Blogger… Testing, One, Two, Three…

I was relieved to read a Huffington Post story today which says that Blogger is once again up and running, after about 24 hours of downtime.  The timing was bad for me, because on and off last night, I tried to log in here and post something.  I alternated between frustration at not being able to post, and worry that what I’ve posted here previously had gone up in smoke.  I briefly flirted with the idea that this was no accident, some minimum-wage computer jockey hitting the wrong key.  A character in David Byrne’s True Stories said it best:

The Trilateral Commission and The Council on Foreign Relations.  Ever hear of them?  Well, neither did I until I noticed the Chain of Coincidence…  Do you run out of Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet paper at the same time?  You know it’s true!

I will be more convinced of conspiracy if Blogger crashes on May 31, the holy day of obligation for diarists, both Internet and pen-and-paper.  (On that day, in 1669, Samuel Pepys discontinued his famous journal, out of the mistaken fear he was going blind.)

I shudder at how the late Robert Shields would have reacted if he had used Blogger.  After all, he recorded every aspect of every moment of every day, spending hours per day at his IBM Wheelwriter.

This page from April 1994 represents one of the more fascinating days in the life of Robert Shields, former United Church of Christ minister, educator, poet, and compulsive diarist.

One of the things I wanted to write about was directly experiencing the less desirable side of this neighborhood.  Sunday afternoon, after church, I walked to the main library, a walk of about 2½ miles.  For some reason, the walk didn’t invigorate me or give me its usual second wind, so I took the bus home.  As I was walking up E. 7th Ave. toward the alley behind my house, I noticed about six or seven kids, both boys and girls, ranging in age from six to about 11, standing around talking, playing with a basketball, sitting on their bikes, etc.  Since the weather has warmed, this is not at all uncommon in this neighborhood, so I barely noticed it.

That changed when one of the littler boys, who I think was about seven, broke away from the pack and began following me up the alley.  I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but he kept drawing closer and closer to me as I walked.  (If we had been playing shadow tag, he would have tagged me several times over.)  Before I could ask what he was doing, he stepped up, balled his fist, and struck me on the thigh.  It didn’t hurt; and I would barely have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking at him.  Giggling, he turned around and ran like mad back to his friends.

My guess is that he was doing it on a dare.  He escaped too quickly, and I was in a bit of a hurry to get home because I needed to get to a bathroom, but I’ve played over possible reactions in my head endlessly since late Sunday afternoon.  I even posted a question about it on Yahoo! Answers.  The responses varied from “kick the kid up the shitter–he’ll respect you after that” to chasing after him.  Two possibilities tied for first with me.  I envisioned sitting him down and saying, “Now why did you do that?  Do you know me?  Have I ever hurt you or done anything bad to you?”  The other possibility was picking him up by the arms and legs and wordlessly dropping him in the nearest trash barrel and then going on my way.

Tuesday night, there was a fire–probably set–a block and a half away from our house.  I was finishing up dinner a little before 9:30.  (Steph and Susie ate earlier; I was at the Discovery Exchange until it closed at 8, and then came back to Weinland Park by bus.  Susie had choir rehearsal, but a fellow chorister’s dad drove her to and from practice.)   I was in the kitchen putting my dirty dishes in the sink when I began hearing one siren after another, in very rapid succession.  I looked out the window and saw that fire trucks were going by.  Not only were they going by, they were parking, all their lights flashing and revolving.  I stepped out onto the back porch and saw a thick black column of smoke coming from very nearby.

I put on my shoes and went out to see what was happening.  At first, there were thin clouds of smoke drifting through the alley, but the wind was blowing them away.  I wasn’t coughing or choking, but it was causing my eyes to water.

All I had to do was follow the sounds and the crowds, and the fire was in a vacant frame duplex at the corner of N. 5th St. and E. 7th Ave.  (Numbered streets in Columbus are the exact opposite of streets in Manhattan.  In Columbus, the streets are north-south and the avenues are east-west.)  Yet another fire on N. 5th St.  When I was first scouting out the neighborhood for rentals, I noticed there were several burned-out houses and properties in a two- or three-block length, all of them on 5th.  I went through the Ohio Web Library’s online newspaper index, and saw that the Columbus Fire Department suspected arson in almost every case.  This blog features pictures of several recent fires in the area, some of which I completely missed.

There are arsonists, and there are arsonists.  In the case of these properties, my prime suspects are always owners burning down their properties for the insurance once they started hemorrhaging money–which has not been unusual since the sub-prime mortgage crisis began in 2007.  (I wonder how one goes about hiring a professional arsonist.  My guess is that they don’t advertise on Craigslist.)  This type of arsonist is despicable, but I see him as more of an annoyance, until the houses around mine start going up in flames.

The type of arsonist that truly scares me is the bona fide pyromaniac.  This is the kind of person who gets a true psychological and/or sexual rush from setting or seeing fires.  If it’s flammable (inflammable–the two words mean the same thing), they’ll try to burn it.  Once the fire is going, they’ll sit back and watch it, like a teenager sneaking looks at online porn or hentai.  This is the type of arsonist who thinks with his glands.  He (statistically, they are almost all male) will set a fire, consequences be damned.  (The only literary portrayal of such a person that immediately comes to mind is the Trashcan Man in Stephen King’s The Stand.)

It is past 1 a.m. right now, and my next-door neighbors are going full blast.  To try and block out all the noise they’re making with the shouting back and forth (usually to people who are sitting/standing within millimeters of one another), I’ve put on my music.  Currently I’m playing “And He Shall Purify the Sons of Levi,” from Handel’s Messiah.  It reminds me of another hot night, during the summer of 1986.  My good friend, the late Adam Bradley, and I had been to a few bars and decided to enlighten and illuminate some of the people on the street.

We took our “mission” to some of the seedier parts of nocturnal Columbus.  As we drove past places like the New James Café (on S. High St., an all-night restaurant whose cheap but filling victuals I truly miss) or the now-departed (and unmissed) Earl’s Bar, we put his car tape deck up to maximum and would blast sacred music, all of it joyous.  We made one pass trailing Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and came back around with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” Vivaldi’s Gloria, and the old standby, “Hallelujah” from The Messiah–I wasn’t sure if they could Handel appreciate it.

The music on my laptop switched from “And He Shall Purify” to Parliament’s “Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” but I skipped to something else, feeling that hearing that will only make my neighbors rowdier.  The next song that popped up was The Iguanas’ “Boom Boom Boom,” which I once cynically described as Weinland Park’s national anthem.