Pulp Non-Fiction

This afternoon, I spent several hours at the Ramada Plaza on Sinclair Rd. at the 40th annual Pulpfest, moving from vendor table to vendor table in the hotel ground floor.  I’ve become much more choosy at events such as these, and gone are the days when I could blow an entire paycheck at something like my beloved Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati.  It would have been impossible for me to scrutinize every book, DVD, poster, and pulp magazine for sale, but I am pretty sure I got a pretty representative picture of what’s available.

There was a we’ll-look-back-on-this-and-laugh moment during the convention.  A seller from Michigan specializes in manuscripts, first editions, and signed copies.  On his table, he displayed a two-page handwritten letter (circa 1928) from H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos.  I asked how much it cost.  “Twenty-five,” he said.

My friend Steve wrote his master’s thesis on Lovecraft’s body of work, so I went outside and texted him immediately.  (Cell service is nonexistent in the ground floor of this hotel.)  I texted, 2pp Lovecraft letter (handwritten) on sale for $25!.  He texted back, Wow.  Authenticated?  He was wise to ask this, because I went down and spoke to the dealer, and this brief discussion brought me back down to earth.  I went back upstairs to where there was cell reception, and sent another text message, Never mind.  It’s $2500!”  Steve texted back, That sounds more like it. 😀.  Lovecraft died in 1937, and any of his papers, hand- or typewritten, appreciate more and more annually.

I was able to keep my spending reasonable.  When I was going to St. Mary’s Middle School, I gave a speech in my forensics class (a classy way of saying “public speaking”) on my growing book collection.  Among other gems (nothing particularly valuable or collectible), I showed a double novel, They Buried a Man.  The husband and wife who own and operate Hooked on Books in Bolingbrook, Ill. had the book.  (My copy disappeared in the many moves from Marietta to Boston, Cincinnati, Athens, etc. over the years.)  So, for a mere $5, I now own They Buried a Man once again.  Ace Books published an entire series of “Ace Giant Double Novels.”  They’re the size of a typical paperback of the period (1955), selling for $.50.  Mildred Davis was the author of both They Buried a Man and the other novel, The Dark Place (G-543).  When you finish reading one novel, you would turn the next page, and the final page of the other book would be there upside down.  Two covers, two complete books, two for the price of one.

I learned about Pulpfest from mystery writer, law professor, and attorney Francis M. (“Mike”) Nevins, Jr., whom I met several years ago at the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati.  The convention came to Columbus in 2009.  It had previously been in Dayton, so I never attended until it came to the Ramada Plaza.  I am not surprised at the overlap between the old-time radio crowd and the pulp enthusiasts’ crowd.  I saw some of the same faces, and some of the same merchandise was available.  (There were very few audio recordings for sale, but several vendors sold DVDs of movie serials, 1950s TV shows, and B movies.)

Very interesting choice of music right now.  I’ve programmed my laptop to shuffle the music files stored there. Here I am writing about a convention for pulp fiction and genre enthusiasts–the theme is the 80th anniversary of The Shadow–and the song that came up just now was “Spooky,” by the Classics IV.  (When I was in high school, the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s cover was quite popular, but I admit I like the Classics IV version better.)

And now for a double whammy music-wise.  The next song that came up was  “Read ‘Em and Weep,” by Barry Manilow.  Besides admitting for all the world to read that I have a Barry Manilow album ripped to my laptop, I’ll ‘fess up the reason why this song hits me in the gut.  Steph and I were married 15 years ago tonight at Highbanks Metro Park in Powell.  In the eyes of the law, we are still married, but tonight we are over a thousand miles apart.  And now, it’s a thousand statute miles apart–we have been thousands of miles apart spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for much longer.  I know it’s best that we’re apart, and I think I’ve adapted well to single fatherhood (and this month of full bachelorhood), but that doesn’t make this date any easier.  Anyone who has suffered the bitter end of a relationship can appreciate the lyrics of this song.

I am not long back from dinner with Steve and Mike Nevins at Noodles and Company (I highly recommend their Wisconsin macaroni and cheese with meatballs, by the way), and later tonight I will make the three-mile trek to Grandview for the Return of Nite Owl Theater.  The film tonight is Teenagers from Outer Space.  I have never seen this, nor have I heard it before it appeared on Fritz’ Website.

