Damn, Damn, Damn…

I worked yesterday morning at the bookstore, and it wasn’t until I was there, and well into the workday, that I remembered that I had signed up for “Mark My Words,” a true crime-writing workshop at the Old Worthington Library.  The workshop was to begin at 2 p.m., and I debated leaving at noon, but my supervisor was not in, and didn’t feel right about just disappearing at 12 noon and leaving a note on his desk.

Diana Britt Franklin led the workshop.  She is the author of The Goodbye Door, the story of Anna Marie Hahn, “the blonde Borgia,” who is famous for being the first female serial killer executed in America.  (She was electrocuted at the Ohio Penitentiary in 1938, after killing many elderly people in Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood just north of downtown Cincinnati.)  Franklin also wrote Gold Medal Killer.  I have read neither of these books, but just reserved them online from the library.

One of the reasons I forgot about the workshop was because I changed cell phones.  The Net10 cell phone I have carried for over a year is finally dying on me, and on Friday night I began using the Verizon phone a co-worker gave me.  I had not entered my calendar events into the new phone, so I forgot about the event until I had a “Wow, I coulda had a V-8!” moment while re-shelving the buyback books.  Meanwhile, on my dresser at home, the old cell phone had beeped to remind me to head Worthington-way.

I think my interest in true crime began in 1974 or so, unless you count my endless research on the Lincoln assassination.  When Charles Lindbergh died, the news programs ran small biographies, including the 1927 New York-to-Paris flight, his isolationism in the pre-World War II days, his environmental activism, and his writing.  Until I heard these, I had not known about the kidnapping and murder of his first son in 1932.  (For those of you who don’t know about this, Lindbergh’s 20-month-old son Charles Augustus, Jr. was kidnapped from his crib in New Jersey in 1932.  The kidnapper left a note demanding $50 thousand ransom, and mailed several other notes afterwards, including one attached to the boy’s pajamas.  Lindbergh paid the ransom, but no one found the child at the Massachusetts location the kidnapper had mentioned.  Six weeks after the ransom payment, the boy’s body was found in the woods by the Lindbergh home.)

Lindbergh had been a hero of mine, after I read about his flight to Paris, and before I knew about his flirtation with eugenics and Nazism.  I knew remarkably little about his life other than the flight, and knew nothing about the kidnapping.  (I wrote him a fan letter, which I never mailed, and its P.S. was “I was wondering–are you related to Anne Morrow Lindbergh?”)  I went to the library and borrowed the best book at the time on the case: George Waller’s Kidnap: The Story of the Lindbergh Case.  It’s a very thick book, with small type and no index, but I read it over a three-day period in the summer of 1975, and immediately went on to The Hand of Hauptmann, by J. Vreeland Haring.  Reading these books opened the door to my interest in true crime, and I began haunting the 364 (Criminology) section of the library.

In the last 10 or 15 years, I have become a bit more snobbish about my tastes in true crime.  I have bought true crime books by writers such as Aphrodite Jones and Ann Rule, but I usually relegate them to the less visible bookshelves in my house, like a teenager hiding pornographic magazines, or the same way I would hide Harlequin Romance novels… if I owned any.  To me, the three best true crime books written were Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field, and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song.  (In Cold Blood is a “non-fiction novel,” and later research bears out the thought that it’s more novel than non-fiction.)  The Executioner’s Song is a novel, but it is much more thoroughly and meticulously researched than many true crime books I have read, including the hastily produced ones that hit the newsstands days after a horrendous crime.  (I remember two books on the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide appearing less than a week after it happened.)

First edition of In Cold Blood.

Currently, I’m immersed in Stephen King’s newest novel, 11/22/63, about a Maine high school teacher who turns time traveler in order to prevent John Kennedy’s assassination.  I have yet to reach the part of the story where he meets Lee Harvey Oswald, but I am currently quite fascinated by his sojourn to Derry, Maine not long after the 1958 events in It.  (Derry reminds me in many ways of my hometown, Marietta, Ohio.)

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day, a holiday for State workers, and Susie has the day off from school as well, so we’re going to mark the event with eye examinations.  Long overdue, but quite necessary for both of us.

Winter Solstice is Officially Here

It seems that I have to kick off more and more blog entries by apologizing for not posting more frequently.  I plead the usual–work overload and utter exhaustion once the work day finally ends.  I’m logging the usual 40 hours per week in service to the State of Ohio, and two or three nights per week at the Discovery Exchange.  (The winter quarter is in full swing at Columbus State, but my supervisor asked me if I would stay on until the end of next week.  I need the extra cash too much to decline such an offer.)

