Last Quiet Moments for Awhile

Today is May 31, the day I call the Diarists’ Holy Day of Obligation, but, May 31 or no, I am posting tonight because this is the last day of relative quiet and inactivity I will have for the next three or four days.

I will make the obligatory Samuel Pepys reference by showing a picture of the six manuscript volumes of his diary, now housed at Magdalene College:

With that out of the way, I will go on to explain why this weekend is going to be packed to the rim with activity and emotion.

Susie will be reading her Faith Statement at a potluck Saturday evening at church.  She has been on two weekend retreats, and met with her fellow Coming of Age students on Sunday mornings for much of the year.  Like the journalist she hopes to become, she was at the keyboard finishing up the statement as the hands of the clock grew later and later.  If that wasn’t enough, the world premiere of Steph’s play, TeenTalk.com debuted Tuesday night at The Graham School, and Susie was one of the actors.  (See below YouTube file for the finished product–complete with cameo appearances by the P.A. system.)

For Unitarian Universalist adolescents, Coming of Age is the equivalent of bat mitzvah or Confirmation.  In true UU fashion, logistics and scheduling went down almost to the wire, with a blizzard of emails going back and forth between mentors, ministers, kids, parents, etc.  On Sunday morning, Susie will be reading Oh, the Places You’ll Go! at the 10 a.m. service.

But there’s more.  Steph and her partner, Mike, are en route here by way of car and Amtrak from the Space Coast of Florida even as I speak type.  At the same time, Steph’s father, Ray, aged 84, is headed here from Milwaukee by Greyhound, and will be arriving about 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.  This will be the first time I have seen Ray in at least six years, and the first time I have seen Steph in over a year, and the first time I have met Mike.  Much has changed in all this time, and I think we’ll all be treading lightly until we finally feel comfortable.  (Steph and I talk almost daily by IM and email, and sometimes by phone, and are more of a united front as parents than we were when we lived together.)

The first rainfall in over a week is going on right now.  Before I started typing, I ran outside (when it was still sprinkling, and not raining hard, as it is now) and put a blue 12′ × 12′ plastic pool cover over the trike.  I doubt one good rain will ruin the trike, but nonetheless I hurried out there to cover it.  I must be like the owner of a new car, who dies a million deaths the first time he sees a scratch, no matter how microscopic, on his beloved vehicle.

At the same time, I know I should not be complaining about how hectic this weekend will be.  Susie will be going to Florida with Steph for the summer, and I probably will not see her until mid-August.  This means I’ll have about 10-12 weeks of quiet and time to myself.  Time will tell if that translates into a renewal of my long-moribund mental energy to write–poetry, blogs, diaries, or anything else.  I will be back at the bookstore Monday night, for at least the coming week, as summer quarter is just around the corner at Columbus State Community College.

Susie went on Graham’s class trip to Cedar Point today.  She had to be at school an hour earlier than normal.  I was still getting dressed when I heard her shutting the front door and sprinting toward the bus stop.  Yesterday was the last day of school, and Susie greeted me with the news that she is now a sophomore… not that there was any doubt in my mind.

Another semi-noteworthy event I’ll share.  I received a package yesterday containing the Sears Silvertone AM radio I bought on eBay.  It’s currently sitting on my night table, which is too cluttered right now to be photo-worthy.  I combed the Internet for months for the same model I remember seeing in our house when I was a kid.  Dad bought it when he was a student at the Catholic University of America in the late 1940s, and I used it on and off for much of my life.

As prone to coincidence as I am, the first thing I did when I took the radio out of the box was check the underside.  I last saw Dad’s radio on my desk when I left home in 1982, and it was nowhere to be found when he died in 2000.  When I was a child, I scribbled on the underside of the radio with a crayon, and apparently it was indelible.  My first thought was that I had ended up with his radio again.  This was not the case this time.

When I was younger, the clock lit up in an eerie orange, and the words MAGIC GLOW rimmed the lower part of the dial.  By the time I left home, the clock no longer glowed.  This is true with the model that arrived yesterday, but the clock still keeps time.  I moved the AM dial around from low to the high end, and could barely pick up 610 WTVN, and only then with plenty of static.  I’m sure the radio has seen better days, and I am not going to expend any mental energy constructing an antenna.  I’m just glad to have this radio and this model by the bed.