I bought two DVDs at the convention at $10 apiece.  One was Barfly, a movie that had me in stitches when I first saw it in the early 1990s.  The only Charles Bukowski book I had read at the time was Post Office, a novel I loved but did not fully appreciate until I went to work at the main post office in Cincinnati in May 1992.  Barfly‘s setting reminded me very much of the 600 block of East Main Street in downtown Cincinnati, where I spent many afternoons and early evenings with Robert Lowry, the once-famous Cincinnati novelist who died broke and out of print in 1994.  I was a bit of a snob about where I drank, and I considered Lowry’s hangout, the Bay Horse Café, to be beneath my station–I was used to college bars, and thought they were a step up from Skid Row establishments such as The Saloon and the Bay Horse.  (The college bars were, after all, college bars, even if you had to step through a minefield of spilled beer, broken glass, and vomit to get from the bar to your seat.)

The other was Kill Me If You Can, a 1977 made-for-TV movie starring Alan Alda as Caryl Chessman, a career criminal executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin in 1960 for rape and kidnapping.  I was in junior high when I saw the movie for the first time, and it turned me into an opponent of the death penalty, and it led me to read the four books Chessman wrote while on Death Row, including his autobiography, Cell 2455, Death Row and his only novel, The Kid Was a Killer, published two or three months before his execution.  I have not watched the movie in its entirety, and I won’t tonight, but I am glad to finally have a copy.

Many of the vendors organized their products by genre, author name, or publisher, and many issues of Argosy, The Phantom Detective, and Dime Mystery Book were in chronological order.  That was good,  because I was on a mission to find a specific 1955 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for a friend.  (I came away with two “I have it, but not here”s, but I collected email and snail addresses from both vendors, and will contact them in the next day or so.)  At the same time, serendipity can be your friend as well.  I have lost track of how many books I now own by discovering them completely by accident while in search of something else.  I have prowled bookstores and a misfiled book just happens to me one I’ve tried to find for years.

Some typical PulpFest fare.

These books were considered the epitome of risque fiction in the 1950s.  I did not see much gay or lesbian pulp fiction, but I am sure many of the vendors had it for sale.  Gotta love it: “It was a beautiful honeymoon–for four!”

I first became aware of Mike Nevins when I read his massive biography of mystery and suspense novelist Cornell Woolrich Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die.  I did not meet him for several years afterwards, and he was pleasantly surprised that I knew of his book about Woolrich.  Tonight at dinner, he signed the introductions he wrote for Woolrich’s posthumously published Tonight, Somewhere in New York and the Ballantine reprint of The Black Path of Fear.

One dealer was selling a $100 copy of Woolrich’s 75-page novella Marihuana (originally on sale in 1944 for a dime!), and alongside it was a title I found much more intriguing.  This was Frederic Brown’s The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches, both published by Dell.  The title did not intrigue me enough to fork over the price he wanted.  Just coincidentally, it was the same price as my electric bill, and I think Susie would like to come back to a house with electricity.

If I knew for sure it worked, I would have bought a big outdoor dial thermometer that advertised Blue Coal (“America’s finest anthracite”).  When I’ve streamed episodes of Suspense from Archive.org or listened to the disks and tapes I’ve bought over the years, Blue Coal came up quite often as a sponsor, as did Roma Wines and Autolite Spark Plugs.

It’s miserable out tonight, and the relative humidity is sky-high, as it has been for much of July, yet I will soon be lighting out for Grandview.  Susie and I wanted to go last month, but the post-Comfest traffic snarled all buses headed away from Goodale Park and the Short North, so we didn’t get to go.  (Susie didn’t want to walk, as I usually do, and as we did when we saw Dementia 13 in May.)

Next stop: Grandview.

Susie: From Heat to Heat

I’ve informed my Facebook friends that today begins the longest month of my life.  To be specific, this morning at 8:55 Susie boarded a Southwestern Airlines plane and flew to Tampa to spend a month with Steph in New Port Richey.  The heat here in Columbus has been oppressive for much of the past week–I’m sure it makes Washington, D.C. in August feel like a walk-in freezer.  But Susie is not fleeing the heat by going to the Gulf Coast of Florida.  If anything, it’ll be just as bad, if not worse.

Last night, I slept very badly.  Part of it was feeling down about not seeing Susie for a month, but part of it was worry about if (or how) I would drop the ball in the pre-flight and -boarding logistics in getting Susie aboard her plane this morning.  I have not flown since December 1983, when I was still living in Boston.  This is partly because I wholeheartedly agree with a line in Cervantes’ Don Quixote: “The road is always better than the inn.”  I don’t really feel like I’m traveling when I get into a sealed aluminum tube and overlook clouds, little houses, and golf courses, and then disembark at my destination.

The other reason is financial.  Greyhound is cheaper than flying, usually, and the experience of moving from one town to another is much more exciting and fulfilling to me.

