Empty Nest

When I posted my last entry, I was hoping that one form of childish magical thinking actually was true: If I did not talk about it, it would not happen.  The events of this past week have proven me wrong.  I avoided the subject in my blog, in my emails to friends, and in my diary, but feel that I should pass along the news to the people who follow this blog.

Susie will be living in Florida for the foreseeable future.  This came about because, despite her stellar grades at The Charles School, and being one of 20 students admitted to Ohio Dominican University’s Early College program, she was quite unhappy at Charles, and said she would have a nervous breakdown if she returned there in the fall.  Steph emailed me to tell me that Susie had been asking about what the schools are like in Merritt Island.

And (just my luck!), Steph happens to live in one of the few places in Florida where the schools are actually half decent.  We did not force Susie to make a decision one way or the other, mainly because it would cast a pall over her entire time in Romania, and prevent her from enjoying the trip.  Steph and Mike came to Columbus the Saturday night after Susie’s return from Eastern Europe, and we reached the decision in an emotional session at Susie’s counselor’s office–Steph, Susie, and me, with a Kleenex box very handy.

Susie informed her friends that evening, when the parents and kids who went on the Romania trip gathered at the Unitarian Universalist church for a pálinka tasting (a fruit brandy indigenous to the Carpathian Basin).  This was sad news, especially as they were reeling from the taste of the brandy (I drank Sprite, and was glad I did, judging from the reactions of people who drank).

Susie’s last hurrah in Columbus was the Saturday before she left.  She marched in the Gay Pride Parade with her friends from the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.  I went downtown with her, and we wandered back and forth among the floats and the banners on Front St. before she found some Kaleidoscope kids, so I left her with them and went back to find a place to shoot some pictures.

I had plenty of pride (lower-case p) when they came marching up Broad St. and turned the corner onto N. High.  Not only was Susie with the Kaleidoscope contingent, she was proudly carrying a Pride flag.

She told me later that she wished it had been the Bisexual Pride Flag, much like the one she had designed for herself for the Pride parade two years earlier.  Also, she showed the usual teenage embarrassment when she saw Dad there on the curb with his camera out.  She must not have minded all that much, because by evening, it was her Profile picture on Facebook.

Susie carrying the Pride flag on W. Broad St. during the Columbus Gay Pride parade, June 22, 2013.

Susie left for Florida (by way of upstate New York, where many of Steph’s family still lives) a week ago today, early Wednesday morning.  The night before, we went to Steph’s live reading at Kafé Kerouac.  The reading was only a little successful in diverting my mind from her departure.

This is a picture of her and me after the reading:

Susie and me at Kafé Kerouac, June 26, 2013.

I have managed to stay busy and diverted since Susie’s departure.  My old Ohio University friend Ivan has been here since Wednesday night, visiting from Vermont.  (He lived in Columbus after graduating from Ohio University, but moved back to Vermont in ’08 when his father became terminally ill.  He has stayed there since, including during the recent death of his mother.)

Comfest took up much of my weekend, the annual Community Festival (the “party with a purpose”) in Goodale Park from Friday night (June 29) until Sunday evening, the 30th.  There were vendors’ booths, topless women, blocks-long lines for beer and wine, discreet but rather open pot-smoking, overheated dogs, families with SUV-sized strollers and complaining children, teenage Juggalos trying to sell moonshine from Big K cola bottles, and bands.

Saturday night’s festivities closed early, because of a massive thunderstorm with lightning, high winds, and pelting rain.  The musicians on the Gazebo and Bozo Stages did not want to use their microphones and amplifiers during an electrical storm, so the music shut down before dark (the storm began sometime around 7:15 or 7:30).  Some of the vendors (food and otherwise) stayed open, but by 9 p.m., police were trying to shoo people out of the park, saying that it was closed.

My major purchase was only a semi-Comfest purchase.  My favorite booth is from One Man’s Treasure, a small electronics and retro technology store in Millersport.  All weekend, I lusted after a Panasonic RQ-320S cassette recorder, a model from the 1970s.  Its main attraction was that it had a combination hand-held and condenser microphone, something I had never seen before.  I did not decide that I had to own it until Sunday night, after Comfest ended for another year.  I emailed the proprietor of One Man’s Treasure, and asked if I could send him a money order (including shipping and handling).  Ivan offered to drive me to Millersport on Monday evening, so we made the 66-mile (round trip) journey after work Monday.  I have only tested the tape recorder for a few seconds, but the sound quality, based on the “Testing… one… two… three” that I recorded, is quite crisp, especially for a machine that old.  The model seems to be in mint condition.

