All Within Reach

Pictures of our new place will appear soon in this blog.  There are two reasons why they have yet to appear.  One is that Susie’s and my new, beloved half double is still quite cluttered and disorganized.

The other is that the cord connecting my digital camera to the laptop seems to have been a casualty of the move.  Replacing it cost me less than three dollars online, and there was an email yesterday saying it was in transit.  So, even if I had taken pictures of my new abode, they are hermetically sealed in my camera until this new cord arrives.

Because of Columbus Day, I have a three-day weekend, and my numero uno project will be getting the place in order.  It still won’t be guest-ready for awhile, but I will be able to share some pictures quite soon, if I can stay motivated and focused enough to keep working.

I was not a little kid let loose in Santa’s workshop when I went to the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio last Friday, so I am still furnishing the place piecemeal.  On Saturday, my friend Steve and I made a few trips back and forth from my former place in Weinland Park (that has such a beautiful ring to it!), and between trips, he helped me move some of the more cumbersome furniture.  Thanks to him, Susie’s and my desks are now in place, as is my dresser.  It took him, Susie, and me, working and sweating together, to get my king-sized mattress up the narrow stairway.  (Once on the second floor, moving it into my bedroom was easy.)  During moves, I have said (and heard) that recurring reassurance, “This isn’t heavy, it’s just bulky [or unwieldy],” but I didn’t dare insult Steve’s intelligence by saying that, especially when it came to the desks.

As I started to organize my study, I cursed myself for not taking the long table with me from Weinland Park.  I paced the small room (where I am now writing), thinking about what to do in the meantime until I made a trip to Goodwill to buy a table.  Then, I made my first trip to the basement since the leasing agent walked me through the place the first time.  I wasn’t sure why I was going down there.  Susie and I hadn’t taken anything down there.

Soon, I was glad I made the trip.  I found an old door leaning against the basement wall, and hauled it up to the office.  I stacked milk crate bookcases two high on the left and the right, and put the door across them.  I plan to go to Family Dollar and buy a folding chair for Susie’s and my desks, but in the meantime I am sitting on a small wooden workbench that I found downstairs.

The people who live on N. 4th St. between Maynard and Hudson must have had a good laugh early yesterday evening.  Susie is currently sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor, since the Furniture Bank didn’t have a box spring.  While I was between projects at work yesterday, I sneaked a peek at Columbus Underground‘s Website, just in time to see a notice from a woman pop up.  She had a queen-sized box spring free for the taking, and she lived in Clintonville.  She had brought it from her previous apartment, and found her stairs were too narrow for the mattress to fit.

Three or four emails later, I was headed north on N. 4th St. wheeling a dolly a friend loaned me.  (This friend works at Lowe’s, so obtaining dollies is as easy as my bringing home pens and tape from my job!)  This person’s house was several blocks north of Maynard, north of Hudson and near the rim of the Glen Echo Ravine.  She and I managed to get the queen-sized mattress onto the sidewalk, and she centered it onto the dolly.

And then the fun started.  She was trying–mostly in vain–to suppress her laughter as I made my way back toward Maynard.  I decided to pull the dolly, holding the mattress up against it with one hand and letting it rest on my shoulders.  Pushing it ahead of me was out of the question–I would have no visibility.

The half mile distance never seemed so long.  The mattress was just too wide, so I had to stop and turn it sideways for telephone poles, or to avoid breaking limbs off small trees, or tearing off the mirrors on parked cars.  The mattress completely dwarfed the dolly.  (It was like when a friend and I moved a queen-sized box spring and mattress on the top of his small car, tied there only with bed sheets.  I’m sure we resembled a ladybug trying to carry a two-by-four.)

Crossing Hudson Street was a nightmare.  It is a major entryway to Interstate 71, so there is traffic almost constantly.  Many motorists stopped for red lights sat behind their steering wheels with dropping jaws looking at this bearded lunatic with his pathetic dolly and his gigantic burden.

The railroad bridge near the intersection of Hudson and N. 4th Sts.  (The bridge crosses above Hudson St.)  The picture is from Amymyou’s Photostream on Flickr.

