Hand and House News

Today marks my second day minus the wrist splint.  The doctor at the OSU Hand and Upper Extremity Center says that I should wean myself off of it, but I am so thankful that my hand is close to healed that I am going “cold turkey” away from it.  Not being to hold a pen, not being able to use silverware, and not being able to wear a glove on the cold days we have had recently (yes, even after the start of the vernal equinox)–none of this will I miss.  There is still some pain in my right wrist, when I try to bend my hand too far forward or backward, or to either side, but I think it will soon be gone.  I am able to keep it at bay with naproxen.

When I last blogged, I was in limbo about where I live.  In case you missed the last entry, I had just gotten my heat back after weeks of having to sleep in my clothes, wear layers of sweatshirts and jackets in the house, and place unreturned phone calls to the property manager.  (If there had been no forward motion about the dead furnace, I was going to print off a copy of Section 5321.04(6) of the Ohio Revised Code, which deals with landlord responsibilities, and enclose it with my next rent check.  That was when I learned that the landlord had washed his hands of the place by neglecting his property taxes.)  The property was on the verge of being sold at sheriff’s auction when a new owner and property manager stepped up to the plate, bought the place, waterproofed the basement, and replaced the furnace.

About two weeks later, I played a voice mail message on my phone at work.  The new owner wanted to increase the rent to $1200 per month, which was a jump of 43% over what I had been paying in the 2½ years I have called this half double my home.  (I realize this is incomprehensible for any readers who live in New York, Boston, or the San Francisco Bay Area, but for under $700 per month, I was renting a three-bedroom half double.)  This near-doubling of the rent is especially insane in a neighborhood like this, where entire houses rent for around $1000 per month.

I had first dibs on the place at the new place, but I knew it was not realistic to think I could afford such an increase.  The new owner said I could stay until the end of June (I had been month-to-month since October), but I immediately got online and began to look for a new place.  I was also going around the SoHud neighborhood, notepad and Pilot EasyTouch ballpoint in hand, jotting down any phone number on FOR RENT signs I encountered.  The latter was not an easy task with a hand in a splint.  Looking over the pages in my notebook right now, I am surprised my penmanship came out as legibly as it did.

Mercifully, the search was a short one.  Walking toward High St. late one afternoon, I saw a sign in the front yard of a half double on E. Blake Ave.  I called the number on the sign, and made a date to meet the owner the next day after work.

And I liked what I saw.  It’s only $20 a month more than what I am paying now, although it is two-bedroom, instead of three.  The floors are freshly varnished.  A washer and dryer combination is in the basement.  (I have been renting to own a set from Rent-A-Center.  There is a lot of truth to something FBI Agent Dale Cooper said in Twin Peaks: “Leasing may be the fast track to an appearance of affluence, but equity will keep you warm at night.”)  Furnace and central air are brand new and flawless.  And the owner is current with property taxes and mortgage payments.  (He and his wife did live in my half of the duplex, but they’ve moved to a bigger place in Beechwold, since they plan on having children in the near future.)

The owner agreed to rent it to me after about 15 minutes of conversation, and he faxed me a lease the next day.  The big day will be April 1, when I meet him and he gives me the key.

Susie has been spending spring break with me, and has enjoyed everything except the weather.  I came close to blogging about my good fortune in finding affordable new living quarters as soon as I had sealed the deal, but I reined myself in so I could surprise Susie by pointing out the new place as we walked by it.  (She still has not seen the interior.  She will be returning to Florida late Sunday afternoon, and I do not get the key until Tuesday.)

The only planned “special” activity that Susie and I did was visiting COSI (the Center of Science and Industry) on Sunday afternoon.  While we were emailing and IMing back and forth about Susie’s spring break visit, I mentioned the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at COSI, and both of us wanted to see it.  We were both underwhelmed.  My favorite part was the mock-up of the interior of 221B Baker St., and it was complete, right down to the Holmes mannequin in the window (to fool a criminal into thinking Holmes was actually there when he wasn’t), to the “VR”–Victoria Regina–spelled out in bullet holes above the fireplace.  (When bored, Holmes would resort to either cocaine or indoor marksmanship.  I am not sure if he ever combined the two.)  Holmes’ file of correspondence was where it was in the stories.  It was pinned to the fireplace mantle with a jackknife.  The exhibit was the first time I had ever seen original editions of The Strand magazine, where many of the short stories (and a serialized Hound of the Baskervilles) first appeared, and, almost as rare as a Gutenberg Bible or a Shakespeare First Folio was a copy of Beeton’s Christmas Annual, where Holmes first debuted in A Study in Scarlet.

The exhibit was not worth the $56 I paid for two tickets.  As for the interactive part of the exhibit, the mystery-solving was on a par with “It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.”

I will have the façade of wealth throughout the month of April.  I have paid the April rent at my soon-to-be-former home, so during that month I will have two residences!  This is purely for practical reasons, so I can move over piecemeal, especially the more cumbersome job of moving the books and records.  (I had a modest assortment of LPs when I moved here in the fall of 2011, and that has quadrupled–at least!–and then there are all the 78s.  I have imposed a moratorium on buying books and records until the move has started, to lessen what needs to be moved.)  I will save the furniture until the very end, and will probably hire a professional mover for that.  (Moving books is the only time I will ever wish I had a Nook!)

