I Have a Right to Cry Over Spilt Milk

I did not make any New Year’s resolution to post to this blog daily–although so far I have been batting 1000 on writing in my holographic diary (since I christened a new volume on New Year’s Day).  I enter a plea of “guilty with an explanation” for why I have not posted an entry since Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day, I was sitting on the love seat in my living room.  The laptop was in front of me, and I was holding a bowl of cereal in one hand.  The hand holding the cereal trembled a little, and a little milk sloshed out, just enough to render the keyboard useless.  So, I sent out an SOS to a computer geek at church (I brought my overloaded and very slow Dell Inspiron out of retirement for the time being), and explained the situation.  He said I will probably have to buy a new keyboard.  At the moment, there is a dispute about whether the computer is still under warranty.  That is why I have not taken any measures to fix it yet.

The Dell is too slow for extensive typing.  Working on it is much like the situation that fast Linotype operators often faced in the pre-photocomposition era.  A fast linotyper would often have to stop working in order to let the machine catch up to him.  My Dell is so slow that I could not work on it for a long time without losing my patience.  So, I am at the Whetstone library this cold but pleasant Saturday afternoon, bringing this blog up to date.

I know I was speaking in tongues for many people when I wrote about the Linotype machine, so I’ve included this video so you can see one in action.
Our Christmas celebration was low-key, as it has been for quite a few years.  I am fortunate that Susie was here with me in Columbus this year.  She will be gone for 10 days this month (more about that soon), so she, Steph, and I decided it would be best for her to spend Christmas with me, instead of Susie going down to Florida immediately after school ended for the winter break.
Steph’s gift to us was tickets to the premiere of Les Misérables at the Lennox 24.  We brought along our friend Ramona, and I almost needed CPR when the kid behind the refreshment counter told us that candy, popcorn, and fountain drinks for the three of us totaled about $37!  All three of us enjoyed the movie, and ate a large and delicious Christmas dinner at the home of Kittie and Steve, Ramona’s mother and stepfather.
Susie’s friends gave her My Little Pony stickers and two or three blank journals.  She gave me a Stephen King book that I did not own, and I presented her with her “big” gift–a Nikon digital camera.  Above, I mentioned that she will be gone later this month.  She is going on a “Winterim” trip to Costa Rica with students and teachers at The Graham School.  They will be leaving at 6:30 on January 14, flying U.S. Airways to San José via Charlotte, N.C., and will be back on the 23rd.  The trip is more nature- than history-oriented.  The kids will explore rain forests, visit an extinct volcano, and go horseback riding, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and zip-lining.  Susie is looking forward to all but the latter.  She will be the first in our immediate family to leave North America.  (Steph lived in upstate New York until she was in second or third grade, so she made several trips in and out of Canada during that time.  My only time out of the United States was 15 minutes in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on my way back from San Francisco in 1987.)
My other “big” present was a down payment for a youth pilgrimage to Romania, paid to the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council.  Our church is chaperoning several youths to see the key historical sites in Unitarian history and theology, in Transylvania and elsewhere.  (Susie is, of course, eager to see Bran Castle, which is the prototype for Castle Dracula–although I don’t think Bram Stoker ever visited Romania.)  Trips to Romania are relatively recent events.  Especially in his last decade or so of power, Nicolae Ceaucescu did not make Romania a pleasant place to visit or live, and they are still trying to pick up the pieces from his legacy.
Once Susie is back from Costa Rica, other changes are on the horizon for her.  On February 4, she begins classes at The Charles School, which is a middle and high school in partnership with Ohio Dominican University.  Steph and I, in a long series of instant messages and Skype phone conversations, decided that Susie was not learning at a high enough level at The Graham School.  (This came to our attention when she took a placement exam at Columbus State Community College, so she could take a night or weekend class there.  Her reading and writing scores, as we knew they would be, tested way off the charts, but her math scores were below the acceptable level to take classes–and this was in material she covered, and received good grades in, while at Graham.)  Early in December, Susie and I took a tour of The Charles School, and met with the dean of students (Steph participated via speakerphone), and Susie will begin there next month.
The Charles School will be more labor intensive than Graham–or many other high schools, public or private.  When she graduates, she will have a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree from Ohio Dominican.  It will mean an extra year of high school (there are “seniors” and “super seniors”) at Charles, but it also means two years of college absolutely free of charge–no paying for lab fees, textbooks, or course materials.
That is quite important, because there is no way I can afford to pay for college.  Susie will need any and all scholarships she can receive.  From a practical standpoint, The Charles School will cover two years of tuition, and I have no doubt that if she excels with their program, she will have no difficulty getting scholarships to cover the remaining two years.  Also, education at Catholic colleges is more labor-intensive than most state, and many secular, colleges.  (My father is a 1952 graduate of The Catholic University of America.  Oddly enough, the only U.S. President to graduate from a Catholic college was Bill Clinton–Georgetown University Class of 1968.  The erudite and well rounded President Jed Bartlet in The West Wing was a Notre Dame alumnus.)
Having said this, some things are remaining the same here as we veer safely away from the latest non-Apocalypse (the most recent was supposed to be last December 21, per the many mental cases who have too much free time and unfettered Internet access).  On Thursday evening, I began my seasonal stint as a bookseller and customer service drone at the Discovery Exchange, Columbus State’s bookstore.  The spring semester looms on the horizon, so I will be working most evenings and the next two or three Saturdays there.  I am grateful for this chance, since I am in no hurry to come home to an empty and quiet house while Susie is in Costa Rica.  I won’t earn a large sum of extra money, but every little bit comes in handy, and I do need to exercise, and the 15- or 20-minute walk to the bookstore from the William Green Building is quite aerobic, especially with ice and snow on the ground.
The Discovery Exchange, 283 Cleveland Ave., Columbus, Ohio.