I was frustrated enough to consider abandoning the box spring in the nearest obliging alley, trying to be as inconspicuous and innocent-looking as possible as I leaned it against someone’s garbage cans and then beat a hasty retreat, dragging a clattering metal dolly behind me.

A young (late teens, early 20s) couple walking their dog took pity on me.  The guy and I carried the mattress at waist level the two or so blocks (but never had two blocks seemed so long than it did last night!), and his girlfriend followed us with the dolly.

The box spring is on the front porch.  After I clear a path, I will make an attempt to get this unwieldy piece of furniture up to Susie’s bedroom, although I think I’m procrastinating because I’m afraid I’ll discover the same thing my benefactor did–that the stairs are too narrow, and this box spring can’t fold in two, the way a mattress can.

And if this turns out to be the case, the next step for the box spring is the Columbus Freecycle.

Susie turns 14 tomorrow.  She understands that her big gift was the new computer, replacing the one the thieves took.  She and I will split a small cake, and on Saturday I’ll take her to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: Chekov Screams Again The Wrath of Khan.  I have already ordered a gift she has wanted for some time–a year of Seventeen–but the first issue has yet to arrive.

Despite my loathing of Bill O’Reilly, I am reading his current book, Killing Lincoln, mainly because any new book about the Lincoln assassination is a must-read for me.  Already his narrative style is starting to grate on me.  He has introduced Lincoln several times as “the man with 14 [or 13, or 12] days to live…”, which reminded me of a Discovery Channel show I liked, Final 24, describing the last hours of the lives of notable people, such as Jim Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, and Nicole Brown Simpson.

Mixed Feelings About a Street Shrine

Columbus police fatally shot a 21-year-old man a month ago, about a hundred yards from where I live.  I was not home when this happened, and thankfully Susie was in Florida when it happened.  Apparently, the police came to serve arrest warrants on the guy, and he bolted from the house on N. 5th where they found him, and ran out to N. 4th, shooting at the police on the way.  They fired back at him, and he was dead at the scene.  Most troubling, this happened around dinnertime, when N. 4th St. is quite busy.  Across the street, elementary school-aged children were on the field at Weinland Park Elementary School, with football and cheerleading practices.

A picture of Weinland Park (with Weinland Park Elementary School in the background) that Steph took in November.

On my way home from work the next day, I glanced out the bus window and I saw an impromptu shrine at the site where he died.  Mylar balloons and flowers clustered around a foam rubber cross, and people had left cards and small stuffed animals.  (My first experience with these little street shrines was in Cincinnati, where I would occasionally see them set up at the site of fatal car accidents.)
I confess to some ambivalence when seeing this shrine–now dismantled, since the guy’s burial.  My first feelings were in no way charitable.  Why is anyone honoring this guy? I wondered.  According to the newspaper, his resumé included outstanding warrants for receiving stolen property, aggravated robbery, and illegally possessing a firearm.  The police were not coming to get him because of too many jaywalking tickets.  He pulled his weapon on the officers first.  This was not a case of a trigger-happy officer who fires on someone, only to find out the person had been reaching into his pocket for a cell phone or a pack of cigarettes.  Nor was this a young man in the wrong place at the wrong time while on his way to visit his bedridden grandfather.  (I thought of an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street when Detective Frank Pemberton sees graffiti memorializing a thug who had died in an exchange of gunfire with police.  Pemberton looks at the graffiti with contempt, and proceeds to spit on the dead criminal’s name.)
But equally disturbing were some of the comments posted on the TV news Websites.  I looked at the video clips of the news coverage, and almost all of them thanked the police for saving the taxpayers money on trial and prison expenses.  The most brutal comment was “Cleanup on Aisle 5!!”  My normal reaction is to scroll past wisdom like this and say, “What an asshole!”, but I was caught up short by the first thought that ran through my head when I saw the shrine.
It takes effort, but I have to remember that this young man was someone’s son, maybe someone’s father.  I even try to remember John Donne’s words:
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.