This is a still from The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and what I envision every time I have to move.  This time, however, I am hoping to stay put for the foreseeable future.  (My new landlord seems more conscientious than my last one.)

Susie, a friend of hers, and I walked to dinner at the Blue Danube tonight.  We passed the new place en route, and were happy to see that the FOR RENT sign was gone from the front yard.  I am looking forward to the exchange next Tuesday (I give him a cashier’s check, he gives me the key), although I wish the move was already behind me.  I’ll feel much better once I am actually settled into the new place.

Typing Through My Tears

The title of the post is not literal, but it is true that typing this post is not coming as easily as it usually does.  I’m also using the keyboard here in lieu of being able to write diary entries, because holding a pen requires much effort and much patience for the time being.

Remember the fall on the ice that I casually mentioned in my last post?  I slipped and fell on a patch of ice, and put out my right hand to break my fall.  (I thought I was stepping into snow, unaware of the ice beneath it.  I suppose you could say I slipped on white ice.)  I underestimated the severity of the fall.  I kept thinking that it was just a bruise, and that it would improve.  I continued to think so–until earlier this week.  The pain in the wrist, whether I was moving it or not, kept getting worse, and was radiating into my fingers, particularly the index finger and the pinkie.  So, on Monday, I made an appointment with my general practitioner, and was fortunate enough to be able to get in to see her that afternoon.

She seemed quite concerned as she manipulated my hand, squeezed to see where pain was, etc.  She then wrote up an order for a wrist X ray, and emphasized to me not to put it off.  So, I went over to Doan Hall at the OSU Wexner Medical Center promptly the next morning.  (With a doctor’s order, I was able to bypass the emergency room and go straight to Radiology.  Even on a Tuesday morning, I am sure the emergency room would be mobbed.)  The technician took four views of my right wrist, and told me she would send the images to my doctor at once.  I left and went to work.

Shortly before noon, my phone at work rang, and it was my doctor.  She had read the X rays, and she told me that she had been on the phone to the Hand and Upper Extremity Center, and she hoped I could get in immediately.  The hand clinic called me shortly thereafter, and in an hour or so I was on the bus en route to the clinic.

The doctor showed me the X rays of my wrist, and said that I had one, and possibly two, fractures in my wrist.  I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.  I could see bones, but I wasn’t sure what was the injury and what was the shadow in the pictures.  Dr. Ryan Klinefelter, the doctor, said the best course of action would be to immobilize the wrist.  He would splint the wrist, and I am coming back on the 25th for another X ray, and hopefully the splint will be gone.

Being a two-finger typist has never come in handy more than now.  I am a bit slower at the keyboard, and have difficulty manipulating a mouse (especially the one at work, which is external and on a cord), but I have not had to take any time off from work.  I do have to stop and take prescription painkillers (Naproxen and Tramadol) periodically during the day.  The splint (molded plastic; I wear a stockinette underneath it to prevent chafing) does leave my fingers free, although my thumb is extended at an angle.  I wear the splint 23½/7, taking it off only when I’m in the shower.

What I have not been able to do is write with a pen.  (I usually don’t use pencils.  I’m fully in agreement with Pontius Pilate: “What I have written, stands.” (John 19:22))  My diary entries usually average at least two pages, but the most I have been able to write at one time has been a fax cover sheet.  I have always taken pride in my penmanship.  It’s almost classic D’Nealian script, but since I started wearing this splint, it looks more like diary entries I wrote when I was drunk (none of them since 1997, of course!), or like it came from a seismograph needle.  At one point this weekend, I jotted a phone number in my notebook, and just writing those seven digits took forever, and looking over the page, I can barely read what I wrote.

I thought about venturing to Studio 35 to catch Fritz the Nite Owl’s 11:30 showing of The Goonies, but I was (am) not up to the walk back home, since the movie would end long after COTA had stopped running for the night.  Frankly, I hear the movie is a lot of fun, but it didn’t sufficiently whet my interest to justify the walk back home with the temperature in the upper 30s.

Susie will be arriving here Saturday afternoon.  She’s already making plans to see (and host at least one sleepover) with friends.  The only events we have scheduled have been a trip to see the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at COSI (the Center of Science and Industry) on Sunday, and a tour of Ohio State on Monday afternoon.  (Susie is also looking at New College of Florida in Sarasota; I very unselfishly hope that she chooses OSU.)

The Blogger Who Came Into the Cold

My horde of readers must be wondering what accounts for the latest silence in this blog.  The reason this time around is 100% unique, and without precedent in the years that I’ve taken to the Internet to vent my spleen.

Ever since the time of the first polar vortex to blast through Columbus, and until last Monday, my half-double was without a furnace.  In the 2½ years that I have lived here, the property management company has been very dependable and prompt with whatever problems that came up with this place.  So, when my furnace conked out soon after the new year, I took for granted that it would be up and running within days, and certainly ahead of the days when the mercury would remain below 0 for days.  (At first, my thought was that, like Archie Bunker, I had a “religious furnace; it never works on Sunday.”)