Rummaging Around

For me, one of the indications that warm weather will be here awhile is when the yard sale and garage sale signs begin appearing on trees, telephone poles, and yard signs around the neighborhood.  The Olde North and Clintonville neighborhoods have begun sprouting them, and, now that it’s easier for me to bring home my purchases (my trike has a large basket in the back), I’ve begun noting when and where these sales are happening, and planning my weekends (especially payday weekends) around them.

The major ones thus far have been the Righteous Rummage Sale last week and a friend’s book sale yesterday.  The first took place in The Awarehouse, the bike repair bay and party hall located in the alley behind the Sporeprint Infoshop and the Third-Hand Bicycle Co-Op on East Fifth Ave.  I have always been easy prey for any type of yard sale or rummage sale, but this rummage sale’s name was accurate.  It was a fundraiser for Jessica Walker, a bartender at Zeno’s who suffered massive injuries (third-degree burns and smoke inhalation) in an apartment fire.  She has no health insurance, and her medical bills are skyrocketing.  This story, which ran in The Other Paper on April 26, gives more details.  If you are interesting in contributing for her recovery, go to http://www.helpjessica.com.
My purchases at the Righteous Rummage Sale were both recreational and functional.  I bought a two-disk set of What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been: The Best of the Grateful Dead, a cassette of Genesis’ Invisible Touch (which I used to own on vinyl–even after I had started buying CDs almost exclusively), and a new knapsack.  (I am brutal on knapsacks.  My most recent one went to the trash because the zipper no longer worked.  When I lived in Boston, in the early 1980s, I bought a canvas knapsack at Eastern Mountain Sports that lasted well into the 1990s.)  The book selection was not that alluring.  The only one I bought was the screenplay of Easy Rider, a movie which, even though I have seen it at least a dozen times, I do not own.
I went to another yard sale, closer to where I live, and went away from it empty-handed.  However, it did make a lasting impression on me, because I think the family running it was lacking in common sense.
Like other people having yard or garage sales, they hung signs on the telephone poles and lampposts for a several-block radius around the house.  The address was a big brick house on one of the many side streets between N. High St. and the Conrail tracks.  There were odds and ends in the yard, everything from VHS tapes to baby clothes to knickknacks that probably originally appeared on the Home Shopping Network.  I was only interested in a nightstand, which I thought Susie could use, but I learned that they had already promised it to someone.
The fact that there was nothing that interested me did not bother me.  I’ve become more choosy at yard sales than I used to (gone are the days when I triumphantly bought a set of left-handed golf clubs–even though I have never played golf and I am right-handed.  But they were only five bucks!!), and the pickings were slim at this one.
What did bother me (he gets around to, at long last) was that two girls, ages maybe nine and 10, were the only ones running the yard sale.  The parents were nowhere in sight, and the girls were sitting at a little bridge table in the front yard, and they had a cigar box full of bills and coins in front of them.  Without my asking, they volunteered there was more stuff for sale inside, and one of them followed me inside while I looked at what was for sale.  They really gave me the hard sell about items for sale–the older of the two said they were moving really soon from this big house to a little apartment on Route 161, so I suspected they were facing eviction.
I am the polar opposite of a helicopter parent.  Steph and I always gave Susie plenty of personal freedom, both in and out of the house.  We did it when we were together, and this has continued (and the freedoms have increased with Susie’s age and maturity) once we split.  Steph gives her plenty of freedom when she’s in Florida; I give her plenty of latitude here in Columbus.  Part of this is due to the fact that I do not drive, so I could not be a chauffeur for Susie and shuttle her everywhere, even if that was my desire, which it is not.  If she wants to get most places, that means either her own two feet or the bus.  And no, every tree, alley, and bush does not secrete a rapist.
I write that to preface my concern that these two girls were left alone, with a box full of cash, and were inviting people they had never seen before into their house.  The front rooms I saw were cluttered, but that didn’t faze me, since they were in the midst of moving.  Even when Susie was younger, and she and her friends would set up little yard sales when we lived in Franklinton, I was never any further than the living room, within yelling or running distance should any crisis arise.
Even though I didn’t feel comfortable with the situation at the yard sale, I was still not going to be one of the alarmists who keep Job and Family Services on speed dial, ready to pillory any parent who allows a child outdoors two minutes after the streetlights come on.
The other yard sale I went to was a book sale conducted by a friend from church.  He’s a rather erudite man, and his interests vary widely.  This Saturday, Susie had an early lunch at McDonald’s and went to FedEx Office for her passport photograph (she is going to Costa Rica on a school trip next January), and once we came back home, I got on the trike and went over to the book sale.  Once I made the trip, I was very sweaty, so before looking at any of the books for sale, I downed two or three glasses of water in single gulps, and resisted (barely) the temptation to pour the glasses over my head.
All books were $1 apiece, and I came away with five.  Most of them were reference books, and one was The Good Years, by Walter Lord, a history book chronicling the years between the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.  By the time I came home, I was sweaty and exhausted, and, as I was chaining the trike to the fence, I had to pull honeysuckle leaves and small branches out of the spokes of my wheels.  And I stretched out onto the love seat in my living room and dozed for two or three hours.  (This was not comfortable.  I am only 5’8¾” tall, and my legs hung over the end, but I still slept quite well.)
This blog entry has been my reward to myself for cleaning the kitchen and emptying the refrigerator, a task I delayed until well after sunset.  The house has central heating, but not central air, so I took the laptop out to the front porch, currently the coolest part of the house.  I’ve downed a bottle of Everfresh cranberry juice, and I’m currently playing Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” (very apropos) while I type this entry.  This is my third consecutive night of late nights.  On Friday, Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price in The Bat, hosted by the inimitable Fritz the Nite Owl.  Last night, Susie went to The Other Prom, sponsored by the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.  She went with a girl she met at Girlz Rhythm and Rock Camp.  The girl came up from Athens, and they went to the prom together.  When they came back around 11:15, I was waiting with my camera to immortalize the moment.  After Susie’s friend’s mother drove her daughter home, Susie said she was too exhausted to go to Studio 35 with me, so I locked the front door and walked up to the theater to see Nightmare Castle, a 1965 picture starring Barbara Steele and Paul Muller.
I took another nap when Susie and I came home from church and lunch, which means that now, at 1:07 a.m. (per my Casio wristwatch), I am wide awake.  This is Memorial Day, so I have the day off from work, but it will not be easy or simple to get my sleep schedule back to where it should be when I have to wake up for work Tuesday morning.  Susie will be going to Florida for the summer next Monday, after her Coming of Age presentation at church, and I will be missing her very much until she returns in August.  I won’t be entirely idle, since I will be returning to the bookstore job the same day she leaves–a week of 13-hour days can keep me from ruminating too much about how much I will miss her.  At the end of the summer, I plan to make my first trip to Florida to bring her back, although the dates and the logistics are nowhere near in place yet.