Susie’s trip through customs and onto the plane was flawless.  My co-worker Janice and her husband Steve picked us up just before 7:30 this morning and drove us to Port Columbus, and Susie and I came prepared.  She had her new state-issued ID in hand, with a backup document (a notarized copy of her birth certificate).  It was smooth sailing from the Southwestern Airlines check-in counter to the boarding area.  I had to show my ID to get an “escort’s pass,” so I could stay with her until she was airborne, and we had to put our shoes and our pocket contents into little plastic buckets to pass through the metal detector and fluoroscope machine.  (This was nothing new to me.  You often have to jump through these identical hoops to go to the post office across the street from where I work.  This has been in effect at a heightened level since 9/11, although shades of it began to appear after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.)  Susie didn’t carry any bottles of liquid.  Her laptop was the only item she had to remove from her backpack and put through the scanner.  I had deliberately left my keys behind, because I was afraid that my ring knife–that constant souvenir of my job at the Cincinnati post office–would raise some red flags.

Susie’s flight left on time, at 8:55.  While she waited, she drank a big cup from Starbucks, and sat on the floor writing in her journal.  I stayed in the boarding area until I saw her plane actually lift off.  (I texted Steph at 8:56 a.m.: Susie’s plane is taxiing down the runway.  Departing on time!)  Steph texted me at 11:04: We have her.  By the time that text arrived, I was back home trying to nap, since I had slept so badly last night.

Susie and I did get some respite from the heat, with a little help from our friends.  The air conditioning in our half-double is the Calvin Coolidge variety: It does not choose to run.  So, we spent Thursday and Friday evenings at Pat and Tanya’s, and I surprised everybody at Olympic Swim and Racquet by not only getting into the pool, but by immersing myself completely underwater for about 45 seconds.  The water was not cold at all around 6:30 or 6:45, since the sun was shining directly down onto the pool.  (Pat made comments about “the Great White Whale” as he saw me in the water.  No doubt he was alluding to the title of this blog, which honors the creator of said Great White Whale.  He, of course, resembles Michelangelo’s David.)  We were all so exhausted that once we got to Pat and Tanya’s house, everyone–adults and kids–were fast asleep by 10:30.  On Friday, I worked the sound system at Trinity United Methodist Church in Marble Cliff, for the 10th annual dinner of the Mid-Ohio Workers’ Association.  After the meal ended, I had planned to meet everyone at Olympic for the 9 p.m. showing of The Karate Kid, but Pat texted me a little before 8 to let me know the pool was closed and the movie postponed.  (Susie enjoys the nighttime swimming more than the movies.  She would have gone even if the movie had been Marmaduke, just for a chance to swim in the pool under the lights at night.)

Pat and I ate lunch at the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest on Friday.  It was on the site of the old Ohio penitentiary, which played host to O. Henry and Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, and was the site of a horrific fire (322 inmates dead, 150 injured) in April 1930.  The combo, led by Brian Olsheski, playing on the AEP stage was quite impressive.

I am typing this at the OSU Library.   According to my cell phone, it is 5:52 in the afternoon.  I had considered going up to Olympic and immersing myself for awhile, since it is just as miserable out as before, but I have seen several people coming inside the library with wet umbrellas, and there is a sound I keep hearing.  I cannot decide whether it’s thunder and wind, or someone pushing a book cart.  Either way, it looks like no pool for me tonight.

I changed my iGoogle page slightly to reflect Susie’s journey to see her mom.  On the opening page, I display Columbus weather.  It says the current weather here is 88 degrees, with thunderstorms.  (That answers the question I asked in the previous paragraph, doesn’t it?)  Until Susie returns, I have New Port Richey’s forecast in the display as well.  Currently, it’s cloudy and 93 degrees there, but the forecast says there will be thunderstorms for the next several consecutive days.  I feel for Susie, because I know she had visions of relaxing on the beach during her visit, and that won’t be happening for the next few days.

No doubt about it–that’s thunder I’m hearing.

This table appeared in The Columbus Dispatch‘s Website.  The mercury has been climbing quite a bit these past weeks!

Reduced Moonlighting, But No Spike in My Energy

From now until after Labor Day, I’ll only be working Saturday mornings (9 a.m.-noon) at the Discovery Exchange.  I happily greeted this news, but with the reduction in my moonlighting responsibilities has not come a jump in my energy level, or any motivation or desire to put any effort into the activities that I yearn to do whenever my time is occupied with work.  In The Journals of John Cheever, he frequently describes “cafard” as his current state of mind, and that matches mine.  So far I can truthfully write that I haven’t followed his lead and tried to dull or reverse the cafard by a return to drinking.

