Hubris Can Hurt

Mrs. Curtis, an English teacher at Marietta High School, taught a Greek mythology class.  I took the class my senior year, and one thing I never forgot was a sentence she wrote on the blackboard and never erased the entire semester: Beware excessive pride.  (She was a bit of a grammar Nazi–I’ve been called that as well–so I suspect that was why she never wrote the rest of the sentence, for it is a failing we are all open to.  There were certain things up with which Mrs. Curtis did not put!)

“Beware excessive pride” is a maxim that lay deeply buried in my subconscious until this week.  As I’m sitting here in my study typing this entry, Susie is downstairs watching a video, I have Jethro Tull comfortably blaring from my speakers, and I am in pain.
The pain is an aftereffect of my own hubris (“excessive pride, presumption, or arrogance (originally toward the gods)”, per Wiktionary.org).  A co-worker of mine has been ribbing me for weeks about my avoidance, if not complete aversion, to joining the gym at work.  He has even offered to pay for my first month’s membership.
He and I trade barbs about my lack of physical fitness and I come back with remarks about his age.  (He is several years older than I am, and played football and baseball in high school, and coached track when he was in the Army.  He spends every lunch hour on the treadmill or working out with weights.)
Last week, he challenged me to walk with him from our floor in the William Green Building (the 10th), all the way to the topmost floor.  He knows that I enjoy walking long distances and for hours at a time, so I guess he wanted to see just how fit I truly was.  (According to body mass index charts, I’m constantly straddling the dividing line between overweight and obese.)  I shrugged this off, thinking, “Piece of cake.”  Walking was walking, wasn’t it?  After all, I reasoned, I did plenty of walking during the six years I lived in Cincinnati, and no two neighborhoods are on the same level there.

Chuck, my co-worker, said, “Tuesday morning, 10 o’clock.  Meet you at the door to the stairs.”

I told him I’d be there.  When I got back to my desk, I logged into GroupWise (our combined email and scheduling software platform) and under October 25, 10 a.m., I logged, “Walk to the top of the building with Methuselah,” making sure he would get a copy.

So Tuesday at 10, I met him at the door to the stairwell.  Usually, I spend my 10 a.m. breaks in the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation library, reading The Columbus Dispatch or The Wall Street Journal, but I decided that I would forego this until lunchtime.  So there I was at 10, and Chuck was at the door.  We exchanged the banter about whether we had the paramedics on standby, should we have a defibrillator waiting, etc.

The William Green Building, my workplace since 2004.

And then he and I began trudging.  I knew he would be faster, since he habitually uses the Stairmaster in the gym.  I sailed up the first two or three flights, and then I took 10- or 15-second breaks after I had gone up four or five floors.

The William Green Building is 530 feet tall, and it has 33 floors altogether.  I did not realize, until this trudge was in progress, there were three additional floors.  The Industrial Commission’s executives’ offices are on the 30th floor, known either as “Thirty” or “the Vatican.”  I had assumed that was the topmost floor.  But, as we kept going upward, Chuck informed me that there were 33 floors altogether.  Floors 31-33 contain the air conditioning equipment, the elevator mechanism, and generators.

The walk up to 33 was not fun.  I have occasionally walked from the lobby to the 10th floor, and came through the door at the conclusion of the walk thinking someone would have to jump-start my heart.  My legs were aching, but I felt okay as far as my breathing was concerned.  Chuck told me later he worried a little when I stopped to take the mini-breaks.  My legs were hurting a bit by the time I triumphantly placed my hand on the door to the 33rd floor, like a mountain climber planting a flag.

Then came the trip back down.  When I’ve started the day (or returned from lunch) by going up to the 10th floor by stair instead of elevator, at least I could be sure that I’d be sitting for awhile thereafter.  According to my stopwatch, Chuck and I took 8½ minutes to go 23 floors.  I shut the stopwatch off once I touched the door with “33” painted on it, so I didn’t time the trip back downstairs.

