Any World That I’m Welcome To…

The Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown was in a unique position this past weekend.  It played host to two different types of alternate universes.  The generations divided these two avenues of escape, but, as I thought, there would definitely be some overlap and–though both sides would be loath to admit it–some common ground.

Susie and I spent much of the weekend at these two events.  Susie was overjoyed that she was actually able to be in Columbus when Matsuricon 2015 was taking place.  It is a three-day anime convention which is always held at the Hyatt Regency, but in previous summers, Susie has been in Florida for the time that it happened.  Now that she is once again based in Central Ohio, she was overjoyed by the fact that she could go.

I was shocked (and somewhat amused) to see that Matsuricon would be sharing space with Pulpfest, the annual convocation of fans, collectors, and scholars of pulp, which became a genre unto itself from the 1930s until television truly came into its own in the early 1950s.  Publishers began producing books and magazines en masse on low-quality wood pulp paper, which meant they could produce magazines much more cheaply than their “glossy” competitors.

The content was all over the map, but the pulps were the gateway for many readers of all ages to the world of books, and popularized genres such as Westerns, science fiction, detective, and adventure fiction.  The list of authors who published in the pulps is miles long, but this year’s Pulpfest honored the 125th anniversary of the birth of H.P. Lovecraft, so many vendors in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt plugged any magazines or paperbacks or first editions featuring any of Lovecraft’s writings, especially any work that was part of his Cthulhu mythos.  (Also, one of the annual events of Pulpfest is Farmerfest, a day of workshops dedicated to Philip José Farmer and his works.)

The allure of the pulps was the escape from the mundane world of work, school, and home life, where for the cost of a measly dime The Shadow could coolly assure you that “as you sow evil, so shall you reap evil.  Crime does not pay.”  You could fight criminals in the morning and woo curvaceous women in the evening with Simon Templar (The Saint), or have a front-row seat at a prizefight between two fictitious boxers.

An assortment of pulp magazines for sale at Pulpfest 2015.

An assortment of pulp magazines for sale at Pulpfest 2015.

The literary quality of many of these magazines and books are questionable (and I’m being charitable in using this adjective), although many writers revered to this day (William Faulkner, Louis L’Amour, John D. MacDonald, and Isaac Asimov) first published there because these were the only venues where they could appear in print and be paid, although at a lower rate than in the “glossies.”  Many parents would forgive the literary quality (or lack thereof) and the content once they saw that reading these books opened the door to a love of books for their children that would serve them well as time passed.  (Indeed, I own several paperbacks–some of them literary classics–published during the early and mid 1940s where the back cover urges the reader to “Send this book to a serviceman!”  How many World War II soldiers, too broke for the bars and brothels, utterly bored, took Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, or Charles Dickens out of a care package and began reading out of sheer desperation, and then looked into the GI Bill once they had returned home to the U.S.?)

Matsuricon served the same purpose for the teenagers and young adults whom I saw roaming the Convention Center and the Hyatt during the weekend.  Susie went on Friday afternoon, and was back on Saturday–the day I was at Pulpfest–and Sunday afternoon.  She dressed as Dipper Pines, one of the major characters in the animated Disney series Gravity Falls.  I have yet to see this program, but Susie describes it as a teenage PG-13 Twin Peaks.  She later posted pictures of herself in a room full of Dipper Pineses.

Susie ("Dipper Pines") is near the center, left arm outstretched with journal in hand, in the company of her fellow Gravity Falls characters.

Susie (“Dipper Pines”) is near the center, left arm outstretched with journal in hand, in the company of her fellow Gravity Falls characters.

From the summit of my years, I can now see the allure of Matsuricon.  Many of the kids there are, undoubtedly, on the receiving end of bullying, harassment, and probably full-fledged physical assault among their peers, at school and in their neighborhoods.  For the three days Matsuricon takes place, the more bizarre their costumes and characters, the more welcome they were.  None of your fellow Matsuricon attenders would ridicule or question where you found yourself on the gender continuum, or what pronoun you preferred.

This explains, I think, the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons, which began when I was in high school in the late 1970s.  The kid who weighed 97 pounds (or 397 pounds) could, at the mere roll of some dice, lay waste to an entire village, ransack their treasuries and come away with more gold coin than he could ever spend, and ride away with a beautiful woman or two on his arm.  This would be a much more palatable experience than the bullies who would steal his lunch money and stick his head in the urinal.