A case in point is the fact that I didn’t make it to church this morning.  (During the fall, I am pretty conscientious about attending services, but this slacks off in the summertime, when the services are almost all lay-led.  Many Unitarian congregations discontinue services altogether in the summertime.  The flip explanation for this is “What other denomination could God trust out of His sight for three months?”  The truth is that 19th-century Unitarian ministers were anxious to get out of Boston during the summer.  Boston in the summer makes Washington, D.C. in August seem like a deep freeze.)  This summer would be when I’d make one of my rare appearances, because the erstwhile president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, John Buehrens, was speaking.  I was so exhausted and/or unmotivated that I didn’t even bother to set my alarm before going to bed last night, and by the time I finally summoned enough energy to get to bed, there was no way I could get showered, dressed, and out of the house in time to make it to the 10 a.m. service.

Thanks to Susie, I was able to perk up a bit during the afternoon.  We spent the day in Clintonville, eating lunch at the Golden Arches, and then she had a hair trim at Lucky 13.  I posted on Facebook later in the afternoon that we exhibited mutual respect.  I was bored while Susie’s stylist shampooed and trimmed her hair, but the time would be too short to really concentrate on the book I had with me, or to take out my ballpoint and write in my diary, and none of the magazines in the rack interested me.  I knew Susie wanted a hair trim, so I stayed there and waited, and she looked great when she stepped from the chair.

We walked up to the Whetstone Library, but I was distracted on the way by a cluttered antique store we passed a block or so from Lucky 13.  The very petite Corona portable typewriter in the front window called to me, but I didn’t feel like paying $30 for it.  Nonetheless, I ignored Susie as she ostentatiously tugged at my wrist and tried to pull me away from the store, and we went in.  She and I had just spent 20 minutes or so in Wholly Craft, an offbeat craft store she loves, which sells everything from jewelry to journals to clothes, all of it hand- and locally made.  I indulged her browsing, and she was gracious enough to indulge mine.  I looked at several typewriters (still searching in vain for a Simplex toy typewriter, circa 1925, which was the first machine for my friend, novelist Robert Lowry), and a $20 Teac reel-to-reel recorder briefly tempted me.  I was not tempted to buy them, but a suitcase full of Edison phonograph cylinders selling at $3 apiece held my attention for quite awhile.  (As I write this, I’m typing with Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” blaring from my laptop speakers.  Juxtapositions, anyone?)

Probably just as well there was no phonograph for sale.  That would have made buying the cylinders all the more tempting.

Susie and I went to a “poolnic” this afternoon at Olympic Swim and Racquet.  (In case you haven’t figured it out, this word is a portmanteau of “pool” and “picnic.”)  Susie and I made a quickly-in-quickly-out trip to Kroger and bought two pies, and she was in the water more than she was poolside with the food.  (Although I brought my suit, I never did get in the water… although I kept meaning to.)  The other people from the poolnic brought much good food–macaroni and cheese, beans, watermelon, assorted vegetables, so Susie came home quite sated.)

Yesterday afternoon, after the bookstore, Susie and I went to a joint birthday party/graduation celebration near the Walhalla Ravine.  The college graduate was a young woman who was Susie’s first babysitter, and this woman’s daughter just turned a year old.  (I still remember the mother, age eight or nine, carrying infant Susie around the church and proudly announcing, “This is my baby!”)  One of the other guests graduated from Parkersburg High School, 12 miles from my hometown of Marietta, Ohio–although he graduated in 1994 and I in 1981.  (When two intellectually inclined people from the Mid-Ohio Valley leave the area and meet each other years later, you’d swear you’re listening to two former POWs comparing their Hanoi Hilton experiences.)

I found myself admitting that the people of Marietta High School weren’t as provincial and bigoted as I have described them previously–either in one-on-one conversations or in this blog.  Maybe I was in a charitable mood because my 30th-year high school reunion was last night in Marietta, and I wasn’t attending.  But I told this person that my classmates were tolerant of my always reading books, or always holding a pen, or announcing at an early age that I wanted to be a poet–instead of a race car driver or a Marine.  The attitude was pretty much like, “Don’t make fun of Billy.  He can’t help that he was born blind.”

Susie Debuts at a Poetry Slam

Without a doubt, Susie was the youngest reader at last Wednesday’s poetry slam at Kafé Kerouac, but she stole the show.  (I’ve always avoided slams and poetry groups.  The reason is because hearing them go on about their poetry is like listening to teenage boys talking about sex: The ones who are talking about it the most are doing it the least.)

