No Longer "The New Place"

I spent most of April moving my belongings from one half-double to the other, and I am happy to say that my new place now looks more like a home, and not like the warehouse in the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  April was the month for transporting possessions, and May has been the month for unpacking and arranging.  (I want to take this opportunity to thank the friends and neighbors who ran relays of books, records, and furniture to the new place for me, and who helped me move the more cumbersome items, especially the furniture, into my new home.  You all know who you are.)

I am not posting pictures yet.  (And I am also striking the phrase “the new place” from my vocabulary… this is now home.  As of this moment, 1:54 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time, May 10, 2014.)  Susie will be here for most of the month of June, arriving on the 30th of this month, and I want her to see her new home in all its 3-D glory before I share with readers far and wide.
When I moved in, I saw a frame for a flat-screen TV hanging over the fireplace mantle.  The owner told me it would be cumbersome to take down, and said it was mine.  I have no desire to own a flat-screen; I doubt I watch enough TV to justify that expense.  Plus, the previous tenant on E. Maynard left behind a big JVC TV, which came with me when I moved.  So, rather than horse around trying to take down this frame, I ordered a framed poster of “Blown Away” (although I briefly flirted with the idea of buying a “Dogs Playing Poker” poster), and hung it over the frame.

Steve Steigman’s Blown Away.  Many of us probably saw this as part of Maxell print ads in the ’80s and ’90s.

My enthusiasm aside, leaving Maynard Ave. was heartrending.  No, I don’t want to be paying higher rent to a landlord just to keep the place where I had settled.  But, as I blogged when Susie and I moved here to Weinland Park, there is a sense of community on Maynard.  We learned that less than a month after we moved, when our new neighbors invited us to a backyard showing of El Mariachi one autumn night.  It was Susie who summed it up best: “I’m not used to having neighbors we don’t hate.”

Especially telling was last month’s Festival of Hilaria–all of us on Maynard Ave. being silly together, hosting a parade, and a joyous after-party at Café Bourbon Street.  I put on a jester’s hat and carried the banner at the head of the procession, along with a photographer from the Maynard Avenue Methodist Church and his granddaughter.  Had Susie been there, her initial reaction would have been, “I do not know any of these people!”  I’m sure she would have come around and become one with the festivities within minutes.

Truly heartbreaking to part from neighbors like this (I’m to the left of Henry the Octopus, of The Wiggles fame.  I rest assured, however, that once Maynard Ave., always Maynard Ave.

There does not seem to be the sense of community here on E. Blake.  My landlord told me that the house diagonally across the street used to be the home of three or four metalheads, who often blasted their “music” until the wee hours of the night.  Since my bedroom faces the street, I am glad this is no longer the case.  I am dreading football season, because I anticipate finding my yard scattered with discarded Solo cups and beer cans (there are students on this street).  I had way too much of this in Weinland Park, where the rule seemed to be to blast car speakers loud enough that the bass rattled windows and registered on the Richter scale.

Next weekend is Rock on the Range at Crew Stadium, just on the other side of the railroad tracks from Maynard Ave.  Chris Rock, Slayer, and Guns N’ Roses are the biggest acts this year.  Besides the noise, the biggest inconvenience is that all the cell towers in the vicinity are severely overloaded.  Very few people keep land lines anymore, and many people have mentioned at Block Watch meetings that they worry about being able to access the police or 911 should the need arise.  I think I am far enough away that I won’t be hearing this, or having to deal with all the noise and the drunkenness from the Crewanderthals after a home soccer game.  (A friend of mine has taken me to task for my use of the word Crewanderthal, and testily informed me that they are, at the very least, Crew-Magnons.)

One change from the house on Maynard is that I do not have an “office” anymore.  I am writing this blog entry (and the ones to come) at a desk in my dining room, which is also the mooring place for the trike (which has not been out much this spring).  I’ve hung up the staples for any home work space: a picture of Susie as a toddler, and a drawing of Lev Tolstoy rendered like an Eastern Orthodox ikon.

I think that today’s rain and gray skies are a sign to me that I should be at home and bringing this long neglected blog up to date.  I’ve unpacked enough that I am not constantly having to veer around boxes, clothes baskets, and stacks of books and records.  (Ironically, Susie’s bedroom was the first room that looked organized and settled.  I moved the furniture–bed, dresser, and desk–in the first load, along with boxes of clothes and her belongings (books, journals, posters, jewelry).  She has an L-shaped walk-in closet, with much more space than she had at Maynard, and yet I am sure that I will never see the floor again once she starts to settle into the room.

Time-Tested and -Honored Social Media

Several blog posts ago, I wrote about the SoHud Block Watch that my neighbors have organized in response to the graffiti, car break-ins, thefts, and vandalism occurring in our particular patch of Columbus the last several months.  Word of mouth worked well when the idea of a Block Watch first started to percolate, and this quickly progressed to closed groups on Yahoo!, Google Groups, and Facebook.

The latest meeting was last night at the Maynard Ave. United Methodist Church.  I was unable to be there in person, since I went to a parents’ meeting at The Charles School at Ohio Dominican University, where Susie began classes last Monday, but I was able to play a part before the meeting occurred.

With all the cyberspace methods of spreading news now available to just about anyone, the SoHud Block Watch decided to spread the news the old-fashioned way.  When I came home from work Monday, there was a stack of leaflets and a roll of Scotch tape in between the storm door and my front door.  The organizer had assigned me territory as to where to hang these.  So, the following night, I went out with the little stack of leaflets and the roll of tape, and began taping them to the doors of houses.  My territory was east of where Susie and I live, short blocks sandwiched by N. 4th St. to the west and the Norfolk Southern train tracks to the east.