And that includes the death of this young man, or even the death of Osama bin Laden.
My feelings for police have been lukewarm at best for most of my adult life.  I never considered becoming a police officer, mainly because part of the job involved carrying a weapon.  (The only law enforcement job I ever seriously considered was Postal Inspector, but that too involves carrying a gun.  Weapons are deal-breakers for me, job-wise.)  As a teenager, I compiled a rather impressive portfolio of status offenses, but I was only arrested when I was in my 20s, arrested for disorderly conduct in Athens while I was a student at O.U.  When I appeared in Athens Municipal Court, I pleaded no contest.  I was quite under the influence when arrested that night.
That didn’t elevate my esteem of police, but I never embraced blind hatred of them.  When I lived in Cincinnati and habituated the Subway on West McMillan, the people behind the counter often played a compact disk of anarchist punk band Chumbawamba’s 1992 album Shhh, an album I enjoyed (and recently downloaded from immensely.  One of the songs was “Happiness is Just a Chant Away.”  The last half of the song parodies the Hare Krishna mantra with the words “Harry Roberts, Harry Roberts, Roberts Roberts, Harry Harry.”  Harry Roberts was a British career criminal who killed three police officers, and soccer hooligans and rioters are fond of chanting his name, along with a charming little song “Harry Roberts is our friend, is our friend, is our friend.  Harry Roberts is our friend, he kills coppers,” sung to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down.”
Discussion about Weinland Park crime seems to bring out the opposite of “the better angels of our nature” cited by Lincoln.  In this entry, which I posted in May, I described when a child, aged six or seven at the most, walked up to me for no reason and hit me with a closed fist, running away giggling to his friends who watched him from a street corner.  I described the incident on a message board on Columbus Underground, and I was appalled when one reader suggested I start carrying pepper spray or a Taser, and if it happens again, use them on the kid.  The debate about whether or not it was appropriate to Taser a six-year-old went on for days.
In this morning’s Columbus Dispatch, I read an article about the 1996 murder of the owner of the D&J Carryout, an eyesore and blight to Weinland Park located on the corner of N. 4th St. and E. 8th Ave.  The current owners have learned nothing from this legacy.  They allow the place to be used for drug deals, kids are loitering on its stoop each hour it’s open, and the owners turn a blind eye to the kids who attack pedestrians for their money and cell phones.  This Google Maps picture (enter “1395 N. 4th St., Columbus, Ohio 43201” in the search engine) accurately depicts the intersection, although the apartment building on the northwest corner has been razed since this was taken.  Do a 360-degree turnaround on the picture and see the disrepair of the buildings and properties.
I barely knew that the previous owner of the D&J was murdered.  When the murder happened in January 1996, Steph and I were living in a furnished one-bedroom apartment on Highland Ave., just south of the OSU campus, and planning our wedding.  (These were rather cramped quarters, since I rented the place fully intending it to be a bachelor apartment.)  I had no reason to be on that corner.  I came away much more informed once I finished reading this article.  Yet one of the comments posted on The Dispatch‘s Website doesn’t mention the senselessness of the murder, or the fact that it left a family without a husband and father.  All it said was, “He was probably another Muslim terrorist who could not speak English and paid no taxes.”  (The murdered owner of the D&J, Dib Yasin, was Palestinian, born in Jerusalem.)
Below is a video that I took last December, when the apartment building in the Google Maps shot was beginning to come down:
I guess gone are the days when tragedy brings out our nobler instincts.  I have lived almost a year in Weinland Park.  I was attracted at first by its cheap rent, and its proximity to the Really, Really Free Market and the Sporeprint Infoshop.  Careful readers of this blog will also recall that when Steph and I first realized ’tis time to part, we originally planned that Steph would have custody of Susie.  Now that I am raising Susie on my own, the urge to vamoose from this area takes precedence over many other things.  Gandhi often said the only tyrant before whom he bowed down was the “still small voice within me.”  The still small voice within me is saying to try and leave this neighborhood as soon as possible.