Rummaging Around

For me, one of the indications that warm weather will be here awhile is when the yard sale and garage sale signs begin appearing on trees, telephone poles, and yard signs around the neighborhood.  The Olde North and Clintonville neighborhoods have begun sprouting them, and, now that it’s easier for me to bring home my purchases (my trike has a large basket in the back), I’ve begun noting when and where these sales are happening, and planning my weekends (especially payday weekends) around them.

The major ones thus far have been the Righteous Rummage Sale last week and a friend’s book sale yesterday.  The first took place in The Awarehouse, the bike repair bay and party hall located in the alley behind the Sporeprint Infoshop and the Third-Hand Bicycle Co-Op on East Fifth Ave.  I have always been easy prey for any type of yard sale or rummage sale, but this rummage sale’s name was accurate.  It was a fundraiser for Jessica Walker, a bartender at Zeno’s who suffered massive injuries (third-degree burns and smoke inhalation) in an apartment fire.  She has no health insurance, and her medical bills are skyrocketing.  This story, which ran in The Other Paper on April 26, gives more details.  If you are interesting in contributing for her recovery, go to http://www.helpjessica.com.
My purchases at the Righteous Rummage Sale were both recreational and functional.  I bought a two-disk set of What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been: The Best of the Grateful Dead, a cassette of Genesis’ Invisible Touch (which I used to own on vinyl–even after I had started buying CDs almost exclusively), and a new knapsack.  (I am brutal on knapsacks.  My most recent one went to the trash because the zipper no longer worked.  When I lived in Boston, in the early 1980s, I bought a canvas knapsack at Eastern Mountain Sports that lasted well into the 1990s.)  The book selection was not that alluring.  The only one I bought was the screenplay of Easy Rider, a movie which, even though I have seen it at least a dozen times, I do not own.
I went to another yard sale, closer to where I live, and went away from it empty-handed.  However, it did make a lasting impression on me, because I think the family running it was lacking in common sense.
Like other people having yard or garage sales, they hung signs on the telephone poles and lampposts for a several-block radius around the house.  The address was a big brick house on one of the many side streets between N. High St. and the Conrail tracks.  There were odds and ends in the yard, everything from VHS tapes to baby clothes to knickknacks that probably originally appeared on the Home Shopping Network.  I was only interested in a nightstand, which I thought Susie could use, but I learned that they had already promised it to someone.
The fact that there was nothing that interested me did not bother me.  I’ve become more choosy at yard sales than I used to (gone are the days when I triumphantly bought a set of left-handed golf clubs–even though I have never played golf and I am right-handed.  But they were only five bucks!!), and the pickings were slim at this one.
What did bother me (he gets around to, at long last) was that two girls, ages maybe nine and 10, were the only ones running the yard sale.  The parents were nowhere in sight, and the girls were sitting at a little bridge table in the front yard, and they had a cigar box full of bills and coins in front of them.  Without my asking, they volunteered there was more stuff for sale inside, and one of them followed me inside while I looked at what was for sale.  They really gave me the hard sell about items for sale–the older of the two said they were moving really soon from this big house to a little apartment on Route 161, so I suspected they were facing eviction.
I am the polar opposite of a helicopter parent.  Steph and I always gave Susie plenty of personal freedom, both in and out of the house.  We did it when we were together, and this has continued (and the freedoms have increased with Susie’s age and maturity) once we split.  Steph gives her plenty of freedom when she’s in Florida; I give her plenty of latitude here in Columbus.  Part of this is due to the fact that I do not drive, so I could not be a chauffeur for Susie and shuttle her everywhere, even if that was my desire, which it is not.  If she wants to get most places, that means either her own two feet or the bus.  And no, every tree, alley, and bush does not secrete a rapist.
I write that to preface my concern that these two girls were left alone, with a box full of cash, and were inviting people they had never seen before into their house.  The front rooms I saw were cluttered, but that didn’t faze me, since they were in the midst of moving.  Even when Susie was younger, and she and her friends would set up little yard sales when we lived in Franklinton, I was never any further than the living room, within yelling or running distance should any crisis arise.
Even though I didn’t feel comfortable with the situation at the yard sale, I was still not going to be one of the alarmists who keep Job and Family Services on speed dial, ready to pillory any parent who allows a child outdoors two minutes after the streetlights come on.
The other yard sale I went to was a book sale conducted by a friend from church.  He’s a rather erudite man, and his interests vary widely.  This Saturday, Susie had an early lunch at McDonald’s and went to FedEx Office for her passport photograph (she is going to Costa Rica on a school trip next January), and once we came back home, I got on the trike and went over to the book sale.  Once I made the trip, I was very sweaty, so before looking at any of the books for sale, I downed two or three glasses of water in single gulps, and resisted (barely) the temptation to pour the glasses over my head.
All books were $1 apiece, and I came away with five.  Most of them were reference books, and one was The Good Years, by Walter Lord, a history book chronicling the years between the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.  By the time I came home, I was sweaty and exhausted, and, as I was chaining the trike to the fence, I had to pull honeysuckle leaves and small branches out of the spokes of my wheels.  And I stretched out onto the love seat in my living room and dozed for two or three hours.  (This was not comfortable.  I am only 5’8¾” tall, and my legs hung over the end, but I still slept quite well.)
This blog entry has been my reward to myself for cleaning the kitchen and emptying the refrigerator, a task I delayed until well after sunset.  The house has central heating, but not central air, so I took the laptop out to the front porch, currently the coolest part of the house.  I’ve downed a bottle of Everfresh cranberry juice, and I’m currently playing Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” (very apropos) while I type this entry.  This is my third consecutive night of late nights.  On Friday, Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price in The Bat, hosted by the inimitable Fritz the Nite Owl.  Last night, Susie went to The Other Prom, sponsored by the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.  She went with a girl she met at Girlz Rhythm and Rock Camp.  The girl came up from Athens, and they went to the prom together.  When they came back around 11:15, I was waiting with my camera to immortalize the moment.  After Susie’s friend’s mother drove her daughter home, Susie said she was too exhausted to go to Studio 35 with me, so I locked the front door and walked up to the theater to see Nightmare Castle, a 1965 picture starring Barbara Steele and Paul Muller.
I took another nap when Susie and I came home from church and lunch, which means that now, at 1:07 a.m. (per my Casio wristwatch), I am wide awake.  This is Memorial Day, so I have the day off from work, but it will not be easy or simple to get my sleep schedule back to where it should be when I have to wake up for work Tuesday morning.  Susie will be going to Florida for the summer next Monday, after her Coming of Age presentation at church, and I will be missing her very much until she returns in August.  I won’t be entirely idle, since I will be returning to the bookstore job the same day she leaves–a week of 13-hour days can keep me from ruminating too much about how much I will miss her.  At the end of the summer, I plan to make my first trip to Florida to bring her back, although the dates and the logistics are nowhere near in place yet.
Advertisements

