Our Revels Now Are Ended

Susie is on her laptop at Starbucks, I am home at my dining room desk with The Boss blaring “Human Touch” while I type.  In 12 hours, I will be in the weekly meeting with my co-workers where we compare notes about our workloads.  The 1928 Book of Common Prayer describes it perfectly: We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.

Long and short, I am home.  On my Facebook page, I posted a video of Soul II Soul’s song “Back to Life.”  The refrain is “back to life, back to reality.”  I don’t much care for the song, but it is so damn appropriate for this evening.  Susie will be walking her shoes off looking for places that are hiring, as well as exhausting her laptop keyboard applying for jobs online.

I dread the backlog of work that awaits me.  My pod already resembles Fibber McGee’s closet, and with my having been gone for a week, I will be buried in work.  I’ve encountered it before, I’ve overcome it before.  I will do so again.  That doesn’t mean I joyously anticipate it.

All in 10 days.  I have been in nine states.  I have walked in a venerable footrace, a phoenix which arose from the ashes of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Three thousand miles of pavement rolled beneath me after I left San Francisco and began to head toward Florida to watch Susie graduate from high school.

Susie went through changes in the past week.  Until Friday night, she was a high school student.  She is now a high school graduate.  Her worries revolved around tests, grades, prerequisites, and activities then.  Now, she joins the endless line of young people just out of school who are looking for jobs, and she will learn she will not get a job overnight.  She will master the art of frustration.

And until today, she was in Florida, and was a visitor here in Ohio.  (This was a flipflop from the original situation when Steph and I parted ways in 2011, but it looks like we have come full circle.  Susie is back living with me.)

Like any other trip, there are milestone moments, moments where I may (conceivably) look back and laugh, even though there is nothing funny about them at the moment.  I’m slow to come around to that; I am still plotting revenge against the playmate who stole my Matchbox cars when I was in grade school.

The Lone Star Exile.  I knew when I began planning the trip that the California-to-Florida bus trip would involve a long drive across Texas at its most desolate point.  I put a positive face on it at first.  When my bus pulled into El Paso, instead of editorializing about how the city looked even more dismal than I remembered in 1987, I posted on Facebook: The prairie sky *is* wide and high!

Robert Nedelkoff and I became friends because of our common interest in Cincinnati novelist Robert Lowry.  During the time I was waiting for my bus to Dallas, I bought an El Paso post card and mailed it to Robert, mentioning that I had a “layover… in guess where?”  (Robert Lowry published a short story, “Layover in El Paso,” in his short story collection The Wolf That Fed Us.  It was–very loosely–the basis for the Sophia Loren/Tab Hunter movie That Kind of Woman (1959).)

Hours out of El Paso, 450 miles to the east via I-10 and I-20, the bus’ headlights stopped working.  So, my fellow riders and I spent many hours at the Greyhound station on the outskirts of Abilene, Texas.  We were about 180 miles from Dallas, where many of the passengers were ending their journey, and where I was changing buses to go to Atlanta, Orlando, and finally Titusville.

The night life in that part of Abilene revolved around the all-night 7-Eleven and the Subway restaurant.  Greyhound was nice enough to spring for subs for all the passengers, and I was happy that I was aboard a Dallas-bound bus before dawn, even though my checked-through luggage and I parted company at that point.

I kept Steph current with what was happening through text messages.  We were both biting our nails worrying about my getting to Brevard County in time for Susie’s graduation.  I had planned to arrive Thursday morning, with the ceremony the following night.  The people at the Greyhound station in Dallas managed to salvage the situation.  Instead of sending me through Atlanta, Orlando, and then Titusville, they issued me a new ticket, via New Orleans, Mobile, and Orlando, landing me in scenic Titusville only four hours later than I had planned to be there.

This meant, alas, that the clothes I had with me were the ones I had worn across the country, so I made a trip to Goodwill to buy khaki Dockers and a blue oxford for the graduation, as well as some new (to me) T-shirts.

Camera – 30 -.  It’s frustrating to have a camera on which you have spent some good money die on you.  My Nikon digital camera took its last picture last Friday night, and uttered its final breath just after I downloaded the pictures of Susie’s graduation.  I am not angry about this, because this happened after I shot pictures of Susie’s graduation.  All I did was curse under my breath, go on Target’s Website, and order a new one (a Sony Cyber-shot digital camera).

