Farewell to a Kidney Stone of a Year…

I am so happy to see that the balance of 2013 can now be measured in hours.  I will be going to a party in my neighborhood later on tonight, and seeing that ball drop on Times Square at the stroke of 12 midnight is going to feel like the front gate of a prison swinging all the way open.

I cannot take credit for the phrase “kidney stone of a year.”  I first saw it in a Doonesbury cartoon where the characters were toasting the end of the 1970s, a “kidney stone of a decade,” and “the worst of times.”  In addition to a two-liter or two of Diet Pepsi, one of the items I am bringing to the party will be a 2013 calendar.

As soon after midnight as is feasible, I am going to be setting the calendar on fire.  The coming year of the common era 2014 will be a blank book with 365 pages–and I’m quoting an Internet meme that has been making the rounds on Facebook the last day or two.

The low highlights of 2013 that made this such a shitty year are (in roughly chronological order):

  • The death of my friend Scott on March 10.  Scotty was younger than I am (by about six weeks), and we spoke of many subjects–both personal and otherwise–during the many long evening walks that we took, often braving varieties of weather, and often venturing into neighborhoods that neither of us knew very well.  The final chapter of Scotty’s life was this fall, in the Memorial Garden at the Unitarian Universalist Church, when we all took turns scattering his ashes among the greenery in the garden.  (This is the same garden where my mother’s memorial service took place in 2008, although we did not scatter her ashes there.  Unlike Scotty, my mother had alienated so many people that she was seen out of this world mainly in the presence of strangers.)
  • The aortic aneurysm.  I have not reveled in the myth that I am immortal since I was a teenager, and I know that statistically there are more years behind me than there are ahead of me, but discovering in May that there was something wrong, something tangible, something visible on an X ray and a CT scan, drove the point home that yes, I am mortal.  As things stand now, the aneurysm is not getting any larger, and I don’t need to have another CT scan until next November, but still there is a part of me that wonders if it will burst.  (The way of telling that an aortic aneurysm has burst is actually quite simple: If I wake up in the morning, it has not burst.)  Part of me is surprised that I have made it to 50, since I have never been a role model for self-care, with my earlier abuse of alcohol and my current caffeine overuse–plus the fact that I am overweight, with a cholesterol level that resembles a ZIP code.  I have already lived longer than Mozart, Jack Kerouac, and Jesus, so maybe I am more indestructible than I think.
  • Susie’s moving to Florida in June.  That took quite a lot out of me emotionally–more than I thought it would.  Had Comfest not been the same weekend that she left, I am not sure I would not have crashed emotionally, to the point where I would have required hospitalization.  So much of my identity from 2011 has focused on being a single parent, and it was something where I had truly found my niche.  I earned high praise from Steph, and even from friends of hers who did not have much use for me personally.  I have managed to pick up my completely re-bachelored life in the intervening months, and while I have missed Susie, especially on those nights when the house is so quiet that I would have to make any noise to break the silence, I have made the adjustment.  I have always been adaptable to new situations, it’s just that this one took longer.
  • The death of Russell Speidel.  The proprietor of Duttenhofer’s Book Treasures died this summer of prostate cancer.  In addition to being a good neighbor, and the owner of the bookstore where I went for all my obscure titles, he was also a very good friend.  I was quite high maintenance at the time I lived next door to his store in Cincinnati–drinking too much, spending money foolishly, intermittently employed, and he often hired me to do small jobs for him, and lent me money when I was totally broke.  He was not a young man when he died, nor when I knew him, but he was one of those people I thought would always be around.  I am glad that he saw my transition from the heavy-drinking neighbor for whom employment was never a given to a father and steadily employed State employee.

When I set the pages of the 2013 calendar on fire soon after midnight, I will revel in the sight of the flames more than any pyromaniac.

I am upstairs in my office typing, with my beloved Alan Parsons Project blaring from the speakers on the desk and the bookcase.  Susie and her friends are seeing in the new year with mountains of junk food and hours’ worth of DVDs.

