Susie: From Heat to Heat

I’ve informed my Facebook friends that today begins the longest month of my life.  To be specific, this morning at 8:55 Susie boarded a Southwestern Airlines plane and flew to Tampa to spend a month with Steph in New Port Richey.  The heat here in Columbus has been oppressive for much of the past week–I’m sure it makes Washington, D.C. in August feel like a walk-in freezer.  But Susie is not fleeing the heat by going to the Gulf Coast of Florida.  If anything, it’ll be just as bad, if not worse.

Last night, I slept very badly.  Part of it was feeling down about not seeing Susie for a month, but part of it was worry about if (or how) I would drop the ball in the pre-flight and -boarding logistics in getting Susie aboard her plane this morning.  I have not flown since December 1983, when I was still living in Boston.  This is partly because I wholeheartedly agree with a line in Cervantes’ Don Quixote: “The road is always better than the inn.”  I don’t really feel like I’m traveling when I get into a sealed aluminum tube and overlook clouds, little houses, and golf courses, and then disembark at my destination.

The other reason is financial.  Greyhound is cheaper than flying, usually, and the experience of moving from one town to another is much more exciting and fulfilling to me.

Susie’s trip through customs and onto the plane was flawless.  My co-worker Janice and her husband Steve picked us up just before 7:30 this morning and drove us to Port Columbus, and Susie and I came prepared.  She had her new state-issued ID in hand, with a backup document (a notarized copy of her birth certificate).  It was smooth sailing from the Southwestern Airlines check-in counter to the boarding area.  I had to show my ID to get an “escort’s pass,” so I could stay with her until she was airborne, and we had to put our shoes and our pocket contents into little plastic buckets to pass through the metal detector and fluoroscope machine.  (This was nothing new to me.  You often have to jump through these identical hoops to go to the post office across the street from where I work.  This has been in effect at a heightened level since 9/11, although shades of it began to appear after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.)  Susie didn’t carry any bottles of liquid.  Her laptop was the only item she had to remove from her backpack and put through the scanner.  I had deliberately left my keys behind, because I was afraid that my ring knife–that constant souvenir of my job at the Cincinnati post office–would raise some red flags.

Susie’s flight left on time, at 8:55.  While she waited, she drank a big cup from Starbucks, and sat on the floor writing in her journal.  I stayed in the boarding area until I saw her plane actually lift off.  (I texted Steph at 8:56 a.m.: Susie’s plane is taxiing down the runway.  Departing on time!)  Steph texted me at 11:04: We have her.  By the time that text arrived, I was back home trying to nap, since I had slept so badly last night.

Susie and I did get some respite from the heat, with a little help from our friends.  The air conditioning in our half-double is the Calvin Coolidge variety: It does not choose to run.  So, we spent Thursday and Friday evenings at Pat and Tanya’s, and I surprised everybody at Olympic Swim and Racquet by not only getting into the pool, but by immersing myself completely underwater for about 45 seconds.  The water was not cold at all around 6:30 or 6:45, since the sun was shining directly down onto the pool.  (Pat made comments about “the Great White Whale” as he saw me in the water.  No doubt he was alluding to the title of this blog, which honors the creator of said Great White Whale.  He, of course, resembles Michelangelo’s David.)  We were all so exhausted that once we got to Pat and Tanya’s house, everyone–adults and kids–were fast asleep by 10:30.  On Friday, I worked the sound system at Trinity United Methodist Church in Marble Cliff, for the 10th annual dinner of the Mid-Ohio Workers’ Association.  After the meal ended, I had planned to meet everyone at Olympic for the 9 p.m. showing of The Karate Kid, but Pat texted me a little before 8 to let me know the pool was closed and the movie postponed.  (Susie enjoys the nighttime swimming more than the movies.  She would have gone even if the movie had been Marmaduke, just for a chance to swim in the pool under the lights at night.)

Pat and I ate lunch at the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest on Friday.  It was on the site of the old Ohio penitentiary, which played host to O. Henry and Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, and was the site of a horrific fire (322 inmates dead, 150 injured) in April 1930.  The combo, led by Brian Olsheski, playing on the AEP stage was quite impressive.

I am typing this at the OSU Library.   According to my cell phone, it is 5:52 in the afternoon.  I had considered going up to Olympic and immersing myself for awhile, since it is just as miserable out as before, but I have seen several people coming inside the library with wet umbrellas, and there is a sound I keep hearing.  I cannot decide whether it’s thunder and wind, or someone pushing a book cart.  Either way, it looks like no pool for me tonight.

