NaNoWriMo – 30 –

And this year it ended triumphantly for both Susie and me!  Completely in character for me, I was working on my project until the bitter end, logging 50,028 words when I submitted it to the NaNoWriMo Website for verification.  I sent it in around 4:40 on Wednesday afternoon, and Susie followed around 9 p.m. the same evening.  Very little incentive to cheat, since bragging rights and a neat little graphic for your Facebook page are really the only “prizes” you win.

The contest has not been without cost.  Susie has been sick with a sore throat and a headache (she even stayed home from school today, which has been completely out of character for her since she started at The Graham School), and I have been rather draggy and unmotivated in both physical and mental energy.  I’ve had a hard time focusing at work, and seem to want to sleep more than usual.  I’ve always liked wintertime, so I can’t rightly attribute it to seasonal affective disorder, but I do find myself in a bit of a slump mentally.  My way of celebrating the completion of the project was going to bed before midnight for the first time in God knows how long.  I am hoping that this cafard will only be temporary, and, since Susie is going down to Florida for Christmas break, I really need to keep it from getting out of control.  (Again, cafard is a word that I picked up from reading The Journals of John Cheever.  He experienced enough of it for 10 people.)

Just by re-reading the two paragraphs I just typed, I can see that I’ve made some progress in coming out of NaNoWriMo mode.  To wit, I am using contractions again.  As a way to pad my word count, during the narrative of the novel, I stopped using contractions.  (I continued to use them in dialogue, and I admit that dialogue has never been my strong suit when it came to writing.)

My manuscript was called Founder’s Day, and Susie’s was/is Vengeance is Sweeter.  I am not sure what the fate of mine will be.  Even as I was writing it, I knew that I am capable of much better, and that I was pouring on the excess verbiage for the mere purpose of increasing my word count.  If you have ever seen You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, or listened to a recording of the music, you would understand what I was doing by following Lucy’s part in “The Book Report.”  Right now, Founder’s Day is hermetically sealed on my hard drive, and I can’t even bring myself to open the file, let alone start editing it.  I have a feeling that I may be working on it from the ground up if I ever decide to write it with an eye toward publication.  (And yes, I do have fantasies that it ends up being my breakthrough book, and then years later, I’ll do what Stephen King did with The Stand and publish “the NaNoWriMo edition.”)

I left work early today to run some errands (paying rent and getting a long overdue beard trim headed the list), and when I came back home, Susie was fast asleep in her bedroom.  I followed her lead and collapsed for an hour or so in my room.  But, she is awake now, and it is amazing what a little food did to perk her back up.  (I think the fact that she wants to go to the Marriage Equality rally downtown with me tomorrow morning, and see her friend in Romeo and Juliet at Dominion Middle School tomorrow night, may also have played a role.)

Another temporary casualty of NaNoWriMo has been that–completely out of character for me–I have barely written in my diary for all of November.  I guess what energy I did have, I poured into the NaNoWriMo project, and I was either too written out or too exhausted to turn my attention and energy to the pages of the composition book that always comes in my knapsack with me.  One of the reasons I’m writing in the blog tonight is to see if that will kick-start me toward resuming daily diary entries.  I don’t want to be as meticulous or as compulsive as the late Robert Shields, but when I go back and open the book, with my pen in hand, I am going to feel like I’m meeting someone and having to explain to them why I haven’t called them back.

I posted on Columbus Underground about needing to find someone to repair my Royal Royalite manual typewriter, and have yet to follow up on the suggestions folks posted in response.  I wish I could have used it for NaNoWriMo, but that would not have been practical, since you need to cut and paste your finished product into their Website so they can verify your word count.  Here is a picture of the Royalite, which has been on the receiving end of much abuse from me, in my old home office in Franklinton:

I loathed almost every TV series he produced, but, in the pre-YouTube days, I always loved seeing the ending credits of any Stephen J. Cannell program.  (Cannell, who died last year, produced 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, and The A-Team.)  It is especially appropriate to post, as someone who “won” NaNoWriMo:

(I can never decide which one I like best, so this one seems to be the most inclusive.)

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My Annual Cough

This is my last week of comparative luxury.  The seasonal job at Columbus State Community College’s bookstore begins Monday evening at 5:30, so from then until the 31st, 13-hour workdays will be the norm and not the exception.  I should probably savor what free time I have, but it’s hard to when my cough has come back, making its presence known whenever I take a deep breath.