I think that it will be awhile before it totally sinks in that Susie will not be back for awhile.  I am used to spending the summers on my own, but when school starts again, and I come home to an empty house every evening, then I think I will finally grasp it.

Timing Was Everything

Since I last posted in here, I am the proud owner of a new Schwinn Meridian, identical to the stolen cherry red one–except that it’s blue.  A friend in Beechwold put it together Saturday, and I christened it with a ride back to Olde North/Baja Clintonville on Sunday afternoon.  So, I can say I’m back in business and back on three wheels.

The Beach Boys say that “good good timing (ah ah) you need good timing.”  This is true, especially in the matter of the stolen bike.  If it had to happen, this was the best time.  The bike vanished Thursday night-Friday morning, and I faced a busy week, beginning with Pride Weekend.  I would also be working at the Columbus State bookstore from Saturday morning until the following Saturday.  Had it happened any other weekend, I think I would have plunged into a rather deep depression, which would have affected my ability to do any type of work, take care of myself, or do anything proactive as far as trying to retrieve the bike or put the word out to friends and bike stores.

“Work is the best antidote to sorrow,” Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”  Between Pride and the bookstore job, I was able to keep myself busy and not have time to ruminate on the loss of the trike.

I am not sure how much of a correlation there is between my bipolar disorder and the problems I am having with sleep.  My psychiatrist/sleep doctor increased my lithium intake to 950 mg per day.  (He had wanted to increase it even more, but I was worried about the dyskinesia coming back.)  The first night with the CPAP was so bad that I was not physically or mentally up to working at the bookstore on Saturday morning, and I slept without it.  (This was not a smart thing to do, since my sleep doctor has told me that I’m running the risk of having a stroke in my sleep if I continue to sleep without the CPAP.)  I didn’t get to bed until nearly dawn, but I was up by 2 in the afternoon and spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening at Goodale Park and the Pride Festival.

FedEx Ground delivered my new trike in the middle of the week.  I had them send it to a friend’s house, because if my thief happens to live in this neighborhood, I didn’t want to put him in what the Catholics call “an occasion of sin” if he were to see the box on my front porch.  Between bookstore work and ComFest, I did not expect to be riding the bike for several days.  Again, there were pleasant distractions to keep me from dwelling on the fact that I still did not have three wheels beneath me.

I hate to speak ill of the departed, but the blue trike (Trike 2.0 is its temporary name) handles a bit better than the red one.  I noticed this when I took it on its maiden voyage from Beechwold back home (just under four miles).  I noticed that it was much easier to go up inclines than on the red one.  Hills still aren’t fun, they just aren’t as much of a chore.  I still would add gears or a motor to this trike were I to ride it in Cincinnati or San Francisco.  I have had Trike 2.0 for less than a week, but now I realize that the red one handled like a tank.  I have already established a familiarity with it.  There was an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series when Scotty stopped what he was doing and had a very strange look on his face.  He told Spock, “Mr. Spock, the ship feels wrong.”  Spock totally does not understand this.  Scotty says, “All instrumentation reads correctly, but the feel is wrong.”  Mr. Scott, of course, is proven right.

When I came home from Beechwold Sunday afternoon, I just had to buzz my neighbors down the block and show off the new cycle.  One of my neighbors, who had hosted the backyard movie the night of the harvest moon, said, “Just look at that smile!”  Despite being kept busy by the bookstore and the State job, I had been badly depressed by the loss of the red trike, so I think it was a relief for my neighbors to see that I had perked up and was plugging myself back into life again.  I am sure I was not very pleasant company during the trike-less week.

I have not abandoned the search for the red trike–if/when it turns up, I’m giving it to Susie.  One person I know will make a conscientious search for it.  He’s a young guy (early 20s) who also rides a trike.  He doesn’t ride a Schwinn Meridian, but a model which he converted to five speeds.  (I was at a downtown bus stop one night earlier this month, and he was riding by.  He and I talked about trikes and compared notes about them.)  Since he’s a trike rider, he will have a sixth sense for them.  It’s like if you own a Karmann Ghia or a Mustang.  It doesn’t take long before you’re instantly able to spot every model like it that’s on the road.  And Schwinn Meridian trikes aren’t exactly in demand.

My major ComFest purchase this year was a new (old) manual typewriter, a Royal Skylark.  I bought it from One Man’s Treasure, a business in Millersport.  The owner always has a booth at ComFest, and I’ve jealously eyed his wares every ComFest.  This year, I plunked down $35 and bought this portable typewriter on Saturday.  On Friday night, he had a Remington Travel Riter for sale, and I almost bought that, except for the fact that the ribbon was just about shot.  I proudly took the Skylark home on the bus, put it in my study, and then headed back to ComFest, where I stayed until it closed for the night at 10 p.m.

