Quick Supplement to the October 6 Entry

When I posted on Susie’s 16th birthday (October 6), I mentioned that I had sent another gift to her, but I could not divulge it, because it had gone astray in the mail stream.  (Someone in the Columbus post office probably threw it in the wrong tub, which meant it went on the wrong flight, and ended up in Honolulu instead of Florida.)

The USPS people in Hawaii were able to right its course, so Susie received her gift, albeit a little later than I hoped.  There were two gifts in the padded envelope.  One was a spiral Beatles notebook (which Susie says will either be her next journal or an idea notebook).  The other was a black T-shirt from Records Per Minute, one of the many eclectic record stores (very minimal inventory of compact disks and cassette tapes) that I haunt, and to which I have brought Susie.

I gave Susie the notebook on the left.  All four of these choices are available from The Fab Four Store.

I was briefly tempted to buy one for myself, so as to continue my own diary, but I am using a large bound legal ledger right now.  I told myself that once I turned 50, I would use these books as diaries, instead of the Dollar Store composition books I’ve used for the past decade or so.

I am home from Fritz the Nite Owl’s showing of Halloween (1978).  Hate to cut it short, but it is past 3:30 in the morning, and the caffeine I had at Studio 35 has long ago worn off.  I realized that I had been quite unfair to my readers, leaving you dangling about what Susie received for her birthday.  So, now that we’re all breathing again, I will post this entry and crawl toward the bed.

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Vinyl, Bubbles, Urban Beachcombing, CARRIE

The now-ended Federal Government shutdown did not affect me this time, since I now work for the State of Ohio, but I did sit out one day of it.  Last Monday was Columbus Day, one of those holidays that Federal workers–but not many other people–get to take.  (State workers have the same holidays as Federal workers, except for unannounced Federal holidays, such as the death of Gerald Ford in late 2006.)  I took full advantage by sleeping in for three days in a row, prowling record stores, and acquiring more furniture.  Most welcome was a cabinet (given to me by a friend; she had foraged it from curbside in Dublin, but had never used it) to house the latest additions to the vinyl collection.

Ah, yes!  My collection of 78s seems to have stagnated at this point, but I am at least 100 albums richer when it comes to 33s.  A fellow student at St. Mary’s Middle School (I was there for seventh and eighth grade; when I was in eighth grade, he was in fifth) has been a Facebook friend for some time, and noted my frequent posts about my never-ending hunt for vinyl.  He messaged me privately, saying that he was going to get rid of much of his vinyl collection, did I want them?  I was floored and moved at the same time.  We had not seen each other since 1977, and we were not especially close at St. Mary’s, but he was willing to drive from Carroll to Olde North to leave me the vinyl he had collected since junior high.  Only through social media is such a thing possible.

You can’t bold or italic on Facebook, but I would have set my “Hell yes!” in 24-point bold were it possible.  So, late last week, I came home from work, and lo and behold there were between 100 and 150 albums sitting on my porch.  I apparently have become more anal-retentive (or more conscientious–this can be spun more than one way, I suppose), because I hefted the stack of them upstairs to my study, logged onto my Discogs.com account, and began cataloging my acquisitions.

I witnessed something interesting late Sunday afternoon, as I was waiting at the corner of S. Grant and Oak Sts.  I was in a good mood, because I had come from the library’s Bag Sale (a grocery bag full of books for $5), and I held a grocery bag that was close to overflowing).  I happened to see soap bubbles, some the size of volleyballs, drifting across Oak St.  I turned around, and there was a heavily bearded man, in a purple dress shirt and black pants, standing in a parking lot and blowing these enormous bubbles.  He had a large white bucket full of soap, and he did not say a word, but he blew bubbles so large that one driver on S. Grant slammed on his brakes when he saw it floating across the street.  I have not blown bubbles since I was a child, except maybe to teach it to Susie when she was a toddler, but I truly enjoyed watching this.

Thursday night, I went to the first showing of the remake of Carrie at the Gateway Film Center.  Carrie was the first Stephen King novel I ever read, although I was an adult before I saw the 1976 movie with Sissy Spacek and John Travolta.  I was pleased to see that this remake was more faithful to the novel, while including some of the scenes from the first movie that were not in the book.  (I am not sure how the 1976 movie did not get an X rating, since there was full frontal nudity during the opening credits.)

What did I think?  I agreed with the reviewer from The San José Mercury News who said the movie’s biggest fault was the downplaying of Carrie’s bullying.  The movie made it seem like the bulk of Carrie’s suffering came from her fanatical mother, who seemed to think anything that brought pleasure was sinful.  I was glad that the movie emphasized how social media has made bullying even worse.  When 17-year-old Carrie has her menarche (first menstrual period) in the gym shower, not only do the other girls throw tampons and sanitary napkins at her, one of the girls films it with her camera phone, and within days the video is all over YouTube.

