Michigan Week… Under a Cloud

I put extraordinary time and effort into ignoring the existence of Big 10 football season, which is not an easy feat when I live 1½ miles from The Shoe, but this year Michigan Week has resulted in tragedy.

Last night was the annual Mirror Lake Jump.  On the Tuesday before the Ohio State-Michigan game, OSU students jump en masse into Mirror Lake, doing the usual “O-H-I-O!” and “Fuck Michigan!” chants, while splashing around in water that is barely above freezing, and walking back from the experience completely drenched and often intoxicated.  The lake has been filled end to end, with people thrashing around in the water pressed together as if they were on a Tokyo subway.  I blogged about it here in 2011, when I took my camera and shot some of my own video of the experience.

Had I been a student at OSU, I probably would have participated when I was in my 20s.  By the same token, had I been a student at the University of Michigan, I would have enthusiastically participated in the Naked Mile to mark the end of classes.  But I am content to watch other people splash around in the brackish water and make their way back completely wet and bordering on hypothermia.

Last night, a person died in the jump.  Austin Singletary, a 22-year-old junior from Dayton, went into cardiac arrest when he went into the water–water which was not more than a degree or two above freezing.  He died this afternoon at OSU Wexner Medical Center.

OSU has said that the Mirror Lake Jump ends here.  It will be interesting to re-read this blog entry at this time next year and see whether that prohibition comes to pass.  (The University does not officially sanction the event, much like Halloween in Athens.)  I was reading a story on The Dispatch‘s online site, and, despite what happened, most of the students they interviewed worry more about the end of the tradition, although many prefaced their comments with cursory “It’s sad what happened, but…”

There were rumors that Comfest 2009 would be the final one, after an 18-year-old man, very much under the influence of drugs, accidentally stabbed himself to death.  Comfest still continues, because the medical examiner’s report determined that the tragedy could have happened anywhere.  It could have happened in his yard or on The Oval.

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A post card of Mirror Lake, circa 1940.  Campbell Hall, the brick building in the background, is on Neil Ave., so this view faces west.  (This is also before the installation of the fountain in the center of the lake.)

There was no way I could take the video that I took in 2011, in the blog entry I linked above.  OSU seemed quite aware of the trouble that might arise from the Mirror Lake jump, and took extraordinary precautions.  I walked home from work yesterday via Neil Avenue, and was shocked to see a metal temporary fence, at least 12 feet high, around the lake and all the away around nearby Browning Amphitheater.  There were police–OSU and Columbus City Police, as well as State Highway Patrol officers–everywhere.  There was only entrance to the lake, and it was a narrow gap in the fence on the east side, at least a two- or three-minute walk from the lake.  Only students who had already obtained wristbands were permitted through the gate.  Once I saw this layout, I gave up on trying to take pictures.  Even from Neil Ave., I would have needed a telephoto lens far beyond the capacity of either my cell phone or my Sony Cybershot.

OSU is rightly scared of the liability that will result if the jump-in continues, and if they allow it, I would be reluctant to insure them.  Posters on news sites have been wringing their hands about the end of this tradition, and throwing out comments about the “nanny state.”  (Usually, the phrase “nanny state” is invoked when executives complain about being forbidden to bury radioactive waste near a school or dump toxins into drinking water.)

The end of this tradition doesn’t bother me one way or the other.  I have no interest in OSU Football, and am especially grateful that the game is in Ann Arbor this year.  Yes, there will be drunken revelry regardless of who wins, but at least it will not be compounded by fans pouring out of The Shoe afterwards.  The jump-in was amusing to watch the few times I saw it, but I will not miss it.

 

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The Chance to Reinvent

A co-worker’s daughter just christened a new blog, and that has spurred me to try and maintain this one, and not let weeks and months go between entries.  No idea how long I will remain zealous about writing in here–just have to hope that the urge to write in here comes more frequently than it has in the past few months.

During the time that Susie and I were spending the night hours at the McDonald’s on North High Street, she saw several of her former Graham School classmates hanging out there, along with (or a part of) the never-ending cast of characters of the transient kids who would come in and nurse cup after cup of fountain drinks to avoid being ejected for loitering.

There was one young woman there who surprised Susie.  She had come in and had greeted Susie warmly when she passed by our table.  (I had my Nook in my hand and, as usual, Susie was hard at work on her laptop.)  Susie was surprised.  The two of them had known each other at Graham, but weren’t really close friends.  They overlapped acquaintances and a class or two (not hard to do–Graham has a pretty small student body), but that was about it.

The young woman who had greeted Susie was a year or so older, and when she had been at Graham, she had been pretty straight edge, and hung mostly with the informal Christian group.  At McDonald’s, we mostly saw her sitting at the stone tables outside playing Magic: The Gathering while chain-smoking Newports.  (Some straight edge people I have encountered seem to not have a problem with that way of life and smoking, although the rationale there totally escapes me.  The main focus seems to be to eschew drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity.)