The Royal Skylark in its new moorings.  One way to solve the erratic Wi-Fi availability in my study.

Steph and Susie are in New York this weekend.  They took Amtrak from Florida to Newark, and will be there until early next week.  Susie was determined to go to BronyCon, a convention for devotees of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  It’s taking place in Secaucus, N.J., but New York is still quite accessible by commuter train.  Steph is chaperoning her and spending the weekend with all these apprentice furries.  I publicly declare here that she has atoned a thousandfold for any sins of omission or commission, by what she has done and things left undone.

There is nothing on my “to do” list this weekend except for Nite Owl Theater at Studio 35 on Saturday night.  As a way of christening the typewriter, I have been mentally composing (and making a few stray notes here and there in pen and paper) a poem about apnea.  It’s partially inspired by James Dickey’s poem “Diabetes,” which appears in his collection Drowning with Others.  Diabetic friends of mine say it describes the condition and the symptoms very accurately.  This is fascinating, especially since I learned later on that James Dickey never had diabetes.

The temperature today made it to 101 degrees F.  At the moment, it’s 10:42 p.m., and the temperature stands at 94 degrees.  (I almost wish I had one of those old blue Mail Pouch thermometers.)  The house has central heating, but no central air.  Currently, I’m sitting on the front porch with the laptop on my porch rail, my shirt unbuttoned, typing away.

I am tempted to sleep out here tonight, but I don’t feel like going out to Giant Eagle to buy the OFF! or citronella oil necessary to keep the many insects from having a banquet.

Trying to Rise Above the Torpor of Summer

My neglect of this blog (and any other type of writing, other than emails) is Exhibit A of my current lack of emotional, physical, and spiritual energy of late.  I’m beginning to think I may have the polar opposite of seasonal affective disorder–I become more sluggish and unproductive in the summer months, whereas most people with SAD completely shut down in the wintertime.  Columbus has been tropical this summer, and the relative humidity saps my energy.  I am sure that the months of 13-hour workdays has not helped, either.

We shall soon see.  At 4 p.m. yesterday, the summer quarter rush at Columbus State Community College ended, and with it my evening hours at the bookstore.  From now until fall, I will only be working 9 a.m. until 12 noon on Saturday mornings.  Susie is especially happy at this news, because it means I will be home with her more evenings, and we’ll be able to go to the pool, and we can eat dinner earlier.  (It’s been so damn hot that neither of us wants to cook, so we’ve eaten out most evenings.)

Susie worked as a Comfest volunteer for the first time this year.  She enjoyed the work, especially getting a free T-shirt and a pink Comfest mug, but she hated having to pick up so many cigarette butts.  She made quite liberal use of the hand sanitizers strategically located by the Porta-Potties.

I went to Comfest both Friday night and Saturday afternoon-evening.  I worked at the bookstore, during its extended rush hours, on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  I know I’ll be grateful for it once they hand me the paycheck in Human Resources, but I still had a being-kept-after-school feeling during the entire work day.

Comfest negatively affected me in only one way.  Susie and I waited on W. 5th Ave. and High St. for the 5 bus to Grandview for the monthly Return of Nite Owl Theater at the Grandview.  (The movie was The Terror, with Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson.)  The exodus from Goodale Park snarled up traffic so much that the 5 never arrived.  It’s been my practice to walk to the theater on Fritz nights, but between the proliferation of drunks and the humidity, I told Susie this month we’d take the bus.  (The movie at the end of July will be Teenagers from Outer Space, which will go along wonderfully with Pulpfest ’11 at the Ramada Plaza.)

I did quite well at the Really, Really Free Market on the last Sunday in June.  Earlier tonight, I sent an email to the Webmaster of Notebook Stories bragging of my achievement.  Susie came away with some clothes, and I came away with five spiral-bound planners.  (Their dates range from 2006 to 2008, but if I ignore the pre-printed dates, they will be quite useful.)  Two were from Greek-letter organizations (Phi Delta Theta fraternity and Chi Omega sorority), and the other three were from St. Bonaventure University (where Thomas Merton taught English from 1940 until he resigned to join the Trappist monastery in Kentucky), Southern Methodist University (which houses George W. Bush’s Presidential library–I wonder if all the pictures have been colored in the books), and Seattle Pacific University.  (I found something amusing in the St. Bonaventure planner–under Saturday, February 2, 2008, one of the events in the schedule is 4:00 p.m. Pre-Super Bowl Mass and Reception.)