The vernal equinox is the 20th, and I had been hoping that I would be spared the cough this year, but no such luck.  It started off as a mild tickling in the back of my throat, and now there’s a constant urge to cough nestled at the base of my tongue.  All I have to do is breathe normally and that’ll trigger it.

Susie and I are in the same boat, ear-wise, unfortunately.  She developed an earache that goes down the whole side of her face and even into her tooth.  Nevertheless, she took some ibuprofen and gave a splendid performance in Annie, Jr. tonight at Dominion Middle School.  (I didn’t go, because I was supposed to be at a late doctor’s appointment.  His office called to reschedule just as I was leaving work this afternoon.  But I’ll be there tomorrow night at 7 p.m. sharp.  Take note, those of you in the Columbus area!)  She went to bed tonight with some NyQuil, and hopefully that’ll clear it up.

On Monday, I leave work at 11 a.m. for an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat guy) at OSU Medical Center.  Since before Christmas, I’ve had a non-stop rushing and ringing sound in my ears.  It feels like your ears do after someone has come up behind you and boxed them.  I was a little worried when the office called to reschedule, because they wanted an audiologist there, as well as the physician.

I complained to a friend of mine that I had such a backlog of work, I needed a periscope to see over everything.  I admit that sometime soon I’ll have to make an effort to clean up the papers that scatter my desk, but I’m actually spending most of my work hours transcribing, which means I haven’t had time to sort through what belongs there and what I should discard.  One of my un-favorite doctors dominated today’s work.  He dictates very rapidly, occasionally gasping for breath between paragraphs, and I have to take down what he’s saying, sort out his run-on sentences, and pause to look at various medical references (both online and in books) to make sure he said what he said.  I keep thinking to myself, For Christ’s sake, you’re a physician, not an auctioneer.


Some people have said I’m a little anal-retentive when it comes to transcribing the doctors’ reports, but this is one profession where it is a must, or should be a must.  So many medical terms sound alike (“atraumatic,” as opposed to “it was a traumatic event”), as do the names of many medications, that if I’m not 100% sure, I stop the recording and look up the term or drug name in question.  This is because someone’s health is at stake whenever you transcribe a report.  It’s not like a data entry job at Victoria’s Secret, where the worst that can happen is that a package addressed to Logan, Ohio may end up in Logan, Utah.

After about a week of going without, I have a cell phone yet again.  My LG cell phone fizzled unexpectedly Wednesday night.  I spent over an hour on the phone with Net10’s customer service people the next day (not including the time on hold–you can listen to most of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen during that), and finally they agreed to send me a new phone free of charge, and FedEx delivered a new Motorola cell phone, complete with camera, this morning.  I had to go to my email account and send a mass message to friends who have called me.  (I stored most of their numbers in the phone, and when the phone went belly-up, the memory was kaput as well.)


While Susie was onstage and Steph was in the audience tonight, I did something which probably helped neither my cough nor my ears.  They had eaten dinner before I came home (since they thought–as I did–that I wouldn’t be home), so I went out in the cold rain (temperature in the mid-30s tonight) and went to Wendy’s and brought back two Double Stacks for dinner.

More doctors’ reports await me when I walk into the office at 8 a.m.  They’re from a psychologist, so at least it’ll be interesting.  They’re long, but I always seem to whiz through psychological and psychiatric examinations.  Hearing about people’s backgrounds and family upbringings is more interesting than hearing about their spines and their problems walking.  (One claimant had a condition you’ll find most often in spelling bees: trichotillomania, a compulsion to pull out your own hair.)

Susie Soloed Tonight at Dominion’s Christmas Concert

Dominion’s three grades (sixth, seventh, and eighth) performed quite well, and the choice of music was quite eclectic, and there was enough mention of Christmas and the birth of Jesus to contradict anything you’ve heard about the mythical “war on Christmas.”  Despite having a sore throat, and missing school yesterday, Susie performed her solo of “This Christmas” excellently.  She was barely home from the show before compliments began popping up on her Facebook page.