As one who was not popular in high school, and on the receiving end of plenty of bullying and ridicule, there is a large part of me that was rooting for Carrie after she laid waste to her school (and fellow prom-goers) after her very public humiliation.  I think of it as the ultimate Revenge of the Nerds.  The Carrie White character is also the ultimate fish out of water.  Many TV series deal with people who are adapting to new and totally alien surroundings–shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and even The O.C.–yet you come away thinking that there is no safe place for Carrie, not at home, not at school, not in the small Maine city where she lives.

I heard the name Stephen King again this morning.  At 12 midnight on November 1, NaNoWriMo (a portmanteau of the phrase National Novel-Writing Month) begins, and now that I’m experiencing the empty nest syndrome, I have no excuse not to become one with my laptop and try to write 50 thousand words between then and 11:59:59 p.m. on the 30th.  I braved the cold rain to go to a workshop at the Bexley Public Library on preparing for NaNoWriMo.  The leader was Jody Casella, who writes children’s and young adult fiction (author of Thin Space).  She emphasized the acronym BIC as the #1 must for NaNoWriMo.  (It’s not the ballpoint pen or BIC America speakers, it stands for Butt In Chair.)  For advice, inspiration, or a how-to for writing effectively, Casella recommended over a dozen books, and one of them was Stephen King’s On Writing.

A Wang word processor from the early 1980s, similar to the model formerly used by Stephen King.

I am not sure if Susie is going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year.  She has mentioned her plot idea in a Facebook post, but whether she will find the time between schoolwork and her mom’s rule that she needs to be offline by 10:30 p.m. on school nights, is unclear to me.

For my part, I have heard that it takes two weeks to develop a habit.  This is often a truism, when it comes to something like remembering to turn on the porch light at night (which I do every night of the year except trick-or-treat night) or shutting off the computer before leaving the house.  NaNoWriMo seems to be the exception to that in my case.  Susie and I were both poised at our respective keyboards starting at 11:55 on the night of October 31 in 2011, and at midnight we were like thoroughbreds charging out of the gate at Churchill Downs.  That year, I did manage to “win” NaNoWriMo, but my experience has been that I will write like a house afire for about two weeks, easily getting in the 1667 words per day necessary to come up with 50 thousand by the end of the month, and then I’ll start slowing down and slowing down, and by the 12th or 13th of the month, I’ll have ground down to a halt.

Earlier in this entry (which has strayed all over the landscape, I admit), I mentioned Federal holidays.  NaNoWriMo comes at a good time for me, because I have two holidays in November, Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving.  November is also a choice month because the weather is generally pretty crummy, and more people are inclined to want to stay where it’s warm and with a roof over his/her head (especially days like today).  It’s also a palatable alternative for literate people during the height of college football season.  (Why anyone who has learned to walk upright would love football is totally past my understanding.)  I think there had been one attempt to move it back to September or October, but this would have inconvenienced Jewish participants, because the month would likely include the High Holidays.

The Columbus Marathon is tomorrow.  The closest I have ever come is walking in the 5K marathon at The Charles School last spring.  There is no way I would ever run a marathon (I don’t run because I don’t have the stamina.  Why don’t I have the stamina?  Because I don’t run), but I think walking one (or at least a half marathon) is a possibility.  I keep reminding myself of my favorite line of dialogue in W.C. Fields’ movie The Bank Dick (1940):

EGBERT SOUSÉ (played by Fields): My uncle, a balloon ascenionist, Effingham Hoofnagle, took a chance.  He was three miles and a half up in the air.  He jumped out of the basket of the balloon and took a chance of alighting on a load of hay.

OG OGGILBY (played by Grady Sutton): Golly!  Did he make it?

EGBERT SOUSÉ: Uh… no.  He didn’t.  Had he been a younger man, he probably would have made it.  That’s the point.  Don’t wait too long in life.

Sweet Sixteen for Susie

With my penchant for precision, I waited until exactly 1:13 p.m., when Susie was born, before calling to wish her a happy birthday.  (She didn’t hear the message.  Her voice mailbox has been full for quite some time, because we forgot the passcode, and her phone was on vibrate.  We IMd on Gmail a few minutes later, however.)

Susie’s birth time is easy to remember.  It’s 13:13, in European or military time.  Mine is also simple–12:34 p.m.  One two three four.  My obsession with detail even revealed itself at Susie’s birth.  Susie was delivered, after some 36 hours of labor, by Caesarean section, at Grant Medical Center.  When she finally made her debut, I was behind the sterile screen with Steph, so I could not see the actual event.  Our midwife took the single-use camera out of the breast pocket of my scrubs, and took the picture.  Susie still had the umbilical cord connected to her, and the nurses had yet to clean her.  I grabbed the camera back from the midwife, turned around and took a picture of the wall clock.