I needed the exercise, and it was not as brutally cold as it has been the past several nights, although it was icy and I nearly fell several occasions.  (Grudgingly, I am coming to realize that I am coming to an age when a fall can have serious consequences.  So far, I have imitated the Weeble: I wobble, but I don’t fall down.)  I went up and down both sides of the block on Wyandotte Ave., E. Maynard, Chilcote, and Clinton, before I ran out of flyers.

One of the organizers of the Block Watch publicly complimented me on Facebook for a job well done, since several newcomers from the sections I canvassed appeared at the meeting.  While I was out in the night with my stack of flyers and the roll of tape, I felt a little like the town criers you see in children’s stories about the American Revolution.  (I remember seeing a flyer in a supermarket that was called Town Crier, and its logo was a guy in a tri-corner hat, ruffles, tights, and boots, ringing a bell, and from his wide open mouth was a voice balloon shouting, “Hear ye!  Hear ye!”)

My route was supposed to cover E. Tompkins as well, but I ran out of copies.  (Before I began distributing, I put two copies in my diary, so when those pages are studied by the historians of the future, there will be extant copies for all to see.)  Many flyers, whether for political candidates, bands, pro- or anti-abortion rallies, or store openings, usually end up in the trash within hours.  Sometimes, I have looked on eBay to see if anyone is selling original copies of the Hands Off Cuba! Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets that Lee Harvey Oswald distributed on the streets of New Orleans in the summer of 1963.  I have also looked to see if anyone has the original handbill for the Ford’s Theater performance of Our American Cousin for the April 1865 night when Lincoln was assassinated.

Wonder how many of these were discarded before Lincoln went to the theater that night?

In 1960, Richard Nixon, who was then Vice President, made a campaign stop in Marietta when he was running against John F. Kennedy for President.  My parents, who were quite enthusiastic Kennedy supporters, went to see Nixon speak in front of the National Guard Armory on Front St.  I have always been irritated by the fact that my dad eventually lost much of his ’60 Kennedy campaign memorabilia–his PT-109 tie bar, his Frank Sinatra campaign record (“High Hopes”), and his ALL THE WAY WITH JFK button, but he did manage to keep a little pamphlet called The White House–American or Roman?, by V.E. Howard.  It addressed the question of whether it was proper for a Roman Catholic to be President.  After reading two or three paragraphs, you can tell that the answer is a screeching “No!”  (I keep my copy inside the front cover of a 1922 book, The Suppressed Truth About the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, by Burke McCarty.  The “suppressed truth,” of course, was that the Vatican was behind Lincoln’s murder.)

When I arrived in Boston in 1982, I arrived pretty much broke, and was desperately searching for jobs that paid very soon after taking them.  Before I took my short-lived job as a dishwasher and busboy at a delicatessen in Brookline, I considered taking a job leafleting in Harvard Square.  These were small flyers for any business that paid to produce them, anything from shoe stores to tailors.  The pay was minimum wage, and it meant standing out in the weather and trying to press these into the hands of passersby who avoided you as much as they avoided the panhandlers, and also competing with people handing out other types of printed matter.  Women in hijabs timidly held out “paper against Khomeini,” and Scientologists badgered people about taking a “personality test.”  (I told one that I already took one, and it said I was obnoxious.)  Hare Krishnas endlessly tried to issue invitations to free vegetarian meals (I kept one of their brochures in my wallet, in case I ever needed a free meal), and Bridge Over Troubled Waters workers tried to get literature to runaways and kids living on the streets about their services.  I decided not to try to take this job, although the leafleting service would have hired anyone who could stay in one place and move one arm for eight hours.

I have searched eBay, so far in vain, for the WANTED FOR TREASON handbills that circulated in Dallas in November 1963, in the days before John Kennedy’s assassination.  These featured front and side photographs of Kennedy, and was styled like the posters that hung in post office lobbies.  Many Dallas-area Democrats (and Republicans who were not on the far end of the political and lunatic spectrum) probably declined them, and tossed them into the nearest trash can, but their value skyrocketed from the moment the news spread that Kennedy had been killed.

Political extremists, both Left and Right, still cling to the art of the leaflet.  As recently as my last few trips to Washington, for peace and anti-fracking marches, I have come home with “9/11 was an inside job” flyers, poorly printed and typeset descriptions of chemtrails and how they’re turning us all into zombies, and the evils of the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral Commission.

Evangelism learned the value of the flyer long ago.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, managed to condense his version of the New Testament into a short little work called The Four Spiritual Laws, which is short enough to be readable over a single cup of coffee and a sandwich.  And, there is Jack T. Chick, a Talibangelist who has published booklet-sized comic books to spread his own way-out-there version of the Gospel (along with other “little-known facts” such as that the Vatican was responsible for the Holocaust, that Dungeons and Dragons is a gateway drug for Satanic worship, etc.), and many of his tracts are given out at trick-or-treat (with or without razor blade-studded candy), left in Laundromats, or on buses and public restrooms.  One tract you won’t see much anymore is Lisa, which is beyond question his most grotesque.

I’ll make one brief segue before ending this entry.  I finally broke down and bought an external keyboard, since my keyboard has been DOA, when I tipped over a cup of milk on it.  The thought never occurred to me until this week, but tonight Susie and I went to Micro Center so she could buy a new power cord for her Acer laptop.  For a mere $4.05, I bought an Inland external keyboard.  It took less than 10 minutes to install, and now I am back in business.  It’s not as easy to use as the regular keyboard, but it is much better than trying to use the onscreen keyboard!