Tragedy Brings Me Back to Athens

Art Gish devoted his life to peacemaking, economic justice, civil rights, reconciliation, and love.  These are ideas that have never sold well.  If you start shooting off your mouth about them around the wrong people, you’re likely to find yourself nailed up on two pieces of wood at the top of a hill.

This afternoon, friends came from all over to honor his life and mourn his death.  The First United Methodist Church on College St. in Athens was standing-room-only.  Art, who had faced down Israeli tanks in Hebron armed with nothing more than the cry of “Baruch Ha’Shem Adonai!”, and who protested in front of Army recruiting stations, died on his own land, crushed by a tractor, aged 70.
I rode down from Columbus this morning with Phil and Julie, a couple who attend Columbus Mennonite Church.  I had never met them before; we connected through Central Ohioans for Peace’s message board.  I was happy to learn that, after Art’s memorial service, they were headed to a wedding and reception in The Plains, so I would have time to explore the city where I had spent much of the 1980s, both as a high school student hitchhiking up on weekends from Marietta, to a student, and later as a townie.
I first heard the name Art Gish in the fall of 1981.  A Quaker farmer in New Marshfield asked me if I wanted to help select a peace candidate to run against the incumbent Congressman, Rep. Clarence Miller (R-Lancaster).  I was realistic enough to know that Miller, who had represented the 10th Congressional District of Ohio since 1967, would be handily re-elected, so the sacrificial lamb candidate we chose had almost no chance of winning.

One chilly November night, I hitchhiked to Athens and went to a long meeting at the home of a chemistry professor.  Two names seemed to carry the day: Chuck Overby, professor of industrial and systems engineering at O.U., and Art Gish.  Chuck Overby I knew slightly through the Unitarian Fellowship, but Art Gish was a totally foreign name to me.

At the next meeting, both men spoke to us about their vision for peace and the prospect of employment for the 10th District (At that time, Ohio was 49th in employment, trailed only by Michigan).  After both men spoke, we sent them into another room and closed the door while we debated.  After much debate, we decided that Chuck Overby would be the more viable candidate.  The two men emerged from the room each convinced the other would be a stellar candidate.  (It was a moot point; Chuck was defeated in the Democratic primary the following June, and John Buchanan went on to lose to Clarence Miller by almost 2:1.  Miller kept his seat until retiring in 1993.)