We hadn’t descended very far before I felt like my legs were going to buckle.  I’ve heard expressions such as “It’s all downhill from here” all my life, and that would lead me to believe that downhill would be easier.  Wouldn’t gravity be doing most of my job for me?

Yes, it would, and if I wasn’t careful, gravity would be doing the job too well.  I had to make sure my shoes were firmly planted on each step, and I held onto the handrail until my knuckles were bloodless.  This was one of those situations where you just had to ignore the pain.  I had taken Monday off from work, so the untyped ex parte orders and doctors’ reports were piling up on my desk.  I couldn’t just stay in the stairwell indefinitely.  So I paced myself, gritted my teeth, and made it back to the 10th floor.  “I’m proud of you, man!” Chuck said.  He had been worried when I wanted to take a break on the way up, but I did it.

Once I got back to my desk, that was when I began to sweat, and that was when the pain in my gastrocnemius muscles really began to hurt, and the pain hasn’t let up yet.  Since Tuesday morning, I have dreaded stairs, especially when I have to go down them.  When it’s necessary, I hold my legs rigidly, like a wishbone, and you can tell from my expression that it’s an ordeal I want to finish as soon as I can.

Compare this to when I was at Ohio University, in the fall of 1986 through the spring of 1987, when I steadfastly refused to use elevators, in an effort to lose weight.  (During high school, I resembled Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! cartoons, more so when I grow the scraggly goatees that preceded my first real beards.)  I drove my friends crazy by insisting on using stairs, thinking I would burn off any excess weight.  Never mind that I was going to bars almost nightly and drinking beer by the gallon.)

So where do I stand right now?  The pain is still there, and it’s not limited to when I’m climbing stairs.  I usually carry a bottle of Aleve in my knapsack, since I’m so prone to shin splints, and I’ve been using it pretty heavily these past few days.  Tonight, I walked the 1.2 miles from Giant Eagle to my house.  (I had gone to the Whetstone library to pick up reserves, and, as I left, Susie asked me to pick up some bread.  I took the bus from home to Whetstone, and from Whetstone to Giant Eagle, but decided to walk back home.)  I’m not sorry I did it, but I was hoping I could walk out whatever cramp or knot I gave myself during my marathon stair climb on Tuesday.

Pride goeth before leg cramps.

Here I Come to Save the Day!

When the start-of-quarter rush ended at Columbus State Community College, I left the bookstore thinking I would not be back again until December.  I was grateful for the extra money, and usually the job is fun, but at the same time I felt bad about leaving Susie home alone.

Yesterday, I came back from lunch and read a panicked email from my supervisor at the Discovery Exchange. The night manager was unable to come in on Wednesday, Thursday, or Monday.  I know it’s last-minute, but could you possibly…?

It didn’t take long for me to hit Reply and say “yes,” I would be there.  I left Susie a voice-mail message, and typed an email to her, telling her I’d be home late, and to leave me some food in the Crock-Pot, and be sure her homework was finished.  And when 5 p.m. came, I did not head north to Baja Clintonville, but walked the 0.8 miles to the bookstore.

Once I stepped through the front door, it felt like I had only left the day before, not two weeks.  Cashiers who worked with me before said hi, the coordinator handed me my old apron (a black apron with my round name tag and my Buy Local! pin), and I had been upstairs less than a minute before I was pushing a book cart and shelving buybacks and returns.

No class at Columbus State uses this textbook, but the title is just too good not to share!

The temporary bookstore gig has also been helpful to my mood.  After the initial euphoria and adrenalin about the move, and the splendor of our new place, wore off, I began to sense the red flags that signal a depressive episode.  We often tell children, “Listen to your body” when we toilet-train them, so they don’t have accidents in their pants, but too often we don’t “listen” to the symptoms that indicate a depressive (or manic) episode is just around the corner.

The lack of energy, the urge to sleep all the time, no motivation (despite having a crap ton of work to do to get this place ready for visitors and to look like we live here–as opposed to crashing here), all of it was starting to worry me.  I made it a point to refill my lithium prescription at CVS on Tuesday, since this would not be the time to run out of it.

