Pleasurable Penance

I have redeemed myself (for now, anyway) as far as the Columbus Metropolitan Library is concerned.  I’ve been unable to check anything out these past few weeks, because my unpaid fine balance kept creeping higher and higher.  When it exceeds $10, the library suspends your borrowing privileges.  (I have kept mine at $9.99 for over a year, but my card went inactive when Susie lost a book borrowed on my card.  Yesterday, I went down to the main library to pay for the lost book, and the book jockey gave me some very good news.  Some anonymous Good Samaritan had found the book and had returned it.  I guess I’ll never know where he/she found it, but at least I don’t have to pay for replacing it.)

While lost, the meter kept running on the book’s fines.  So, after church today, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to read off my fines.  (I’m not 100% in the black, but my fine balance is below $10, so I can borrow again.)

You can read off your fines once or twice a year at the library, at a rate of $8 per hour.  Reading off the fines means sitting at a table and reading–no text-messaging, no computer.  I checked in at the desk at the Whetstone Library when it opened at 1, and the woman at the desk figured that 2½ hours would reduce my balance enough to where I could borrow again.  I pointed out where I’d be sitting, and went to the table to serve my “sentence.”

That’s why this entry has the title it does.  I have never considered reading to be work, and it was definitely never punishment.  If I’m eating alone, I have to be reading something, even if it’s the side panels of the cereal box.  (I think a byproduct of my Asperger’s syndrome is a strong tendency toward hyperlexia.  I may not retain all that I read, but I have to be engaging in the mechanism of reading, even if I’m only looking at words. (If I’m without a book at McDonald’s or somewhere else, I’ll read discarded copies of Sports Illustrated or The Buckeye Sports Bulletin, publications I would otherwise never peruse.)

I am glad there is no designated place at the library where people reading off their fines sit to do it.  Although I would gladly be doing it, I would be less than happy to be in a place that trumpeted, “Look, everybody!  This guy is in the hole with fines!”  It would feel like being in the penalty box during a hockey game, or like being in the stocks during the Puritan days in New England, except that at the library nobody can throw mud and rotten eggs at you.

Crazily, I came prepared in case there was nothing at the library that struck my fancy.  I brought along Harlot’s Ghost, Norman Mailer’s 1310-page novel about the CIA, which I bought when I lived in Cincinnati (I left there in 1995), and have tried to read more than a dozen times, never getting past the first 10-15 pages.  At McDonald’s between church and Whetstone’s opening time, I conscientiously kept Harlot’s Ghost in my bag, wanting to save it for the library.  (I wrote in my diary instead–I didn’t want to run the risk of finishing all 1300-plus pages in the time it took to eat two McDoubles and drink two cups of lemonade.)

I never took Harlot’s Ghost out of my bag again.  Once at the library, I found an excellent book, Charles Lachman’s The Last Lincolns, about the direct descendants of Abraham Lincoln, starting with his four sons (only one of whom, Robert Todd Lincoln, lived to adulthood), and Robert’s children and grandchildren.  Abraham Lincoln has no direct descendants alive.  When his great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith died in 1985, that was his final lineal descendant.

When the woman told me how long my “sentence” would be, I started the stopwatch on my watch, but I didn’t pay attention to it once I began reading.  I was a few pages into the book when I decided that I would christen my newly reactivated card by borrowing it.  (I did just that, along with a three-disk set of Bob Dylan’s Biograph, a boxed set I used to have on LP.  When I bought it, I turned off the phone, locked my apartment door, and listened to all 53 songs.)

The change to Eastern Daylight Savings Time came this morning.  I was awake for the change, because I wanted to make sure that my cell phone and my alarm clock made the adjustment (I have an Emerson Research SmartSet clock radio that adjusts itself automatically when you plug it in), and both of them.  It mattered because Susie and the rest of the Rising Voices choir would be singing at both services today, at 9:15 and 11 a.m.  Susie had to be there at 8:45 for rehearsal and warm-up, so we left the house just before 8 to catch the bus, so we could eat breakfast at church beforehand.