My cache of new notebooks, courtesy of the Really, Really Free Market on  June 26.

There was absolutely no way Susie or I were going anywhere near downtown on Friday night, when Red White and Boom was happening.  I am lukewarm at best about patriotic celebrations.  I think they–and the people who participate in them–are the (very!) secular equivalents of the ostentatiously pious folks that Jesus lambasted in the Sermon on the Mount.  (When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in synagogue and at the street-corners, for everyone to see them.  I tell you this: they have their reward already.  Matthew 6:5, New English Bible.)

Susie and I went to First Friday, a potluck held at church on–when else?–the first Friday of every month.  The attendance was pretty sparse, between Red White and Boom and the congregation being scattered to the four winds for vacation.  We found some friends of ours.  Susie spent most of the time conspiring with talking to a kid who will be her lab partner for science classes at The Graham School come September.

I took her to Kafé Kerouac after we left First Friday, and this turned out to be quite the stroke of good timing.  She learned about their Wednesday night poetry slams, and she plans to go and read some of her poetry.  (I’ve always avoided poetry and writing groups, because listening to them discussing their poetry and their projects reminds me of teenage boys bragging about sex: The ones who are talking about it the most, are doing it the least.  I have never publicly read or participated in a slam because my voice is almost totally without affect–an Asperger’s symptom characteristic–and performance counts as much, if not more, than content.

While I was typing, my idiot neighbor has set off a string of fireworks and firecrackers.  There is a momentary lull at present, but I’m waiting for the noise to start up again, so I can call the police, and the dispatcher can hear the noise in the background.  (I have had minimal personal experience with shooting off fireworks and recreational explosives.  Since most of the jobs I’ve held in my 29 years in the workforce have involved typing, I realized that having hands is a good idea.  The only body parts I no longer have are my tonsils and gallbladder.  That’s enough.)

I never really how truly exhausted and sleep-deprived I was until yesterday.  After I left the bookstore, Susie and I took the bus to Graceland Shopping Center to pay the electric bill at Kroger, pick up dinner, and go to the hardware store.  She and I went to China Garden, a smorgasbord she and I both enjoy.  She and I both ate until we could barely move, and we were walking in major slow motion across the parking lot to Sears Hardware.

Once we got home, I told Susie I was going to take a brief nap before I did anything else.  I remember my bedside digital clock saying 8:20 when I lay down.  I didn’t even get undressed, not even my shoes.  When I felt rested enough to get out of bed and get on with the day, it was 8:30, as in a.m.  It was Sunday morning coming down.

Update: I called the police about the pyrotechnics next door.  I learned to use 911 for any time I call the Columbus Police Department, unless I’m in the mood to wade through their voice mail prompts and spend four minutes on hold.  The entire block smells like sulfur, and I hear the whistle of bottle rockets every few minutes, and no sign of the police.  If I had it to do over again, I would have called and reported gunshots.  (Hey, I’m no expert in ballistics–gunshots and firecrackers do sound alike to the untrained ear, don’t they?)

After breakfast this morning, Susie and I went to a yard sale on Medary Ave.  She bought a file folder, and I bought a pristine copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition, a 1987 Book-of-the-Month Club edition.  It’ll reside on my shelf between my 1938 Modern Library edition of The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Baker’s exhaustive biography.

It was “altogether fitting and proper,” as Lincoln would say, that I should buy this book.  (Susie brought it to my attention, and I happily ponied up the $.50 for it.)  Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death, by his own hand, in Ketchum, Idaho.  I haven’t read the obituaries that appeared, and I am sure it was front-page news all over the world.  However, through the many connections I’ve made in the old-time radio world, I found Harry Reasoner’s radio obituary, broadcast on CBS radio, where he tried–with iffy success–to emulate Hemingway’s prose style.

The Doo Dah Parade beckons tomorrow afternoon.  Neither Susie nor I are setting alarms, although after my megasleep yesterday into this morning, I am now quite wide awake.  Nonetheless, we’ll be awake in plenty of time to make it to the Short North for the parade.

My Dinner with Susie; The Easiest $20 I Ever Earned

Unlikely I’ll limit myself to those two subjects once the fingers really get going across this keyboard.  Imagine how much longer and rambling these blog entries would be if I used all my fingers to type, instead of just the two index fingers (and those at 80+ words per minute!)

