Susie Sees Her New Home–Inside and Out

Around dusk last night, Susie and I took the bus from our soon-to-be-ex neighborhood (Weinland Park) so I could give her a brief tour of the half-double in Old North Columbus (known more informally as Baja Clintonville).  I was racing the sunset, and only expected her to see the exterior.  I won’t have the keys in my possession until a week from tomorrow, and we don’t officially live there until October 1.

Our timing was excellent.  We got off the bus and were walking westward on East Maynard, and the first thing I noticed was that our half double was blazing with light.  I looked up and I saw Jerome, the leasing agent I’ve been emailing, speaking with, and meeting with since the word go, as he crossed the street from his truck, paintbrush in hand.  I was glad to see him, and asked if I could give Susie a brief tour of her new home.  He said sure, so we went in.

Normally, a house full of empty rooms doesn’t attract much interest, but Susie walked from room to room, quite enthralled.  The fact that it’s not in Weinland Park is 95% of the charm, to be sure, but she was already mentally planning where her bedroom furniture will go in the new place.  (She’s decided she doesn’t want to have the head of her bed under the windowsill, because she’s tired of hitting herself in the head upon awakening.)  She took over the master bedroom when Steph moved out, but I’m reclaiming it in this new place.  All of the rooms smell like fresh paint, and Jerome said the only major project remaining was to stain and varnish the floors.  (I like hardwood floors, especially since I don’t own a vacuum cleaner at present.  There was shag carpeting on the upper floors when I took the first tour of the place, but it’s gone now.  That was mainly because the previous tenants had a big dog they let run wild–which may be okay if you live out in the country, but not in a half double in the big city.  The shag carpeting smelled of dog urine, but when I came to hand over the check for the deposit, the carpet was gone and the second floor deodorized.)

Susie and I spent the next hour at Kafé Kerouac, using their computers.  I thought about writing a blog entry last night, but I was using a computer that dropped its Internet connection whenever somebody sneezed, and a machine that was very slow to respond to anything I typed.  I am a very fast typist, and using that computer last night reminded me of what I heard about Linotype operators back in the days of molten lead and hot type.  The mark of a good linotypist was that he would have to stop and wait for the machine to catch up to him.  For me it was just frustrating.

We walked south on Indianola most of the way home.  The evening was young, and students are starting to return to Ohio State for the fall quarter, so there were students wandering around with cases of beer.  It was barely 11 p.m., and already quite a few of them were under the influence.

We began to smell smoke around Indianola and E. 11th Ave.  At first, it was a sooty smell, like someone had been barbequing and had removed the food from the grill.  But the smell kept getting more intense the further south we walked,  and before long I suspected there was probably a fire somewhere nearby.  We were close enough to campus for me to think at first it was someone being careless with an impromptu bonfire or couch-burning, but as we walked further from campus, we began heading east toward our house.

It says a lot about Weinland Park and how unsafe we feel when I told Susie we should walk toward the fire.  I knew we would be safe there, because a fire would have police officers and firefighters everywhere, so nothing could happen to us.  We were walking past St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral at Indianola and E. 9th Ave. when I looked east and saw a column of black smoke rising up against the night sky.  I knew the fire had to be pretty much under control, because I saw two fire engines leaving the scene at a rather leisurely pace.  As we walked, I saw a few embers of flames glowing here and there on the roof of a building, and I guessed right away where the building was.

There was a 1969 comedy movie called If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.  A similar phrase would be, “If it’s burning, this must be N. 5th St.”  (I’ve explained it before, but to avoid confusion: The numbered streets in Columbus are the exact opposite of Manhattan’s.  In Columbus, streets run north-south, avenues run east-west.)

And sure enough, a white frame duplex on N. 5th St. was on fire.  To my untrained eye, it looked like a total loss.  I’ve walked past it before, when headed toward OSU or anywhere else north of Weinland Park, and the doors were boarded up and the windows painted shut.  Whether this was arson or not, I have no idea.  Before I began typing this entry, I looked at The Columbus Dispatch‘s Website, and there was no story about it.  Fires on N. 5th St. no longer count as news.  My neighbor Rory’s blog hasn’t mentioned it yet, and he has had an ongoing series about Weinland Park fires.

Weinland Park’s official flag.    

Last night’s fire made me more thankful than ever that we will be leaving this dismal neighborhood.  During the year it has been home, I tried to reassure myself I was living there ahead of the curve.  (I have vague memories of when the Short North was a neighborhood no sane person would venture into after dark, and now it’s the trendiest neighborhood in Central Ohio.)  If anything, the neighborhood has deteriorated even further in the past year.  The drug peddling, the mugging, and the burglaries have become more brazen.