Susie made quite a hit with “My Poetry: The Musical!”, where she states that her (autobiographical) poetry would make quite a good musical–why should Dr. Seuss and Seussical the Musical have the monopoly on it, after all?

I mean, picture this:
a musical about
a bisexual girl
who writes poems
about suicide and how annoying her life is.
And somehow, fairies work their way in.

The emcee of the event led everyone in an a Capella rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” after Susie came down from the microphone and the small dais in the front of the room.

(Caveat lector: When I loaded this video to Facebook, I was able to successfully rotate it so that you would not have to turn your head sideways to view it.  I did not have the same success when loading this to Blogspot.  I will tell you, however, that Susie’s poetry debut is worth the sore neck.  07/10/2011)

I had to do a little on-the-scene adjusting of the lens and the settings on my DXG digital camera, so I apologize for the picture quality of the first 30-45 of the video.  Fortunately I was sitting close to a speaker, so the audio is pretty crisp.  (The microphone on this camera is not all that sensitive.) 

The Kafé Kerouac poetry slam imposes a draconian penalty when a person does not put a cell phone on “vibrate.”  Whenever mine has gone off during a meeting or a church service, usually I feel like there’s a big red neon arrow pointing straight at me, and that’s usually punishment enough.  However, in this forum, everyone suffers as a result.  The emcee pulled out his well thumbed copy of a novel, Daddy Long Stroke, written by Cairo, had an audience member choose a page at random, and read a two- or three-page passage from it.  Daddy Long Stroke seems to be the literary equivalent of a blaxploitation movie.  I remember how awed I was when I ordered a Grove Press paperback copy of My Secret Life, the anonymous memoirs of a well-to-do Victorian man named Walter who lived for nothing but sex.  I was disappointed about how boring it was after the first few chapters–so repetitious.

Just in case you plan to defy the cell-phone-on-vibrate taboo, here is a video of the reading from Daddy Long Stroke:

We have definitely come a long way from when Walt Whitman lost his Interior Department paper-pushing job in the 1860s because of Leaves of Grass, or when Charles Bukowski’s poetry and writing constantly jeopardized his job as a third-shift mail sorter at the Los Angeles post office!

The first edition title page of Leaves of Grass.

Now that her first-time anxiety is behind her, Susie is looking for more places to read her poetry.  The next place may be the Rumba Café on Summit Ave.  (I saw a small notice about it in this week’s The Other Paper, and am trying to remember to clip it out to show her.)

At some point, I’m going to play Susie the compact disk of Allen Ginsberg reading his epic poem “Kaddish to Naomi Ginsberg 1894-1956,” the long poem he wrote in memory of his insane mother Naomi, who died in a Long Island asylum.  I have a boxed set of Ginsberg’s readings, Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems and Songs 1949-1993, and it includes his emotionally wrenching 1964 Brandeis University reading of “Kaddish,” which I first heard on an LP in Adam Bradley’s Stinchcomb Ave. apartment one night as both of us stayed up until dawn, making quick work of a 24-pack of Olympia.  “Kaddish” is a bare-bones presentation of poetry as autobiography and lament.

At the Doo Dah Parade, I Expanded My Horizons and Learned a New Word

Am I the only person out here who was ignorant of planking before today?  The Doo Dah Parade began 45 minutes late this afternoon, which meant many bored and restless parade-goers lining both sides of N. High St. in the Short North.  (Correction–Susie and I stationed ourselves at the tail end of the parade, and we were out on High St. awaiting it at the time it was stepping off from another point in the Short North.  07/05/2011)  There was a sign on the façade of the Short North Tavern proclaiming a 1 p.m. stepping-off time, but they were nowhere near ready to go.  Children kicked and chased beach balls back and forth across High St., and then Susie saw some of the alleged adults trying out planking.  This means lying down in the street face down, arms at your sides, long enough for one of your cohorts to snap a picture.  Said picture will most likely be on the Internet within hours.  Susie heard about it when one of her Facebook friends posted about it, and then ran pictures of her and her sister doing it.

So she tried it today, lying parallel to the center line on North High Street.

Susie demonstrates her new interest, planking.

Since the Doo Dah Parade “organizers” posted a schedule on their Website’s home page, I thought that the 1 p.m. starting time was pretty firm.  Susie and I hurried through lunch at Mac’s Café, since we arrived there at about 12:15.  We both ate well, and decided to skip dessert because we were worried about missing the start of the parade.

