Gotta Post Today

For those of you who conscientiously follow my blog (kind of like Fritz the Nite Owl’s “14 viewers out there in the darkness,” you know May 31 is kind of a holy day of obligation for me.  On this day in 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote the final entry in the diary he began New Year’s Day 1660.  According to my computer clock, it is almost four hours into May 31.  Since it is impossible for me to sleep right now, I’m here at the keyboard blogging.

Pepys’ diary, describing the Great Fire of London in September 1666.

The temperature right now is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the coolest it’s been in the past 36 hours or so.  The current relative humidity is 84%, and the air conditioner is not working right now.  That’s one of the reasons I’m not sleeping right now.

Another is that I napped for much of the afternoon.  Susie and I share a Sprint 4G wireless card (much more cost-effective than a cable router), and in the afternoon, she came home from the playground vowing not to go out again the rest of the day, because of the heat.  So, while she was online, I went up to my bedroom and stretched out on the bed to read.  The next thing I knew, it was late afternoon, and Susie was knocking on the door to announce she had just made a pot of spaghetti.  (I was not going to ask her to, because of the heat.)

Possibly the fact that I drank about half of a two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi tonight may have something to do with my current wakefulness.  That is doubtful, and I don’t say that facetiously.  My caffeine consumption is so heavy that I’ve built up quite a bit of tolerance to its effects.

So, that is why I’m sitting here in the front room in my shorts, with the laptop screen lit before me, my two fingers tappety-tapping across the keyboard, and the Alan Parsons Project’s “You Don’t Believe” sounding from my speakers.  (I am keeping the volume low, since Susie has taken over the master bedroom, directly above this room.)

Today was a good day to make only occasional visits to Facebook and the ‘Net anyway.  Most (but not all) recycled the same Memorial Day pictures and treacle ad nauseam.  (John Fugelsang was correct when he posted, “The best way to honor veterans is to stop creating new ones.”)  Plus, many people are up in arms about Jim Tressel’s resignation as Ohio State’s head football coach.  I was told to “GO TO HELL!!” by one Marietta High School classmate because I wondered if Tressel needed to resign so he could write another book about integrity and faith in God to live one’s life.  (Even the most die-hard fan has to get a chuckle out of the title of Tressel’s book Life Promises for Success: Promises from God on Achieving Your Best.)

Later in the evening, I felt that I had to remind my Facebook friends that Monday was the day Jim Tressel resigned.  The calendar does not say December 7, 1941; it does not say November 22, 1963; it most certainly does not say September 11, 2001.

And how do I feel about Tressel’s resignation?  I remember a December 1986 editorial in The New Republic about the Iran-Contra scandal, when it looked like bad times were ahead for the Reagan Administration.  The author of “TRB in Washington” summed up my feelings about Reagan, and I echo them now regarding Jim Tressel:

Dear me.  Am I really the only one here who’s having a good time?  Dry those tears and repeat after me: Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

I managed just one walk tonight, and it was more out of necessity than a desire to exercise.  I walked to the Giant Eagle on Neil Avenue (about 1.7 miles) just before dark.  There is a Kroger less than 10 minutes away (on foot), but it is becoming a ghost town.  The new store, on the same site, is close to completion, and so, as they run out of items, nobody is restocking the shelves.  It’s been known as Kro-ghetto for quite some time in the neighborhood, and a friend of mine has been mugged at least twice in the parking lot.  So, apparently the solution is to let everything run out, and then close the store at the end of this week, and reopen it in the new building come July.  The new building is starting to look like something finally, and the current building will be razed so they’ll have more parking space.

I just question the wisdom of building a high-end store (with a butcher shop, fresh fish area, delicatessen, wine section, etc.) in this neighborhood.  Who patronizes this Kroger currently?  Mostly students, people on food stamps, pensioners, and immigrants who come to this Kroger because it’s within walking distance of campus, Weinland Park, and Harrison West.  Many of these folks aren’t all that rich.  (I use my Kroger Plus card with each visit, but that’s often a waste, because I accumulate beaucoup fuel perks, but, being a non-driver, I have no occasion to redeem them.)