Yes, you read that right.  Susie is here until next Monday.  On Christmas Eve, I took Southwest Airlines down to Florida to spend the Christmas holiday.  The presents were modest all around–I gave Susie three compact disks (two Beatles, one Elvis Presley), and she gave me Robert L. Short’s The Parables of Peanuts.  The best gift was being able to see Susie, and knowing that she would be flying back to Ohio with me on the 28th.

She and I did the usual things that we did together in Ohio.  We went to a Goodwill store in Rockledge, hung out with our laptops in the Merritt Island Barnes and Noble, and had a meal at Steak ‘n Shake.  After using so many hours of Barnes and Noble’s free Wi-Fi, I broke down and bought a new journal.  The one I am using now has about 86 pages left, and I am going to fill them before I begin the new volume, even though a new year is the traditional time to begin a diary or christen the next volume of one.

Susie wasted no time in re-establishing contact with friends of hers.  Even before she left Florida, she had scheduled a lunch date with the woman who was her mentor during Coming of Age in church last year.  I had the pleasure of taking her and her friend Maya–they first met during children’s theater at the Davis Center for the Performing Arts, and reunited at The Charles School, and picked up right where they had left off–to brunch at the Blue Danube.  As I knew she would, Maya fell in love with the place.

Susie and me after our breakfast repast at Roberto’s Little Havana Restaurant in Cocoa Beach.

I will not be bidding an affectionate farewell to 2013.  This is one of the times when I can sympathize with Lucy Van Pelt, who complained that the previous year had disappointed her, and that she was going to write a letter of protest.  She stopped when Linus asked her, “Who’s in charge of years?”

Before I go to the party, I might finish the novella I have been reading all week.  The title is The Bab Deception, by Bill Paxton (not the actor).  It’s a Sherlock Holmes adventure that is decidedly not part of the Canon (the 56 short stories and four novels written by A. Conan Doyle).  This novella deals with an assassination that is pinned on members of the Baha’i faith.  At the beginning, Holmes and Watson have quite a discussion about astrology, Spiritualism, and even Wicca.

I am in the home stretch of the novella (about 76 pages altogether), and I would say that Holmes is Baha’i-curious at this point.

Information Wants To Be Free

I wonder how many times I have walked past the silver display box at the corner of E. Gay and N. Pearl Sts. without noticing it.  The clusters of plastic display boxes at sidewalk intersections are legion in downtown Columbus–glossy pamphlet-sized publications advertising apartments for rent, magazine-size lists of cars and trucks for sale–that I think it’s understandable that I would not have seen it.

Until Wednesday, that is.  I was walking back to the William Green Building after lunch at Ringside, a small café in the alley behind the State Office Tower.  I was more observant than before, I suppose, when I saw the silver-painted box with the sign FREE BOOKS.
No clue as to how many of these are around Columbus, whether downtown or elsewhere.  This one is at the corner of E. Gay and N. Pearl Sts., just outside the ZenCha Tea Salon.

The books available consisted of many obscure titles, along with some slender Signet Classics and some theology books published by Catholic publishing houses.  The only book I took was John Updike’s Memories of the Ford Administration.  I came away thinking what a welcome change of pace this was from all the other free reading material offered downtown, such as the free “newspapers” which are little more than pages and pages of ads and bands’ self-promotion.

The title of this post comes from the credo of the Cyberpunk movement in computer hacking, hearkening back to the 1970s and 1980s, before computers were as ubiquitous as they are.  The mentality behind hacking was much more benign than the ugly turn it has taken in the last decade or so.  During the early hacking era, the purpose for hacking into a system was just to see if you could do it.  The hacker had no interest in stealing or altering data, other than leaving a caustic “I was here!” buried in a REM statement.

Whoever set up this box is going independent, because I have seen two or three Little Free Library boxes in the Clintonville area, working on the same principle.  (I am seriously considering setting one up in my front yard once spring comes and the weather is consistently warmer.)  Libraries are usually the first thing to fall to the budget axe in schools and city budgets–while politicians, parents, and school officials, in the same breath, wring their hands about the United States’ falling behind in math, science, and literacy compared to the rest of the world.