So, armed as I was with a 30-day supply of lithium carbonate, the email from my supervisor was an added bonus.  I felt honored that he turned to me in this semi-crisis.  It would be unrealistic for me to write or believe that I am unneeded–as a single parent, and as a full-time civil servant, it would be the epitome of self-pity, and completely unjustified at that.  Nevertheless, it improved my mood and my overall mental level of functioning when I received this email.  Feeling needed in a crisis is a positive supplement to the extra money I will earn as a result of this.

I’m glad to be inside.  The rain is falling outside.  No thunder or lightning, but there is a steady rainfall just outside my window, an interesting counterpoint to the crickets.  It’s 61 degrees outside–I walked from the bus stop to my house with my shirtsleeves up.  We had spaghetti ready to go in the Crock-Pot when I arrived home, but I had to run an errand to the little market around the corner to buy some vegetable oil and Parmesan cheese.  It was misting at that time, but the sky was cloudy.  Now the rain has begun to fall.  And it’s having a tranquilizing effect on me, which is a good thing.  (I was virtuous and drank Diet Rite this evening, which is caffeine-free and taste-free.)

Planes and Backyard Movies–All Under the Harvest Moon

Every day I’m happier about Susie’s and my move to Old North.  The cleanliness, pride, and simple respect the neighbors have makes it infinitely preferable to Weinland Park, but the friendliness has made me feel even better.

After Susie came home from Youth Group yesterday afternoon, she and I were walking to the bus stop, so we could go shopping at Kroger.  There were about five people standing on the sidewalk as we went by.  I recognized one of the men as someone who often rides the 4 bus to and from downtown with me every morning.  (He’s in the minority on these particular schedules, since he works neither for the State of Ohio nor Nationwide Insurance.)  They invited Susie and me to a backyard movie at 8 p.m.  Without even asking what they were showing, I accepted.

The movie was El Mariachi, which I had never seen (neither had Susie).  Our hosts, Jeremy and Deborah, made us feel welcome right away.  The temperature was in the mid-60s, and I was perfectly comfortable, since I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but Susie was wearing a T-shirt and was about to head back to the house to get a blanket, but Deborah very quickly produced one, so Susie was all set.

Fortunately, Jeremy put on the English captions.  My knowledge of Spanish is confined to counting to 20, and I only know this from years of Sesame Street.  Susie is taking a Spanish class at The Graham School, and she mastered counting to five, thanks to Dora the Explorer.  Jeremy and Deborah hung a bed sheet across the back wall of the garage for a screen, and put brick-sized speakers at either end of the row of chairs.  (There were six of us there altogether.)

Airplanes seem to fly over every four or five minutes throughout the movie.  (And El Mariachi is not a long movie–it’s less than 90 minutes.)  Sometimes the planes flew so low their navigation lights cast shadows on the ground.  None of us had ever seen that many commercial planes flying over the neighborhood with so little time between them.  (When I lived in Franklinton and Weinland Park, police helicopters, along with their mega-candlepower searchlights flashing around the neighborhood, were so common that we paid little attention to them.)  Last night, we only saw one helicopter, which was flying at high speed, and which I suspect was on its way to Riverside Methodist Hospital.  All of the planes were eastbound, so I suspect we’re in Port Columbus’ flight path.

The moon is not officially full until tomorrow night, and it is the harvest moon.  The Wikipedia says that October 11 is the latest that the harvest moon can be.  (The harvest moon is the first full moon after the start of the autumnal equinox.)  The moon was very bright last night, and there were white ringlets of clouds in the night sky almost directly above the yard.  The movie, the moon, and the company made the evening a very pleasant one.

The movie Susie and I saw last night in our neighbor’s back yard.

Susie and Rising Voices sang “Night Winds” at the 9:15 service yesterday morning, so we had to be at church early.  (I almost always go to the 11 a.m. service, and rarely am out of bed before 8:45 Sundays.)  We left just before 8, because Rising Voices’ director wanted to have a small rehearsal on the risers, and wanted all hands on deck by 8:45.