Many stories and anecdotes came from the pulpit of the church in Athens.  We heard from his family (one of his sons is part of a Bruderhof community (literally “place of brothers”), a sect of Anabaptists who live communally based on the model of the early Christian church).  I heard stories about Art that took place in seminary, Israel, Gaza, and the Athens Farmers’ Market.  People read from some of his books, including Beyond the Rat Race, Hebron Journal: Stories of Non-Violent Peacemaking, and At-Tuwani Journal: Hope and Non-Violent Action in a Palestinian Village.  Prayers in English, Arabic, and Hebrew went up in his name.  He habituated both the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life and the Islamic Center of Athens, and always tried to converse with foreign students in their native languages.

After the service (the Calliope Feminist Choir sung us on our way), I explored Athens thoroughly for the first time in many years.  I tried not to dwell on what had stood at a particular location, although I eagerly sought the familiar.  Baker Center, the student center, is in bigger and more majestic quarters at the end of Court St.  Many businesses I remember from my days there no longer remain, although many of the bars are the same, albeit with different motifs.  Little Professor Book Store is still chugging along–I bought a pocket diary on sale there for $.25.  The Saturday streets were quite busy for a summer afternoon, as this was the weekend for Bobcat Student Orientation.

I took several pictures of Court Street from various angles, the street where I spent much of my time–way too much.

Near the corner of N. Court and W. State Sts.,
where Pawpurr’s, The Pub, and The Junction
still stand.

College Green.  I actually choked up a little
when the bells atop Manasseh Cutler Hall struck
at 7 p.m.

Looking north on Court St.  The First Presbyterian
Church is on the northeast corner.

Phil and Julie left the wedding and reception in The Plains around 8:30, and we headed north.  I was able to stop by Oak St. and have an animated and informative, but all too brief, visit with Bob Whealey, who turned 80 this spring.  He is a retired history professor at Ohio University, who also made a quixotic run against Clarence Miller (this time in 1972, and he fared as well as George McGovern did that year!).  I earned extra cash typing his manuscripts, notes, and projects during my years in Athens, and he even mentioned my name as one of his “patient typists through the years” in the Foreword of his book Hitler and Spain: The Nazi Role in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939.  It was like old times, sitting in the living room of his house, surrounded by books, high stacks of papers and files, the familiar archive and musty paper smell I knew so well when I visited there quite often.
I was too saddened by the downfall of The Oasis to photograph it.  This was a student hangout and grill located on University Terrace, next to the Church of the Good Shepherd.  Many Middle Eastern students habituated the place, because of its proximity to the math and science buildings, so it had the derisive nickname “the Arab embassy.”  I worked there in 1988 and 1989, my last months in Athens, as a typist and assistant manager at the small copy shop in the back.  The pay was livable for a childless bachelor, and I enjoyed the long conversations with my manager and with the owner of The Oasis, John Farley.
John died in 2002, aged 77, and the University bought The Oasis from his estate and ran it as a grill and snack shop, but in November 2006, The Oasis closed its doors for good, and it appears to have sat vacant ever since.  The only sign of life is the Chase Bank ATM machine.  An O.U. grad writing in this 2006 Athens News column, wrote about the post-Farley life of The Oasis.
I was too wound up from the events of the day to head home, so I went to the Awarehouse (the warehouse/party site behind Third Hand Bicycle Co-op and Sporeprint Infoshop on E. 5th Ave.) and saw the  New York-based group Menya perform at the Hootenanny for Hellraisers.  I was happy to reconnect with friends I had met at the housewarming the previous week, and also a friend I had met at a Sporeprint screening of Fowl Play last Wednesday evening.
I would have covered more terrain in Athens had it not been for this damn orthopedic boot on my foot.  My approaching footsteps resembled Frankenstein’s, I’m sure.  I probably walked more than I should have, but I had taken two Darvocet (I usually take one), which kept the pain at bay.  Without a good walk, I’m like a heroin addict his second day off the needle.  After the party at the Awarehouse ended, I probably would have risked a walk home, but I had my laptop in an over-the-shoulder bag, and it would be tempting fate to walk through the neighborhood around Weinland Park at that hour anyway, laptop or no laptop.
I will leave you with the image of Art Gish that is probably the most famous.  I am surprised it didn’t win the photographer a Pulitzer Prize.  Art stands in front of an Israeli tank en route to bulldozing a Palestinian market in Hebron.