The public library has long been “the people’s university,” and now thoughtful and proactive people are taking the message local, and hitting the streets, much the way the more aggressive politicians and evangelists have done.  Instead of the library being behind walls and doors, it is going to the people, as accessible as any free newspaper or ad cluster.

Indeed, the free book box reminded me of my days in Cincinnati in the mid-1980s, when I was working as a typesetter and proofreader for Homefinder, a biweekly journal of real estate listings.  I would spend four to five days per week as a Burroughs operator, occasionally setting copy for The Woman CPA, and then see the finished product on a rack at Fifth Third Bank when I went there to cash my paycheck.

Before the idea of the Little Free Library came to anyone’s mind, I was taking advantage of several–intentional or not–precursors to it.  When I lived in the Boston area, bookstores were clustered over a four- or five-block radius in Cambridge, and when I was flush, I spent many a paycheck at them.  However, it did not take me long to notice that they did not keep all the books that people tried to sell to them, so I began to prowl the area around the Dumpsters, and there I found interesting (to me) books, all of them free and ripe for the picking.  I was able to build a small library piecemeal from these rejects–everything from classics to Peanuts to the outright lunatic (such as Hal Lindsey’s Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth) that I would never have bought.  When book-picking behind Shambhala Bookstore on JFK Blvd., sometimes I would recover books worthy of the blog I Read Odd Books, such as Aleister Crowley’s The Book of Lies or Leo Schaya’s The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah.  (The bookstore mainly sold products published by Shambhala Publications.)  In a Crimson article I wrote about the bookstores of Harvard Square in 1984, I used the word “occult” to describe Shambhala’s wares, but now the word “occult” is one I try to avoid.  Occult simply means “unknown,” and algebra and basic chemistry fall under that classification for me.

In the 1970s, the public library in Marietta had a cart in the foyer by the circulation desk, a paperback exchange and giveaway.  This was my first exposure to books I buy and see for sale at PulpFest, such as Pocket Books editions of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason and D.A. series.  (The Perry Mason books can be subtitled The Chronicles of Hamilton Burger, America’s Most Incompetent Attorney.)  I also accumulated Dell paperbacks of Brett Halliday’s Mike Shayne series, and the mysteries of Mignon G. Eberhart (who inspired Agatha Christie to produce the Miss Marple novels–suspense mysteries featuring a strong heroine).  I even came away with a Bantam paperback romance or two written by Barbara Cartland.

One of the Little Free Library sites here in the Clintonville area is in front of the Clintonville Resource Center, a choice location.  The Resource Center features a food pantry, so they are doing the joint task of feeding minds as well as bodies.  When I needed to go there to stock our larder, there was a small assortment of books available for the taking.  I would often get a young teen book for Susie, and try to circumnavigate around the copies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life to find more secular classics.

As with any donation-based service, your mileage will vary as to the findings at these venues.  The choices will be feast or famine.  Some people will donate books just to get them off their hands, such as the quickly read and -forgotten bodice ripper or Harlequin Romance, while others will seek to expose passersby to the classics and immortal works, and stock their boxes with paperback classics.

I have yet to begin reading my copy of Memories of the Ford Administration, but my copy will hold my interest, even if the text will not.  (I have only read The Witches of Eastwick and the four Rabbit Angstrom novels–that is the whole of my John Updike experience.)  The previous owner has underlined it, written comments and personal reflections in the margins, and so reading these may be as much fun as the actual novel itself.  (This could be like the 1929 pocket diary that I found in a Cambridge bookstore in 1982.  Written in pencil, the entries read like this: “Cloudy and cold.  I worked for Mrs. Bass.”  There was no name on the flyleaf, and no indication of where the diarist lived.  I eventually gave the little book to my dad, since he was born in 1929.  Dad said in a letter, “Thanks for the 1929 diary.  The poor guy really led an uneventful life!”)  The former owner of the Updike book wrote in ink, so this person wanted his/her observations to stand for all time.