Tach It Up, Tach It Up, Buddy Gonna Shut You Down

I realized that since posting about my birthday gift to myself–my 26″ Schwinn Meridian adult tricycle–I have not posted in this blog about it (or anything else!).  I vowed to wait until I had racked up some miles, and then report to those readers who have been waiting impatiently for news about my new vehicle.

The trike, sitting in my living room, before adding the front fender.

When last you tuned in, my neighbors D’Lyn and Luca had assembled the trike on my front porch, which was when we discovered it was minus the large bolt and washers necessary for holding on the front fender.  I sent an email to the bike company that night, and by the end of the week, there was a small padded envelope in my mailbox containing the missing hardware.

On the Saturday after my birthday, Susie was in Akron at a Unitarian Universalist youth conference, and I took advantage of the empty house for a day trip to Athens on GoBus, $21 round trip.  So, until the fender was on the front of the trike, I knew it would’t get any mileage.

Sunday morning, my co-worker Jeff came in from Reynoldsburg with an impressive tool kit, and he was at work on the fender as Susie’s ride dropped her off after returning from Akron.  (I knew my bike was in skilled hands.  Jeff’s late father owned a hardware store, and Jeff earned his allowance as a kid and teenager by assembling bikes.)

Once the fender was on, I took the trike for its maiden voyage.  I think the Wright Brothers stayed in motion longer than I did.  They managed a 12-second, 120-foot flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, and I think my first trip on the trike was less than that.  I got on, wobbled a little bit, and almost capsized it because of my old habits from my limited bike-riding experience.  As I got to the end of the block, I tried to lean into a turn.  I haven’t been on a bicycle since high school, but I haven’t been on a tricycle for over 45 years, so I had forgotten all I had to do was turn the wheel.