It’s now about an hour from sunrise.  I walk Susie to the bus stop at 6:30 (a guarantee that the bully I mentioned in a previous entry leaves her alone), which means I set my alarm for 6.  I’m not really tired, although I’m sure I expended some energy here at the keyboard.  Wondering if lying down, even for a little while, is a waste.
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The Night We Called It a Day

I’ve done enough organizing and tidying up around my worktable that I can get to my turntable without obstruction for the first time in weeks.  I celebrated this event by putting on a Dave Brubeck Quartet LP from the mid-1960s, Angel Eyes.  One of the songs on this album is “The Night We Called It a Day.”  It’s not my favorite song on this particular album (that would have to be “Diamonds for Your Furs”), but it is truly appropriate to my current life situation.

(Even now, by the way, I’m still on a vinyl Brubeck jag.  Currently spinning is Anything Goes!  The Dave Brubeck Quartet Plays Cole Porter, and I’m listening to “Love for Sale” as I type.)

Steph is now in Florida, on the eve of beginning a new job, and already beginning a new life.  Susie and I saw her off at the Greyhound station downtown early Friday morning, and she left at 7:30 a.m. for a 26-hour bus ride to Titusville, via Cincinnati, Nashville, Atlanta, and Orlando.  Since Susie had to be at school to audition for a speech, we didn’t stay with Steph until she boarded, but left her as the line was moving toward the gate and onto the bus.  This was the point where the driver was announcing “Tickets out of the envelopes, please!”  (Steph had ordered her tickets online beforehand, and they had arrived in the mail earlier in the month.)  Steph teared up hugging Susie goodbye, and I gave Steph a very cursory farewell hug, and went out with Susie to East Main Street so she could catch her bus to school and I could head home.

(I had planned to just arrive late for work, in the interests of returning to normal as soon as possible after Steph’s departure for Florida.  However, earlier in the week Human Resources sent me an email saying that I had one cost-savings day left, and it had to be used very soon.  Not remembering it was the day Steph was leaving, I asked for May 27, more because it would make my Memorial Day weekend longer.)

Susie and I are bearing up quite well.  Despite this entry’s title, there was no night (or day) Steph and I decided to stop being together.  It’s been a gradual process, and even going through nearly 16 years of memories (my own memory supplemented, of course, by reams of diaries and shoe boxes full of breast-pocket notebooks), I can’t pinpoint one point where it started to go bad.  So in the end, there is little sadness on my part.  There is, instead, much relief.  I feel that the limbo has lifted, and the way is clear for me to look at the next phase of my life.  And last Friday is as much of a milestone in my own history as 1066, 1492, 1215, 1776, and 9/11 are in world history.

The record has now gone to “What is This Thing Called Love,” and the best answer I can give right now comes from the computer in WarGames (1983) describing thermonuclear war: “A strange game.  The only winning move is not to play.”  This is not universal, by the way.  It’s just the way I think I have to live in order to preserve my own sanity.

I was proud of Susie Friday night, when she performed in the Cabaret Night at Dominion Middle School.  The attendance was sparse, and many of the kids scheduled to appear were no-shows, but Susie and her friends were on hand to perform two brief skits from The Wizard of Oz.  Susie played the Wicked Witch of the West in one scene, and the Scarecrow in another.  (There may have been better attendance if it hadn’t been Memorial Day weekend and if the baseball team wasn’t away at a championship game.)  Several of the acts listed in the program didn’t happen, because cast members were absent, and the drama teacher, Emily Foster, had to fill in for some of the roles, but I was proud that Susie was front and center.  Despite the fact that she said goodbye to her mother 12 hours earlier, and that she may not see her mother again for weeks, or maybe months, she gave her all once she was onstage.  That makes the no-shows’ excuses rather lame, methinks.

Dominion Middle School, where Susie will be a student until the end of this week.

Saturday night, Susie and I walked the three miles to Grandview for the monthly Return of Nite Owl Theater. The movie last night was Dementia 13, the first commercially successful film of Francis Ford Coppola.  Susie thought she’d doze off during it, especially after the long walk, but she was riveted to her seat.  I even found myself warming up to the latest installment of Aidan 5 (a detective, circa 2070, tries to solve the mass murder of his clones), which had left me a little cold when I had seen it in March before Carnival of Souls.  I dismissed it then as a cheap Sin City wannabe, but now I want to go to the site and watch the episodes from the beginning.