I was glad I went to the early service.  Susie and the kids sang quite well.  I shot the first non-test video with my new Kodak Easy Share C143 (my DXG camera gave up the ghost this summer, so I replaced it, going back to the model which worked the best for me) when they sang.  Below is the video I made:


There was a Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown stalks into the panel fit to be tied.  He had gone to the store to buy a Hallowe’en mask, and the store didn’t have any.  One of his friends asked if they were going to order more.  Furiously, Charlie Brown said no, they weren’t.  “They were too busy putting up Christmas decorations!”  This afternoon, I received a Facebook invitation to the church’s annual winter concert, which will be December 18 at 4 p.m.  (Mark your calendars now, folks!)  I will be front and center, since Susie will be performing.  I’ll be missing her for Christmas, since on the 21st, she’ll be flying to Florida to spend Christmas and New Year’s with Steph.  Susie will be headed to Orlando on the last day of school (she’ll be leaving school a little early that day), and will be flying back the day before Winterim begins at Graham, January 3.  (Steph forwarded me Susie’s Southwest Airlines itinerary the other day.)

I wasn’t the dynamo I planned to be today when it came to getting this place completely ready.  I had vague memories of hearing Susie getting ready for school–getting dressed, fixing her lunch, shutting the front door, etc.–but it wasn’t until almost 11 a.m. when I hauled myself out of bed.  I bought some kitchen and cleaning supplies at Dollar General, and managed to set up my Crosley phonograph, but there is still a scatter of boxes in the living room.  And I confess I wasn’t all that organized when it comes to list-making. I don’t realize we don’t have something until the need arises.  I took some lasagna out of the oven tonight and then saw the only knives we had were butter knives, so I put the lasagna on top of the oven to cool and then dashed around to the corner market and bought a cheap set of steak knives so I could cut the lasagna.




The Upside of Autumn

I grumble about the end of summer as much as any schoolkid (including my own), but one of its bonuses (at least for those of us who toil in the vineyards of civil service) is that, from September until February, there is at least one paid day off per month.  Monday will be such a day.  Tomorrow night, I will not set the alarm, but that tomorrow will still be a semi-work day for me.  My goal is to make some serious headway in making our new home look more like a home–we’ve hung up clothes, and the office is starting to take shape, but we still look like we’re in transit.

Susie turned 14 on Thursday, and she was quite happy with the Seventeen subscription I bought her, although the first issue has yet to arrive.  (I remember receiving a subscription to Mad for my 11th birthday, and feeling just as good.)  I bought her subscription through Amazon.com, and they sent her an email Thursday morning notifying her, so now she’ll haunt the mailbox until the first issue arrives.  Susie’s grandfather sent her a sketchbook and a pen, and her mom mailed her clothes.  Susie and I had chicken soup at home (the same chicken soup I made two weeks ago–freezers and Crock-Pots are wonderful inventions) and then I took her for dessert at Groovy Spoon, a frozen yogurt restaurant on N. High St. just south of Whetstone Park.
She had a sleepover last night with a girl from The Graham School, so I stayed up almost until dawn, but was awake again by 9.  Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, although we declined the chance to dine with the Klingons.  (We ate lunch at Burger King beforehand.)  Between lunch and the movie, we went to a garage sale on E. Weber Rd.  Susie bought a purse and a scarf.  There was an entire rack of women’s clothes, but nothing she liked fitted her.  I bought a DVD of Kissing Jessica Stein and a two-disk set of Beethoven’s Favourite Piano Sonatas (I’m listening to the “Moonlight Sonata” as I type this, which is appropriate, because the moon is very bright tonight, although it’s not officially full until Tuesday).