Susie and I made our first trip in ages to our beloved Blue Danube Restaurant on North High Street Wednesday night.  I’ve loved the place since 1986, when the late Adam Bradley took me there–the food is quite affordable, it has a very eclectic jukebox, the service is good, and the clientele is like having a front row seat at the circus.  I never took Susie there until they banned smoking.  (In the days when they still allowed smoking, Steph told me to toss my clothes into the laundry basket and head immediately for the shower whenever I returned from there.)

The Blue Danube, 2439 N. High St.

Susie and I both ate quite well, one of those meals where we roll and stagger out of the restaurant.  The total bill came to $26, including tip.  We had just missed a southbound High St. bus when we left, so we walked back to Weinland Park, all two miles of it.  Both of us still felt stuffed when we came home, despite our having burned off at least half the calories we consumed.

Gay Pride Weekend just ended in Columbus.  Susie and I went to a potluck at church Friday night, and she helped make signs for the march, while other people helped bake.  Susie worked with an entire cookie tin full of crayons and colored markers, and produced her own sign.  Someone else stapled it to a stick for her, which was a good thing.  The staple gun at church is capable of inflicting Passion of the Christ-type wounds in the hands of inexperienced people (double meaning there, both of them would work).  After we came home from the potluck, I went out to Goodale Park, where the LGBT community had set up booths, food stands, and music equipment.  It had rained earlier in the evening, and I think that kept some people away, but the sky was clear by the time I reached the park.  The ground was muddier than I would have liked, but the sidewalks were dry.

I walked home in an alley parallel to High Street, and out of the blue a guy offered me $20 if I would stay with his very drunk boyfriend.  How drunk was the boyfriend?  He was so drunk, he was unconscious on the concrete under a fire escape.  I would earn the $20 to stay with the drunk while the sober half of the couple went to get their car.  I agreed, and the sober boyfriend left.  A lesbian couple came up the alley, took one look at the guy prostrate on the ground, and one of them said, “Party on!”  I refrained from making any snide comments about him.  Although I haven’t touched anything stronger than Diet Pepsi since 1998, I have been too drunk to make it home under my own steam more times than I care to admit.

The sober guy came back, and the two of us loaded the inebriated one into the car.  As I tried to get him to his feet, I marveled at how somebody has finally invented a boneless person.  The guy was almost completely dead weight, but the boyfriend and I finally managed to get him in a sitting position in the passenger seat of the car and put on his seat belt.  (I even found myself saying, “Hold on, Baba Looey!” while I was trying to get the guy into position.  No idea where that came from–I haven’t seen Quick Draw McGraw, even on Boomerang, since I was about six.)  The sober guy, true to his word, handed me a $20 bill before he got behind the wheel and they drove off into the night.  I was pleasantly surprised to get the money, although I would have chalked it up as a mitzvah performed had he not paid me.

It’s almost 11 p.m. right now, and the neighbors right now are going full blast–so I’m playing Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells to drown them out.  If their decibel level is still off the charts later on, I will really crank the volume on this laptop (I have my Tweakers plugged in as well) when Oldfield plays “Sailor’s Hornpipe” in increasingly high volumes and manic tempos at the end of the second movement.

Bookstore work yesterday made me feel like I was being kept after school.  Susie went to the Pride march, and she proudly displayed her self-made sign for all to see, and participated in the post-march festivities in Goodale Park until mid-afternoon.  Fortunately, people were there to take pictures and post them on Facebook.  It wasn’t as good as being there, but I re-posted pictures of Susie on my Wall.

A very color-coordinated Susie during the Pride March yesterday.  (The Ohio Supreme Court is in the background.)  She chose the colors of her clothes and her leis quite deliberately.  Many thanks to Linda McNabb for the photo.

I arrived in Goodale Park after the work day ended at 2 p.m.  I made my leisurely way up toward Goodale Park, stopping for lunch at the Golden Arches and then waiting for the bus.  The wait at the bus stop took longer than usual, because of all the Pride events downtown and the Short North.  One of the first things I remember when I arrived at the park was hearing the Capital University Pride Band playing mainstays from the early 1980s.  (This is the 30th anniversary of Pride in Columbus, so I’m guessing that’s why all the ’80s music kept coming up.)  It was the first time I’ve ever heard “867-5309/Jenny” played by a brass band.  I have always pitied anyone who had that number, or Pennsylvania 6-5000.

There were many slogans supporting gay marriage, and I support it from a small-L libertarian standpoint.  Lately, though, I have been seeing it through the very jaundiced eye of my recent experience on the marital front.  I recently told a gay friend of mine that whenever I hear about gays and lesbians wanting to marry, I think of an incident during John Kennedy’s Presidency.  During either the Bay of Pigs debacle or the Cuban Missile Crisis, Barry Goldwater was in the Oval Office with an increasingly sleep-deprived and edgy JFK.  After receiving some worrisome news on the phone, JFK turned to Goldwater and said, in complete exasperation, “And you actually want this fucking job?!”  That’s pretty much my take, from where I sit at the moment.