First Unitarian Universalist Church went to one service per Sunday as of this morning, and Susie and I marked the event by sleeping late.  (Smaller UU churches shut down for the entire summer.  The stock answer when non-Unitarians ask about this is, “What other denomination could God trust out of His sight for an entire summer?”)  We went to the Really, Really Free Market in the afternoon, and the pickings were slim this month–there is no way to predict it.  I knew, however, that Susie would not go away empty-handed.  Next door to the Sporeprint Infoshop is the Third Hand Bicycle Cooperative, and last week a generous soul donated eight or 10 children’s bicycles.  Most of them were for kids of kindergarten age and a little older.  My friend Randall told me this last Monday, and he set aside a 15-speed Huffy Mont Clare for Susie–the only one that might have been big enough for her.  Between Monday night and Sunday afternoon, he filled the front tire and adjusted the handlebars and the saddle, and now Susie has a bike.  She has had limited success in learning to ride them in the past, so I’m worried that it may gather dust, but I’m hoping to encourage her to take it to Weinland Park this summer and give it a whirl.  (It’s in our dining room right now, because we don’t have a bike chain and lock.  Even with one, I’m not sure if keeping it outdoors is a good idea.  I can see someone in this neighborhood owning the tools to snap a thick U-lock in half like a twig, and Susie had a bike stolen when we lived in Franklinton and kept it out front.)

Susie and I went to an excellent Memorial Day cookout in Clintonville, at the home of our friends Steve and Kittie.  The undisputed star of the show was their granddaughter, who will turn a year old in July.  I picked up the little girl, and she did the exact thing Susie did when she was an infant: she made a grab for my glasses, which instantly skittered to the deck.  I had completely forgotten how fascinated babies are by glasses, and how they’ll make a grab for them when given the chance.  (Susie also loved tugging at my beard, or pulling things out of my breast pocket, when she was a baby and I was holding her.  It made me very briefly consider shaving off my beard until she was older–and this from a guy who considers it a deal-breaker if a romantic partner asked me to get rid of my beard!)

Since I was (am) so proud of Susie for stepping up to the plate and performing so well on such an emotional day, I am posting this video from Friday night’s Cabaret at Dominion.  (Susie is in the blue T-shirt, portraying the Wicked Witch of the West–riding a push broom!–and the Scarecrow.)

The Weekend–An Imminent Departure, New (Old) A/V Equipment, Riot Averted, and a Marvelous Spring Concert

What better time for a three-day weekend, especially when I’ll have two in a row?  Susie and I are going to be touring her new high school, The Graham School, at 11 a.m. Monday (this) morning, so I took the occasion to take the day off from work, and Susie will be taking the day off from school.  After her recent bullying incident, and her middle school’s unwillingness and/or ineffectiveness in dealing with it, I decided that The Graham School, with its much lower teacher-student ratio, and the fact that everyone in its student body seems to be an oddball in one way or another, would be a much better place for her than Whetstone High School.

Steph leaves for Florida, this time for good, on Friday morning.  She took another step toward making this happen on Saturday morning.  She already has her Greyhound ticket in hand, and on Saturday she shipped several boxes of clothing to Florida via UPS.  When I came home from a long overdue haircut and beard trim Friday, she was sitting in the living room with a Sharpie in her hand, addressing these boxes.

The thought that stayed in my mind was a poem by Mary Oliver.  I’ve heard it many times, but hadn’t given it much consideration until recently.  One night I jotted it in my pocket notebook, and I glance at it almost daily lately, much the way a 12-Stepper contemplates the Serenity Prayer.