I texted the property manager, and the company’s HVAC guy came to look at the furnace.  The igniter had worked erratically for much of the fall, so he came fully prepared to fix that.  (This was a gravity furnace, about 20 years old, and had no pilot light.)  I was not a happy man when he told me that the furnace no longer worked, and needed to be replaced.

Worse than that, the manager told me that he could not tell me when this would come to pass.  The Band-Aid solution he offered was to lend me space heaters, and these presented problems all their own.  If I had the lights, TV, and space heater on simultaneously, the circuit breaker would trip.  (The switches on the box downstairs were unmarked.  When you live alone, this is a colossal pain.  If a circuit breaker tripped when Susie was living here, I could always flip the switch, and yell up the stairs, “Did the lights come back on?”  Now, it meant running up and down the basement stairs to see if I had made the right choice.)

Even with the space heaters, I could not wear short sleeves in the house, and walked around in a sweatshirt and often a down-filled work shirt.  This began to take an emotional toll as well.  My mood plummeted, as did my energy to do anything other than get myself to and from work every day.

Common depression symptoms are insomnia or hypersomnia–either not sleeping enough, or sleeping too much.  Since being under the covers was the only place I felt warm enough, there were many nights when I was in bed by 7:30 or 8.  Far from being restorative sleep, I would awaken in the morning feeling exhausted from the hard sleep.  (My dad described the condition as being “sleep drunk,” and it is quite fitting.)

Soon, the property management company was not returning my phone calls.  I was debating whether to escrow my rent, or whether I should report the situation to Code Enforcement, but I was afraid of retaliation by the landlord and/or the management company.  Then, during the second week of February, I learned some news.  The property had been foreclosed, and was scheduled for sheriff’s auction on the 28th.

I did not learn this from either my landlord or the property manager.  I learned it from a neighbor who works at a law firm downtown.  He had seen it in The Daily Reporter.  As soon as I could, I went to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Website, and sure enough, there it was.  A day or two later, I looked up this property on the Franklin County Auditor’s Website, and I almost choked on my Diet Pepsi.  There was a new owner listed, with an address on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.  A day or two later, I received a phone call from a person introducing himself as the new property manager.  The place has a new owner, and new property manager, and the entry for the sheriff’s auction was withdrawn.

The first thing this new property manager did was hire a company to waterproof the basement and install a new sump pump.  This was good news, because it was getting to the point where I would start sneezing the minute I came downstairs to do laundry (or check the circuit breakers).  He then told me he would have a guy come and look at the furnace.

The new HVAC guy met me at my door after work a day or two later.  The minute he took the faceplate off the furnace, his jaw dropped open.  The furnace’s exchanger was not working properly, and he said it may have been blowing carbon monoxide up into the house.  I thought that this may explain my overall lethargy, depression, and fatigue.  The levels were nowhere near fatal, because the rooms are so big and because, this being a house built in the 1920s, the rooms are not well insulated.

He shook his head as he looked at the furnace’s electrical wiring.  Much of the insulation had been burned through, and some of the wires were wrapped in black electrical tape.  Apparently, I have dodged a bullet here.  He told me that he was very surprised that there had not been a fire or an explosion.

My mood improved over the weekend, and on Monday morning, as I was dressing for work, the HVAC guy called.  He was coming that day to install the furnace, and wanted to make sure I was leaving him a key.  That was great news to begin the day, so I was like a little kid on the last day of school throughout the work day.

And I was not disappointed!  On Monday, I stepped across the threshold of my abode, and a Glenn Frey song came to mind: “The Heat is On.”  There was even a new thermostat, a white digital model about the size of a deck of cards, mounted on the dining room wall.  It was set at 65 degrees, but I moved it up a little to 72, and felt myself wanting to stay home for the first time in weeks.

On Friday, he is coming back, and this time to install central air.  This will be a first for this property.  Oddly enough, the place came with central heat, but no central air.  Even though I vowed that I would not complain about the heat this summer, even if it remains in the triple digits for weeks on end, this indeed was welcome news.  I bought a window unit last year, but it was only able to cool off one room at a time.

To supplement the torpor brought about by not having heat, I fell on ice last week and mildly injured my right wrist.  Of course, I am right-handed.  I put the hand out to break my fall, and was in immediate pain (although I knew I had not broken the hand or the wrist).  I had to stop diary-writing, which always makes me feel like I’m going through withdrawal.  I had been looking forward to christening the journal that I bought at the Barnes and Noble in Merritt Island when I went down there at Christmas.  My diary entries tend to be at least two pages long, and even something as simple as filling out a fax cover sheet was enough writing to cause my wrist to hurt.  So, I waited until I could write without pain (I was able to type, because the pain was not as bad) before I wrote the first words in the new journal.

So now, as of this Ash Wednesday, I have things I used to be able to take for granted in this house.  I have heat and a dry basement.  Just in time for the arrival of the vernal equinox.