Even though I thought for sure that Matsuricon and Pulpfest peacefully co-existing would be unlikely, there was some overlap.  I was not the only parent there whose child was at Matsuricon.  I saw two costumed teenage girls wander into the Regency Ballroom hand in hand and begin looking at the paperbacks and the magazines with the risqué covers, fascinated by what they were seeing, until someone told them they could not stay unless they paid the $20 admission fee.

The kids from Matsuricon showed no signs of exhaustion.  Susie surrendered to sensory overload and left with me after the Pulpfest dealer room closed at 4:30.  (Seeing the Pulpfest people weaving through the Matsuricon people was truly where the oil hit the water.)  I, however, went back downtown a little after 11 p.m. for the second night of “Lovecraft at the Movies.”  I saw a 1971 episode of Night Gallery entitled “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture,” and this was followed by The Whisperer in Darkness (2011), which looked very much like a 1930s black and white film, so much so that I mentally began filling in the inevitable static, scratches, and pops, and looked every so often for the black fuzz that occasionally appears at the bottom of the screen when watching an old, badly restored movie on TV.

I came out of the movies a little after 1:30 a.m., and Matsuricon was still going full blast.  The comic book store Heroes and Games had remained open late, as had the little convenience store, and everywhere I could see con-goers sitting around talking, cuddling, reading, and standing around talking and laughing.

I am sure there are dark moments at gatherings like these–there always are.  My video game skills never got much past Missile Command and Space Invaders, so I cannot relate to the large-scale universe of the seriously competitive video gamers.  That world’s ugly side became public last year with Gamergate.

But last weekend, it looked like the haters were the only people who were personae not grata.

(NOTE: The title of this blog entry is the title of a song by Steely Dan on the album Katy Lied, ABC Records ABCD-846.  The refrain is “Any world that I’m welcome to/Is better than the one I come from.”)

Shades of Difference

This has been a rainy summer, but when the sun is out, it is very hot and very bright.  It’s been so bright that I have actually considered buying sunglasses.  When I had my annual eye exam in June (a must, since glaucoma is so prevalent in my family), I debated spending a little extra money on a set of prescription sunglasses, but they would be one more pair that I could lose or break.

I think that my resistance to buying and wearing sunglasses is that I have seen them more as a fashion accessory and statement than as a practicality.  Having never been a driver, they have not been a necessity when travelling.  I’ve always been able to brace myself against bright sunlight.

Briefly, I wore a pair of mirror sunglasses when I was a teenager.  These had teardrop-shaped lenses, and I had almost convinced myself that I presented an air of cool.  What brought me back to earth was when I was walking down Putnam St. in downtown Marietta.  Two teenage girls (possibly classmates of mine, since I was about 16 at the time) were passing me on the sidewalk.  One planted herself directly in front of me and gazed into my eyes.  Or so I thought.  Instead, she reached into her purse, took out a comb, and stared into the lenses as she combed and adjusted her hair.

After my annual eye exam at the OSU College of Optometry.  All I need to complete the look is a saxophone.

After my annual eye exam at the OSU College of Optometry. All I need to   complete the look is a saxophone.

It took me some time to associate jazz musicians, especially the ones from the 1940s and 1950s, with sunglasses.  (Please note that I drew on that stereotype in the caption for the above picture.)  The first time I saw a picture of a jazz musician wearing sunglasses was on the cover The Shearing Piano (Capitol T-909), in my dad’s record collection.  Dad explained to me that George Shearing (or “old God Shearing,” as Jack Kerouac called him in On the Road) was blind.

A friend of mine, a jazz aficionado, believes the reason that jazz musicians took to wearing sunglasses on stage (and whenever they were out and about in the daytime) was because of amphetamine use and indulging in other controlled substances.  One of the side effects is dilated pupils, so being under bright lights is quite uncomfortable.

I took to wearing sunglasses in the summertime when I was in elementary school, mostly modeling this on Joe Cool, one of Snoopy’s many personae in Peanuts.  Unlike Corey Hart, I did not wear them at night.