Often, conversion to a new religious or political philosophy is the classic impetus for re-invention.  The most dramatic example in history has to be Saul of Tarsus, known mainly as St. Paul.  After being a ruthless enemy of the floundering new church, he became its most tireless and prolific advocate his experience (whether divine intervention, or some kind of seizure or emotional breakdown) on the road to Damascus.  (Paul also elevated self-invention depending on the circumstance to perfection, writing in I Corinthians 9: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law.”

A more recent example is former white supremacist Larry Trapp, who was the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Lincoln, Nebraska during the 1980s and 1990s.  When he “welcomed” a new cantor, Michael Weisser and his family to Lincoln with threatening phone calls and hate mail, Weisser called him and, completely out of the blue, offered Trapp, who was wheelchair-bound and nearly blind from diabetes, a ride to the grocery store.  (He also mentioned that, in Nazi Germany, the very first laws were against Lebensunwertes leben, life unworthy of life, which meant that Trapp would have been the first to die under the Nazis.)  Trapp eventually left the KKK and befriended Weisser and his family.  I first learned of this on Inside Edition.  The story ended with: “And here’s the final twist: Larry Trapp now says he will convert to Judaism.”  Trapp died in 1992, three months after becoming a Jew.

Going away to a new setting is usually the ideal place for reinvention.  You tend to see this a lot at college.  There was a young woman from Upper Arlington who was in a mythology class I was taking.  She had graduated high school at 17 (compared to me, a freshman at 23).  She dressed like she had just stepped out of the pages of The Official Preppy Handbook, and I was surprised that she did not pledge a sorority.  We became close acquaintances, but not really friends, during the quarter we were in this class.

Less than a year later, I ran into her on Court St., where a friend and I were eating burritos on the steps of the Athens County Courthouse.  It took me a moment to recognize her.  She had dyed her strawberry blonde hair jet black, the same color as her eye shadow, and had discarded her blazer for a leather jacket and her penny loafers for Doc Martens.  She had also begun smoking, which was surprising, because she and I had shared the same loathing of that habit in the past.

It’s something all of us have done, not necessarily in as dramatic a fashion as I have described above.  We all adjust with change and aging, usually so gradually that we don’t even recognize it at the time.  One of the few worthwhile readings from the American literature class I took in high school was Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.”  I copied its most famous passage inside the front cover of my notebook:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

And speaking of consistency and reinvention, I see that WordPress has changed the specifics of this template on me!

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A friend’s Facebook meme inspired this entry.

“Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!”

I would rather live alone in a tarpaper shack than live with a roommate.  Other than Steph and Susie–spouse and daughter, respectively–I have not shared living quarters with anyone since 1989, when I had a bedroom in a small one-story house (since razed) on the edge of the Ohio University campus.

Despite that, I have never taken extreme measures to get rid of roommates, until this fall.  There have been many stories in The Columbus Dispatch and the local TV stations about bedbug infestations in Columbus and surrounding areas, and I ended up sharing the house with a horde of them.  (I don’t know if a group of bedbugs has a collective noun, such as a murder of crows, a school of fish, a crash of rhinoceroses, etc.)

Susie and I both suffered persistent itching which often meant little or no sleep at night.  When I did sleep, I often awoke with bites up and down my arms that felt almost like Braille.  (They would go down within an hour or two.)  I finally had to sleep fully clothed in order to make the night bearable.

I replaced both our mattresses, and nightly washed and dried all linen in temperatures as hot as the washer and dryer could go.  But, whenever I killed bedbugs, more came to take their place.  (Bedbugs tend to travel in packs, as this article from the Entomological Society of America’s online newsletter says.)

Landlord-bashing is a popular sport everywhere, especially in rentals around college campuses.  I have to dissent here.  My landlord stepped up to the plate and, even though he was under no legal obligation to do so, paid for an exterminator to take care of both my place and my neighbor’s (I live in a half double.)

I had used some remedies, like Dead Bed Bugs, Raid, and four thieves (an essential oil said to have prevented users from bubonic plague), but it never lasted.  Whenever I saw bedbugs, I would go after them like Robert Duvall in the “Ride of the Valkyries” scene in Apocalypse Now (1979), although I resisted the urge to play that track from my CD set Best of the Millennium–Top 40 Classical Hits.

A friend asked me why I didn’t take off the entire Friday the exterminators came to spray.  One reason was I’m trying to be as stingy with paid leave as possible, for my Christmas trip to Florida next month to see Steph and Susie.  The other is because I had to stay out of my place for five hours following the spraying, so I figured I might as well go in to work.

When I saw the exterminators arrive with massive tanks and hoses, and put on firefighter gear and gas masks, I knew it was truly “Game on!”  The place still smelled of pesticide when I came home, but I have not had a bite since.  (It was a reward for the nearly round-the-clock work I did preparing for the treatment: washing all clothes, emptying drawers, eliminating clutter.)  A friend visited me this past week, and he slept in Susie’s room, and awoke with no complaints of bites or itching.

“Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite!” is something parents have said to their children at bedtime for ages, my own parents included.  (I was an adult before I learned the reply was, “See you in the morning light.”)

Insect non grata.

Insect non grata.

Bedbug infestation has nothing to do with cleanliness or hygiene.  Leaving food out is an invitation for roaches, and elementary school-aged children are notorious for bringing home lice.  (A co-worker told me about a daycare where her two daughters went with they were preschoolers.  All the kids played, took naps, and gathered on a big rug in the basement of a church that housed the daycare.  Her daughters, and most of the kids in the class, came home with lice.  My co-workers daughters are grown now, but to this day, whenever they drive past that church, one of them will inevitably say, “There’s the head lice school!”

When Susie had her travails with head lice in elementary school, Steph and I were tempted to just move the three of us out of the house for a month.  Deprived of a host, any lice in the house would die.  (A bedbug’s life expectancy, however, is from six months to a year, and they can go months without eating.  So moving out was not practical in my case.)

I have never missed a roommate after we’ve parted ways, but I have never missed roommates less than I have the Cimus lectularius club.

Laid Low By a Fan

That title made me remember a very bad joke: What do Thomas Merton and John Lennon have in common?  They were both killed by a fan.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, I bury all my pride and report that NaNoWriMo ’15 tanked for me within the first two days.  It is a poor worker who blames the tools, but my stopping involved preventing a possible fire and permanent damage to my laptop.  I would log on, and go to Word, prepared to set the keyboard ablaze with my inimitable prose, and be caught short by a warning saying the motor was overheating.  So, the laptop has been under the knife for the past week, as the repair store awaits a new fan.

The preceding paragraph sounds a lot like MTV’s first broadcast music video, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”  (The first MTV video I ever saw was Asia’s “Heat of the Moment,” in 1982.)  When I lamented this turn of events on Facebook, many people pointed out that I could have resumed the work with my ballpoint pen or my typewriter.  To those of you old enough to remember the original ZOOM on PBS, “Take your typewriter, pencil, or pen, and if you make a mistake, ya gotta do it again!”  I suppose I could have, but trying to type everything back onto the laptop once it’s back would put me way behind schedule.  I didn’t save it to my Cloud because I wouldn’t be able to write whenever the mood struck me, like I would at home.  I would have to seek out libraries for writing, and be beholden to their hours.  (I am currently typing this at Thompson Library at OSU.)

I am not a total Luddite, but it seems that technology has not helped in the progress of the printed word.  I think of the “novel-writing machines” that George Orwell describes in 1984, which produce pornography for the proles.  In 1977, I was a big fan of the TV series Lou Grant, and a frequent plot twist was when their new (almost futuristic at the time) VDT system (visual display terminals) malfunctioned, and they risked losing the entire content of the newspaper.

In the pilot episode of Lou Grant, "Cophouse," Lou beholds a portent of how writing will be in the very near future.

In the pilot episode of Lou Grant, “Cophouse,” Lou beholds a portent of how writing will be in the very near future.

So, I was out of the race early this year.  Susie, on the other hand, has been steaming ahead, despite her having some kind of flu bug and her mom recovering from a bout of pneumonia down in Brevard County.  (Susie has also been doing the lights for Surfside Players’ just-closed performance of Steel Magnolias.)

In the month since Susie moved back to Florida, I’ve managed to keep myself busy.  The first days after she left were rough.  I copied a passage from Volume I of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln into my diary, an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his law partner John Todd Stuart in January 1841:

I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.

I have managed to crawl out of the morass, however.  Work has been busy, and I’ve forced myself to attend monthly Blockwatch meetings.  (I tune out when they talk about parking issues, since I am blessed not to be able to drive.)  I have been very interested in all the problems that have come from a hookah bar on N. 4th St.  I have never used tobacco, so I’ve never been interested in setting foot in the place, but the fact that it seems to turn into the OK Corral in the wee hours of the night has been of concern to many homeowners nearby.

There is a certain irony to my concern about the hookah bar.  One of my co-workers moonlights several nights a week at a suite hotel’s bar.  It caters to executives, travelling business people, etc., and the bar (from the pictures I have seen on their Website) is very genteel, with a dress code and plush seating.  Naturally, we have dubbed it the Hood Bar, and are constantly trading “information” about its nightly stabbings, shootings, drug dealing, and dogfights.  (The co-worker who tends bar there thanked us–she said she had no idea that these events happen there.)

I feel virtuous right now.  Colleen’s Collectables (sic) is having a record show at the Haimerl Center (next door to Ascension Lutheran Church) even as I type, but instead of spending money there–yesterday was payday–I’m bringing this blog up to date.  I am down to less than 13 pages in my current holographic diary volume (one of the four $.24 composition books Susie gave me last Christmas), so there is no excuse for me to be neglecting this more public journal.