As I left the DX (as Columbus State people call it) last night, the snow began to fall.  I was under-dressed for this, since the temperature was in the mid-40s when I left my house around 7:30 a.m.  It was cloudy and gray, but I didn’t give that any special consideration.  From mid-November to about March, Columbus residents speak of seeing the sun the same way other people talk about UFO or Loch Ness Monster sightings–and usually receive the same skeptical responses.

When I left the Industrial Commission at 5 and started to make the 0.8-mile walk east on Spring Street, a cold rain was falling, and I was, as usual, hatless.  I managed to keep busy by re-shelving buybacks and customer assistance, so I was astonished when the work day was winding down and I saw that wet snow was starting to fall.  Snow had covered most of the ground, including the sidewalk and streets, much thicker than the very light dusting that covered the grass just before Christmas.

Susie came home about 30 minutes after I did, not happy about having to walk from High St. to our house in the snow.  Now that she is older, snow is definitely losing its allure.  The Susie and snow memory that I will retain until the day I die was the sudden dumping of snow in February of 2010.  I was lying abed, recovering from my gallbladder surgery, and Susie and one of her friends shouldered snow shovels and went all over Baja Clintonville, coming back $40 richer.  They were out earning money, and getting some major exercise, while my major accomplishment that day was that I managed to get from my bedroom to the bathroom and back without having to hang onto the wall the whole way.

One of the books I got for Christmas when I was about three or four.

I still enjoy snow, although, as I get older, I like it more while I’m watching it from inside.  I never willingly participated in a snowball fight (I knew kids in Marietta who were not above putting M-80s and rocks in their snowballs), although I enjoyed sled-riding.  I was a bit of a chicken when it came to sled-riding–I stuck to my easy-to-manage flexible flyer, inviting ridicule from kids who used saucers, car hoods, flattened cardboard boxes, etc.  (I have never ridden on a metal saucer.  Once they started going downhill, you were a projectile, with absolutely no way of stopping until the hill bottomed out or until you hit something.)

The hill next to Mills Hall on the Marietta College campus was the one we used most often.  The campus was private property, and security officers had repeatedly run us off, but we had the rules-are-for-canasta attitude that I still retain to a lesser degree, even now, and security finally gave up.  It was steep enough to get up a good head of steam while you were headed downward, but not so fast as to instill terror.  Usually, your ride would stop when you hit the chain-link fence that enclosed a small basketball court at the foot of the hill.  It would smart a little, but usually the kids wore enough heavy clothes that it wasn’t more than a bump.

Susie had school today, and I went to work.  I took for granted I’d be working, since the State barely agreed to close all offices during the 1978 blizzard.  I made the lunchtime walk to the Payroll office at Columbus State, but moved a little more slowly than usual, since I was afraid of slipping and falling.

The snow hasn’t kept Susie and me confined to quarters.  We’re both at Kafé Kerouac right now, and I’m typing away while two aspiring guitarists play on the stage.  (Listening to these guys, I think they will be aspiring for a long, long time!  Susie reviewed them in her blog and her critique is quite accurate.)  High St. looks pretty clear, and there’s plenty of condensation on the windows, which makes the streetlights and car headlights look a little ghostly.

While we were walking here tonight, the neighborhood seemed to be pretty quiet, other than some music from some of the houses we passed.  This is quite a contrast from last night, when the sound of the wind howling up and down Maynard Ave. awoke me several times.

Marietta did not get the full force of the 1978 blizzard, although we missed a lot of school because of the snow, and because the Bituminous Coal Strike drove up the price of heating.  When snow came, it was quite subtle.  I remember one Sunday night calling a friend of mine and saying, “Hey, it’s snowing.”

“It is?” he said, quite skeptically.  There was silence on the line for five or 10 seconds, and then he gasped, “My God, it is!”  He and his older brother made the 15-minute walk over to my house, and the three of us left together about 15 minutes later.  His brother was disappointed, as we retraced their path, to see that their footprints hadn’t been covered up.  A day or two later, snow was falling fast enough and heavily enough that footprints disappeared almost as you made them.

Happy 2012 to All!

And may there be many years ahead of you!  I’m excited right now because Susie will return from Florida in a little over 24 hours, in time to begin Winterim at The Graham School on Wednesday.  I haven’t been completely as productive as I wanted to while she was gone, but I’ve put the time to good use.  I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to return to work tomorrow morning.

I worked New Year’s Eve day at the bookstore, so I couldn’t sleep in.  I went to Kobo, a nightclub on High St., for the evening.  I saw a co-worker of mine from the bookstore, and he immortalized my presence there by photographing me deep in my (Diet Coke) cups.

Me at Kobo, January 1, 2012

I declined a drink of champagne from the brother of another bookstore co-worker, and when I left, I bumped into some pretty graphic evidence of why I’m glad that I no longer drink.  (I don’t think I am/was an alcoholic, but I was definitely headed in that direction, and with two alcoholic parents, the deck was definitely stacked against me genetically.)