July 4 tardiness seems to be a time-honored tradition.  When I was 11, Dad and I went up to Lookout Point on Harmar Hill in Marietta to see the fireworks (which were shot from the Washington County Fairgrounds).  They were supposed to start at 10 p.m. sharp, but it was about 11:20 before the first rocket screamed into the air.  In the meantime, there were many restless, tired, bored, and hot kids being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and their parents’ patience was fraying by the second.  I remember hearing three girls entertaining themselves by pinching one another, chanting, “Pinch!  Pinch!  Pinchy-pinch!”  (That night, I wrote in my diary about “three giddy girls” who “were age nine, looked seven, and acted four.”  This from my mountain of years!)  Dad and I didn’t get home until past midnight, and my mother–in a rare moment of genuine righteous anger–was angry about the late start, and talked about writing a letter to the editor complaining about the progressive lateness of the fireworks display. 

In an earlier entry this week, I wrote about the 50th anniversary of the death of Ernest Hemingway (which was July 2).  While looking for something else, I found my tattered Lancer Paperback of Ernest Hemingway: The Life and Death of a Man, by Alfred Aronowitz and Pete Hamill.  It appeared in 1961, very shortly after Hemingway’s suicide, and I bought it because of the description on the back cover, which describes Papa’s life as one anyone would envy:

He lived his life as he chose.
He went wherever he wanted to go, he fished whenever he wanted to fish, he hunted whenever he wanted to hunt, he loved whenever he wanted to love.
He lived a life of truth: the only worthwhile endeavor for a man.
His life and writings touched and changed millions of others; the legacy of genius he left will never be forgotten.
He died as he chose…

 The Doo Dah Parade featured the usual suspects, especially the Marching Fidels–a retinue of Fidel Castro lookalikes, complete with beard, olive-drab army jackets, and cigars.  The Fishnet Mafia, sponsors of the monthly Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35, were out in force, doing the Time Warp again (and again!) all the way down High St.  Some of the marching acts were beyond description or theme, such as this one:

The work day beckons at 8 a.m., but luckily I only have a half day.  I just “happened” to schedule an appointment for the afternoon after the return from a long weekend, and when 5 p.m. comes, I’ll have to overcome the hard-wired urge to head toward Cleveland Ave. and the Columbus State bookstore.  I won’t be working there until next Saturday morning, so Susie and I will be at poolside tomorrow evening.  (Christ, I sound like a character from The Stories of John Cheever!)  The weather looks like it will cooperate; the high is supposed to be 89 degrees and cloudless.  I may even go in the water myself!  (During the ’70s, I used to shudder when I watched the “Take the Nestea plunge!” commercials on TV.  They would still have to pay me a five-digit sum to act in one of those!)

How To Make Up For Neglect of Blog–Two Entries in Four Hours

It’s after 3 a.m., and I’m still awake.  Maybe because of the surplus of sleep, maybe because I’ve drunk half of a three-liter bottle of Stars & Stripes diet cola, or a combination of the two.  But here I am, in front of a keyboard, instead of nestled all snug in my bed.

Not much newsworthy has occurred since I posted before.  This has been a false cause for hope in the past, but this evening I actually made an attempt at writing.  I made a sincere effort to minimize the clutter on my work table in the living room (not 100% successfully yet; watch this space for pictures once that happens!), and I cleared enough of the surface that I can put the laptop and my beloved (and quite underused, lately) Royal Royalite manual typewriter side by side.

The typewriter indicted me by how many stuck keys it had.  After a little more digging, I found the plastic squeeze bottle of Liquid Wrench and applied it where needed.  After typing a page or two of random lines here and there, and staining the typing paper with excess Liquid Wrench, I put in a blank page, rolled it to about one third of the way down the page, and hit the shift lock.


