Quick Supplement to the October 6 Entry

When I posted on Susie’s 16th birthday (October 6), I mentioned that I had sent another gift to her, but I could not divulge it, because it had gone astray in the mail stream.  (Someone in the Columbus post office probably threw it in the wrong tub, which meant it went on the wrong flight, and ended up in Honolulu instead of Florida.)

The USPS people in Hawaii were able to right its course, so Susie received her gift, albeit a little later than I hoped.  There were two gifts in the padded envelope.  One was a spiral Beatles notebook (which Susie says will either be her next journal or an idea notebook).  The other was a black T-shirt from Records Per Minute, one of the many eclectic record stores (very minimal inventory of compact disks and cassette tapes) that I haunt, and to which I have brought Susie.

I gave Susie the notebook on the left.  All four of these choices are available from The Fab Four Store.

I was briefly tempted to buy one for myself, so as to continue my own diary, but I am using a large bound legal ledger right now.  I told myself that once I turned 50, I would use these books as diaries, instead of the Dollar Store composition books I’ve used for the past decade or so.

I am home from Fritz the Nite Owl’s showing of Halloween (1978).  Hate to cut it short, but it is past 3:30 in the morning, and the caffeine I had at Studio 35 has long ago worn off.  I realized that I had been quite unfair to my readers, leaving you dangling about what Susie received for her birthday.  So, now that we’re all breathing again, I will post this entry and crawl toward the bed.

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Sweet Sixteen for Susie

With my penchant for precision, I waited until exactly 1:13 p.m., when Susie was born, before calling to wish her a happy birthday.  (She didn’t hear the message.  Her voice mailbox has been full for quite some time, because we forgot the passcode, and her phone was on vibrate.  We IMd on Gmail a few minutes later, however.)

Susie’s birth time is easy to remember.  It’s 13:13, in European or military time.  Mine is also simple–12:34 p.m.  One two three four.  My obsession with detail even revealed itself at Susie’s birth.  Susie was delivered, after some 36 hours of labor, by Caesarean section, at Grant Medical Center.  When she finally made her debut, I was behind the sterile screen with Steph, so I could not see the actual event.  Our midwife took the single-use camera out of the breast pocket of my scrubs, and took the picture.  Susie still had the umbilical cord connected to her, and the nurses had yet to clean her.  I grabbed the camera back from the midwife, turned around and took a picture of the wall clock.

I was on Amazon.com last week to order Susie’s gifts.  They were DVDs of the fifth and sixth seasons of House, and a copy of Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem!, which is Holy Writ for anyone who participates in NaNoWriMo.  (This is October, and November, the month for National Novel-Writing Month, is looming on the horizon.  Susie and I “won” NaNoWriMo in 2011, and since I’m doing the empty-nest thing, I guess I cannot plead too many distractions when I undertake it this year.)  I am not sure if Susie will try her hand at NaNoWriMo this year, but November is the perfect month for it.  It’s so literate people can have something to do during college football season.

Right now, I am unable to write about another one of Susie’s gifts.  I approach this with some reluctance because, as a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, I am sensitive to criticism about it.  On Tuesday, I sent her a parcel via Priority Mail.  Included in the price is a tracking number, so your package leaves a trail beginning at the post office counter (in this case, at the Christopher Columbus station downtown, 43215) and ending up at its destination–which would be Merritt Island, Florida 32952.  I set up an alert so that the site would email Steph and me with each point in the package’s journey.

On Thursday, the email notified us that the package had arrived–not at the sort facility in Orlando, but in Honolulu.  I was an expediter’s assistant when I worked at the main post office in Cincinnati, so my guess is that someone in Columbus threw this package into the wrong tub, which meant it went out on the wrong flight.  We were in limbo until this morning, when I opened my email and saw that the package had made it to the sort facility in Orlando.  Unless someone drops the ball there, Susie should receive it tomorrow.  (I won’t disclose the contents, because Susie reads this blog.)

The government shutdown continues.  It brings back memories of 1995, when another shutdown occurred.  At the time, I was working for the Internal Revenue Service here in Columbus as an appointment clerk, and for that entire week, the atmosphere at work felt like a prisoner on Death Row waiting for a phone call from the governor.  On November 13 at midnight, Congress’ continuing resolution would expire.  I was on the phone to taxpayers and their representatives, telling them that I was cancelling appointments–no auditors would be there.  Our supervisor told us to report for work the next morning.