During Zappos Bay to Breakers last May, I waited impatiently with many other walkers in Corral G for the green light to step off and begin the 7+ miles to the Great Highway.  There was a family in front of me, a husband, wife, and two girls.  The girls were maybe seven and nine years of age, and, as we waited for the okay to hit the bricks and start walking, the girls were starting to get impatient.  (I probably wasn’t modeling the best behavior, patience-wise, I’m the first to admit.)  As they waited, they both posed with sunglasses (one had a pair of John Lennon glasses with amber lenses, and the older of the two had a pair of black Wayfarers that reminded me of Tom Cruise in Risky Business (1983)) while their parents took pictures of them.  The sunglasses were unnecessary at that time of the morning, as the sky was somewhat leaden and fog hung over the Bay.

While I was at CVS picking up a prescription the other day, I passed some time looking over the sunglasses on a spinner near the front door, while the pharmacist filled my order.  I was looking for a pair of rectangular clip-ons to go over my bifocals.  Once again, practicality reigned.  Unlike when I was younger, shades would not be a trademark.  (Some people manage to make this work quite effectively: the Blues Brothers, Fritz the Nite Owl, and above all, Roy Orbison.  In the latter case, he put on prescription sunglasses as a Plan B when he arrived at a concert and realized he had forgotten his regular ones.  For years, I thought he was blind.)

Maybe getting sunglasses at last is a sign of old age.  A friend’s mother used to say that one sign of old age is using a bridge table to play bridge.

It’s True… I am Dizzy

A health problem isn’t really serious when it’s an annoyance, and not when it’s affecting your quality of life or your ability to work, function, think, or enjoy life.  The ideal would be not to have any ailment or condition at all, but, failing that, keeping it to the level of an annoyance is a worthwhile goal.

That is my current feeling about benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which showed up about two weeks ago.  There had been some minor symptoms, such as mild spinning of the world around me when getting up from a chair or from bed.  I have had balance issues most of my life, as a result of many ear infections when I was a child.

This all came to a head on the 21st of last month.  I had taken the day off work, so that Susie and I could protest at Governor Kasich’s announcement that he was seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency.  (Much as I loathe the man, he is not on my list of “If he’s elected, I’m tithing half my income to Al Qaeda” candidates–Rand Paul and his father head that list, with Donald Trump very closely behind.)

So what happened, die-hard left-wing activist that I am?  I ended up sleeping through my alarm, and missing Kasich’s announcement at the Ohio Union altogether.  So, I decided to cut my losses and enjoy my day off, which meant lunch with Susie at McDonald’s and then going a few doors north from there to Used Kids Records.

In their street-level foyer, at the foot of the steps that lead to the store itself on the second floor, they leave out all the albums they’ve been unable or unwilling to sell.  I stopped in, and bent over to look through the discards.  They lean against the wall at floor level, so I bent over pretty far to flip through them.  (I have less girth than I did a year ago at this time, but bending over for an extended period of time is still not easy for me.)

When I straightened up, the whole area was spinning, very rapidly.  The spinning was quick enough that I actually saw blurry after-images.  I began to fall, but I managed to brace myself on a cabinet that had also been discarded.  (It held an all-in-one from the 1970s–with an eight-track player, useful only for parts.)

I leaned against the wall, panting.  I realized this wasn’t normal off-balance or dizziness.  Once I had recovered, I took out my phone and I called Rardin Family Practice, the OSU clinic where my general practitioner is.  He wasn’t available, but the woman who answered the phone was able to get me in with another doctor later in the afternoon.

I wondered if the dizziness was because I was wearing new bifocals.  (Scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Stardate 8130.3)

I wondered if the dizziness was because I was wearing new bifocals. (Scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Stardate 8130.3)

The doctor listened to my litany of symptoms, and went through the medical history I had on file.  He asked detailed questions about my tinnitus, such as what type I have.  (I either have the air-rushing or the “cricket” type; there is really no pattern to which one I will have at any given time.)  I told him of my issues with balance, one of the reasons I ride an adult tricycle instead of a regular bike.  (The doctor was a Florida native, so he has seen plenty of them.)

That was when he diagnosed the BPPV.  I knew it was some kind of vertigo.  I also knew, remembering Steph’s pre-cardiac surgery issues, that vertigo is more than just feeling dizzy.  The doctor asked me to turn my head from one side to the other, and took note of the nystagmus (involuntary eye motion) that occurred whenever he did this.

The treatment was something called Epley’s maneuver.  (I thought about asking him if that was anything like the Venus butterfly, but he looked like he was too young to know about L.A. Law.)  I hung over the edge of the exam table while he moved my head from one side to the other.  On Facebook, I described it as waterboarding without the water.