I was on Amazon.com last week to order Susie’s gifts.  They were DVDs of the fifth and sixth seasons of House, and a copy of Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem!, which is Holy Writ for anyone who participates in NaNoWriMo.  (This is October, and November, the month for National Novel-Writing Month, is looming on the horizon.  Susie and I “won” NaNoWriMo in 2011, and since I’m doing the empty-nest thing, I guess I cannot plead too many distractions when I undertake it this year.)  I am not sure if Susie will try her hand at NaNoWriMo this year, but November is the perfect month for it.  It’s so literate people can have something to do during college football season.

Right now, I am unable to write about another one of Susie’s gifts.  I approach this with some reluctance because, as a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, I am sensitive to criticism about it.  On Tuesday, I sent her a parcel via Priority Mail.  Included in the price is a tracking number, so your package leaves a trail beginning at the post office counter (in this case, at the Christopher Columbus station downtown, 43215) and ending up at its destination–which would be Merritt Island, Florida 32952.  I set up an alert so that the site would email Steph and me with each point in the package’s journey.

On Thursday, the email notified us that the package had arrived–not at the sort facility in Orlando, but in Honolulu.  I was an expediter’s assistant when I worked at the main post office in Cincinnati, so my guess is that someone in Columbus threw this package into the wrong tub, which meant it went out on the wrong flight.  We were in limbo until this morning, when I opened my email and saw that the package had made it to the sort facility in Orlando.  Unless someone drops the ball there, Susie should receive it tomorrow.  (I won’t disclose the contents, because Susie reads this blog.)

The government shutdown continues.  It brings back memories of 1995, when another shutdown occurred.  At the time, I was working for the Internal Revenue Service here in Columbus as an appointment clerk, and for that entire week, the atmosphere at work felt like a prisoner on Death Row waiting for a phone call from the governor.  On November 13 at midnight, Congress’ continuing resolution would expire.  I was on the phone to taxpayers and their representatives, telling them that I was cancelling appointments–no auditors would be there.  Our supervisor told us to report for work the next morning.

Outside the Federal Building, Mike Russell of WBNS-TV (Channel 10) interviewed me.  The only quote from that interview aired was my saying, “None of us got into government service with dollar signs in our eyes.”  I stand by that statement.  Anyone who enters government service at any level for financial gain is a fool.  Russell wanted to film more at my place on Highland St., so I came home and told Steph, “We’re having company.”  “Who?”  “Channel 10.”  Russell and a film crew arrived, and took some reaction shots of me watching Dan Rather on The CBS Evening News–on my black and white portable.  He showed me talking about living from one paycheck to the next, and how I would feel the loss of even one day’s wages.  (Compare this to an elderly woman who worked at the Industrial Commission when I arrived in 2004.  She had been there since World War II–hired when most men were in the service–and when she retired, supervisors found several uncashed paychecks in her desk.  If my paycheck is short $50, I feel its loss!)

We also came in the next morning, although the government officially closed for business at midnight.  I called a few more accountants and taxpayers and told them about the cancellations.  Finally, around 10 a.m., I left to get a Coke, and when I came back, my supervisor said, “Paul, sign your furlough letter and go home,” handing me the letter and a pen.  I signed it, put on my jacket, and headed for the door.  The telephone on my desk rang.  Just on instinct, I turned and reached for the receiver.  Then, I just shrugged my shoulders and walked out, and headed home.

The shutdown ended on the 19th of November.  I remember a video clip of Bob Dole (R-Kansas) saying, “If the government shuts down, his [President Clinton’s] fingerprints will be all over it.”  We see how well that worked during the 1996 elections.  Clinton was re-elected with 379 electoral votes, and he carried 31 states and the District of Columbia.

This weekend has not been totally boring.  I did some major cleaning in my study (the living room is next, since it’s turned into an Oscar Madison-type bachelor pad, which, even in my re-bachelor state, I’m not liking) and discovered a small pocket diary that I bought on eBay earlier this year.  It covers only the month of January 1887, and, because of its age and fragility, I will leave it blank.  It is also the only time I have ever seen an entire appointment book that covered only one month.  (I have seen five-year diaries–although I never used them–and appointment books where the whole week appears on two pages.)

I wonder if the Rhode Island Underwriters Association gave their clients a new diary every month, as a perk for buying a policy.

I left work early and went to a rummage sale at a friend’s house on N. 4th St.  Most of the selection was women’s clothing, which, of course, did not interest me.  I did buy $6 worth of records, including The Rock ‘N’ Roll Era–1963 (the year of my birth), a Time-Life compilation.  I was a little dismayed it did not contain “I Will Follow Him,” by Little Peggy Marsh, which was the #1 hit the week I was born.

(The week Susie was born, the #1 hit was Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind/Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”  I believe it was the recording of the version of “Candle in the Wind” that Sir Elton John sang at Princess Diana’s funeral that summer.)