall.  “I’m really starting to like you,” the guy said, in a very confessional tone, “and it’s really bothering me.”  That’s not an opening line I highly recommend to any potential suitor.
The third exchange was, “Where’s Matt?”  (I forget whether this voice was male or female.)  “Who’s Matt?”  One guy said, “Oh, Matt’s my 14-year-old brother.  He’s a penis.”
The New Year’s Eve that I always loved to hear about took place two years before I was born.  (I’ve mentioned this in the LiveJournal blog, so caveat lector.)  My maternal grandmother, Lucie McKee, died near Asheville, N.C. on December 30, 1960.  (My grandfather was teaching at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa at the time.)  The family spent all of New Year’s Eve on the train bringing her body back to Ohio for burial in Caldwell at Olive Cemetery, and, according to my mother, two drunken sailors burst into the coach just after midnight, waving whiskey bottles over their heads and shouting, “Happy New Year!  Hey, everybody, they’ve got a stiff in the luggage car!”  I have never heard anyone else tell this story, and the only person who was there at the time who is still alive is my cousin Karen, who was a toddler when this happened.
As for so far this year, I didn’t get out of bed until after 1 p.m., and I only ventured out of the house to go to Family Dollar.  Today, the temperature has hovered in the low 40s, and it has been gray and drizzly all day.  A light rain was falling at 4 a.m. during my walk home from the party, so I was grateful to get out of my wet clothes once I made it home.