And I revert to my old habits.  A detective who specialized in missing persons cases said that when people elect to disappear, they may change their names, physical appearances, or occupation, but they seldom make an effort to alter their interests or drives.  If a man with a history of compulsive gambling disappears, a private detective would devote most energy to staking out race tracks and casinos.  An alcoholic will most likely be found in a bar.  I’m in a city not 100% familiar to me, and what do I do?  I walk to a record store.

The walk was 5½ miles, which was not much considering all my walking before, during, and after Bay to Breakers, but good after three days of almost non-stop sitting on the bus.  I walked from Merritt Island to Caroline’s House of Records in Cocoa Village.  (And the walk across the Indian River on a very narrow pedestrian strip on the bridge was the most frightening part of the entire journey!)  I bought about $50 worth of vinyl, probably nothing valuable or historic.

So, in addition to wringing my hands about the workload that will fall on me tomorrow, I am bringing some signs of triumph to the department meeting in the morning: My Bay to Breakers bib #29201, and a picture of Susie the high school graduate.

Just in case you missed it.

In case you missed it.

Advertisements

A Janus Moment For Us

Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, depicted with one face looking into the past, and one into the future.  (The month of January is named for him.)  After many years of threatening us with it, Susie became a high school graduate Friday night.  And I witnessed it firsthand!!  Steph and I held the two “VIP tickets” that allowed us to sit on the football field (the “H.D. ‘Hank’ Smith, Jr. Sports Complex”) at Merritt Island High School.  We waited through the interminable speeches,  music, etc., for that one moment.  Susie walked across the dais when they announced her full name, and when she got to the end of the stage, the principal turned her tassel from one side of her mortarboard to the other.

(This was different than when I graduated from Marietta High School in 1981.  We all turned our tassels en masse at the end of the name-reading.)

The parents (not all, but enough to make an impression) did not set a very good example on the subject of respecting the turf or other students.  The administrator took the microphone before the event began and asked people to refrain from cheering, blowing air horns, or causing general commotion that would slow down the diploma process or upstage the next student going up there.  (Since Susie’s last name begins with an M, I was all for anything that would expedite the process.  She was just about smack-dab in the middle of the alphabet, name-wise.)  He kept stressing (as he did during the rehearsal, according to Susie) that this was a ceremony, not a celebration.

By the time the D names began appearing, there was plenty of cheering, confetti-throwing, and air horn-blowing.  There was a guy in the stands (where the non-VIPs were) who was laying on the horn for such a long time that someone finally came and took it away from him.

Susie was both relieved and excited by the time the celebration ceremony event was finished.  Both Steph and I thought we would be in tears, but it dragged so long that strong emotion was replaced by a “Can we get on with this?” mentality.  I am sure the students felt the same way.

Once the official event concluded, the westward sky lit up with fireworks, and over the loudspeaker came Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” which came out while I was in high school.  (I’m sure the teachers and staff were silently wishing the song could have been Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”)  Several times, the graduates heard that they are now “a [Merritt Island High School] Mustang for life!”

Susie is relieved that high school is now a thing of the past.  She is making a (kind of) geographic change tomorrow, and an even bigger change in situation.  My long safari ends in the morning, when Susie and I board Southwest Airlines Flight 132 for the non-stop trip to Columbus.  I am returning to familiar surroundings.  I’m returning to the bureaucracy (and shuddering at the idea of how much of a backlog will be there for me to tackle), and evenings at the bookstore.

Susie, on the other hand, is in unchartered water.  She has applied for several jobs online this weekend, and hopefully the follow-up calls will be coming.  (Tomorrow is a holiday, so I’m thinking she won’t be hearing anything until Tuesday at the earliest.)  Other than babysitting and doing editorial and proofreading work for her mom, Susie has never entered the wonderful word of work.  She’ll be living with me, so she won’t have to juggle the extra worries of paying for food and a place to live.  And I am going to be generous, letting her stay with me as long as necessary.