I changed my iGoogle page slightly to reflect Susie’s journey to see her mom.  On the opening page, I display Columbus weather.  It says the current weather here is 88 degrees, with thunderstorms.  (That answers the question I asked in the previous paragraph, doesn’t it?)  Until Susie returns, I have New Port Richey’s forecast in the display as well.  Currently, it’s cloudy and 93 degrees there, but the forecast says there will be thunderstorms for the next several consecutive days.  I feel for Susie, because I know she had visions of relaxing on the beach during her visit, and that won’t be happening for the next few days.

No doubt about it–that’s thunder I’m hearing.

This table appeared in The Columbus Dispatch‘s Website.  The mercury has been climbing quite a bit these past weeks!

Franklinton Tragedy

Arson kills baby, 2 others

It strikes me as ironic that Scott and I would be making a journey to Franklinton last week.  Since moving from there in February 2009, I have made very few forays into that area.  It wasn’t avoidance or aversion, just no real need to visit.  And yet, while eating two apple pies and drinking some Diet Coke at the McDonald’s near the OSU campus, I divided my attention between my diary and this morning’s Columbus Dispatch.  The lead headline was the above story.

I wish I could say I was surprised the fire was in Franklinton.  Franklinton (also known as “The Bottoms” by its residents) doesn’t have a monopoly on arson, but when someone deliberately sets a fire there, the motive is usually more personal than a greedy landlord torching his own property because he has his eyes on a big insurance payout.

My thoughts immediately went back to the Wisconsin Ave. fire that took the lives of 19-year-old Mindy Hanners (a student of Steph’s at Gladden Community House) and her three children, who ranged in age from four years to two weeks.  It wasn’t until I went back to my old LiveJournal account to reread this entry that I realized the fire was four years ago this month.  I did not know the family that perished in this week’s blaze, but Deanna Perry, the 61-year-old woman who lived there, known to all as “Maw Maw”, opened her home to anyone who needed assistance.

The baby who died was the daughter of a troubled woman whom “Maw Maw” had hosted.  Mrs. Perry apparently had asked the mother to leave, because their relationship was fraying, but didn’t want the baby, who was ill, to be left without a place to lay her head.  The prevailing theory now is that someone was targeting the mother when they set the fire.

More and more, I am amazed by how people who possess the least are usually the most generous.  The house on N. Yale Ave. could hardly be commodious, and Deanna Perry was already living there with her husband, son, and grandson, yet she found room in her heart and her home for a woman and her baby who had nowhere else to turn.  (The husband and son had left the house for their jobs before the fire started, or else they could quite likely have died as well.)

The streets north of W. Broad are not as familiar to me as the ones to the south.  While we lived on West Park Ave., I made frequent trips to the Family Dollar store that sits at the corner of S. Yale and W. Broad, and the block between Broad and State Sts. featured several dilapidated houses, some of which were intermittently occupied, others which had long been abandoned.  Before I read the story thoroughly, I thought that the fire would have been in one of the S. Yale houses.  One house seemed to be okay structurally, but had a very high turnover of tenants.  I made almost nightly trips past it, especially if I had gotten off the bus on Broad St. and was walking home by way of Family Dollar, and it seemed like every other month there would be a new family there.  I’d see the clutter of Playskool toys in the patch of yard, I would see people sitting on the porch drinking malt liquor and smoking, I’d see the blue-white glow of the TV in the front room.  Then, after a few weeks, the house would be dark, there would be newspaper covering the windows, and the yard would be strewn with trash and debris.

Newspapers in the windows and darkness inside would become the norm for several weeks, but I’d never see a Realtor’s sign or a FOR RENT sign in the yard.  Then, one day I’d head over to Family Dollar to buy blank tapes or a new composition book to continue my diary, and the grass (more yellowed than green) would be cut, the newspapers would be gone, and a family would be in there.  I’d see furniture in the front room, and a jacket draped over a porch chair, or the front door open.  Then the cycle would repeat itself.

Franklinton residents seem to be focused on the proposal to convert the old Cooper Stadium, vacant since the Columbus Clippers moved to Huntington Park, into the Cooper Park Complex.  While passing through on the way to Central Point or Grove City, I see yard signs about it everywhere–even in the yards of the many abandoned properties.  Most of them say FOR Cooper Park Complex, and I guess it’ll be decided next month in the ballot box.  (One of the plans is for an automotive testing center and NASCAR racing, so the opponents cite environmental and noise issues.)  This tragedy will, maybe, divert their attention from the Cooper Park controversy and unite everyone in thinking of the three lives lost so needlessly this week.

I did not read of any funeral plans, but the memory of Mindy Hanners’ and children’s funerals, the standing-room-only show of support at Schoedinger’s Funeral Home’s Hilltop chapel, and the sealed coffin containing all four bodies, is still vivid in my mind.  We did not accompany them to the grave, but it seemed that most of Franklinton had come to pay their respects.  I suspect it’ll be the same for the victims of this disaster.