I’m afraid the title of my last post was too prophetic. I just came home while treading very lightly on the icy and bumpy sidewalks, and sighing in relief once I crossed my threshold. (After breaking my wrist last winter, walking on ice is now an extended game of Mother-may-I.)
I haven’t posted any entries to the blog lately because the spring semester kicked off at Columbus State Community College. With that comes my seasonal evening and weekend job at the bookstore. In all, this means a 12-hour workday, and I was often too tired when I came back to do anything that required mental or physical energy. All appearances to the contrary, posting in here does require mental energy.
The spring semester rush was not as chaotic as the fall one at the end of last summer. Many of the customers knew what they were doing, and knew where to look for textbooks. The evening of the first day of classes was the same day as Ohio State’s game against Oregon, so people who weren’t in class were glued to a TV at home or in a sports bar.
When there are no customers around, those of us working on the customer floor compare notes on the stupidest question we have heard, or the least competent customer. The undisputed stupidest question has to be, “Is this where I buy my books?”, but there have been many others.
My contribution to that discussion had to be when I escorted a mother and her son, who was maybe 19 or 20, around the shelves and showed them where each subject was, and what books he would need for his classes. As they headed downstairs to pay for the stack of books, the mother turned to me and said, “The cashier will check and make sure he has the right books, right?” Uh, isn’t that kinda your son’s responsibility? I thought.
The mantra that kept me going throughout the 12-hour workdays earlier in January.
The rush ended at noon last Saturday. I was on hand at 8 a.m. with four co-workers, and we kept a tally of the number of customers. At most, three customers came in at a time, and the grand total was around 37 or 38, of whom about 24 needed help.
I breathed a sigh of relief when noon came, we clocked out, and I retired my blue Discovery Exchange apron to Locker 50 for another semester. (Since it’s a given that I return every semester, my friend in Loss Prevention lets me keep the same locker, and I carry a key to it–a small Master about the size of a diary key–on my ring at all times.)
The rush was much easier to bear because of the Martin Luther King weekend. That Sunday morning, I went down to Athens to see Betsy, and we spent many quality hours together. The combination of Athens and Betsy was quite therapeutic, and was definitely in the best interests of the bookstore customers and my co-workers at both of my jobs.
The idea of unstructured time had become so alien to me since the first week of January, so I jumped into unscheduled time with both feet until it was time to return to work for the State of Ohio on Monday morning. I spent the rest of Saturday reading or online, until about 10:45 that night.
Fritz the Nite Owl was featuring Jaws (1975) as his monthly show for January, so I headed toward the Gateway Film Center about 10:45 Saturday night. I have Jaws on DVD, and have seen it quite a few times, but there is nothing like seeing a movie with Fritz’ commentary and trivia. (Susie enjoyed watching Jaws with me, and she even likes Jaws 2 (1978), which never received the respect it truly deserved.)
The movie let out late enough that I didn’t have to weave my way through drunken bar patrons, and I made my leisurely, though brisk, way north to my abode and I arrived home shortly before 3 a.m. The rush of heat that greeted me when I opened my front door helped lull me to sleep.
I had planned to go to church (the 11 a.m. service, of course), but the allure of not having to roll out of bed when my alarm sounded was just too great, so I remained under the covers until almost noon.
There were only two items on my “to do” list for Sunday afternoon. I went to CVS to pick up my prescriptions for Lipitor and Coreg, and then took a walk in the wet snow drizzle to a house near mine so that I could pick up a blank journal a woman was giving away online. She was quite conscientious. She wrapped it in two layers of plastic and put this in a plastic Target bag, and put the whole thing under a metal table on her porch.
She had advertised on one of the Buy-Sell-Trade Facebook groups for my neighborhood, saying her goal was to de-clutter by giving away x number of items in her house every week, and I emailed dibs on the journal right away.
The journal is quite handsome, and I marveled at it once I was able to unwrap it. However, I doubt I will ever write in it. It’s a thick volume, about the thickness of a hardcover of Moby-Dick or Les Misérables. It has an off-white woven cover, a leather binding, and deckle-edged hemp pages. Its biggest minus is that the pages are unlined. I’ve kept diaries in unlined pages before, and my handwriting goes downhill by the time I reached the middle of the page. And I have had the same problem when someone gives me a really nice, aesthetically pleasing journal as a gift. The blank volume looks so nice, you feel guilty ever marking in it. Also, Susie gave me four composition books for Christmas (a real steal at Office Depot for $.24 apiece), and I want to fill them first before I even consider using this handsome volume–which I admit would look better in a glass case at Alden Library at O.U. or the Ohioana Library.