The passage is from “In Blackwater Woods” and reads:

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


I spent Saturday morning in Westerville with Steve and Kittie at the monthly Builders of the Adytum meeting at the Blendon Masonic Lodge.  After lunch, there was a longer meeting, but I walked to Cleveland Ave., so I could catch a 1 bus back into Columbus.  I happened by a yard sale, and the only item that interested me was a Symphonic combination VCR/DVD player/recorder, on sale for $5.  The Magnavox model that became mine when my mother died is about shot, so I was happy to buy this.  (Symphonic was the model of the first VCR I bought new.  I bought it at Golden Bear in 1988.  Golden Bear was Jack Nicklaus’ short-lived chain of electronic appliance stores.)

I bought the VCR/DVD by the Otterbein campus, and had to eat at Dairy Queen beforehand to break a $20 bill.  While eating there, I found the tray liner amusing.  They definitely need to change or update the tray liners.  It featured the Presidents of the United States, from George Washington to George W. Bush.  It was also printed before 2004, because there was no death date listed for Ronald Reagan.  (It made me think of a calendar hanging on the wall of a carryout in Marietta when I was in grade school.  The calendar featured pictures of all the Presidents–Washington to Nixon at the time.  Someone had taken a ballpoint pen and doodled a glowing halo above JFK’s head, and drawn a forelock and square mustache on Nixon.)

After the (former) owner and I walked to his apartment to get the remote control, I had a good workout, hiking from N. West St. to W. County Line Rd. to Cleveland Ave., so I could catch the 1 bus back to Columbus.  I was totally exhausted when I made it home.

During the night, I was curious about whether the planned block party on Chittenden Ave., ChittShow, would careen out of control.  The party was in the 100 block of Chittenden, about a 15-minute walk from my place. It was also a week after a block party on E. Woodruff Ave. that resulted in three arrests, many airborne beer bottles and cans, and police using tear gas and pepper spray.  I wanted to record images for posterity on Saturday night.

And when I got to Chittenden, yes there were partiers clogging the sidewalks and standing shoulder-to-shoulder on every porch and every lawn.  There were also many Columbus police officers, many on foot, some on horseback, making sure the street stayed clear.  I overheard many people complaining about why all the police presence, what made them think there’d be trouble?  (Search me.  Lots of alcohol, lots of people drinking it–many of them underage, all of them living in an area whose population density is comparable to Calcutta or Tokyo, of course they’ll all act like civilized human beings.)  People wandered from party to party, and many of them were sensible enough to travel in groups.  The yards were littered with plastic cups and beer cans before 11:30, but I didn’t see anyone throwing bottles.  (Of course, I went to O.U., where the parties make ChittShow look like a church picnic.)  When the clock struck 2, the crowds in the block began thinning out, although they did need some prodding from the police, but without the use of billy clubs or tear gas.

I’m glad there was no riot, but for the wrong reason.  Once I was in the thick of Chittenden Ave., I reached into my pants pocket for my cell phone, so I could use its camera if anything happened, and found I hadn’t brought the phone.  The bulge in my pocket was my microcassette recorder.  Despite all the beer available, and all the offers I declined, all I drank Saturday night was Sun Drop, which a woman in a parking lot was giving away free from a small cart.  (I had never had it before.  It’s a Dr. Pepper product, best described as a cross between 7-Up and Mountain Dew.)

Buckeye Real Estate, one of the major landlords on Chittenden Ave. decided to head off any trouble before it started.  They taped this notice on their tenants’ doors.  I took one with me to scan here into the blog.  It was the only one I could find that wasn’t totally wet or covered with footprints:

The combined choirs at church performed the Spring Concert, “Make Love, Not War” this evening.  Susie sang as part of Rising Voices.  The whole performance was fantastic, and I noticed a light rain was falling at the same time as the sun was starting to drop into the western sky.  I guess I would have seen a rainbow if I had gone outside, but I wanted to hear every single note of the concert.

To compensate for this entry, which I realize has strayed all over the map, I will share with you a video of the Rising Voices (Susie is visible on the risers, on the left) singing with the Spirit of Life choir (the 9:15 a.m. service choir) and the Chalice Choir (the 11 a.m. choir).  They’re singing “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from Hair.