The parents, in many cases, were another story…

When Susie was going to Dana Elementary, each class presented little Christmas skits, each lasting maybe five minutes at the longest.  Susie was in one of the lower grades, so her class’ play went close to the opening of the program.  I became quite irritated that the parents who came only seemed to listen and pay attention when their own children were onstage, and they jabbered all through the other performances, completely uncaring that other parents’ children were onstage and acting their little hearts out.  I was variously bored and amused by many of the other performances, but I did my best to respect the little thespians on the stage, and the feelings of the parents who had ventured out into the cold December night to hear them play.

I had the same experience tonight.  Since Steph was unable to come with me to the concert tonight, I brought along my trusty Kodak EasyShare camera and promised Steph I’d film the eighth-grade kids’ part of the concert, especially Susie’s solo.  (I couldn’t have recorded the entire concert, since the camera’s memory can accommodate only about 20 minutes of footage.)

I’m downloading the files to YouTube while I’m typing this entry, but I knew as I filmed it wouldn’t be professional quality at all.  One of these days I need to bite the bullet and get a tripod for this camera, because  you’ll be able to tell when my arm began to get tired, or when I had to shift the camera from one hand to the other.

Making matters worse was a woman sitting in front of me.  I sat in the center section, down toward the front, because the EasyShare’s zoom lens is not all that wonderful.  I was also afraid that if I sat too far back, all I’d film would be a stage full of silhouettes, and I’m not sure how sensitive the camera’s microphone is.

The woman in front of me was constantly rising up in her seat, shouting, “Sing it, honey!” to the stage–apparently one of her kids was in the choir–and I kept having to rise up higher in my seat so I would be filming the kids and not the back of her head.  Had I not been recording, I would have explained to her, most likely through gritted teeth, how people came to hear the kids, not her.  I’m sure her child was praying for a gigantic chasm to open in the stage floor and swallow him/her.  Mom obviously thought that middle-school Christmas concerts are supposed to be like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I wanted to add to the Christmas festivities by using this woman as a piñata.

There was a low rumble of chatter in pockets here and there behind me at some point during the entire performance.

The hour and a half before the concert had too much excitement for my liking.  Steph fixed a wonderful sloppy joe sauce for dinner, and I knew I would be home for a maximum of 20 minutes before Susie and I headed out to catch the COTA bus to Dominion.  Steph and Susie had both eaten by the time I arrived home, so I inhaled three sloppy joes and then Susie and I left to walk to the bus stop.  We lucked out, and a bus came up North 4th St. within five minutes.  (This was fortunate, since it was about 14º F. outside.)  We came aboard the bus, and before we had passed the first stop, Susie realized, to her horror, that she had forgotten the bag with her clothes for the performance.  I signaled for a stop, and told Susie to go ahead and ride the bus on up to Dominion.

I got off the bus and ran like mad back to the bus stop, because Susie said she may have left the bag there.  No bag, so I panicked.  There was one other possibility; the bag was on the kitchen floor.  I burst in through the back door (and probably shortened Steph’s life by about seven years), and almost collapsed from relief, because there was the bag with her concert clothes.  I turned right around and ran back to the bus stop, and was blessed by the sight of another bus coming north within minutes of my arrival.  Susie was frantically looking for me at the school–I heard from three of her friends, independently, that she was looking for me.  I handed off the bag of clothes to her, and she immediately dashed into a restroom to get out of her jeans and sweatshirt and into concert attire.

An emergency can drive you to unheard-of feats of strength and endurance.  We’ve all heard the story about the frail woman who was able to pull a car off her son when it pinned him.  My run to pick up Susie’s clothes was the most athletic activity I’ve performed in days, and I did it while in a bit of pain.  Saturday morning, I was coming home with my two-wheel grocery cart.  I was coming home after buying food, and I must not have been pulling the cart properly, or I was holding my spine in a bad position, because after I came home and filled the cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, I turned to put the cart back in its kitchen corner and there was a stabbing pain down my lumbar spine.  I did some chores around the house during the afternoon, some of which involving lifting, and I made a bang-zoom run to the library to return and pick up materials.

By the end of the afternoon, I was in such pain that I was swallowing ibuprofen tablets five or six at a time.  I even went through some boxes I never completely unpacked after the move, searching in vain for any Darvocet left over from the gallbladder surgery last February.  A Facebook friend scolded me for the excessive ibuprofen, telling me that I was jeopardizing my stomach lining and gastrointestinal tract if I was taking that much at once.