Susie and I celebrated Fathers’ Day in culinary delight this morning, making our first visit in eons to Hometown Buffet in Consumer Square.  I can’t remember the last time we ventured toward the west side of Columbus, out toward my erstwhile employer Medco Health, and the 40 Motel.  (The latter has been much less interesting since the owner stopped posting witty comments on the marquee outside.  One of my favorites was NEVER PLAY LEAPFROG WITH A UNICORN.)  Susie and I both ate well–I highly recommend Hometown’s meatloaf, by the way.  I went up to the buffet three or four times, but in an effort to be abstemious, refrained from having dessert.  It’s like people I see who order mountains of food and then wash it down with Tab because they’re watching their weight.)  But we atoned for it by shopping at Kroger afterwards.  Getting all the groceries home in two backpacks on the bus was a Sisyphean project.

I’m going in to work late tomorrow.  I have a few errands to run in the morning, so I have the luxury of not setting the alarm when I finally do hit the sack.  My work week consists of the Industrial Commission and the Discovery Exchange this week, although Saturday will be jam-packed from the moment my feet hit the floor that morning.  The bookstore will be in the morning, Comfest will take up much of the day, and then around 11 p.m. Susie and I will be headed to Grandview to the latest Return of Nite Owl Theater.  (Fritz the Nite Owl will be showing The Terror (1963) with Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff.  When I heard those names, I was hoping the movie would be The Raven.)

This has been the weekend, but I sure don’t feel all that rested!

Comfest 2010

Rumors abounded about how Comfest ’10–the annual “Party With a Purpose” in Goodale Park–would be different this year, or whether it would even happen at all.  During last year’s festival, an 18-year-old man stabbed himself to death (see Columbus Dispatch story posted here in the blog in a separate entry), and that cast a pall over the entire celebration.  It was the first fatality at the festival since the first one (in 1972), and the Internet was humming with rumors that it would be cancelled, that Goodale Park would be swarming with police officers, and that the police officers would more rigidly enforce laws than before.  (They’ve usually turned a blind eye, or issued friendly tsk-tsk-tsks, when they’ve encountered pot-smoking, in the past, but rumors abounded that police officers assigned to Goodale Park for the weekend were going to start kicking ass and taking names.)

I went Friday night, from about dusk until after midnight, and was in the park Saturday from early afternoon until the celebration officially ended at 10 p.m.  (That was one difference that was blatant: A set ending time for bands, vending, etc.  Even when these events ended in the past, there was usually something going on into the wee hours, including movies, where they’d show B movies–drive-in quality and below–on a bed sheet stretched between tree limbs.)

My friend Scott and I sampled the terrain Friday night.  Goodale Park was wall to wall with people when we arrived about 8:30, and police were visible everywhere.  They weren’t antagonistic toward the people at the festival, quite the opposite.  They’d say “hello,” were helpful with questions, and went with the flow of (pedestrian) traffic, trying to blend in as much as their uniforms would allow.

Dr. Lincoln Goodale gets his Comfest on,
and is more “stoned” than anyone there!

The beer lines were many people deep, and the smell of Cannabis sativa (intimately familiar to anyone who went to Ohio U.) was almost anywhere you turned.  The people were friendly, with “Happy Comfest!” greetings passing back and forth among strangers passing on walkways or on the grass.  It was a warm night, so the welcome sight of topless women, many of them sporting elaborately and painstakingly painted breasts, was everywhere.  I saw more topless women this weekend than at the Pride Festival last week.

The most memorable of these women would probably do quite well jumping out of a cake at an Ancient Order of Hibernians stag party.  Independence Day is just around the corner, but she was decked out in the garb of St. Patrick’s Day:

I know I used this line on Facebook, but I was proud
of it, so I’ll use it again: “I thought it was ‘Erin Go
Bragh,’ not ‘Erin, go bra-less!'”