I stayed for the entire first service, and stayed at the second service long enough to film the kids.  (I shot a video of the kids at the 9:15 service, but started it about five seconds too late.  Although both performances were wonderful, the second one was the better of the two.)  They sang “What is Pink?”   (Susie is in the front row, wearing an orange shirt, and this is the link, for your viewing and musical enjoyment.)

I left after the girls (Rising Voices isn’t intentionally all-female; it’s an all-girls choir by default) sang.  Susie stayed behind to go to OWL class (an acronym for Our Whole Lives, the human sexuality curriculum), and I killed time at McDonald’s until the library opened.

Dominion Middle School’s second and final performance of Annie Jr. was fantastic on Friday night.  I took some pictures during the show with my new cell phone, the Motorola that arrived via FedEx on Thursday.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a USB cord with a Micro-B male terminal, so I can’t download them yet.  Stay tuned to this blog, and as soon as I find the right cord, I will share them with all you eager readers.

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One Holiday and a Funeral

On Monday, I was off work because of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  However, instead of sleeping until I finally decided to haul myself out of bed, I went to the funeral of Jean Bradley, aged 85, the mother of my friend Adam Bradley, who passed away in June 1997.  I learned about her passing during church Sunday, and immediately made plans to go to her memorial service, which was held at the church Monday morning.

My first order of business was to call my friend Tom in Marietta, because he had been close to Jean (closer than I was since Adam died).  Tom, in fact, had been with me the May 1986 night when I had met Adam on High St.  Tom and I had gone to a late movie at Ohio State University that evening, and went from bar to bar along High until closing time, and were walking to our respective apartments (I lived downtown, he lived in German Village at the time).  Adam was walking behind us, plugged into something I had said, and replied to it.  We ended up sitting on the front steps of an apartment building talking and debating until almost dawn.

Jean had been ill for some time, in and out of hospitals after a series of minor strokes.  She never completely recovered from Adam’s death, although she channeled her grief into advocacy for the mentally ill.  Adam battled a plethora of mental-health issues for much of his adult life, and was such a regular at emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics that it was hard for many medical professionals to take him seriously.

But activism was already in Jean’s blood.  She worked phone banks and door-to-door canvasses endlessly for Democratic candidates on all levels, spearheaded literacy programs in Franklin County, and used her job at Job and Family Services to connect people to jobs all over Ohio.

I was sitting at the memorial service with Dave Wilkin, who was a longtime friend of Adam’s and a classmate of Adam’s younger sister Lisa.  (Dave was the video photographer at my wedding, and lives in Grandview.)  As the service got under way, both Dave and I glanced toward the rear doors of the Worship Center, wondering when Tom would arrive, taking it for granted that he would be late.  (Thinking Tom will be late for something is like assuming Benedict XVI’s successor will be Catholic.)

Rev. Mark Belletini, the senior minister at First UU, led the service along with Rabbi Lenny Sarko of Congregation Am Brit, a new Reform synagogue in Dublin.  Sure enough, as people took the microphone to reminisce about Jean, I turned toward the back of the Worship Center and there was Tom.  He was sitting down, but he looked like he was out of his breath.  (It was just like my mother’s memorial service in the church’s Scatter Garden in the fall of 2008.  Mark was just drawing breath to start the service when I glanced down W. Weisheimer Road and saw Tom’s pickup truck screeching around the corner and driving like mad toward the church’s parking lot.  “Mark,” I whispered, “hang on for just a second.”)

After a reception in Fellowship Hall, I rode with Dave to Green Lawn Cemetery on the West Side.  (I rode with Dave because Tom had too many of his personal belongings piled up onto the passenger seat of his pickup truck, which is 100% in character for him.)  We arrived first, before any of the other mourners (including Jean’s surviving children, Lisa and Seth, and their spouses).  Instead of paying our respects at the graves of George H.W. Bush’s grandfather, Eddie Rickenbacker, or James Rhodes, we drove around the cemetery trying to find Jean’s grave.  Dave drove while I craned my neck looking for tombstones with Stars of David or Hebrew epitaphs.  Finally, a worker driving a steam shovel was able to tell us where, and he led us (including Tom, who had followed closely behind us in his tailgate-less white pickup) to the spot, where we were the first to arrive.