Sunday morning, the pain wasn’t much better.  I didn’t get out of bed until noon, and Susie headed up to church on the bus solo.  The first real snow of the season fell Sunday morning after sunrise, and although the sidewalks were icy (it had rained before the temperature dropped and snow began falling), I felt I had been confined to quarters too long, so I got out of bed, showered, dressed, and went downtown to the Main Library.

Two pictures of our street, mid-morning Sunday.
(Photos by Steph.)

Just being out in the fresh air–cold as it was–was quite a balm.  I had loaded up with my weight’s worth of ibuprofen, and it was at least having a placebo effect.  My mood improved when I ran into my friend John at the public computers on the third floor.  After he was done online, we compared union steward woes (we were both union stewards at Medco Health, and I spelled him as recording secretary several times) over cheeseburgers and Chicken Nuggets at the McDonald’s near Franklin University.  (I loaded up on so much Diet Coke during the talk that my hands had an almost Parkinsonian tremble by the time we left.)

Susie “pitched through her tears” when she soloed tonight.  She had a sore throat Monday and stayed home from school, and when the alarm rang this morning, neither she, nor Steph, nor I knew whether she should come to school.  She still had the sore throat, but she had no fever and was not coughing.  If she took today off, that would be no solo tonight.  I finally told her to go to school.  If she felt too wretched to complete the day, she could call me at work and I’d come get her and take her home on COTA.  I told her she would never forgive herself if she stayed home and felt better during the day, thus ending her chance to sing tonight.

As you can see, it all worked out for the best.  She sang well, and so did her classmates.  I’m pretty jaded when it comes to Christmas programs, but I almost wish I had recorded the seventh grade choir’s rendition of “Sing We Now of Christmas.”  (This was the first time I had ever heard the song with English lyrics.  I knew the melody, because I had heard Jan Peerce sing “Noel Nouvelet” on Great Songs of Christmas, an album that gas stations used to give out in December when I was a kid.)  They did a great job with this carol, which I really enjoyed.  The song is quite repetitious, but it’s pretty enough that this doesn’t grate on your nerves.

The Dominion Ensemble Choir performed excellent renditions of very secular songs (such as Toto’s “Africa” and Van Halen’s “Jump”) sandwiched in between “Carol of the Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

A good concert, but it didn’t flow as well as one at Washington School when I was in grade school.  Between selections, teachers would read the Nativity story in different languages, with English last.  I remember one boy singing a solo of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” while wearing a sailor’s cap–this was while the Vietnam War was still happening, so it struck close to home to quite a few kids there.  And the show ended with Washington School’s orchestra playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and making it sound like a dirge.

I may be posting my video footage of the concert in a day or two.  YouTube’s upload is quite slow.  I think a courtroom sketch artist could produce a finished product a lot faster than this.  I think a sculptor could.

A Weekend with Everything Save Sleep

Susie’s an eighth-grader at Dominion Middle School, and she and I were there last night to see the second performance of Sideways Stories at Wayside School.  When we moved from Clintonville to Weinland Park, Susie decided that she wanted to go from homeschooling back to a brick-and-mortar school, and Columbus Public said that Dominion, where she had been before, was the nearest school.  Unfortunately, the cast for Sideways Stories was set when she returned, so she was unable to audition for it.  We both laughed quite heartily at the play, and Susie rooted for her friends and classmates throughout the performance.  She is on the edge of her chair waiting to audition for the spring play, which will be Annie.

The night was quite young for me once Susie and I returned from Dominion.  I went to a Mustache Party at the Pirate House, the Baja Clintonville dwelling house of several young adults I know at church.  The rule was all attendees had to wear a mustache.  This was no problem for me, of course.  I’ve had facial hair almost constantly since I was mature enough to grow it.  Part of the reason I’ve almost consistently had a mustache is to hide what remains of a plastic surgery scar on my upper lip.

Guests who did not have their own mustaches could buy them for $1 (our hosts bought them in bulk from the Oriental Trading Company), or someone would draw them on with a black Sharpie.  The fake ones stuck on quite well with spirit gum, although I saw very few people wear them on the upper lip.  I saw more than one unibrow (like Bert from Sesame Street), and two or three women stuck the fake mustaches to their cleavage, so I guess you could say this party can really put hair on your chest.