When it was 11 p.m., Scott and I both wondered if there was going to be an announcement to “Proceed to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion, the park is now closed!” coming from the police.  There wasn’t.  The beer booths staggered (if you’ll pardon the expression) their closing times, so people would gradually leave, and so police and Comfest security could monitor fewer areas where people were leaving drunk.  (I don’t know what time they stopped selling beer tokens.)
Scott and I were never told to leave.  Both of us were sober, and not causing any trouble, so the police and Comfest personnel never said anything.  We walked around the park, talked to people, and stopped to rest at the stone tables and benches in the park.  Several groups of teenagers sat under trees in different sections of the park, most of them under the influence.  (Scott was pushing a two-wheel grocery cart, and one of the guys in the aforementioned groups was totally convinced he was pushing a stroller.)  I think if you were sober and not causing any problem, they weren’t in a hurry to shoo you out of the park.
Yesterday was sunny and warm, and the bands, poetry readings, vendors’ tables, and drum circles were in full swing.  One family played badminton, and I marveled at their ability to find enough square feet of vacant green space to accomplish this.  Unlike Pride Weekend, I saw no one foolhardy enough to swan dive into the pond, although many people (most of them teenagers) sat at the edge dangling their feet in the water.
One woman (who would only tell me her name was Z) would be quite upset if they ever pulled the plug on Comfest.  She is pregnant with her third child, and has plans for this one to be a Comfest habitué.  She advertised her intentions on her belly:
The little voice balloon pointing to the
baby says, “Party in the belly.”  The
face of Comfest Future.

There were minor emergencies all over the park all weekend.  An emergency squad truck stood by at all times, and a fully manned first-aid station was open for the duration.  The only time I saw anyone needing medical attention was when I saw a guy huddled on the ground with his girlfriend bending over him, looking very concerned.  My first thought was that he had just fallen asleep on the ground, like many other people did wherever they could find enough shade.  As it turned out, he had been chugging beer almost nonstop and hadn’t thought to keep himself hydrated.  When you have access to beer, who wants a no-fun liquid like water, right?  Two police officers managed to bring him around.  I don’t think they had the squad take him to the OSU Medical Center.  They probably told him to lay off the beer and start drinking lots of water (and maybe Gatorade to get his electrolytes where they belong).  He’s probably paying dearly for this today.
Most of the police were on foot, occasionally you saw one on a bicycle.  The Comfest safety personnel moved around the park on golf carts, many of them (especially after dark) with the care and respect for others’ safety exhibited by kamikaze pilots.  (I saw more than one person driving golf carts while holding cups of beer.  That makes me turn a jaundiced eye at the official statements about not driving home from Comfest if you’ve overindulged.)
Comfest after dark, Saturday night.
Soon after nightfall, I felt intermittent raindrops here and there, but no steady downpour.  The sky still looked relatively clear, even though the park was briefly illuminated by a lightning flash once in awhile, none of them followed by thunder.
Saturday’s activities officially ended at 10 p.m., and the bands (especially the Bozo Stage–the main one) ended their sets no later than 9:45.  This was fortunate, because they had turned off all their microphones and equipment by the time the thunderstorm and downpour hit, almost at the stroke of 10.  People first began to move under trees, but that meant risking a lightning strike.  The little shelters and makeshift canopies became very popular very quickly.  I waited with several others under several of them, waiting until a break came in the rain and then dashing to another shelter just ahead of the next cloudburst, until it was dry enough for me to make my way to High Street and catch a bus back to Clintonville and home.
Waiting for a break in the rain and thunder.

Two religious groups were quite prominent at Comfest this year, and they struck me as wonderful people.  One was Ekklesia, a small non-denominational house of worship whose main church is a small property on Buttles Ave.  Their beliefs are distinctly Trinitarian, but their mission is to those who have been ignored, vilified, or marginalized by more mainline evangelical denominations.  I have walked past their church several times, and knew they were good people when they hung a Lenny Bruce quotation in their front window: “Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”  Recently, I stumbled on a YouTube video about their outreach to my erstwhile neighborhood, Franklinton.  The video, Bringing Faith to Franklinton, is linked here.  Ekklesia also generously gave away Frisbees, cold bottles of water, Sierra Mist, and Faygo, as well as bumper stickers.  I have no bumper, but I took home one that said, When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” I think he probably meant don’t kill them, which my friend Jacques sports on the bumper of his car.  (I’ve wondered if the Gideons should be allowed to hand out New Testaments on military bases.  If the soldiers starting reading them, there’d be desertions en masse.)

The other group went around the festival, two young men and a woman, wearing cardboard signs around their necks that said “FREE HUGS–HFTR.”  After taking advantage of the free hugs, I asked what HFTR meant.  It stands for Hope for the Rejected, “a community of believers within the underground subculture.”  My initial thought is to admire what they claim to be doing–sharing faith “through our friendships and exemplified by our actions,” but many destructive and faith-destroying religious cults began with generous invitations and love-bombing.  Initial Googling hasn’t brought up any complaints or adverse anecdotes.  They have not cut the horrible swath through families, relationships, and careers that the University Bible Fellowship considers a sacrament, no one is signing over all their worldly goods to HFTR, and no family has tried to “deprogram” a loved one involved in it.  But all fringe religious groups will reach out especially to anyone who feels rejected, and a person who thinks he/she is drowning will reach for any rope extended, even if it’s going around his/her neck.