I remember sitting in the chair and looking at that for quite some time.  For the page to sit there in the carriage for days, with only that heading, would be mocking.  I felt like I had committed myself to something, but when I typed those words, I didn’t have the slightest idea what fiction project I had in mind.  Did I type that just so I could hear the sound of the keys striking paper once again?
Turning away from the typewriter, I reached over to one of my milk-crate bookcases.  I pulled out my navy blue 1983 New Yorker diary, in which I’ve jotted ideas for various projects, written plot outlines, named characters and written little dossiers about their background and character traits (siblings, jobs, favorite flavor of ice cream, alma mater), and even sunrise and sunset times for the specific day on which a story takes place (courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory’s site).  I looked over some notes I wrote when I first bought the volume (I bought it online last year–it has not languished in my possession since 1983), and then scooted back over to the almost empty page in the roller and ended up producing six paragraphs.  The writing process was not easy, and it wasn’t because I had to gear down my typing speed to accommodate this aging machine.
And yet I almost did not share this bit of news with my “14 readers out there in the darkness,” because I’ve often jinxed myself by my own hubris.  Look!  I produced just over one page–the dry spell is over, I’ll have the 21st-century equivalent of Ulysses stacked up on this desk in three short months.
I reread my last entry, where I described my asinine neighbor and his barrage of firecrackers and bottle rockets.  (The police never did come.)  Rereading the entry reminded me of one that I posted when LiveJournal hosted this blog.  In this entry, which you can find here, I described how I miraculously escaped injury when someone dropped a cherry bomb or an M-80 into a wine bottle.  I was standing about an inch away, wearing sandals, and to this day don’t know how I escaped injury.
I’m not sure if my email will appear in Notebook Stories or not.  As I wrote before, two of the planners that I brought home from the Really, Really Free Market last week were from Greek organizations.  I am getting a genuine kick out of reading the information printed in these books before the calendar pages begin, about the histories of the organizations, the codes of conduct, the mythical zero-tolerance policies on substance abuse and hazing (Phi Delta Theta calls it “Don’t Tarnish the Badge”), and how to flourish as a member.
One of the people in my small group in Philosophy 101 was a Sigma Chi pledge, and the reason I remember that was because he constantly carried his copy of The Norman Shield with him, and he hung onto it like it was some kind of Bible.  I was a devout Gamma Delta Iota (goddamn independent), and could barely afford textbooks and drinking, let alone the dues that many of the fraternities charged on a quarterly basis.
The most amusing thing I found in the Phi Delta Theta planner was that their national headquarters is in Oxford, Ohio.  This does not amuse me because I went to Ohio University, and Miami is the closest thing we have to a rival.  (And it never reached the insane levels that the Ohio State-University of Michigan rivalry have achieved.)  I chuckled because of an event last year at Miami University, when the behavior of Pi Phi sorority members and their dates at a party (read about it here) led to a one-year suspension.
The only significant way Susie and I are going to mark the Independence Day holiday (and it is right now the Glorious Fourth) is with a trip to the Short North to see the Doo Dah Parade, which steps off at 1 p.m.  A parade that marks the birth of the United States and doesn’t take itself seriously… priceless.
Susie (at far right) at last year’s Doo Dah Parade, part of a vain attempt for a mass jump-roping.

Trying to Rise Above the Torpor of Summer

My neglect of this blog (and any other type of writing, other than emails) is Exhibit A of my current lack of emotional, physical, and spiritual energy of late.  I’m beginning to think I may have the polar opposite of seasonal affective disorder–I become more sluggish and unproductive in the summer months, whereas most people with SAD completely shut down in the wintertime.  Columbus has been tropical this summer, and the relative humidity saps my energy.  I am sure that the months of 13-hour workdays has not helped, either.

We shall soon see.  At 4 p.m. yesterday, the summer quarter rush at Columbus State Community College ended, and with it my evening hours at the bookstore.  From now until fall, I will only be working 9 a.m. until 12 noon on Saturday mornings.  Susie is especially happy at this news, because it means I will be home with her more evenings, and we’ll be able to go to the pool, and we can eat dinner earlier.  (It’s been so damn hot that neither of us wants to cook, so we’ve eaten out most evenings.)

Susie worked as a Comfest volunteer for the first time this year.  She enjoyed the work, especially getting a free T-shirt and a pink Comfest mug, but she hated having to pick up so many cigarette butts.  She made quite liberal use of the hand sanitizers strategically located by the Porta-Potties.

I went to Comfest both Friday night and Saturday afternoon-evening.  I worked at the bookstore, during its extended rush hours, on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  I know I’ll be grateful for it once they hand me the paycheck in Human Resources, but I still had a being-kept-after-school feeling during the entire work day.

Comfest negatively affected me in only one way.  Susie and I waited on W. 5th Ave. and High St. for the 5 bus to Grandview for the monthly Return of Nite Owl Theater at the Grandview.  (The movie was The Terror, with Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson.)  The exodus from Goodale Park snarled up traffic so much that the 5 never arrived.  It’s been my practice to walk to the theater on Fritz nights, but between the proliferation of drunks and the humidity, I told Susie this month we’d take the bus.  (The movie at the end of July will be Teenagers from Outer Space, which will go along wonderfully with Pulpfest ’11 at the Ramada Plaza.)