Susie wants out of Weinland Park as much as I do, and it is two weeks before we officially live in the ‘Ville again.  However, she did show a naivete about the neighborhood that almost made me laugh.  I went ahead and ordered two new laptops, and asked that they be shipped c/o a friend’s house–he works at home a lot, and his wife is usually home during the day.  I wondered about bringing them home to Weinland Park, and our neighbors seeing us bringing in new computers.  “We can do it while everyone is at work and school,” Susie suggested.

Work?  And school?  Weinland Park residents?

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A Memorable 9/11 for Susie and Me

In perusing the blogosphere and Facebook posts today, it would almost seem like self-indulgent sacrilege to post anything other than reflections and reminiscences about the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Maybe, like me, you are 9/11’d out.  I do not downplay the horror, bloodshed, and tragedy, but I write of personal matters today because it may be a little while before I will have access to a computer for blogging purposes.

Why?  Both Susie’s and my laptop computers, as well as our Wii console, were stolen last night/early this morning.  I am just thankful that Susie was not in town when it happened.  She was at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Dayton, at youth chaplain training.  It may be fortunate that I was not at home.  I was at a concert at the Dude Locker in Clintonville, and discovered my back door ajar and both computers missing upon my return.  (It shows how little I use the Wii–Susie noticed it was gone; I didn’t.)

The event finalized any lingering doubts that I have had about getting the hell out of Weinland Park.  I moved there last year with the same high hopes and enthusiasm as I did when we lived in Franklinton, eager to do good and go a step beyond the people who were full of solutions about a blighted area, retreating at 5 p.m. to the safety of Worthington or New Albany.  Now I see it’s an area where the children are out of control and where the civic leaders who see it as the next Olde Towne East seem to think of mugging, burglary, and drug pushing as performance art.

Happily, I can report that our exodus from Weinland Park is a fait accompli.  Soon after Susie came home from Dayton, I met a leasing agent and handed over a cashier’s check.  As of October 1, Susie and I will be returning to the ‘Ville (Clintonville).  I found a three-bedroom half double in Baja Clintonville, around the corner from the Maynard Avenue United Methodist Church.  The price is affordable, and the landlord has been hard at work on improvements in the week or two since I first looked at the place.  The previous tenants were two graduate students who liked to party and who must have thought it was bad karma to housebreak their dog, so the leasing agent, I think, was happy to be renting to a single parent and teenage daughter.

Aerial photograph of the general area where Susie and I will live.

The news about the burglary was pretty upsetting to Susie, so I was glad that I was able to offset with the news that our time in Weinland Park is very brief.  I think she had begun to despair of our ever getting out of there, and I admit that I was mysterious about the fact I was meeting with a rental agent this afternoon.

We don’t have the keys yet.  The owner still wants to do a little more work, but he will hand me the keys on the 25th (two weeks from today), and that is when the move-in process begins.  Since my soon-to-be-ex-landlord was not all that conscientious about keeping vermin at bay (the two- and six-legged variety), Susie and I will not be moving as much.  The biggest pain, as always, will be books.  (I have three milk cartons consisting of diaries alone.  You can imagine what the rest of the library is like!)

I am hoping the computers are insured.  I am buying them through a purchasing plan my union sponsors, and theft should be covered under that.  If not, back to the drawing board and start buying another computer.  This is the one time in my life I’ve been thankful for a dry spell, writing-wise.  I have to admit there is not much writing that was lost on my laptop.  I wrote The Sad Hospital on a typewriter, and my memoir about Robert Lowry (which has been in the home stretch for over a year and a half, “in measurable distance of its end,” to quote the telescreen announcer in 1984) exists in several incarnations, including a hard copy I printed out and an optical disk.  Susie, I am afraid, has lost several poems, stories, and projects with the theft of her machine.

A Weekend with Everything Save Sleep

Susie’s an eighth-grader at Dominion Middle School, and she and I were there last night to see the second performance of Sideways Stories at Wayside School.  When we moved from Clintonville to Weinland Park, Susie decided that she wanted to go from homeschooling back to a brick-and-mortar school, and Columbus Public said that Dominion, where she had been before, was the nearest school.  Unfortunately, the cast for Sideways Stories was set when she returned, so she was unable to audition for it.  We both laughed quite heartily at the play, and Susie rooted for her friends and classmates throughout the performance.  She is on the edge of her chair waiting to audition for the spring play, which will be Annie.

The night was quite young for me once Susie and I returned from Dominion.  I went to a Mustache Party at the Pirate House, the Baja Clintonville dwelling house of several young adults I know at church.  The rule was all attendees had to wear a mustache.  This was no problem for me, of course.  I’ve had facial hair almost constantly since I was mature enough to grow it.  Part of the reason I’ve almost consistently had a mustache is to hide what remains of a plastic surgery scar on my upper lip.