I stepped out onto High St. and there was a woman huddled on the ground in the fetal position in the alley next to the bar.  Her friends–both male and female–were helping her, but she was so out of it she couldn’t even make the initial moves to get on her feet.  My first thought, shared with many of the onlookers who had come outside to smoke, was that she had overindulged, had gone outside to vomit, and then had passed out.  Her friends’ attitude ran the gamut from commiseration to impatience to disgust.  One wanted to get her a cup of water, but another friend wisely pointed out that she wasn’t conscious enough to swallow; if they gave her water, she would probably drown.  They kept her turned on her side, so she wouldn’t aspirate in case she vomited.

My mind flashed back to a fall night in the ’80s, back at Ohio University, when there was a party in one of the dorms.  This was typical for a Friday night, but it was a freshman dorm, which meant the hosts and many of the guests were underage, and the noise could be heard all over East Green.  One of the clowns attending the party decided the action was a little dull, so he/she went out into the hallway and pulled the fire alarm.

Everyone–party-goers or not–soon came out of Shively Hall because of the fire alarm.  All but one, a guy at the party who really had his load on, to the point that he was unconscious.  The squad came for him, and two EMTs brought him out, his arms around their shoulders, his feet dragging, swaying back and forth between them and his head dangling down.  Everyone was still in the parking lot, waiting for the all-clear to go back inside, and not at all happy about having to go outside for no reason.

Their mood changed when the EMTs came out with this guy.  The entire crowd broke into applause, whistling, and foot-stomping.  “Buy that man a drink!” several people shouted.  Had Twitter and the Internet existed in 1984, I am sure that the video would have gone viral in hours.  My amusement was not a “Well, that’s what you get for overindulging,” but it was more along the lines of “Can’t hold your liquor, can you, tenderfoot?”  (I haven’t drunk anything stronger than Diet Pepsi for over 13½ years, but I don’t think the Straight Edge community would claim me as one of their own.  My love of meat and my excessive caffeine consumption would negate any claims of being Edge.)

The woman in the alley was drunk, but, as it turned out, there was more to the story.  After 15 or 20 minutes of debate, one of the bouncers finally called 911.  It looked like this overindulgence was going to be costly to more than just the woman’s pride, because she was barely responsive at all.  The bouncer also flagged down a police car as it was headed up High St.  I talked to the brother of the woman’s boyfriend, and it turned out she had been assaulted, and her cell phone stolen from her.  She didn’t seem bloody or bruised, and when she was finally with it enough, the police officer took a statement from her.  (By this time, she was able–barely–to stand under her own power, and she leaned against the wall with her boyfriend, while the officer stood there with his notebook and his pen.)  I asked her if the cell phone had a GPS, so they could track it down, but she said it didn’t.  (I have one on mine, but it’s only activated when I dial 911.  My thinking is that if I have a heart attack or stroke, and can only manage to dial 911 before I lose consciousness, the paramedics can find me.)  And she ended up going home with the boyfriend and her retinue of friends, and the police car made it less than a quarter of a block up High St. before they had to quell some other fracas at Ledo’s Lounge.

My friend Jeff from Marietta, whom I met in 1977 when he was working at the public library, came up for a long overdue visit on New Year’s Day.  I had sent him Google Map directions, so he had no problem finding my place, and we walked over to the Blue Danube for dinner, caught up on our respective life situations, and he fell in love with the ‘Dube immediately, as does almost anybody I’ve ever brought there.  (It was my second day in a row going there.  On Saturday, after the bookstore closed at 2, I took a co-worker and her father there.  She is 19, and grew up on Indiana Ave., but did not know the place existed. I could not allow this state of affairs to continue, so when the bookstore closed, she, her dad, and I went there for lunch.  In addition to the food, she fell in love with the jukebox and the painted ceiling tiles.)

After Jeff left to return to Marietta, I had a pretty sedate evening, which lasted until about 4 a.m. this morning.  I put on hours’ worth of music (I patched my old Dell laptop into my Crosley phonograph, so the Crosley can serve as an amplifier), stretched out on the love seat, and read until I finally felt tired.

There’s a slight dusting of snow on the ground right now, and the Weather Channel icon at the bottom of my screen says 24 degrees Fahrenheit right now.  In the early hours of New Year’s Day, there was a windstorm.  Coming back from Kroger yesterday afternoon (I went there to pay the electric bill), I saw that a tree in Brevoort Park had blown across E. Torrence Rd. and totally blocked it.  Also, the screen on my living room window is completely ripped, and I saw quite a few limbs and spilled trash cans as I was out and about in Clintonville during the day yesterday.