Blogger… Testing, One, Two, Three…

I was relieved to read a Huffington Post story today which says that Blogger is once again up and running, after about 24 hours of downtime.  The timing was bad for me, because on and off last night, I tried to log in here and post something.  I alternated between frustration at not being able to post, and worry that what I’ve posted here previously had gone up in smoke.  I briefly flirted with the idea that this was no accident, some minimum-wage computer jockey hitting the wrong key.  A character in David Byrne’s True Stories said it best:

The Trilateral Commission and The Council on Foreign Relations.  Ever hear of them?  Well, neither did I until I noticed the Chain of Coincidence…  Do you run out of Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet paper at the same time?  You know it’s true!

I will be more convinced of conspiracy if Blogger crashes on May 31, the holy day of obligation for diarists, both Internet and pen-and-paper.  (On that day, in 1669, Samuel Pepys discontinued his famous journal, out of the mistaken fear he was going blind.)

I shudder at how the late Robert Shields would have reacted if he had used Blogger.  After all, he recorded every aspect of every moment of every day, spending hours per day at his IBM Wheelwriter.

This page from April 1994 represents one of the more fascinating days in the life of Robert Shields, former United Church of Christ minister, educator, poet, and compulsive diarist.

One of the things I wanted to write about was directly experiencing the less desirable side of this neighborhood.  Sunday afternoon, after church, I walked to the main library, a walk of about 2½ miles.  For some reason, the walk didn’t invigorate me or give me its usual second wind, so I took the bus home.  As I was walking up E. 7th Ave. toward the alley behind my house, I noticed about six or seven kids, both boys and girls, ranging in age from six to about 11, standing around talking, playing with a basketball, sitting on their bikes, etc.  Since the weather has warmed, this is not at all uncommon in this neighborhood, so I barely noticed it.

That changed when one of the littler boys, who I think was about seven, broke away from the pack and began following me up the alley.  I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but he kept drawing closer and closer to me as I walked.  (If we had been playing shadow tag, he would have tagged me several times over.)  Before I could ask what he was doing, he stepped up, balled his fist, and struck me on the thigh.  It didn’t hurt; and I would barely have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking at him.  Giggling, he turned around and ran like mad back to his friends.

My guess is that he was doing it on a dare.  He escaped too quickly, and I was in a bit of a hurry to get home because I needed to get to a bathroom, but I’ve played over possible reactions in my head endlessly since late Sunday afternoon.  I even posted a question about it on Yahoo! Answers.  The responses varied from “kick the kid up the shitter–he’ll respect you after that” to chasing after him.  Two possibilities tied for first with me.  I envisioned sitting him down and saying, “Now why did you do that?  Do you know me?  Have I ever hurt you or done anything bad to you?”  The other possibility was picking him up by the arms and legs and wordlessly dropping him in the nearest trash barrel and then going on my way.

Tuesday night, there was a fire–probably set–a block and a half away from our house.  I was finishing up dinner a little before 9:30.  (Steph and Susie ate earlier; I was at the Discovery Exchange until it closed at 8, and then came back to Weinland Park by bus.  Susie had choir rehearsal, but a fellow chorister’s dad drove her to and from practice.)   I was in the kitchen putting my dirty dishes in the sink when I began hearing one siren after another, in very rapid succession.  I looked out the window and saw that fire trucks were going by.  Not only were they going by, they were parking, all their lights flashing and revolving.  I stepped out onto the back porch and saw a thick black column of smoke coming from very nearby.

I put on my shoes and went out to see what was happening.  At first, there were thin clouds of smoke drifting through the alley, but the wind was blowing them away.  I wasn’t coughing or choking, but it was causing my eyes to water.

All I had to do was follow the sounds and the crowds, and the fire was in a vacant frame duplex at the corner of N. 5th St. and E. 7th Ave.  (Numbered streets in Columbus are the exact opposite of streets in Manhattan.  In Columbus, the streets are north-south and the avenues are east-west.)  Yet another fire on N. 5th St.  When I was first scouting out the neighborhood for rentals, I noticed there were several burned-out houses and properties in a two- or three-block length, all of them on 5th.  I went through the Ohio Web Library’s online newspaper index, and saw that the Columbus Fire Department suspected arson in almost every case.  This blog features pictures of several recent fires in the area, some of which I completely missed.