Here is the card they gave me:

The Comfest theme this year was “Live every day the Comfest way.”  That would be murder on many peoples’ livers, but I understand the applaud the overall idea of such a slogan.

Not Much Sleep, But Plenty of Pride

Another one of those weekends that is so crammed with activity that I almost feel like I’m going back to work to relax.  I spent much of the weekend in Goodale Park, taking in the sights and sounds of Pride Weekend.  It was almost an unofficial precursor to ComFest, which is next weekend at the same site.  (Until recently, these events coincided, but they now occur separate weekends.)

Scott and I went down Friday night, when the festivities were just starting.  We perused the food booths, the art booths, and the political ones (not just gay rights issues, but Stonewall Democrats, pro-choice groups, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Libertarian Party, etc.), and the many, many vendors.  I entered a raffle for a trip for two to Florida (unless you hear otherwise, readers, I did not win).  I did win a book, Kings in Their Castles, from TLA on Demand (“We put the HARD in hardcore VOD”) when I spun a prize wheel.

Spinning the wheel to win a copy of Kings in
Their Castles.
Progressive Insurance’s booth featured a unique way of attracting people.  They handed out small cards with the Progressive logo (Flo the Progressive Girl was not there in person, I’m sorry to say), and the women at the table wrote risqué slogans on them and laid them out on the table so you could pick out the one you liked, or you could make your own.  Two of my favorites are below:
Too much glare on the Progressive badge, but hers

No double entendre, no blatantly political message:
I LIKE EVERYONE.  She’s just keeping it simple.

And, lastly, my own.  I opted for safe.

The Pride theme this year was Family, and I had been lukewarm about whether or not to participate, until I received some email from volunteers at Find-A-Grave.  They provided me with a picture of the tombstone of my aunt, Mary Anne Evans, who died in 1980, aged 49, and is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Wheeling.  Aunt Mary Anne was a lesbian, although the word was never used in our family.  She and her life partner, Lois, lived together in the small house on Third Street in Marietta that had been ours until I was six years old.  I did a Google search on Lois and found out she died this past New Year’s Eve in an assisted living facility in Wheeling.  I looked at her obituary online from The Wheeling News-Register, and there was no mention of Aunt Mary Anne preceding her in death.  They are buried in the same cemetery, but not together.
Aunt Mary Anne and Lois were happier together than a lot of heterosexual couples I knew, especially my parents.  Lois was, I believe, the first adult I was allowed to call by first name, rather than Mr. or Mrs. Someone, and that was a big deal to me as a kindergartener.  I never thought twice about the fact that they shared a bed.
The same was true of Owen Hawley, a longtime colleague of my dad’s at Marietta College.  My dad told me when I was very young that he lived with another man, the same way someone else would live with a wife or a husband.  His partner, Ralph Schroeder, died in 1976, and Owen Hawley died in 2006.  They are, like my dad and stepmother, buried in Mound Cemetery, along with many Revolutionary War soldiers and the early political and religious leaders of Marietta.  I am not sure, but they may be the first gay couple to be buried there:
They’re hard to see, but there are ankhs engraved
at the top of their tombstones.

I slept too late to march with First UU in the Pride Parade, although I scrambled downtown by bus in time to take some pictures of the parade as it turned off High Street onto Buttles and into the park itself.  I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, talking to people and taking pictures.  Around 5, I went back north on the bus so Susie and I could have dinner at Burger King and then head to Olympic Swim and Racquet to see Alice in Wonderland once the sun went down.  (It was the one with Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp, but Susie spent most of the time in the pool rather than watching it.)
The Weather Channel icon on my main menu was flashing “Heat Alert!” all weekend, and vendors were charging outrageous prices for bottled water.  Two women were so desperate to escape the heat that they stripped down to bras and panties and dove into Goodale Park’s pond, which is always green (and not from reflecting the grass’ color).  I saw several teenagers (boys and girls) do this at ComFest one year, and I shuddered at the thought of the algae, the trash, the broken glass, and the other objects that lie beneath its surface.  (The fact that the bottom isn’t clearly visible is a red flag that you shouldn’t be in there.)  Yet, they were undeterred:
She was prudent enough to dive in there with mouth closed.
After she gets dressed, her next stop should be the booth
where they were giving out free hepatitis shots.