Guests who did not have their own mustaches could buy them for $1 (our hosts bought them in bulk from the Oriental Trading Company), or someone would draw them on with a black Sharpie.  The fake ones stuck on quite well with spirit gum, although I saw very few people wear them on the upper lip.  I saw more than one unibrow (like Bert from Sesame Street), and two or three women stuck the fake mustaches to their cleavage, so I guess you could say this party can really put hair on your chest.

A negative mustache, complete with “stinger” (like
the late Frank Zappa) under the lower lip.

I’m in the background, recording the swordfight
(see below) for posterity.  (Photo by Haley
Nuckles.)  I made this my Profile picture on
Facebook, although I’m not well known for
being a photographer.

Ben, Amber, Lindsey, and company attracted quite a varied crowd.  I spent an hour talking about various James Bond movies (and the actors who portrayed 007) with a guy who, like me, was born in Parkersburg.  He brought me the tragic news that Trans-Allegheny Books, one of the best used bookstores I have ever seen, may soon be closing its doors forever.  In the kitchen, I heard several spirited anecdotes about using a can of hair spray and a lighter as a makeshift blowtorch.

I even witnessed (and recorded for posterity) a very brief sword fight in the kitchen.  Two women squared off with the tiny plastic swords that bartenders use to skewer Maraschino cherries.  (Here is the video.  It’s hardly Fight Club.)  When I was a kid, I developed a taste for Maraschino cherries, because I wanted to look like I had a “grown-up” drink.  I’d put a skewered cherry in my glass of Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch when I drank with the adults.  (Maybe my folks should have bought little paper umbrellas for me.)

The assortment of libations available was quite impressive.  It wasn’t at all like the many after-hour BYOB parties I went to in Athens and Cincinnati, where the only variety was in the brands of beer.  I had stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall store on Summit before I arrived at the party, bought some Diet Pepsi for myself, and a two-liter of Coke for general consumption.  The Coke bottle joined many different bottles of bourbon, rum, vodka, and whiskey on the kitchen table.  There was even a bottle of absinthe on the table, which surprised me, because I thought that absinthe was illegal in the U.S.  (That has changed; absinthe is legal as long as it has less than 10 parts per million of thujone, long believed to be its addictive and hallucinogenic ingredient.)

In my too-long drinking history, I have never tried absinthe.  This was because of its not being readily available, not because of its illegality.  (I have a rules-are-for-euchre attitude when it comes to most drug laws.)  One of my favorite historical novels is Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, a book about Vincent van Gogh, and the last thing you want to do after reading this book is drink absinthe.

Sometimes the kitchen was the social center, and
it was equally because of the proximity to the
liquor buffet and because it was a great
conversation center minus the loud music.

I could tell that none of the party-goers had made a run to West Virginia or Kentucky, because no one had brought any Everclear.

During my days at O.U., occasionally someone from Cincinnati would go across the Ohio to Kentucky and buy some 190-proof Everclear.  (It is illegal to sell grain alcohol in Ohio, but not illegal to possess or consume it.)  The lightweights could always buy 151-proof if they made the trip over to West Virginia.  Anyone who drinks Everclear straight should immediately be locked up for attempted suicide, so usually a host would mix it with generous amounts of punch, orange wedges, and Sprite.  The finished product had many names–hairy buffalo, purple Jesus, and boom-boom juice are three names I can think of right off.

I was home and in bed a little after 3 a.m., and didn’t fully get out of bed to stay until after 11 a.m.  I prided myself on being able to get into bed without waking Steph.  (In recent weeks, we’ve separately had epiphanies about our marriage and whether it has a positive future.  Divorce is not off the table by any means, but at this point it is not the fait accompli that it was earlier in the fall.)

On Thursday, I went to the Martha Morehouse Medical Pavilion for my second paid trip into the MRI machine.  I was paid double this time, because they injected a dye into me intravenously.  I was afraid I’d have to go on the treadmill, but I was supine the whole time, except I went into the MRI feet first this time, again with WOSU-FM for background music.

The most amusing and noteworthy event of that whole experience was in the waiting room.  Two Mennonite women were there.  One was nearly 70 years old, and she kept her nose in a magazine the entire time.  Her companion was a plump woman in her mid 20s, whose eyes seemed to be glued to the TV on the wall.  I took little note of this at first, until I saw that Live with Regis and Kelly was playing.  They were broadcasting from Las Vegas, and they featured Thunder from Down Under, male strippers from Australia who were performing for a crowd of estrogen-overdosed women in the audience.  The younger Mennonite woman could not take her eyes from this.