There are arsonists, and there are arsonists.  In the case of these properties, my prime suspects are always owners burning down their properties for the insurance once they started hemorrhaging money–which has not been unusual since the sub-prime mortgage crisis began in 2007.  (I wonder how one goes about hiring a professional arsonist.  My guess is that they don’t advertise on Craigslist.)  This type of arsonist is despicable, but I see him as more of an annoyance, until the houses around mine start going up in flames.

The type of arsonist that truly scares me is the bona fide pyromaniac.  This is the kind of person who gets a true psychological and/or sexual rush from setting or seeing fires.  If it’s flammable (inflammable–the two words mean the same thing), they’ll try to burn it.  Once the fire is going, they’ll sit back and watch it, like a teenager sneaking looks at online porn or hentai.  This is the type of arsonist who thinks with his glands.  He (statistically, they are almost all male) will set a fire, consequences be damned.  (The only literary portrayal of such a person that immediately comes to mind is the Trashcan Man in Stephen King’s The Stand.)

It is past 1 a.m. right now, and my next-door neighbors are going full blast.  To try and block out all the noise they’re making with the shouting back and forth (usually to people who are sitting/standing within millimeters of one another), I’ve put on my music.  Currently I’m playing “And He Shall Purify the Sons of Levi,” from Handel’s Messiah.  It reminds me of another hot night, during the summer of 1986.  My good friend, the late Adam Bradley, and I had been to a few bars and decided to enlighten and illuminate some of the people on the street.

We took our “mission” to some of the seedier parts of nocturnal Columbus.  As we drove past places like the New James Café (on S. High St., an all-night restaurant whose cheap but filling victuals I truly miss) or the now-departed (and unmissed) Earl’s Bar, we put his car tape deck up to maximum and would blast sacred music, all of it joyous.  We made one pass trailing Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and came back around with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” Vivaldi’s Gloria, and the old standby, “Hallelujah” from The Messiah–I wasn’t sure if they could Handel appreciate it.

The music on my laptop switched from “And He Shall Purify” to Parliament’s “Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” but I skipped to something else, feeling that hearing that will only make my neighbors rowdier.  The next song that popped up was The Iguanas’ “Boom Boom Boom,” which I once cynically described as Weinland Park’s national anthem. 

Somewhere There is a Desk Under Here

This is a mantra I constantly repeat to myself, both at work and at home.  Felix Unger, of Odd Couple fame, wanted to shoot a documentary about his roommate Oscar Madison and title it Mondo Filth.  Were someone to do this about my desk, Mondo Clutter would be the perfect title for it.

At work, this is less true than normal.  I transcribed like a man possessed Friday, and was able to finish shortly before lunch.  The doctor wasn’t one of my favorites, but he’s articulate enough that I usually have no trouble transcribing, once he finishes repeating himself and interrupting himself.  That left the second half of the day without any specific jobs or responsibilities, so I cleaned up my pod somewhat.  I was able to throw out a backlog of no-longer-relevant paperwork, file away some personal papers, and get the desk to the point where I was able to use a rag and a spray cleaner on the surface.

But that never lasts.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is something you usually hear in connection with long-distance romance, but that is a truism when it comes to my trying to locate things.  Unless it’s all on the surface of my desk, no matter how far buried it is, I’m likely to lose track of a book, document, or disk.

My ideal desk is a Tingle table.  I first saw one when I worked at the IRS’ Regional Processing Center in Covington, Kentucky in 1995, before electronic filing became more the rule than the exception.  (When you mailed your Federal income tax form to Cincinnati, Ohio 45999, this is where it would end up.)  A Tingle table (named for its inventor; I thought that it had a rather kinky-sex sound to it at first) had numerous compartments, slots, and drawers to separate incoming documents and enclosures when people mailed in their tax returns.  Failing that, I would love to own one of the 19th-century rolltop desks which featured dozens of small pigeonholes, much like the stations for letter-sorting by hand where I spent many a predawn hour.  (I saw a multi-pigeonholed desk for sale when I lived in Franklinton.  The $2000 asking price was all that prevented me from taking it home.)