"Said the Right-Wing skeleton, ‘Forget about yr heart’"

The above is a line from Allen Ginsberg’s collaboration with Philip Glass and Paul McCartney, “The Ballad of the Skeletons,” but I can take it literally, at least for the next year.  I spent the first part of this morning at the Ross Heart Hospital.

I saw two cardiologists, which worried me at first.  It is always a little disconcerting to be seeing a doctor and for the doctor to call in another one and say, “You should see this.”  I worried for nothing.  My heart muscle is in good shape, the aneurysm does not seem to have dilated any further, and all the cardiac function is as it should be.  I have another CT scan in December–a year from this week–but that seems to be all the proactive work that needs to be done.  Yes, my cholesterol level resembles a ZIP code.  Yes, heredity is not on my side when it comes to this (Dad died of congestive heart failure, his dad died of a heart attack at age 52), and I could stand to drop some weight, but my heart seems to be holding its own.

My grandfather’s death was the beginning of my dad’s break with Roman Catholicism, as I understand it.  Dad was a senior at the Catholic University of America in the fall of 1951 when his dad–two years older than I am now–died unexpectedly in Wheeling.  My grandmother had been fixing lunch in the kitchen while my grandfather was in the living room listening to the radio.  She heard a “thud” sound, and went into the living room and found him dead.  She sent my dad a telegram in Washington, and he was on the next train back to West Virginia.

His crisis of faith (at least with Catholicism) came because, until she died in 1965, his mother always worried about her husband’s soul, since he was unable to receive the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church due to the suddenness of his death.  Dad questioned the value of a Church that could bring about such unnecessary worry to one of its own very faithful.

Work has resumed on my memoir re my friendship with Robert Lowry.  I began several years ago, and I have been within 20-30 pages of finishing for the past few years, but by now it doesn’t flow in the same voice, and there are parts of it that need to come out and stay out.  So, the best thing to do, in my eyes, is to start from the ground up and rewrite.

Part of the lack of progress on this project comes from, I think, my taking Abilify, which is a drug that is supposed to supplement antidepressants that a person already uses (Lamictal, in my case).  After about a week or so on the drug, I noticed I was beginning to fidget even more than I usually do (which is saying quite a lot–I never sat “like a little statue” when I was younger, whether in school, church, or a concert), that I cannot sleep for more than four hours at a time (which leads to dozing off at all times and in all situations), and–worst of all–that what manual dexterity I have was suffering.  I cannot shuffle cards, I can barely manage to use silverware, and yet I can type 80+ words per minute using only two index fingers.  I noticed a sharp decline in my typing skills and accuracy.  As much as I pretty much loathe the computer culture (he wrote in his blog which is on the Internet), I was so thankful for computers and word processing these last weeks.  I was making one error after another, as if my fingers weren’t going where my brain was directing them, and I shudder to think what a page from my Royal Skylark portable typewriter would look like if I was using it instead of a computer.

I saw my nurse practitioner Monday, and described these symptoms to her.  She agreed that the Abilify may be the culprit, so I stopped taking it.  Like other psychotropics, it will probably be a little while before it completely clears my system, but I have noticed I am not as fidgety as I was.  The restlessness first manifested itself on the bus trip to Washington last month, when I could not get comfortable, and could not sleep, no matter what position I assumed.  I also could not concentrate on the two books I had brought with me, The Girl on the Best-Seller List (Gold Medal Books S976) by Vin Packer–a thinly disguised treatment of Grace Metalious and the post-Peyton Place uproar; and William Harrington’s Which the Justice, Which the Thief.  (They were in the backpack when I left, the first one since PulpFest last summer.)  Also, even though the Pennsylvania Turnpike is quite conducive to dozing, I was unable to sleep at all–the first time that has happened anywhere and at any time in the last two or three years.