Witnessing my daughter graduate from high school is what made the 3000-mile Greyhound journey from San Francisco to Titusville worth every sleepless moment, frustration, and discomfort worth it.  Susie’s school experience has been a rocky one.  She’s run the gamut from home-schooling, Catholic education, skipping a grade, excellent teachers, incompetent administrators, and every high school peer stereotype anyone can imagine, and has a diploma (and an honors cord!) to show as a result, with no problems with the law, substance abuse, or nervous breakdowns to run her into the ditch in the meantime.

She did a great job.  Now we see what lies ahead.

Susie went up on the dais as a high school student, and descends as a graduate.

Susie went up on the dais as a high school student, and descends as a graduate.

2:42:57

The title is my official time from Bay to Breakers 2015.  I managed the entire 12 kilometers (walking, not running, of course), and did additional walking above and beyond the call, so I think I may have actually walked double that today.

The people who walk in Bay to Breakers aren’t cleared to approach the starting line until an hour after the runners have gone.  (Each classification has its own corral–not unlike a cattle chute–and they release each one at intervals.)  So, it was close to 9, an hour after the starting gun, before I was actually crossing the starting line and beginning the 7½ miles from the Embarcadero to the Great Highway at the Pacific Ocean.

The festivities seem to take precedence over serious running, although by the time my corral hit the streets, the more zealous runners had already crossed the finish line.  I saw various costumes–quite a few Waldos, Teletubbies, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 (or Drunk 1 and Drunk 2).

The only rule that anyone seemed to obey was the “no floats” rule.  The no-drinking rule was a complete joke.  People were handing bottles (labelled and poorly disguised alike) back and forth, and there was a strong pot smell and cloud drifting over the walkers for much of the race and in The Panhandle afterwards.  (As a native of Southeastern Ohio, it is easy for me to know when Cannabis sativa is nearby.)

The Bay to Breakers Website cautioned that the route included Hayes Hill, which has a grade anywhere from 5.5% to 11%.  Once you reach that, you can honestly say “It’s all downhill from here.”  The late Clark Murphy, the best writing teacher I had at Marietta High School, spoke of falling action in his composition classes.  The course from Hayes Hill to the Great Highway was an extended falling action.

I was never an “Are we there yet?” kind of traveler as a child, although I came close on the plane trip here Friday, but I kept thinking that as I walked from The Panhandle to the finish line.

And I did even more walking than the race itself.  I walked back to The Panhandle, where the party was a lot less sterile than the Finish Line Festival at Ocean Beach.  The Finish Line Festival was mostly vendors hawking various overpriced wares, whereas The Panhandle’s party had more of a Comfest feeling, with music, drinking, generous people giving away water and fruit juice), dog-walking, and friendliness everywhere.

The city let it be known that the revelers would wear out their welcome.  Around 2 p.m., the company that supplied the portable toilets came, section by section, and began to pump them out and remove them.  As the afternoon wore on, you saw the park return to more of an everyday clientele–people with their kids, their pets, a t’ai chi class, etc.

So I was in for even more walking.  I did not see a single taxi the whole time I was around the neighborhood, and all the bus routes for that day were cancelled or dreadfully behind schedule, so I walked all the way back to North Beach.  This was 3½ miles, and I made the walk down Fell St. most of the way.  When I turned onto Van Ness, I realized that I had Russian Hill to confront before I could get back to the hostel.  Very steep, although coming down was more worrisome.  I was afraid that my legs would buckle and I would fall down the hill, all the way to the Bay.

With so much walking, it was hard to brace my legs against such a steep incline (much of the car chase scene in Bullitt (1968) was filmed there), and I even thought about holding onto the walls of the houses parallel to the sidewalk, but I made it okay.

The big milestone, body-wise, about this experience (the race, as well as the walks that accompanied them) is that I was sore–my legs and feet still hurt a bit, and my roommate Micha said I was walking like an old man, but I was much happy to see I was not out of breath at all.  I could still have walked such a long distance a year ago, but I would have been winded much sooner.

It is probably good that I piled up so many miles today.  At 9:45 tomorrow morning, I begin the Greyhound trip that will end in Susie’s graduation Friday night and her return to Ohio this Memorial Day.  I will have three days with almost no chance to walk for any significant distance.  I will have plenty of time to read, look out the window, and maybe write in my diary.  I am making no promises about blog entries, although I will do my best.  It depends on whether I have the space necessary to hold a laptop and to type, and how reliable the Wi-Fi connections are on the bus.