Outside the Federal Building, Mike Russell of WBNS-TV (Channel 10) interviewed me.  The only quote from that interview aired was my saying, “None of us got into government service with dollar signs in our eyes.”  I stand by that statement.  Anyone who enters government service at any level for financial gain is a fool.  Russell wanted to film more at my place on Highland St., so I came home and told Steph, “We’re having company.”  “Who?”  “Channel 10.”  Russell and a film crew arrived, and took some reaction shots of me watching Dan Rather on The CBS Evening News–on my black and white portable.  He showed me talking about living from one paycheck to the next, and how I would feel the loss of even one day’s wages.  (Compare this to an elderly woman who worked at the Industrial Commission when I arrived in 2004.  She had been there since World War II–hired when most men were in the service–and when she retired, supervisors found several uncashed paychecks in her desk.  If my paycheck is short $50, I feel its loss!)

We also came in the next morning, although the government officially closed for business at midnight.  I called a few more accountants and taxpayers and told them about the cancellations.  Finally, around 10 a.m., I left to get a Coke, and when I came back, my supervisor said, “Paul, sign your furlough letter and go home,” handing me the letter and a pen.  I signed it, put on my jacket, and headed for the door.  The telephone on my desk rang.  Just on instinct, I turned and reached for the receiver.  Then, I just shrugged my shoulders and walked out, and headed home.

The shutdown ended on the 19th of November.  I remember a video clip of Bob Dole (R-Kansas) saying, “If the government shuts down, his [President Clinton’s] fingerprints will be all over it.”  We see how well that worked during the 1996 elections.  Clinton was re-elected with 379 electoral votes, and he carried 31 states and the District of Columbia.

This weekend has not been totally boring.  I did some major cleaning in my study (the living room is next, since it’s turned into an Oscar Madison-type bachelor pad, which, even in my re-bachelor state, I’m not liking) and discovered a small pocket diary that I bought on eBay earlier this year.  It covers only the month of January 1887, and, because of its age and fragility, I will leave it blank.  It is also the only time I have ever seen an entire appointment book that covered only one month.  (I have seen five-year diaries–although I never used them–and appointment books where the whole week appears on two pages.)

I wonder if the Rhode Island Underwriters Association gave their clients a new diary every month, as a perk for buying a policy.

I left work early and went to a rummage sale at a friend’s house on N. 4th St.  Most of the selection was women’s clothing, which, of course, did not interest me.  I did buy $6 worth of records, including The Rock ‘N’ Roll Era–1963 (the year of my birth), a Time-Life compilation.  I was a little dismayed it did not contain “I Will Follow Him,” by Little Peggy Marsh, which was the #1 hit the week I was born.

(The week Susie was born, the #1 hit was Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind/Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”  I believe it was the recording of the version of “Candle in the Wind” that Sir Elton John sang at Princess Diana’s funeral that summer.)

Birthday Milestone: I Bought Beer for the First Time in at Least 12 Years

I turned 49 last Sunday.  Next year, I will be eligible to join AARP (although retirement will, it seems, be about 22 years in my future), when I hit the big five-oh.  It was a good celebration, and the high point of it was the 21st-century equivalent of a barn-raising.

I had a bike-raising.  Or, to be more precise, a trike-raising.

During the winter, I decided that maybe I should supplement walking with another form of aerobic exercise.  Several people had suggested I take up bike-riding, but I was reluctant to do this.  I had many ear infections as a child (they lessened in frequency after my tonsillectomy in kindergarten), and a lasting effect is that my balance is not perfect.  I have always been rather wobbly when riding a two-wheeler, so I have not owned or ridden a bike since high school.

While doing some reading and Web-surfing this winter, I saw articles and pictures about cargo bikes (in some areas, people call them freight bikes).  This is an adult tricycle.  When the weather started getting warmer, I started looking online for an adult tricycle, talked to many people (online and in person) who were in the know about bicycling, and about two weeks ago, I went to Wal-Mart’s Website and bought a cherry-colored 26″ Schwinn Meridian adult tricycle.

About a week after I received their email confirming the purchase, I came home from work and saw the huge cardboard Schwinn box sitting on my front porch.  There was a stick-em on it from FedEx that said We delivered your package.  Thanks, guys.  So the trike had arrived, but, as I knew, it was not pre-assembled.

I had that covered even before I ordered it.  On Easter Sunday, a couple on my block invited me to a potluck. I went, and described the trike that I was ordering.  The couple who live diagonally across Maynard from me told me to let them know when the trike arrived, and they would help me put it together.

This was indeed good news.  I would not want to ride anything that I had assembled myself.  Probably the most hellish Christmas Eve I ever experienced involved putting together the Radio Flyer wagon that was one of Susie’s gifts that year.  I offered to return the favor by speaking up for some beer for the two of them.