This is a picture of a Tingle table that ran in The New York Times sometime in the late 1990s.  I remember seeing them in the Service Center in Covington, but I was grateful that I never had to sit at one.

I have some incentives to straighten out the desk where I am now sitting.  When Steph and Susie came home from running errands yesterday afternoon (including clothes-shopping and a haircut for Susie), Susie left something on my desk, along with the recent issues of The New Yorker and The Catholic Worker.  She found it Scotch-taped to our front door.  It was from our landlord, saying they’re doing a property inspection next Tuesday afternoon.  A messy desk isn’t grounds for eviction or reprimand, but it’s a good reason to try to make some headway into straightening this up.  (The letter said, “It is not necessary that you be on the premises at the time of entry.  The representative, after knocking, will use a passage key to gain entrance.”)

Some other incentives: My pedometer and my keys are missing.  I made it a point not to take my key ring to the Con in Cleveland last weekend (see last entry), because I was worried about losing my keys in Cleveland.  (This ring has my house keys, the keys to my desk and cupboards at work, and the ring knife I “borrowed” from the Cincinnati post office when I worked there in 1994.)  As part of a Live and Work Well campaign at work, Human Resources was handing out free pedometers at work, and I was quite conscientious about clipping it to my belt, and recording my daily number of steps in my diary every night, and now the pedometer is at large.

As I’ve made the first baby steps toward organizing this desk (more of a work table, really), I’m more grateful than ever that I don’t smoke.  I’ve never regretted for a nanosecond the fact that I’ve never smoked a cigarette (total disclosure here: I’ve never smoked tobacco), because I’m uncovering half-empty cans of cola and cups almost every time.  Had these been cigarettes, I would have burned this place down long ago.

I have the same “out of sight, out of mind” problem when it comes to facial recognition, and because of this, I have–totally without meaning to–offended people when I draw a blank on who they are.  Last Monday, when Susie and I took COTA to her school, we were walking from the stop on Indianola Ave. to her school (just under half a mile), when a father driving his daughter to school pulled over and offered us a ride.  I was grateful for this, because it was raining.  He called me by name, and wished me happy belated birthday (I turned 48 on the 29th), so I knew we are Facebook friends.  Susie didn’t know who he was, either, because she and his daughter aren’t close friends.  His name didn’t click with me until tonight, when there was a notice on Facebook that he had changed his profile picture.

This is an extension of the shock you feel when you’re a grade-schooler.  All of us can look back and laugh at how bewildered we are as children the first time we see our teacher at the grocery store, or walking down the street, or at a restaurant.  I will totally overlook someone if they are out of context.  If I’m used to seeing you at work or church, there is a chance I may not click on who you are initially if I see you in a completely different setting.

Sometimes that extends to uniforms and clothing.  There was a Muppet skit on Sesame Street a long time ago where a little boy is lost, and goes to a nearby police officer for help.  Because of the badge and the uniform, he doesn’t recognize that the officer is his uncle.  One of my English professors at Ohio U. was a Catholic priest, but I only saw him “in uniform” once.  He usually dressed like a stereotypical academic–tweed jacket with suede elbow patches, button-down shirts, necktie.  The one time he came in wearing his “blacks”–i.e., black shirt with clerical collar, black slacks–was when he had performed a wedding shortly before class, and hadn’t had time to run back to his apartment and change clothes.  When he came into the classroom, it took me a second to realize who it was, although I knew from day one that he was a priest.

So when everything is right out on the desk, it’s easier for me to remember its existence.  Whether my keys and my pedometer are under here is still a mystery.  (I am not exaggerating.  This desk currently resembles an archaeological dig.  I considered posting before-and-after pictures, but decided against it.  I’m too mortified by its current condition.)  In the course of typing this entry, I’ve already discovered a pair of laptop speakers I forgot that I owned.

Dusting Off the Blog and Writing

Very early Saturday morning, I Twittered that I was far too exhausted to post a blog entry, but that I’d do my damnedest to do so that evening.  At the time, I was sitting with my laptop in (where else?) my lap, in a hallway on the first floor of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Cleveland.  That predawn in Shaker Heights found me “night angeling” at Jurasicon, the spring youth conference for the Ohio-Meadville District.  Susie was there, part of the two carloads of us who came from Columbus.  (A night angel is an adult and/or youth who walks through the church to make sure everyone is okay.  Early Saturday morning it’s an easy job, because all the kids are easy to find.  At that hour they’re all flying off the walls.)