I was still a little wobbly on my first ride.  In Two Years Before the Mast, Moby-Dick, and the Horatio Hornblower novels, they always talk about getting your sea legs, and Mr. Scott on Star Trek has mentioned getting your space legs.  I had yet to get my trike legs, because on my first trip back, I very narrowly missed hitting a tree.  I was only going a few miles an hour, so I would not have been injured if I had hit the tree, but it was very close.  As Dan Rather would have said, “Look at that!  Can’t get a cigarette paper between ’em!”

A day or two later, after work, I went down to the Olentangy Trail and embarked on several trips back and forth.  I am still not ready for riding alongside heavy traffic, so my on-street riding has been mostly on the narrow one-way east-west streets in Olde North.  The trail is asphalt, with several turns and small rises.  I rode back and forth from Dodridge to Lane Ave. four or five times, turning around when I could see the curved roof of St. John Arena.  I would have gone further north than Dodridge, but the bridge over the Olentangy River is out, and my trike is too wide to get around all the sawhorses, barriers, and fences the City has erected to block the path at that point.

Until yesterday, I had to restrict myself to daytime riding.  Last night, my friend Scott called and told me he was buying me a set of lights for the trike, and giving me a helmet.  I had been riding minus a helmet, although I knew on some level that a bicycle enthusiast I knew in Marietta was right when he said he always wore a helmet “whether I’m going around the block or around the world.”  Commander William Riker said that Fate protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise.  I must fall in the first category.  Scott and I went to Target last night and he bought me the lights (I paid for the batteries, a 12-pack of AAAs).

Tonight I did not hit the Olentangy Trail, but went biking on the sidewalks in Olde North.  I did get some stares, but the trike handled well, and I got my second wind pretty quickly.  As a proud pedestrian, I had mounted my cyber soapbox in the past about bicyclists using the sidewalk.  I had even ended a post on Columbus Underground with “Ride your bikes in the street, assclowns!”  On paper at least, riding bicycles on the sidewalks is forbidden, but no one in the city (including bicycle cops) obeys that rule.  I would be petrified riding in traffic, so I have elected to ride on the sidewalks, at least for the foreseeable future.

Not that the sidewalks are 100% safe.  I have not had any run-ins (literally or otherwise) with pedestrians or parked cars, but the sidewalks in Olde North are often jagged, uneven, and cracked in many places, so I’ve taken some pretty hard bounces.  It is only after tonight’s ride that I’ve stopped sweating blood about whether I blew a tire.  (I had considered practicing in the alleys, but cars usually roar through those at high speeds, and they are strewn with gravel, broken glass, nails, and other hazards.)

Pedestrians have been courteous to me, and have stepped aside without any complaint, and I’ve resolved to be more respectful about riding on the sidewalks than many of the bicyclists I’ve encountered.  I think that an adult tricycle is such an anomaly that many people give me a wide berth just so they can get a better look at it.  (“Cargo bike” and “freight bike” are the other conventional phrases to describe my vehicle, although I overheard a kid on the Olentangy Trail call it a “geezer bike.”)

The accessory that I have yet to purchase is some kind of signalling device.  I have heard a lot on the merits of a bell versus a horn.  I thought about buying a standard ooga horn, although another person suggested I get a bell (for “thank you” and for greeting people) and a marine air horn, the type of signalling device that boats carry as distress signals.  (Anyone who has been to a professional hockey game has heard them.)  The air horn is very high on the decibel scale, but I am not sure that any pedestrian, with earbuds in and volume cranked, would hear anything less.

Hopefully, the sarcasm shines through in the title of this blog post.  I am hardly Marlon Brando when I am riding this trike.  (I definitely don’t look like any of the bikers in Scorpio Rising.)  It’s a single speed, which means I have to get out and push for a lot of inclines, although with time and experience, I’ll build up more strength in my legs.  When I was shopping online for a trike, I flirted with the idea of getting a trike with a magnesium frame (much lighter), but the cost was prohibitive, and I am well aware that the more aerobic the bike ride, the more it will benefit me in the long run.