That’s the allusion in my title.  On my birthday, Susie and I both slept a little later than usual, had brunch at the Blue Danube (a first for both of us), and while she was online with her friend in Medina (they’re writing a book together), I walked to Giant Eagle and picked up a six-pack of Burning River Pale Ale, a product of the Great Lakes Brewing Company.  (Something funny: I typed Burning River into Wikipedia’s search engine, and it redirected to Cuyahoga River.)

Luca and D’Lyn came over in mid-afternoon, bearing plenty of tools.  They did a very good job, and I reminded them that, should they have children, they will spend many a Christmas Eve doing this very thing.  Luca was prepared for any eventuality.  When I presented them with the beer, I was surprised (and a little embarrassed) to see I had no bottle opener.  (I had taken it to work for a potluck, since someone was bringing in Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C, which required a church key to open.  The bottle opener was–and still is–in my desk at work.)  I knew a kid in high school who prided himself on being able to open bottles with his front teeth, but Luca used one of his tools to do the job.

I was hoping to wind this entry up with dazzling prose describing my maiden voyage on this trike, but that is an entry for another day.  As the project neared completion, Luca and D’Lyn discovered that several screws and washers meant to hold on the front fender were missing.  My initial thought was that a front fender is not essential to riding the bike, but it seems that they may have packed the wrong rear fenders.  When the rear wheels turn, they rub against the fenders, which will eventually ruin the tires.  So, I’ve had several emails back and forth with the company, and the small parts, and two rear fenders, should be in my hands in seven to 10 business days.

Luca and D’Lyn putting together the rear of the tricycle.

Susie and I went to Lowe’s later in the afternoon and bought a bike chain and lock, and both of us wanted to be in and out of Lowe’s as quickly as we could.  I got the chain, paid for it, and we made a beeline to the front door.  (I know there are people who can spend entire Saturday afternoons in Lowe’s or Home Quarters, but their reasons baffle me.  However, I understand there are people who cannot understand how I can be entranced by a visit to OfficeMax or Staples, even when I’m only there to buy a notebook or a ream of paper.)

The Upside of Autumn

I grumble about the end of summer as much as any schoolkid (including my own), but one of its bonuses (at least for those of us who toil in the vineyards of civil service) is that, from September until February, there is at least one paid day off per month.  Monday will be such a day.  Tomorrow night, I will not set the alarm, but that tomorrow will still be a semi-work day for me.  My goal is to make some serious headway in making our new home look more like a home–we’ve hung up clothes, and the office is starting to take shape, but we still look like we’re in transit.

Susie turned 14 on Thursday, and she was quite happy with the Seventeen subscription I bought her, although the first issue has yet to arrive.  (I remember receiving a subscription to Mad for my 11th birthday, and feeling just as good.)  I bought her subscription through Amazon.com, and they sent her an email Thursday morning notifying her, so now she’ll haunt the mailbox until the first issue arrives.  Susie’s grandfather sent her a sketchbook and a pen, and her mom mailed her clothes.  Susie and I had chicken soup at home (the same chicken soup I made two weeks ago–freezers and Crock-Pots are wonderful inventions) and then I took her for dessert at Groovy Spoon, a frozen yogurt restaurant on N. High St. just south of Whetstone Park.
She had a sleepover last night with a girl from The Graham School, so I stayed up almost until dawn, but was awake again by 9.  Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, although we declined the chance to dine with the Klingons.  (We ate lunch at Burger King beforehand.)  Between lunch and the movie, we went to a garage sale on E. Weber Rd.  Susie bought a purse and a scarf.  There was an entire rack of women’s clothes, but nothing she liked fitted her.  I bought a DVD of Kissing Jessica Stein and a two-disk set of Beethoven’s Favourite Piano Sonatas (I’m listening to the “Moonlight Sonata” as I type this, which is appropriate, because the moon is very bright tonight, although it’s not officially full until Tuesday).

Where Susie and I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

The downside of a three-day weekend is that my sleep schedule is now off track.  Since I didn’t get to bed until close to sunrise, and was awake again a mere four hours later, I crashed for an hour or two almost as soon as Susie left for dinner and a movie with her godmother.  Susie is singing at the 9:15 service at church, so we’ll be out of the gate sooner tomorrow morning than usual.  And I’m hardly leading by example!  It’s nearing midnight, and I’m sitting here typing this entry with a bottle of Coke Zero at my elbow.
As I was unpacking, I was scared to death that I had lost the manuscript of my memoir about my friendship with Cincinnati novelist Robert Lowry during the move.  (Most of the text was on the hard drive of the stolen laptop.)  I sent a panicked letter to my friend Robert Nedelkoff just outside D.C., since he has been my consultant and father confessor for much of the project.  (I sent a letter rather than emailing so he could have a hard copy of my new address.)  About two hours after I dropped the letter in the mailbox, I was unpacking one of the big Staples boxes (my packing lacks organization–it always has, it always will), and, voilà, there it was.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  A day or two ago, RobertNed sent me an email thanking me for notifying him of the change of address, and he attached the Word file of the Lowry manuscript, as well as other items.