I saw a woman wearing a shirt that I see in the window at Homage in the Short North every day on my way to and from work!

I saw a woman wearing a shirt that I see in the window at Homage in the Short North every day on my way to and from work!

The rules of Bay to Breakers stated no drinking (especially no open containers), but this was almost completely ignored, or else enforcement was very lax.  Some people were quite upfront about their intentions.

The rules of Bay to Breakers stated no drinking (especially no open containers), but this was almost completely ignored, or else enforcement was very lax. Some people were quite upfront about their intentions.

From Charlie 15 to San Francisco

Night has fallen here in the city by the Bay.  Indeed, it is now early Saturday morning in Ohio.  My body is still somewhat on Eastern Daylight Savings Time, so I alternate between bursts of energy and a draggy, exhausted feeling.

No complaints about the flight here from Columbus via Atlanta.  While in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta between flights, I was irritated enough to post on Facebook, “Why does everyone on the loudspeaker here sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher?”  From the responses I’ve received, I see that I am not the only person who has experienced this.

The transition from one flight to the next was seamless.  I worried about someone–either Southwest Airlines or me, or a combination thereof–dropping the ball and causing me to be stranded somewhere.  Not to worry, I left Atlanta around 8:30 a.m. and landed in San Francisco just before 11.  This was the first time since I had lived in Boston in the early 1980s that I hadn’t flown on a direct flight, so I was biting my nails until we were actually airborne.  (We boarded at gate C15, hence the title of this entry.  The flight attendant used the NATO phonetic alphabet.)

I was a little haunted from a story Susie told me about when she and the rest of the youth group from First UU flew to Romania two years ago.  The entire trip had gone without a glitch until they landed in Poland.  Just as they were leaving their plane in Warsaw, the announcement came over the P.A. system that the flight for Bucharest was loading right there and then.  Everyone had to make a mad scramble across Warsaw Chopin Airport to get to the right gate in time.  (Were I writing this 30 years earlier, I would have said they did an O.J. Simpson.  That had a radically different meaning than it does now.)

I am writing at the Green Tortoise Hostel on Broadway St. in North Beach.  My shuttle bus arrived here with a grand tour of the Mission District and Chinatown, and I was glad to come to the hostel.  The building and the rooms are Spartan–two bunk beds and a bed in the bay window that faces Broadway.  A young couple are across the room from my bunk–she’s from Las Vegas, he’s English.  The woman whose bunk is above mine is Swedish and currently lives and work in Sydney.  The couple have gone out to take nighttime pictures.

Bathrooms, which are in the hallway, are shared.  They’re painted yellow, and contain a shower stall, a sink, and a toilet.  There are lockers (rent a padlock for $5) in the rooms for valuables, and a common computer room (where I am typing away).  They served a free vegetarian dinner in the ballroom at 7 p.m.  I came in to eat just after returning from Walgreen.  I had to buy a jug of distilled water for the CPAP machine.

This is my third trip to San Francisco.  After just an hour of walking these narrow, steep streets, and marveling at the beauty and cleanliness, I wondered why I never seriously considered living here.  Then I remember that I rent a two-bedroom townhouse in Columbus for $700 a month.

My big walk was to and from Fort Mason (about two miles each way) to pick up the necessities for Bay to Breakers Sunday morning.  (I picked up a running bib, which has a bar-coded chip for my official time, a gray T-shirt, and a transparent bag for anything I might want to bring with me.  The latter is a result of the Boston Marathon bombing.  The Exposition Center at Fort Mason looked like a flea market writ large.  In addition to the long tables where I picked up my registration envelope, there were vendors selling everything from sunglasses to water bottles to gym memberships.  I was glad that I had the foresight to pick up everything today, because tomorrow I’m sure the place will be sheer chaos.

One of my “bucket list” items is to read Jack Kerouac’s prose poem “October in the Railroad Earth” at his grave in Lowell, Mass.  Since that has yet to come to pass, I stopped in City Lights Books and also The Beat Museum, both no more than a few minutes’ walk from here.