Where Susie and I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

The downside of a three-day weekend is that my sleep schedule is now off track.  Since I didn’t get to bed until close to sunrise, and was awake again a mere four hours later, I crashed for an hour or two almost as soon as Susie left for dinner and a movie with her godmother.  Susie is singing at the 9:15 service at church, so we’ll be out of the gate sooner tomorrow morning than usual.  And I’m hardly leading by example!  It’s nearing midnight, and I’m sitting here typing this entry with a bottle of Coke Zero at my elbow.
As I was unpacking, I was scared to death that I had lost the manuscript of my memoir about my friendship with Cincinnati novelist Robert Lowry during the move.  (Most of the text was on the hard drive of the stolen laptop.)  I sent a panicked letter to my friend Robert Nedelkoff just outside D.C., since he has been my consultant and father confessor for much of the project.  (I sent a letter rather than emailing so he could have a hard copy of my new address.)  About two hours after I dropped the letter in the mailbox, I was unpacking one of the big Staples boxes (my packing lacks organization–it always has, it always will), and, voilà, there it was.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  A day or two ago, RobertNed sent me an email thanking me for notifying him of the change of address, and he attached the Word file of the Lowry manuscript, as well as other items.

Now that I have an extant copy of the hard copy, rewriting should head the “to do” list, since–as Robert has not so subtly pointed out–I am in the home stretch of finishing this book.  (Lowry died in December 1994, and the last time I added anything to the manuscript, I was describing the period between the spring of 1992 and the summer of 1993.)  However, it has been so long since I wrote anything, the voice has changed, I’ve fallen out of love with some of the prose I wrote, etc., so it’s best if I did the whole damn thing from the ground up.  Before she moved to Florida, Steph made some invaluable comments and edits in pen and ink on the manuscript, and I plan to incorporate some of these changes in the next incarnation.

An aside here–I changed the music while writing the last paragraph.  Currently, I’m listening to Vivaldi’s “Double Trumpet Concerto for Two Trumpets, Strings, and Continuo in C Major, RV 537 Allegro,” from the album Greatest Hits of 1721.  I love this piece.  What’s funny is that it first came to my attention when I saw All the President’s Men.  During the scene when Woodward and Bernstein suspect that Nixon’s people are wiretapping them, they sit at a typewriter and “converse” by typing, and Woodward blares this music on the stereo to drown out the sound of the typing.

As I was rereading the pages of the Lowry manuscript, I seem to mark the decline of my daily conduct with him to my return to gainful and stable employment, particularly my third-shift job at the main post office in Cincinnati.  I’ve often said that my conversations with him at the Bay Horse Café started off as resembling William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, since Lowry’s life and work fascinated me since I read about him in a 1989 Clifton magazine article.  Toward the end, as Lowry declined mentally, it more resembled Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

All Within Reach

Pictures of our new place will appear soon in this blog.  There are two reasons why they have yet to appear.  One is that Susie’s and my new, beloved half double is still quite cluttered and disorganized.

The other is that the cord connecting my digital camera to the laptop seems to have been a casualty of the move.  Replacing it cost me less than three dollars online, and there was an email yesterday saying it was in transit.  So, even if I had taken pictures of my new abode, they are hermetically sealed in my camera until this new cord arrives.

Because of Columbus Day, I have a three-day weekend, and my numero uno project will be getting the place in order.  It still won’t be guest-ready for awhile, but I will be able to share some pictures quite soon, if I can stay motivated and focused enough to keep working.

I was not a little kid let loose in Santa’s workshop when I went to the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio last Friday, so I am still furnishing the place piecemeal.  On Saturday, my friend Steve and I made a few trips back and forth from my former place in Weinland Park (that has such a beautiful ring to it!), and between trips, he helped me move some of the more cumbersome furniture.  Thanks to him, Susie’s and my desks are now in place, as is my dresser.  It took him, Susie, and me, working and sweating together, to get my king-sized mattress up the narrow stairway.  (Once on the second floor, moving it into my bedroom was easy.)  During moves, I have said (and heard) that recurring reassurance, “This isn’t heavy, it’s just bulky [or unwieldy],” but I didn’t dare insult Steve’s intelligence by saying that, especially when it came to the desks.

As I started to organize my study, I cursed myself for not taking the long table with me from Weinland Park.  I paced the small room (where I am now writing), thinking about what to do in the meantime until I made a trip to Goodwill to buy a table.  Then, I made my first trip to the basement since the leasing agent walked me through the place the first time.  I wasn’t sure why I was going down there.  Susie and I hadn’t taken anything down there.