I did quite well at the Really, Really Free Market on the last Sunday in June.  Earlier tonight, I sent an email to the Webmaster of Notebook Stories bragging of my achievement.  Susie came away with some clothes, and I came away with five spiral-bound planners.  (Their dates range from 2006 to 2008, but if I ignore the pre-printed dates, they will be quite useful.)  Two were from Greek-letter organizations (Phi Delta Theta fraternity and Chi Omega sorority), and the other three were from St. Bonaventure University (where Thomas Merton taught English from 1940 until he resigned to join the Trappist monastery in Kentucky), Southern Methodist University (which houses George W. Bush’s Presidential library–I wonder if all the pictures have been colored in the books), and Seattle Pacific University.  (I found something amusing in the St. Bonaventure planner–under Saturday, February 2, 2008, one of the events in the schedule is 4:00 p.m. Pre-Super Bowl Mass and Reception.)

My cache of new notebooks, courtesy of the Really, Really Free Market on  June 26.

There was absolutely no way Susie or I were going anywhere near downtown on Friday night, when Red White and Boom was happening.  I am lukewarm at best about patriotic celebrations.  I think they–and the people who participate in them–are the (very!) secular equivalents of the ostentatiously pious folks that Jesus lambasted in the Sermon on the Mount.  (When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in synagogue and at the street-corners, for everyone to see them.  I tell you this: they have their reward already.  Matthew 6:5, New English Bible.)

Susie and I went to First Friday, a potluck held at church on–when else?–the first Friday of every month.  The attendance was pretty sparse, between Red White and Boom and the congregation being scattered to the four winds for vacation.  We found some friends of ours.  Susie spent most of the time conspiring with talking to a kid who will be her lab partner for science classes at The Graham School come September.

I took her to Kafé Kerouac after we left First Friday, and this turned out to be quite the stroke of good timing.  She learned about their Wednesday night poetry slams, and she plans to go and read some of her poetry.  (I’ve always avoided poetry and writing groups, because listening to them discussing their poetry and their projects reminds me of teenage boys bragging about sex: The ones who are talking about it the most, are doing it the least.  I have never publicly read or participated in a slam because my voice is almost totally without affect–an Asperger’s symptom characteristic–and performance counts as much, if not more, than content.

While I was typing, my idiot neighbor has set off a string of fireworks and firecrackers.  There is a momentary lull at present, but I’m waiting for the noise to start up again, so I can call the police, and the dispatcher can hear the noise in the background.  (I have had minimal personal experience with shooting off fireworks and recreational explosives.  Since most of the jobs I’ve held in my 29 years in the workforce have involved typing, I realized that having hands is a good idea.  The only body parts I no longer have are my tonsils and gallbladder.  That’s enough.)

I never really how truly exhausted and sleep-deprived I was until yesterday.  After I left the bookstore, Susie and I took the bus to Graceland Shopping Center to pay the electric bill at Kroger, pick up dinner, and go to the hardware store.  She and I went to China Garden, a smorgasbord she and I both enjoy.  She and I both ate until we could barely move, and we were walking in major slow motion across the parking lot to Sears Hardware.

Once we got home, I told Susie I was going to take a brief nap before I did anything else.  I remember my bedside digital clock saying 8:20 when I lay down.  I didn’t even get undressed, not even my shoes.  When I felt rested enough to get out of bed and get on with the day, it was 8:30, as in a.m.  It was Sunday morning coming down.

Update: I called the police about the pyrotechnics next door.  I learned to use 911 for any time I call the Columbus Police Department, unless I’m in the mood to wade through their voice mail prompts and spend four minutes on hold.  The entire block smells like sulfur, and I hear the whistle of bottle rockets every few minutes, and no sign of the police.  If I had it to do over again, I would have called and reported gunshots.  (Hey, I’m no expert in ballistics–gunshots and firecrackers do sound alike to the untrained ear, don’t they?)

After breakfast this morning, Susie and I went to a yard sale on Medary Ave.  She bought a file folder, and I bought a pristine copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition, a 1987 Book-of-the-Month Club edition.  It’ll reside on my shelf between my 1938 Modern Library edition of The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Baker’s exhaustive biography.

It was “altogether fitting and proper,” as Lincoln would say, that I should buy this book.  (Susie brought it to my attention, and I happily ponied up the $.50 for it.)  Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death, by his own hand, in Ketchum, Idaho.  I haven’t read the obituaries that appeared, and I am sure it was front-page news all over the world.  However, through the many connections I’ve made in the old-time radio world, I found Harry Reasoner’s radio obituary, broadcast on CBS radio, where he tried–with iffy success–to emulate Hemingway’s prose style.

The Doo Dah Parade beckons tomorrow afternoon.  Neither Susie nor I are setting alarms, although after my megasleep yesterday into this morning, I am now quite wide awake.  Nonetheless, we’ll be awake in plenty of time to make it to the Short North for the parade.