I don’t think the temperature reached 60 today, but nevertheless I was comfortable in a T-shirt and jeans.  I am not sure if I’m venturing out of doors any more tonight.  The hostel is in a rather sketchy section of town, including several strip clubs and restaurants that look like the Health Department will close them soon.  There is no such thing as cheap real estate in the Bay Area, but I am sure that this hostel is able to charge the reasonable prices they do because the neighborhood is not the greatest.  And it is possible to be on the streets of San Francisco without Karl Malden and Michael Douglas.

My picture of the Green Tortoise Hostel, taken across Broadway.

My picture of the Green Tortoise Hostel, taken across Broadway.

A Long Distance Out of My Way

The most memorable line in Edward Albee’s one-act play The Zoo Story is “Sometimes a person has to go a very long distance out of his way to come back a short distance correctly.”  I’m finding myself in that very situation–quite literally–right now.  I’m typing this in the Southwest Airlines boarding area at Port Columbus airport, over an hour and a half before I board a plane for San Francisco via Atlanta.

My goal is to be prolific with blog entries for the next 10 days, because I will be travelling and also celebrating a very significant milestone, all before Memorial Day.  At 10:50 a.m. Pacific Daylight Savings Time, I will (if all goes well) land in San Francisco, my first time there since my honeymoon in 1996, when Steph and I rode Amtrak from Cleveland to Emeryville by way of Chicago.

In the last year, I have lost close to 30 pounds.  Last summer, a co-worker was closing in on her 40th birthday.,  She and her husband were going to mark the occasion with a trip to Miami, and she wanted to lose enough weight to look good in a bikini.  As a gesture of solidarity, all of us in the section agreed to diet as well.

I seem to have been the only one to stick with it.  I did not want to go back to my high school weight (somewhere around 130 to 135), but I did want to lose my excess.  I walked for my lunch hour (usually around 45 minutes), and added long walks many evenings and weekends as well.  I began to track my calories, using the food diary on My Fitness Pal to log both exercise and meals.  I haven’t been 100% faithful and conscientious to eating more sensibly, but I have lost close to 30 to 35 pounds.  (Like most dieters, I have yo-yo’d back and forth quite a bit.)  Despite the multi-billion dollar diet industry’s promises and concoctions, I realized the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume.  This is true regardless of whether you adhere to a strict vegan diet or eat three meals a day at McDonald’s.  (Both of these extremes present issues all their own, but if you go by calories, all calories are equal.)  It takes two weeks to develop a habit, so it’s been second nature for quite some time for me to have a breakfast of yogurt and fruit and to drink Diet Snapple.  My lunch is, at most, three hard-boiled eggs.  (Again, I will lay my cards on the table: I have not been completely strict with this.  I can and do stray off course from time to time.)

To celebrate the weight loss, and to do some extreme walking, this Sunday morning I will be walking–not running–in Zappos.com Bay to Breakers, a 7½-mile footrace that goes from the Embarcadero to the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, passing through Golden Gate Park in the process.  The participants range from the serious runners who religiously read every column inch of Runner’s World monthly, to people who turn it into a West Coast version of Mardi Gras, with outrageous costumes (or complete nudity), and an after-party in Alamo Square that makes Columbus’ Pride festival and Comfest look like Baptist church picnics.  Each year, even before Zappos’ sponsorship, the city of San Francisco issued warnings that forbade nudity, open containers, and public drunkenness, but they re-learned the same lesson each time.  It was as realistic as trying to issue a law against thunderstorms.  Annually, reporter Stanley Roberts of KRON-TV posts YouTube videos entitled “Bay to Breakers–People Behaving Badly,” where he shoots video of the drunken revelers’ more extreme shenanigans while wringing his hands about the litter, idiocy, and property destruction.  (The Bay to Breakers Website home page features a more conservative costume–Thing 1 and Thing 2 of The Cat in the Hat fame–although there are a plethora of Barack Obamas, Elvis Presleys, and Wizard of Oz (1939) characters.)  UnderArmour is providing free T-shirts for the event, so I hope that doesn’t undercut the creativity of the runners.

Once again, I will be walking, not running.  If I attempted running, even in a comparatively level terrain like here in Columbus, I would not make it very far.  I don’t run because I do not have the stamina.  (Why don’t I have the stamina?  Because I don’t run.)