You’ve probably figured out by now that blog entry never materialized.  This was not–repeat, not–due to a lack of material to cover.  Quite the opposite is true.  On Friday, I turned 48, and being in Shaker Heights as a sponsor at a UU youth conference was the perfect way to celebrate.  Susie has made a 180-degree turn from the barely social shrinking violet she was at the first conference she attended, last year in Pittsburgh.  She gravitated straight toward the friends she met at previous conferences, and her feet barely touched the floor all weekend.

Susie (left) and two of her pals at Jurasicon, Shaker Heights, Ohio, April 29-May 1, 2011.

The conference (“con” in youth parlance) was a joyous event, but there were some bumps in the road.  One of the youths I was sponsoring, and who rode up with me from Columbus, came down with strep throat on Saturday morning.  My co-sponsor and I thought he was overreacting at first, since we couldn’t see any white spots in his mouth or throat, and he seemed to perk up after a little while.

After a very little while, that is.  By the end of the morning, he was lethargic, the throat felt worse, and the telltale white spots were there.  I suggested that he bunk out in the sanctuary.  It was a big enough space that people could stay away from him, and the only room that had little, if any traffic.  Someone came up from Columbus and took him home, and the other sponsors related anecdotes about the “chickenpox con” from two years ago–which made me quite thankful Susie had been too young to attend (although she has had chickenpox and is now, presumably, immune.)

A young girl I was sponsoring broke her toe playing Ultimate in the field across from the church.  (“No violence” is one of the standard non-bendable rules at youth cons, yet games of Kissy-Face and Ultimate are very popular, and the kids play them in a way that makes Rollerball look tame.  I think it’s the same as the way Quaker boarding schools’ field hockey games are frightening to watch.)  A paramedic sponsor splinted her toe with two spoons at first, and later with the more orthodox makeshift splint, a Popsicle stick.

Susie and her friend Cynthia performed an improvisational comedy act during the Talent Show, and after the Talent Show came the bridging ceremony, for high school seniors attending their final conference.  By the time it was over, there was not a dry eye in the Fellowship Hall.  I speak from personal experience when I say that many of the friends you make at these cons will be part of your life even 30+ years later.

I am sorry to have to report that Susie crashed very cruelly back to earth late Sunday afternoon, once we were back in Columbus.  She spent the weekend in very loving surroundings, with friends on all sides, talking, laughing, and singing with her.  Late in the afternoon, she went to the playground near our house, and soon came home in tears.  A girl from her school (who lives in the neighborhood) harassed her, pulled her hair, and beat her in the face and head.  Susie was neither bruised nor bleeding, but she was badly shaken up.  We called the police, and when the officer came, he was talking to Susie when the girl who attacked her went by our house on her bike.  The officer pulled her aside and talked to her, but did not arrest her.  Apparently, unless they witness it directly, it’s a she said-she said type of situation.

Yesterday morning, Susie and I spoke to the assistant principal of her school, and he said he would speak to the girl’s parents that day.  Despite his assurances that Susie is in his jurisdiction from the moment she steps out of our house en route to the bus stop until the moment she crosses our threshold again, both Steph and I doubt she’s completely safe.  The school handbook spills a lot of ink about its zero-tolerance policy about bullying, but it all boils down pretty much to, “Bullying is bad, mmm-kay?” (spoken like South Park‘s Mr. Mackey)

Last week brought a surprise to me–a much needed one at that.  My supervisor at the Discovery Exchange (Columbus State’s bookstore) emailed me to ask if I was available to work evenings this and next week.  I replied within minutes of reading the email (“Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”), and have gone straight to the bookstore from the Industrial Commission last night and tonight.  The pace is much slower than during rush, and I’m enjoying it.  The last few days at the I.C. have been busy, trying to finish work before a computer upgrade, and the bookstore job has been the perfect place to decompress.