A negative mustache, complete with “stinger” (like
the late Frank Zappa) under the lower lip.

I’m in the background, recording the swordfight
(see below) for posterity.  (Photo by Haley
Nuckles.)  I made this my Profile picture on
Facebook, although I’m not well known for
being a photographer.

Ben, Amber, Lindsey, and company attracted quite a varied crowd.  I spent an hour talking about various James Bond movies (and the actors who portrayed 007) with a guy who, like me, was born in Parkersburg.  He brought me the tragic news that Trans-Allegheny Books, one of the best used bookstores I have ever seen, may soon be closing its doors forever.  In the kitchen, I heard several spirited anecdotes about using a can of hair spray and a lighter as a makeshift blowtorch.

I even witnessed (and recorded for posterity) a very brief sword fight in the kitchen.  Two women squared off with the tiny plastic swords that bartenders use to skewer Maraschino cherries.  (Here is the video.  It’s hardly Fight Club.)  When I was a kid, I developed a taste for Maraschino cherries, because I wanted to look like I had a “grown-up” drink.  I’d put a skewered cherry in my glass of Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch when I drank with the adults.  (Maybe my folks should have bought little paper umbrellas for me.)

The assortment of libations available was quite impressive.  It wasn’t at all like the many after-hour BYOB parties I went to in Athens and Cincinnati, where the only variety was in the brands of beer.  I had stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall store on Summit before I arrived at the party, bought some Diet Pepsi for myself, and a two-liter of Coke for general consumption.  The Coke bottle joined many different bottles of bourbon, rum, vodka, and whiskey on the kitchen table.  There was even a bottle of absinthe on the table, which surprised me, because I thought that absinthe was illegal in the U.S.  (That has changed; absinthe is legal as long as it has less than 10 parts per million of thujone, long believed to be its addictive and hallucinogenic ingredient.)

In my too-long drinking history, I have never tried absinthe.  This was because of its not being readily available, not because of its illegality.  (I have a rules-are-for-euchre attitude when it comes to most drug laws.)  One of my favorite historical novels is Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, a book about Vincent van Gogh, and the last thing you want to do after reading this book is drink absinthe.

Sometimes the kitchen was the social center, and
it was equally because of the proximity to the
liquor buffet and because it was a great
conversation center minus the loud music.

I could tell that none of the party-goers had made a run to West Virginia or Kentucky, because no one had brought any Everclear.

During my days at O.U., occasionally someone from Cincinnati would go across the Ohio to Kentucky and buy some 190-proof Everclear.  (It is illegal to sell grain alcohol in Ohio, but not illegal to possess or consume it.)  The lightweights could always buy 151-proof if they made the trip over to West Virginia.  Anyone who drinks Everclear straight should immediately be locked up for attempted suicide, so usually a host would mix it with generous amounts of punch, orange wedges, and Sprite.  The finished product had many names–hairy buffalo, purple Jesus, and boom-boom juice are three names I can think of right off.

I was home and in bed a little after 3 a.m., and didn’t fully get out of bed to stay until after 11 a.m.  I prided myself on being able to get into bed without waking Steph.  (In recent weeks, we’ve separately had epiphanies about our marriage and whether it has a positive future.  Divorce is not off the table by any means, but at this point it is not the fait accompli that it was earlier in the fall.)

On Thursday, I went to the Martha Morehouse Medical Pavilion for my second paid trip into the MRI machine.  I was paid double this time, because they injected a dye into me intravenously.  I was afraid I’d have to go on the treadmill, but I was supine the whole time, except I went into the MRI feet first this time, again with WOSU-FM for background music.

The most amusing and noteworthy event of that whole experience was in the waiting room.  Two Mennonite women were there.  One was nearly 70 years old, and she kept her nose in a magazine the entire time.  Her companion was a plump woman in her mid 20s, whose eyes seemed to be glued to the TV on the wall.  I took little note of this at first, until I saw that Live with Regis and Kelly was playing.  They were broadcasting from Las Vegas, and they featured Thunder from Down Under, male strippers from Australia who were performing for a crowd of estrogen-overdosed women in the audience.  The younger Mennonite woman could not take her eyes from this.