The heavy reading I brought along on the Washington trip.  The cover art closely resembles the author photograph of Grace Metalious on the back dust jacket of Peyton Place, where she was called “America’s Pandora in Blue Jeans.”  As I learned from living 19 years in Marietta, the citizens of small-town America hate it when someone writes the truth about them.

We were pelted with more snow Monday night into Tuesday morning.  Oddly enough, it made walking much more easy than the trek from hell which I described in the weekend entry.  Good packed snow makes for a better walking surface than slick, bumpy ice.  The fact that I did not have a laptop causing me to list to one side probably helped as well.  The scene outside my front door looked beautiful enough that, despite the fact that I thought I would be running late, I went back inside and got the camera.

East Maynard Ave., December 10, 2013, about 7:15 a.m.  My only problem with this picture is the flash reflecting off of that sign across the street.  Sunrise was still a half hour away, so I decided the flash would be better.

There were nowhere near as many cancellations as there were when the first wave of snow hit last week.  Some churches and recreation centers cancelled evening services and activities, and two schools in counties other than Franklin County were under two-hour delays.

I am off work today.  I was not sure whether the appointment would lead to a cardiac catheterization, so I opted to write off the entire day.  (The procedure itself is brief, but the patient is pretty much wiped out for several hours afterwards.)

So, I’m going to try to keep walking more (although the snow hampers my progress, and makes walking even more aerobic than usual), and hope that this heart issue resolves itself.  (A friend gave me some not-so-pleasant advice about whether my aneurysm has burst: “If you wake up in the morning, it hasn’t burst.”)

But, if the doctors are correct, the aneurysm is not bursting for awhile, if ever.

Winter is icumen in/Lhude sing goddamm

Ezra Pound’s parody “Ancient Music” seems so appropriate today, even though the winter solstice is still two weeks away–and I’ve used it before, back when this blog was still on LiveJournal.  The first wave fell yesterday, and we had a small respite from additional snowfall today.  This is, I understand, the calm before the storm.  According to the meteorologists I’ve seen on TV and online, Columbus is due to get slammed again tomorrow.

I took what turned out to be a minor fall Friday morning when I was walking out of my place to the bus stop, thinking the front walk was just wet, not icy.  In the end, I hurt nothing but my pride, but it was painful enough for me to call off from work, down some Naproxen, and sleep for much of the morning.  When I got out of bed, I was not walking like an old lady, like I was immediately after the fall, but I was walking more slowly than usual.

The juxtaposition was not lost on me.  On Tuesday, the mercury climbed into the 60s, so I rode the trike to work.  It took about 45 minutes, and I felt invigorated when I made it downtown.  (A trike ride, even when I undertake it reluctantly, does improve my mood and my overall spirit.  I have often wondered if my mental health insurance will reimburse me for it.  Futile, I know.)

I didn’t ride home until Wednesday night, because I had to head home early to meet the guys from Beavis & Butt-head Appliances, Inc., who were delivering my new washer and dryer.  (I live diagonally across from a Laundromat, but with my own equipment, I have the freedom to do my laundry at 2 a.m. in my bathrobe, if I so choose, or not to take it immediately out of the dryer.)  All they would promise was that the appliances would be at my place between 4 and 6 p.m., which entailed leaving work early, all so those these two could arrive at 6:30.  I could not christen my new machines until the following night, because the dryer did not come with a vent hose.

The trike spent Tuesday night in the BWC garage, and then on Wednesday, I rode it home.  I knew the weather was going to change, and if I didn’t ride it home Wednesday, the bike would spend all winter in the garage.

And Thursday morning, I attempted to walk to work.  I got about two-thirds of the way before it began raining too hard for me to continue.  I rode a bus for the final mile, and then worked until 5, hearing more and more ominous stories about the storm.