More Productive Than I’ve Been in Months

I will be back on the job in less than 12 hours, and I mentioned in my last entry that I was banishing all mention of “work” from my vocabulary for the four-day Christmas weekend.  That does not mean that I’ve been completely idle since I left work at 5 Friday evening.

I wasn’t exactly a white tornado, but the too-long cluttered living room is almost presentable for company now. Part of the reason I launched into this project was to find a notebook from earlier this fall that seems to have been buried under all the flotsam and jetsam that Susie and I generate.  (I think being a bureaucrat is hard-wired into my DNA–I can generate paper and other paraphernalia almost logarithmically.)
My longest (but most welcome) respite came on Friday night, courtesy of my across-the-street neighbors.  I was taking a break from excavating cleaning the living room, and was walking to a convenience store up the street, and my neighbor was tending a barbecue in the postage stamp of front yard.  “You alone tonight?” he asked.  I told him I was; my daughter was in Florida visiting her mom.  “Well, party going on.  We’ll be serving the food around 11!”  I bought some Coke Zero to bring to the party, since I figured (correctly) that I would be the only teetotaler in attendance.
But that didn’t matter.  The company was fantastic, and, although I was probably the oldest person there, most of the music was from my high school and young adult days–lots of ELO, Gary Numan’s “Cars,” and a series of one-hit wonders, such as The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen.”  The turkey and the spare ribs filled me up quite well, and I enjoyed the many conversations.  The down side was that, since I was drinking Coke all night, even though I came home around 2:30, it was well after dawn before I actually slept.
Earlier in this blog, I posted the dilemma faced by every bipolar person’s spouse: What do you do when your bipolar significant other, not famous for cleanliness, goes on a cleaning jag, quite likely as a result of swinging toward the manic end of the arc?  I do have a clean(er) living room, master bedroom, and office to show for it (pictures are forthcoming in an entry or two, I promise), but the down side is that I ended up missing both Christmas Eve services at church.  I didn’t want to lose the head of steam I’d managed to generate, because I know from bitter past experience that if I stop work on a project like that, it takes forever for me to resume the work, if at all.
The worst part of missing the Christmas Eve service was missing the dedication of my friend Ramona’s little daughter.  I learned about it the next day, when her folks, Steve and Kittie, invited me over for Christmas dinner.  I ate quite well, and enjoyed the company of Ramona, her daughter, Steve and Kittie, and Steve’s grown children (including his daughter Amelia, my companion on the journey to Washington last year for the One Nation Working Together march).  I ate buffalo meat for the first time, and loved it.  TBS was running A Christmas Story over and over for 24 hours beginning at midnight, and after seeing it for three or four times in a row, Kittie got a little bored with it, so she popped in a DVD of The Polar Express, which I had never seen before, but which I enjoyed.
Susie left me a voice mail message thanking me for the books I sent down to her in Florida.  (I made Steph promise to hide them from her until Christmas morning.)  In the message, she told me where she had hidden her present to me.  It was a book that was ideal for someone with a love of trivia and other minutiae–World War II: 4139 Strange and Interesting Facts.  It’s not the type of book you sit down and read from cover to cover, so I’ve enjoyed going from entry to entry.
I guess I’m still a little shell-shocked from the ordeal of NaNoWriMo, but other than this blog and diary entries, I have not done any writing.  In my defense, I am already planning next year’s NaNoWriMo project, but I am not going to tip my hand here, so publicly.  The rules say that you can take all the notes and write out all the outlines, etc., you want, but writing the novel proper cannot take place before 12 midnight on November 1.  I was hoping to get back into the mood by re-reading James A. Michener’s generically titled book The Novel, which I enjoyed when I bought it in Cincinnati in 1991–one of the few hardcovers I bought new.  I liked the book (and I was in the minority, even with Michener fans), and I’ve been carrying it around in my knapsack the past week or so, although I am not all that interested in Pennsylvania Dutch culture–the backdrop of much of the story.
This is the ultimate “Keep it simple, stupid!” when it comes to titling a manuscript.