More progress reports to come.  The trike is enough of a novelty that my landlord and my next-door neighbor both wanted to ride it up and down the block last Saturday when they saw me arrive on it.  Maybe I should charge for that.

Birthday Milestone: I Bought Beer for the First Time in at Least 12 Years

I turned 49 last Sunday.  Next year, I will be eligible to join AARP (although retirement will, it seems, be about 22 years in my future), when I hit the big five-oh.  It was a good celebration, and the high point of it was the 21st-century equivalent of a barn-raising.

I had a bike-raising.  Or, to be more precise, a trike-raising.

During the winter, I decided that maybe I should supplement walking with another form of aerobic exercise.  Several people had suggested I take up bike-riding, but I was reluctant to do this.  I had many ear infections as a child (they lessened in frequency after my tonsillectomy in kindergarten), and a lasting effect is that my balance is not perfect.  I have always been rather wobbly when riding a two-wheeler, so I have not owned or ridden a bike since high school.

While doing some reading and Web-surfing this winter, I saw articles and pictures about cargo bikes (in some areas, people call them freight bikes).  This is an adult tricycle.  When the weather started getting warmer, I started looking online for an adult tricycle, talked to many people (online and in person) who were in the know about bicycling, and about two weeks ago, I went to Wal-Mart’s Website and bought a cherry-colored 26″ Schwinn Meridian adult tricycle.

About a week after I received their email confirming the purchase, I came home from work and saw the huge cardboard Schwinn box sitting on my front porch.  There was a stick-em on it from FedEx that said We delivered your package.  Thanks, guys.  So the trike had arrived, but, as I knew, it was not pre-assembled.

I had that covered even before I ordered it.  On Easter Sunday, a couple on my block invited me to a potluck. I went, and described the trike that I was ordering.  The couple who live diagonally across Maynard from me told me to let them know when the trike arrived, and they would help me put it together.

This was indeed good news.  I would not want to ride anything that I had assembled myself.  Probably the most hellish Christmas Eve I ever experienced involved putting together the Radio Flyer wagon that was one of Susie’s gifts that year.  I offered to return the favor by speaking up for some beer for the two of them.

That’s the allusion in my title.  On my birthday, Susie and I both slept a little later than usual, had brunch at the Blue Danube (a first for both of us), and while she was online with her friend in Medina (they’re writing a book together), I walked to Giant Eagle and picked up a six-pack of Burning River Pale Ale, a product of the Great Lakes Brewing Company.  (Something funny: I typed Burning River into Wikipedia’s search engine, and it redirected to Cuyahoga River.)

Luca and D’Lyn came over in mid-afternoon, bearing plenty of tools.  They did a very good job, and I reminded them that, should they have children, they will spend many a Christmas Eve doing this very thing.  Luca was prepared for any eventuality.  When I presented them with the beer, I was surprised (and a little embarrassed) to see I had no bottle opener.  (I had taken it to work for a potluck, since someone was bringing in Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C, which required a church key to open.  The bottle opener was–and still is–in my desk at work.)  I knew a kid in high school who prided himself on being able to open bottles with his front teeth, but Luca used one of his tools to do the job.

I was hoping to wind this entry up with dazzling prose describing my maiden voyage on this trike, but that is an entry for another day.  As the project neared completion, Luca and D’Lyn discovered that several screws and washers meant to hold on the front fender were missing.  My initial thought was that a front fender is not essential to riding the bike, but it seems that they may have packed the wrong rear fenders.  When the rear wheels turn, they rub against the fenders, which will eventually ruin the tires.  So, I’ve had several emails back and forth with the company, and the small parts, and two rear fenders, should be in my hands in seven to 10 business days.

Luca and D’Lyn putting together the rear of the tricycle.

Susie and I went to Lowe’s later in the afternoon and bought a bike chain and lock, and both of us wanted to be in and out of Lowe’s as quickly as we could.  I got the chain, paid for it, and we made a beeline to the front door.  (I know there are people who can spend entire Saturday afternoons in Lowe’s or Home Quarters, but their reasons baffle me.  However, I understand there are people who cannot understand how I can be entranced by a visit to OfficeMax or Staples, even when I’m only there to buy a notebook or a ream of paper.)