I’m supposed to follow up this Thursday.  In the meantime, the doctor phoned in a prescription for meclizine, which is an antihistamine.  I carry the bottle with me, and I take a tablet whenever I feel the dizziness.

And that is quite a dilemma.  I don’t like the dizziness, but the meclizine causes such fatigue that I feel like I’m in perpetual slow motion.  I am still walking in the Short North and Victorian Village during my lunch hour (I call it my in-lieu-of-lunch walk), but one afternoon, after a spell of the dizziness and taking a tablet to keep it at bay, I came back from the walk short of breath and exhausted, even more than the heat could cause.  I was not very productive the rest of the work day, and slogged through the many ex parte orders that popped up on my screen.

So which do I choose from one minute to the next?  Dizziness or exhaustion?

Since We Last Spoke…

The major difference between a blog and a handwritten diary is that it is so easy to let the blog fall by the wayside.  Opening up the diary, that blank page stares at you like an accusation.  I had to come to this site just now and then look to see that it’s been about six weeks since I last posted in here.

I have been single again for a month.  When Betsy emailed me that she thought we should part ways, my reaction was more relief than it was sadness.  I think the evidence has always been plain to me that I am probably not psychologically or spiritually equipped to be in a relationship, and probably never was.  My reaction was to be the textbook anti-stalker.  I immediately unfriended Betsy on Facebook, and then mailed her the pair of pajamas that she had left in my bedroom closet for when she came up to Columbus.

Susie will be following in my footsteps at the Columbus State bookstore in about two weeks.  The autumn semester begins on the 31st, so I’ll be back to 12- or 13-hour work days in two weeks or so.  She was a little shell-shocked from her brief job at Charley’s Philly Steaks, so she was reluctant to go to the bookstore’s open interviews.  She went in on a Monday morning, and on Tuesday, she learned by email that they hired her.  And on Wednesday, she and I went to a clinic off Bethel Rd. so that she could have a drug test.  (That was new to me; I did not have to take one when the bookstore hired me in December 2010.)

I’m hoping the bookstore job will lead to something permanent for Susie.  She will be available any hours the store is open, but at present she cannot exceed 27 hours per week.  I know she’ll be happier working in a bookstore than she would be in food service, so I’m hoping that they’ll ask her to stay at the bookstore once the rush period ends, which is usually right after Labor Day.

Beside the drug test, Susie had to clear some other bureaucratic hurdles before it became official that she is soon to be an employee of Columbus State Community College.  First, she had to prove that she can legally work in the United States.  I wasn’t able to lay my hands on a copy of her birth certificate immediately, so we took her passport to Columbus State’s H.R. office.  She also produced a brand new Social Security card (brand new because she lost hers when her wallet was stolen), and a brand new State of Ohio ID (Ibid.).

Both Susie and I looked forward to Pride this year, especially after the Supreme Court ruled that all 50 states had to recognize same-sex marriages.  (I learned the news from Susie moments after the Supreme Court announced the decision.  She was on her laptop in the McDonald’s near the OSU campus, and saw it on a TV tuned to CNN.  She emailed me immediately–lots of capital letters and exclamation points.)  However, Pride was a washout.

Literally.

We went to the beginning of the Pride Festival Friday night in Goodale Park, and visited several of the vendors’ booths.  (Susie bought the T-shirt she wanted to wear on Saturday, showing the word OHIO with interlocked female symbols for the first O, and interlocked male symbols for the second O.)  But on Saturday, it was gray and rainy from the time Susie and I left the house.  We camped out at McDonald’s and decided to wait until the rain stopped or lessened.

And it never did.  The organizers pulled the plug on the Festival a little after 1 p.m., because by that time, it was still raining, to the tune of one inch per hour.

There’s more to cover, so I don’t want to throw everything into one entry and then wring my hands about not having any material to put in future blog posts, so I’ll end it right here.  That, plus it is now after 2 a.m., and my energy–both mental and physical–is beginning to flag.  It’s becoming harder and harder to hit the right keys.

I like to think that my readers await my blog entries like episodes in a soap opera, like "Love of Chair" (from THE ELECTRIC COMPANY).

I like to think that my readers await my blog entries like episodes in a soap opera, like “Love of Chair” (from The Electric Company).