I’m hoping it won’t take the next NaNoWriMo for me to start producing again.  The title of this entry is a little misleading–I was more productive on the domestic front than I have been when it comes to anything literary.  As I was getting my study arranged, I found the fat New Yorker diary from 1983 that I’ve used as an idea log and a place to write notes for future projects.  (I thought I had left it behind when I left Weinland Park.)  Maybe I need to keep it in my pack so I can jot down ideas for next fall’s NaNoWriMo project.

Who knows?  Maybe now that my work space isn’t quite as much of a shithole, I may actually be able to bear to spend time in it!

Christmas Day

After the gifts are exchanged, Christmas is a pretty dull day, unless you’re a sports fan.  (If you are, there’s no shortage of college and pro football games on TV to watch.)  I’m typing right now as a way to pass the time between now and 11:30, when Steve, Susie, and I go to see Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Grandview Theater.  (It’s the third installment of Nite Owl Theater‘s return; those of you in the Columbus area head to Grandview tonight!)

Susie fared quite well this Christmas–a generous assortment of clothes, books, gift cards, and videos.  (She was ecstatic to receive a DVD of Despicable Me, a movie that had her in stitches.  She was very thankful that it wasn’t Marmaduke, a movie she disliked when she saw it.)  She also doesn’t have to worry about running out of socks or underwear anytime soon.

I received two long-sleeved pullover shirts–much needed.  I ordered a jewelry box for Steph from Amazon.com, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when FedEx delivered it before Christmas.  She loved it; it’s now on her vanity awaiting her earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.  The slippers and perfume I bought Steph were local purchases, so they were under our Charlie Brown Christmas tree the entire time.

Susie absolutely loved the paperback Photonovel of “The Trouble with Tribbles,” a second-season episode of the original Star Trek.  (That was the first episode she ever saw, my way of gently introducing her to the wide world of the United Federation of Planets.)  I remember religiously buying Star Trek Photonovels (although Bantam Books always spelled it Fotonovel) at People’s News and Books in Marietta as they were published.  (Photonovels were the cusp between comic books and home video.  They were essentially comic books that used stills from movies or TV episodes in lieu of artists’ drawings.  I had almost forgotten about them until someone on the Star Trek Wiki mentioned them in passing.  I remember buying the first one, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” when it was issued, and being disappointed that the series stopped after only 12 installments.  (The last one I bought was the badly produced black and white edition of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at Million Year Picnic just off Harvard Square when I lived in Boston.)

I ventured outdoors to buy iced tea for Steph and some Diet Pepsi for myself, and the streets are almost deserted today.  I remember glancing south toward downtown, and, except for some cars passing back and forth on E. 5th Ave., you’d think that Civil Defense had ordered the evacuation of Columbus.  (I was going to buy Miracle Whip and milk at Kroger, but I’m glad I had the foresight to call ahead to see if they’d be open; they weren’t.)  I went to one of the little corner markets, but you need a bank loan to pay for anything other than pop in these stores, so the Miracle Whip and the milk can keep until tomorrow.)

A friend gave us a giant ham for Christmas, and we’ll be having soup with ham, and ham sandwiches, for quite awhile.  I was going out to buy Miracle Whip to go with the sandwiches, but the sticker shock made me decide that I can have ham sandwiches with mustard until tomorrow.

Merry Christmas!!