I will be in San Francisco until Monday morning.  My accommodations are going to be inexpensive and quite informal.  I am staying in the Green Tortoise Hostel on Broadway, in a shared room.  The entire cost for three nights is under $200, which is the average nightly rate for one night in a hotel.

But the travel madness doesn’t end there.  As I mentioned at the top of the entry, Susie graduates from Merritt Island High School a week from today, on the 22nd.  Naturally, I will be there.  On Monday morning, I am hopping on a Greyhound bus in San Francisco and riding–by way of Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and Orlando–to Titusville, which is about 25 miles from Merritt Island.  I will be posting from the road as conditions permit.  I have found bus Wi-Fi and access to electrical outlets to be erratic, and I may not have enough elbow room for typing.  I will do what I can to keep a good record of this trip.

More momentous news follows Susie’s graduation.  She has been accepted at Stetson University, Seton Hall University, and my beloved Ohio University, but she feels she is not ready for college, and wants to take a hiatus of at least one year.  On Memorial Day, she will be flying back to Columbus with me and will start pounding pavement looking for a job.  She’ll be living with me while she does this.  I am overjoyed at this decision.  It is quite practical, since mass transit is much more extensive in Columbus than in Brevard County, and many more jobs are available here and accessible by bus.

I will be posting my own Bay to Breakers pictures on Sunday, post-race, so I won’t co-opt any of the ones already online.

Boarding will begin soon, so I’ll post this, close up the laptop, and shoulder my knapsack (and the damn CPAP), and join the hordes.

Past/future visitors to San Francisco (Stardate 8390), from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).

Past/future visitors to San Francisco (Stardate 8390), from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).

150 Years After the “Moody, Tearful Night”

This weekend finds me at home, surrounded by my usual clutter, LPs, and the laptop.  Last week, however, Betsy and I made a weekend road trip to Washington, D.C.  April 14 was the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and I was determined to see the Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination Exhibit at Ford’s Theater before it closed Memorial Day weekend.  (My only regret is that Susie was not able to see it, but her spring break schedule and the home stretch of her high school senior year did not mesh with any time she could get to Washington.)

The line “moody, tearful night” is from the second stanza of Walt Whitman’s poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” one of the poems he wrote in Lincoln’s memory.  He published it in 1865, in his collection Sequel to Drum-Taps.

The first page of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," as i appeared in Sequel to Drum-Taps, published by Whitman in 1865.

The first page of “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” as it appeared in Sequel to Drum-Taps, published by Whitman in 1865.

The trip was also the first extended road trip Betsy and I have taken together.  She doesn’t like to drive outside the Athens city limits, so when I asked if she wanted to come to Washington, she knew that meant going by Greyhound.  I was quite thankful for Greyhound’s companion fare special, so two could travel for the price of one.  We boarded the bus just after 9 p.m. here in Columbus, and were at Union Station on Massachusetts Ave., NE in Washington around 8:30 on Saturday morning.  Except for a chaotic layover and bus transfer in Pittsburgh, the journey went off without a hitch.

I was happy to see there was high demand for the exhibit at Ford’s Theater.  I had to buy advance tickets on Ticketmaster’s Website, and I was able to get one of the few remaining slots available.

We spent the day and early evening with my learned friend Robert Nedelkoff,  whose knowledge of history, publications, and music is boundless.  (I wanted to veer away from using the adjective erudite, at least this once.)  Robert would be my first choice for phone-a-friend if I was ever a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Our Ford’s Theater tickets were not until 11:30, so we visited the Museum of Natural History, including seeing the Hope Diamond and a flawless crystal ball (about the size of a bowling ball).  I made a point of paying my respects to Martha, the last surviving passenger pigeon, who died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.  (In 1982, my friend John, who was visiting me in Marietta from St. Louis, told me he had read about her in his Golden Book Encyclopedia.  We threw caution to the wind and hitchhiked to Washington, and seeing Martha–misnamed Matilda in the encyclopedia–was high on our “to do” list.  I took a picture of her with my phone and sent it to John, who now lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Betsy posing with her new friend Triceratops horridus.  (I couldn't help thinking of those corny taxonomic phrases used in Road Runner cartoons when I saw this.)

Betsy posing with her new friend Triceratops horridus. (I couldn’t help thinking of those corny taxonomic phrases used in Road Runner cartoons when I saw this.)