I was honored to be one of Jean’s pallbearers, although I was pressed into service at the very last minute.  The funeral director directed everyone as they slid Jean’s coffin out of the hearse, and as he reached for the rail, Dick Dawson, our church’s chaplain, made eye contact with me and gestured for me to come over and help.  I have only been a pallbearer on one other occasion, when my dad died in 2000.  At the time, I was just getting over a minor coronary event (essentially, a small heart attack), and my stepmother was worried that I was physically not up to doing it.  I told her that I probably shouldn’t, but I’d regret it the rest of my life if I didn’t.

The burial service definitely has a way of shocking a mourner into understanding that their beloved has died.  I had been at this very cemetery on a very hot June day in 1997, when we laid Adam to rest, so I knew to expect this particular practice, but it still has a very sobering effect.  (“Sobering” was a word a friend of mine used to describe the rows and rows of white crosses on the Normandy beach when he visited Europe.  I never understood how much that word covered until Monday.)  Once the coffin was lowered into the ground, the rabbi instructed each of us to take a turn scattering a shovelful of dirt onto the lid.  This was, he explained, a way of reminding everyone that death is very real.  “I can’t believe he/she is dead” is something we all hear at viewings, funerals, and burials.  When you hold a shovel in your hand, and scatter it onto the lid of a box containing the remains of someone you know… you believe it after that, no question.

Dave, Tom, and I also made a stop at Adam’s nearby grave, the first time I had visited it since he died.  (I had made another attempt to find it years earlier, but had come to Green Lawn when there was no one at the office to tell me the location of the grave.)  Adam is buried next to his brother Darrow, who died at age two.

After everyone had dispersed (Lisa and her husband were catching a flight back to New York, and Seth and his wife were staying in town overnight), Tom said, “You guys hungry?”  After some debate, we agreed to go to the China Buffet on N. High St.  (There was a bit of debate–as there always is with Tom.  He was holding out for the MCL Cafeteria in Upper Arlington, but Dave and I pointed out that, being under 85 and not part of the blue-rinse crowd, we wouldn’t be welcome there.)

That was still part of our way of honoring Jean.  It brought three friends together who don’t see one another all that often, and we feted ourselves for hours, as all of us had done with Adam, right in that very restaurant.  I devoured several plates of food and God knows how many cups of Diet Pepsi, and we stayed until the hostess rolled us because it was time for the dinner hour to begin.

I was glad to be able to finally see Adam’s grave, a simple headstone with his full name, the dates of his birth and death, and a simple Star of David.  He died while Steph was pregnant with Susie, and I still feel the loss even now.  I have his one posthumously published book, Seeking Love and Death: Poems, as well as a trade paperback of The Complete Poetry of John Milton which he gave me on my 32nd birthday in 1995.

Earlier in 1995, he gave me a journal, which he inscribed inside the front cover.  On my many visits to him when I lived in Cincinnati, he often saw me sitting at the table or in a restaurant or bar booth with the diary open and a pen in my hand, and as a belated Christmas gift, he presented me with a notebook to be used once my current volume was finished.  I have scanned the inscription inside the front cover, as well as the front cover, and am displaying it below:

During the final season of NYPD Blue, an episode called “The Vision Thing” ran.  It was the most thought-provoking episode I had seen, especially the scene when world-weary and jaded detective Andy Sipowicz holds a locker-room conversation with the shade of his friend and partner Bobby Simone, who had died tragically of a heart infection (over five episodes!) at the start of the sixth season.

Above is a YouTube clip of the conversation between Andy and Bobby’s spirit.  As I watched that, I asked myself, Who would I want to return to me like that, if such a thing were possible?  (I leave questions about the afterlife to people with far more leisure time than I have.)  It didn’t take me long to decide that it would be Adam.  It would not be my father–the longer since he died, the more I realize what a bastard he truly was.  Robert Lowry would be a close second, although I am sure he would have carried all his bitterness to the grave with him.