What is remarkable is that I managed to do a fair amount of walking today without falling.  Since I have accepted the fact–kicking and screaming–that I am middle-aged, I also know that part of this involves the fact that falls can be much more dangerous and have much more negative long-term effects than they did when I was younger.  Today, I vowed not to confine myself to quarters, so I loaded up my black over-the-shoulder bag with the laptop, two books, my journal, and the typescript of a long untouched manuscript that I am rewriting, and went to Kafé Kerouac, a walk of 0.8 miles.  Never has it seemed so long, so difficult.  The ice was melting in some places, but the bulk of the trip was on slick and bumpy ice surfaces.  Even though I was wearing tennis shoes, I felt myself about to slip several times when I put the soles of my feet on the ground.  (I am sure that if I had been wearing dress shoes, I would definitely have fallen.)

Adding to my worries was what would happen if I did fall.  Hurting myself would be bad enough, but I was mortally afraid of landing on the laptop and ruining it as well.  There were points along the journey when I was hanging onto street signs, shrubs, and garbage cans just to keep stable.

I did get a fair amount of work done while I was at Kafé Kerouac.  I finished the first chapter of the manuscript, and read a chapter of Grant’s Final Victory, the story of the last year of Ulysses S. Grant’s life, his sudden poverty, and the writing of his Personal Memoirs.

Earlier this week, I came home from work and found a large, but light-as-a-feather, parcel sitting on my front porch.  This was major good news, since lately my letter carrier seems to deliver mail only when the mood strikes him.  Inside, mummified in plenty of bubble wrap and balled-up newspapers, was a Simplex toy typewriter.  Novelist Robert Lowry died on December 5, 1994, 19 years ago Thursday.  He began writing at the age of seven, when he asked Santa Claus for a typewriter, and found it under the tree that Christmas.

The Simplex, which I bought on eBay, was the vintage of the model he received.  There is one key, and the operator turns a big rubber wheel to the desired character, and presses the big key so that it prints on the paper below.  (This machine is non-functional, and has not been inked in decades.  I have no plans to try to get it to work; it’s in my office as a conversation piece, and as an inspiration.)

The Practical Simplex Typewriter Number 300.  The keys in the front are painted, and not functional, just like the black keys on Schroeder’s toy piano in the Peanuts comics.

Online, I was kidding Susie that this was the original laptop.  Later that night, I was reading a clipping that I tucked inside the front cover of Jimmy Carter’s White House Diary.  It was a 1981 New York Times article about Carter’s upcoming memoirs.  It made the newspapers when the former President hit a wrong function key and lost two or three days’ worth of work.  More interesting was the description of the machine itself, back in the day when the masses did not know much (if anything) about word processing and computers:

The Lanier machine, which sells for about $12,000, takes up about the same amount of desk space as an electric typewriter but is taller by a foot or more because of the cathode-ray display screen.  The operator works at an electronic keyboard that returns the carriage automatically and also hyphenates and numbers pages.  Removable magnetic disks store up to 30 pages of typed information.

(I displayed a picture of President Carter’s Lanier “No Problem” word processor in an entry last month.)

Word is that we’re supposed to get pelted with even more snow and cold temperatures tomorrow.  I am not planning to go to church in the morning, so I plan to hibernate at least through the morning hours.  A good friend lured me out for dinner tonight, since I had recovered mentally and physically from the walk to and from Kafé Kerouac, but she had a car, so that involved almost no walking.  However, packed snow is much better for walking than ice is, so I may venture out to see what Columbus looks like under this second round of snow.

NaNoWriMo – 30 –

Yet another National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has come to an end, and both Susie and I (in Florida and Columbus, respectively) are trying to recover.

I am skeptical (at best) about the effectiveness of Twelve-Step programs, but the “one day at a time” concept does have its uses, and NaNoWriMo bears out its usefulness.  Every evening (mostly evenings, sometimes afternoons), I sat down and faced the laptop like it was some type of adversary.  When I logged onto Microsoft Office and pulled up my manuscript, I did it with an emotion akin to dread.

Trying to write a certain number of words per day (1667 per day is necessary to produce 50 thousand words in 30 days) is a lot like visiting a nudist colony: The first few minutes are the hardest.  I know that when I began typing, that magic number of 1667 seemed so far away.