Also, without lines, I tend to write my lines too close together. When I was teaching the editorial staff of The Harvard Crimson the intricacies of the CRT Linotype, I mentioned leading to them. (In this case, the word rhymes with “bedding.”) Leading is the space between lines in a column or on a page. I told them to always leave two points of leading between the lines, so the tail of a lowercase j would not bump into the top of a capital letter beneath it, etc. I never was able to apply that wisdom to my own penmanship. Those who cannot do, teach, I suppose.
The only scheduled activity on my Sunday agenda was the 8:30 showing of Inherent Vice (2014) at Studio 35. The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin, as well as Reese Witherspoon and Katherine Waterston. (An interesting side note: Brolin’s and Waterston’s fathers, James and Sam, respectively, played astronauts in Capricorn One (1978). The third astronaut was O.J. Simpson.)
I never thought that Thomas Pynchon would ever allow any of his works to become movies, and I initially thought that the stories about filming Inherent Vice were just rumors. For those who are unaware, Pynchon is not an easy read. Five pages of his prose requires as much effort and concentration as 20 of any other writer. His prose is so dense that the word Pynchonesque has actually entered the language (I’m not sure if it’s made it into the Oxford English Dictionary). Click on the link for the Wiktionary definition.
My admiration for Pynchon comes from his insistence on privacy. He is not so much a recluse (like Howard Hughes or Syd Barrett) as one who wants nothing to do with celebrity. He never gives interviews, the few photographs of him date from the 1950s, and until recently no one knew where he lived. (In the fall of 1996, New York magazine published a story, “Meet Your Neighbor, Thomas Pynchon,” although the writer was somewhat oblique about Pynchon’s exact whereabouts in New York. And then there is
this video, which appeared on YouTube in 2007.)
Pynchon became famous with books like V. and The Crying of Lot 49 at the time when writers were becoming celebrities. Truman Capote was throwing mega-expensive masked balls, and not writing anything worthwhile once In Cold Blood was published. Norman Mailer was running for mayor of New York City when he wasn’t getting in the ring with professional boxers and serially marrying and divorcing. Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. practically came to blows on live TV when ABC was covering the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Pynchon, by contrast, was wedded to his writing and letting it speak for him.
When Susie was younger, she thought Pynchon was crazy to be so insistent on his privacy. I pointed out to her that Pynchon, even now, can decide to go to McDonald’s or take a walk down the street without being badgered by fans and admirers. Stephen King probably cannot eat a meal in peace wherever he goes, and he has had his own issues with stalkers.
The über-private J.D. Salinger allowed his short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” to be the basis for My Foolish Heart (1949), and it butchered the short story (which appears in Nine Stories). He vowed after that never to allow film or TV adaptations of any of his works. I’ve often wondered if this experience was the basis for Holden Caulfield’s snide comments about his screenwriter brother in The Catcher in the Rye.
The movie was quite good, although it required total concentration. I posted on Facebook that you needed a flow chart to keep track of who was associated with who through what venue. It was the “six degrees of separation” idea truly writ large. That may be as much a Pynchon thing as a Paul Thomas Anderson thing. (As for Anderson, I remember The Master (2012) because I love anything that ridicules the loons in the Church of Scientology, and because I remember watching it at the Wexner Center while Susie and company were en route to Romania. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to receive text messages or news about the flight from her, because my cell phone didn’t work in the theater.) The plot and the setting (Southern California in 1970) made it sound like a 2½-hour Cheech and Chong movie, but it was much more intelligent than that.
Once I was back at work Monday, I knew that leisure time was over. I plunged headfirst into the backlog of dictation and I can see the end from here right now, but it was a rude turnaround. I kept thinking of the refrain “Back to life, back to reality” from Soul II Soul’s song “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me).”
And part of that reality is that it is almost 1 a.m., and I need to be at work in seven hours. On that note, I’ll wrap up this blog entry.