Now that I have an extant copy of the hard copy, rewriting should head the “to do” list, since–as Robert has not so subtly pointed out–I am in the home stretch of finishing this book.  (Lowry died in December 1994, and the last time I added anything to the manuscript, I was describing the period between the spring of 1992 and the summer of 1993.)  However, it has been so long since I wrote anything, the voice has changed, I’ve fallen out of love with some of the prose I wrote, etc., so it’s best if I did the whole damn thing from the ground up.  Before she moved to Florida, Steph made some invaluable comments and edits in pen and ink on the manuscript, and I plan to incorporate some of these changes in the next incarnation.

An aside here–I changed the music while writing the last paragraph.  Currently, I’m listening to Vivaldi’s “Double Trumpet Concerto for Two Trumpets, Strings, and Continuo in C Major, RV 537 Allegro,” from the album Greatest Hits of 1721.  I love this piece.  What’s funny is that it first came to my attention when I saw All the President’s Men.  During the scene when Woodward and Bernstein suspect that Nixon’s people are wiretapping them, they sit at a typewriter and “converse” by typing, and Woodward blares this music on the stereo to drown out the sound of the typing.

As I was rereading the pages of the Lowry manuscript, I seem to mark the decline of my daily conduct with him to my return to gainful and stable employment, particularly my third-shift job at the main post office in Cincinnati.  I’ve often said that my conversations with him at the Bay Horse Café started off as resembling William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, since Lowry’s life and work fascinated me since I read about him in a 1989 Clifton magazine article.  Toward the end, as Lowry declined mentally, it more resembled Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

Susie Turned 13 at 13:13

Today is Susie’s 13th birthday, but being a stickler for accuracy, I didn’t consider her to have become a teenager until 1:13 p.m., which is the actual time of her birth.  (I do the same thing for myself.  My time of birth was 12:34 in the afternoon.  Very easy to remember: one two three four.)  I’ve neither lived in Europe nor served in the military, so the 13:13 idea didn’t spring to mind right away; I think of it as 1:13 p.m.

My urge to chronicle manifested itself at Susie’s birth.  Steph delivered Susie by Cesarean section after 38 hours of labor at Grant Hospital.  Her midwife Tanya (Susie’s godmother, and a dear friend of ours since before the birth) and I were at Steph’s head during most of the delivery, and Steph’s belly was hidden from view by a sterile shield and screen.  When the doctor actually delivered Susie, Tanya grabbed the single-use camera from the shirt pocket of my scrubs, leaned over the screen, and snapped the picture–Susie in full scream, still connected by umbilical cord.

I grabbed the camera from Tanya, and turned around to the wall clock and took a picture of it.  However, easily the most memorable picture is when I am holding Susie, who has been cleaned off and wrapped in blankets, in front of Steph.  At the time the picture was taken, Steph was asking, “Have they cut me open yet?  Have they cut me open?”  I was answering the question by holding the newborn Susie in front of her.

Thirteen is a milestone year, like those that are multiples of 5 or 10.  If we were Jewish, Susie would have been bat mitzvah a year already–considered adult in the Jewish community.  The beginning of the years that end with -teen are significant, and she’s gotten hers off to a good start.  She and Steph baked and frosted a cake, and Susie’s best friend G is here.  I’m typing this entry while they’re in the next room playing Mario Party 8 on the Wii.  They’re going to watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince later on tonight.

Steph has been the smart one.  She’s exhausted, and has an early day tomorrow, so she’s opted to hit the sack early.  One of the advantages of our sleeping separately is that I can retire at whatever hour I choose and not have to worry about waking her.

Susie and I went to see Easy A at Studio 35 last week.  Tomorrow night, we’re going there for a free showing of The Bicycle Thief.  The British Film Institute says it’s one of 50 films that you should see before you turn 14.  I’m 33 years late, and Susie will make it with a year to spare.  I posted a notice about it on Facebook, and one person had a very astute observation.  If this is a film you should see pre-age 14, why is its only showing at 9:30 p.m. on a school night?  I also doubt it ever appeared on The CBS Children’s Film Festival.  (Whenever I tuned into that on Saturday, they always seemed to be showing The Red Balloon.)

The birthday girl, in a picture taken last summer.
She’s holding the infant daughter of her first babysitter.