No matter how many times I visit, Ford’s Theater is always special to me.  Although all three of us were a little impatient during the wait (the line stretched around the block from 10th St. NW onto F St.), I was glad to see there is enough interest to create a long line.

Betsy had never visited Ford’s Theater before, and Robert and I had been there during my trip in November of 2013.  (Betsy’s first trip to Washington was when she was 10 or 11, when her mother brought her to an Equal Rights Amendment rally.)  She was in awe of the interior of the theater, and there was not a peep out of her when we went across 10th St. to the house where Lincoln died, a rooming house owned by a Swedish tailor named William Petersen.

To quote the diary of Gideon Welles, who was Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Andrew Johnson:

The President had been carried across the street from the theater, to the house of a Mr. Peterson. We entered by ascending a flight of steps above the basement and passing through a long hall to the rear, where the President lay extended on a bed, breathing heavily. Several surgeons were present, at least six, I should think more. Among them I was glad to observe Dr. Hall, who, however, soon left. I inquired of Dr. H., as I entered, the true condition of the President. He replied the President was dead to all intents, although he might live three hours or perhaps longer.

The giant sufferer lay extended diagonally across the bed, which was not long enough for him. He had been stripped of his clothes. His large arms, which were occasionally exposed, were of a size which one would scarce have expected from his spare appearance. His slow, full respiration lifted the clothes with each breath that he took. His features were calm and striking. I had never seen them appear to better advantage than for the first hour, perhaps, that I was there. After that, his right eye began to swell and that part of his face became discolored.

We lunched at Wok and Roll, the Chinese restaurant located on H St. NW, which had been the boardinghouse of Mary E. Surratt, where the conspirators had planned Lincoln’s abduction and eventual assassination.  I am not overly fond of Wok and Roll’s cuisine, but I wanted to eat there because of its historical significance.

But the trip was not exclusively devoted to Lincoln’s memory.  “Climbing the Exorcist steps” has been on my bucket list for quite some time, so we rode the Metro to Georgetown, with its narrow cobblestone streets and its townhouses.  Robert led the way to Prospect St. NW, where we stood at the head of the steep steps that play such a prominent role in the movie The Exorcist (1973).  I have seen the movie quite a few times, the first time at age 16, and I remembered vividly news reports that showed people passed out on theater lobby couches, or vowing not to go back in to watch the movie because it was so horrifying.

The movie does not fairly represent the steps’ steepness.  We looked down them from Prospect St., and from there they almost seemed vertical.  Yet, I was determined to climb them.  So, I walked down to M St. and asked Robert to immortalize the moment.

I was quite proud of myself, because I managed to sprint up the steps in less than 40 seconds.  Both Betsy and Robert know about my aneurysm, and Betsy wondered if maybe paramedics and an ambulance should be at the ready, but I trotted up the steps.  I realized that I would not have been able to do this a year ago, at least not without stopping to rest on one or two of the landings during my ascent.  (I am still in awe of the fact that the Georgetown crew and track teams regularly run wind sprints up and down these steps!)

Above is photographic proof that I made it up the Exorcist steps in a respectable time.  I apologize for not being able to rotate it so that it is more vertical.

When the rain began falling, Robert took us on a rather unique tour.  He showed us all of John F. Kennedy’s pre-White House residences and trick pads, from the time he was a freshman Representative elected in 1946 until he moved into the White House in 1961.  This also included the house at 3017 N St. NW, where Jackie and the children moved following the assassination before moving to New York.  We also went by the residence of Donald Graham, chairman of the Graham Holdings Company and former publisher of The Washington Post (succeeding his mother, Katharine in 1979, who had become publisher after the 1963 suicide of Donald’s father Phil Graham).

Betsy and I were both exhausted but happy when we arrived in Columbus late Sunday morning.  While waiting at Union Station for the bus that would take us back to Ohio, we watched some of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner live on a screen in the waiting room (CNN’s coverage).  Robert had mentioned that he didn’t have $3000 to spare so that the three of us could get a table there.  (We did, however, have beverages at The Georgetown Inn, although we did not look genteel enough.)

It was probably just as well that we could not get a berth at the Correspondents’ Dinner.  In my I love typography T-shirt, faded jeans, and tennis shoes, I would not have blended in at all.