But, as the session progressed, I usually was able to get into the activity, and when I saw I had made my quota for the night, I almost had a feeling of disappointment–“You mean I have to stop now?”  Of course, I didn’t, but I wanted material to fill the next night’s session, and not have to scramble.

The manuscript now sits on my hard drive and on my Microsoft SkyDrive.  I am following the advice of Stephen King, and I am letting the project “marinate” until after the first of the year.  NaNoWriMo is not ashamed to say that the goal is quantity, not quality, so I am sure I overran the manuscript with verbiage and asides that will have to go.  Some word-padding techniques can stay.  (For example, I did not use contractions, except in dialogue.)  Truthfully, I have no qualms about not touching it until January.  I am sure I am going to look back over it and wonder what the hell was I doing writing such-and-such?  (Susie has read excerpts of it, and so far I have received her seal of approval.)

Another thing her project and my project have in common is that they are both incomplete.  As you may recall, I decided to make NaNoWriMo the subject of this year’s manuscript.  Thus, I began with a brief prologue, and each chapter afterwards represented one day in the contest: “Day the First,” “Day the Second,” et cetera.  I stopped at Chapter V, “Day the Fifth,” so once this book comes out of lockdown, I have 25 more chapters to write.  Susie says she is two chapters away from those beautiful words THE END.  (I will end it, as a tribute to my former typesetting days, with – 30 -, which I have often thought should be my epitaph–my name, and underneath it, – 30 -, carved on my tombstone.)

I took a page from Jim Bishop when I used these chapter titles.  In his books The Day Lincoln Was Shot and The Day Christ Died, he broke down the book into hours–each chapter represented one hour of the day he covered.  In his one and only novel, Honeymoon Diary (I met him in 1979, and he said, “Oh, Jesus!” when I told him I had read it), the titles were “The First Day,” “The Second Day,” all the way up to “The Thirtieth Day.”

Sleep has been the biggest casualty of NaNoWriMo, although my sleep patterns have been erratic for years.  I can’t lay the blame solely at the feet of this contest.  I am constantly dozing off on buses, or anywhere that I lack new stimuli.  And, as before, I can doze off straight into REM sleep, which means falling asleep and straight into dreaming.  Unless I have specific plans, on weekends I do not set an alarm.  (Even on Sunday; if I am awake in time to catch the bus and go to church, I will; otherwise, I take it as a sign and I’m content to “worship in bed.”)  So, every weekday morning, there is this Dagwood Bumstead scramble to get out of bed, into the shower, dressed, and out the door in time to catch the bus in time.  But, these past few weekends, I am wide awake before dawn, unable to get back to sleep.  Yes, I’ll toss and turn a while, but it’s a losing battle to try to get back to sleep.  And this is after not retiring until 2 or 3 a.m.

I took it easy the rest of yesterday, after submitting my manuscript to http://www.nanowrimo.org, where their template verified that I had enough words.  Yesterday was the Ohio State-Michigan game, and I was thankful it was in Ann Arbor, since the presence of drunken idiots would have been even greater had the game taken place at the ‘Shoe.  So, I thought it prudent to stay indoors, where I watched some DVDs of Homicide: Life on the Street and read.  (I kept my computer use to a minimum, since I had enough of my keyboard to last me awhile.)

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided for the first time since 1868, and this will not happen again until 2070 (Susie will probably be experiencing this).  The coincidence that Black Friday occurred on a sacred holiday did not deter the shoppers.  We here in Columbus did not experience the brawling, gunfire, and stabbings that some communities had.  I, for one, kinda sorta boycotted the whole thing.  I went to two record stores, Spoonful Records and Records Per Minute (RPM), and bought some albums there–I kept my money local, and supported friends of mine.  The haul was not overwhelming, since I didn’t buy any new material.  I stuck to the dollar bins, where I could find much of the music of my teen years.  (As if my weirdo credentials weren’t already well established by high school, my favorite groups in high school were The Alan Parsons Project and Seals and Crofts!)

“Buy nothing day” was so much easier in the years when I was usually stone broke.