Soon, I was glad I made the trip.  I found an old door leaning against the basement wall, and hauled it up to the office.  I stacked milk crate bookcases two high on the left and the right, and put the door across them.  I plan to go to Family Dollar and buy a folding chair for Susie’s and my desks, but in the meantime I am sitting on a small wooden workbench that I found downstairs.

The people who live on N. 4th St. between Maynard and Hudson must have had a good laugh early yesterday evening.  Susie is currently sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor, since the Furniture Bank didn’t have a box spring.  While I was between projects at work yesterday, I sneaked a peek at Columbus Underground‘s Website, just in time to see a notice from a woman pop up.  She had a queen-sized box spring free for the taking, and she lived in Clintonville.  She had brought it from her previous apartment, and found her stairs were too narrow for the mattress to fit.

Three or four emails later, I was headed north on N. 4th St. wheeling a dolly a friend loaned me.  (This friend works at Lowe’s, so obtaining dollies is as easy as my bringing home pens and tape from my job!)  This person’s house was several blocks north of Maynard, north of Hudson and near the rim of the Glen Echo Ravine.  She and I managed to get the queen-sized mattress onto the sidewalk, and she centered it onto the dolly.

And then the fun started.  She was trying–mostly in vain–to suppress her laughter as I made my way back toward Maynard.  I decided to pull the dolly, holding the mattress up against it with one hand and letting it rest on my shoulders.  Pushing it ahead of me was out of the question–I would have no visibility.

The half mile distance never seemed so long.  The mattress was just too wide, so I had to stop and turn it sideways for telephone poles, or to avoid breaking limbs off small trees, or tearing off the mirrors on parked cars.  The mattress completely dwarfed the dolly.  (It was like when a friend and I moved a queen-sized box spring and mattress on the top of his small car, tied there only with bed sheets.  I’m sure we resembled a ladybug trying to carry a two-by-four.)

Crossing Hudson Street was a nightmare.  It is a major entryway to Interstate 71, so there is traffic almost constantly.  Many motorists stopped for red lights sat behind their steering wheels with dropping jaws looking at this bearded lunatic with his pathetic dolly and his gigantic burden.

The railroad bridge near the intersection of Hudson and N. 4th Sts.  (The bridge crosses above Hudson St.)  The picture is from Amymyou’s Photostream on Flickr.

I was frustrated enough to consider abandoning the box spring in the nearest obliging alley, trying to be as inconspicuous and innocent-looking as possible as I leaned it against someone’s garbage cans and then beat a hasty retreat, dragging a clattering metal dolly behind me.

A young (late teens, early 20s) couple walking their dog took pity on me.  The guy and I carried the mattress at waist level the two or so blocks (but never had two blocks seemed so long than it did last night!), and his girlfriend followed us with the dolly.

The box spring is on the front porch.  After I clear a path, I will make an attempt to get this unwieldy piece of furniture up to Susie’s bedroom, although I think I’m procrastinating because I’m afraid I’ll discover the same thing my benefactor did–that the stairs are too narrow, and this box spring can’t fold in two, the way a mattress can.

And if this turns out to be the case, the next step for the box spring is the Columbus Freecycle.

Susie turns 14 tomorrow.  She understands that her big gift was the new computer, replacing the one the thieves took.  She and I will split a small cake, and on Saturday I’ll take her to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: Chekov Screams Again The Wrath of Khan.  I have already ordered a gift she has wanted for some time–a year of Seventeen–but the first issue has yet to arrive.

Despite my loathing of Bill O’Reilly, I am reading his current book, Killing Lincoln, mainly because any new book about the Lincoln assassination is a must-read for me.  Already his narrative style is starting to grate on me.  He has introduced Lincoln several times as “the man with 14 [or 13, or 12] days to live…”, which reminded me of a Discovery Channel show I liked, Final 24, describing the last hours of the lives of notable people, such as Jim Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, and Nicole Brown Simpson.