Our Revels Now Are Ended

(I can’t take credit for that line in the title, by the way.  It’s Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act IV, Scene i.)

They say it takes two weeks to develop a habit, but two consecutive three-day workweeks is a habit I picked up quite easily and adapted to almost immediately.  Unfortunately, it won’t be a habit.  In less than 12 hours, I’ll be back in civil service mode, with such pressing concerns as typing lump sum advancements and ex parte orders, transcribing doctors’ reports, and so on.  Then, once 5 p.m. rolls around, I’m trudging the near-mile to Discovery Exchange, and facing the first-day-of-class onslaught.  Customers have arrived consistently in the few days that I have worked at Columbus State’s bookstore, but there were periods of time when I did nothing but walk around the shelves and straighten the spines of projecting books, put silver security strips someplace inconspicuous on the book covers, and re-shelve stray buybacks.  My work day will end 9 p.m.

Someone asked me why, just for this week, didn’t I end my Industrial Commission day at 4 p.m., so I’d have some “breathing room” between one job and the other.  He pretty much answered his own question when he phrased it that way.  I won’t say it’s fun to go straight from one job to the other, but it’s better because I’m still in work mode, and haven’t had time to lose the momentum and mental energy that’s geared toward work.  (The same issue arose in the summer of 2001, when I was working full time as a header entry clerk at Medco Health, and three or four evenings a week I worked in the stock room and loading dock at Sears near Westland Mall.  I insisted on going straight from one job to the other.)  A Marietta friend of mine used to be an operator for AT&T, and he often worked split shifts.  He’d work four hours, was off for four hours, and then back for another four.  That would drive me up a brick wall backwards if I ever tried a schedule like that.

Susie and I were out until 2 a.m. this morning, going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35.  The movie is crazy enough, as we all know, but in Columbus the madness increases a thousandfold, thanks to the antics of The Fishnet Mafia, who host the show the first Saturday of every month.  Susie prevailed upon me to buy the movie kit for $1 (complete with toilet paper, a piece of toast, newspaper, a glow stick, and a noisemaker).  I was glad that The Fishnet Mafia posted prompts on the screen, as to what to throw and when, etc., because I hadn’t been to the movie since 1980.  (For years, I had always wanted to rent it from Blockbuster and watch it at home, throw my own toilet paper, wear the newspaper on my head in the privacy of my own living room, etc., but never did.)  Susie eagerly took in all the activity around her, but she wants to see the actual movie at home, so she can see what actually happens in it.  (I did see it on cable once, when I was up here visiting my mother, watching it on QUBE.)  She enjoyed it all, except she was seriously creeped when she realized that Riff Raff and Magenta were both a couple and siblings.

Sleep-deprived though we were, we both made it to church by 10:30 a.m.  Susie went to her class, and I went to the service.  The service had been going for about 10 minutes when my cell phone vibrated.  (They always ask you to turn off and/or silence electronic devices when the service begins.  As far as I know, that does not include pacemakers.)  I was receiving a text message, Look behind u.  Sure enough, it was Pat.  I went back and sat with him.  He was in the service by himself–his kids were in class, his wife was at a birth (or resting after having been at one).

My stamina collapsed once I came home.  Steph had taken her laptop and gone to a coffee house on High St., so the house was quiet.  Susie immediately went on Facebook and her blog.  I made a cursory check of my Facebook page and my email, and then around 2 p.m. went upstairs and collapsed in the bedroom.  I was asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.  I took off my glasses, cell phone, and shoes–that was it.  I only meant to sleep for an hour or so, but it was dark by the time I finally woke up.  So I don’t completely skew my body clock, I’m afraid I may have to resort to melatonin to sleep tonight.  I do this reluctantly, because I always feel hungover once I do awake.

Melatonin – the centerfold

Writing has proved to be a task so far this year (when has it not lately?), but to get myself in the mode (or mood–either word will work), I started listening to the B-52’s’ “Planet Claire” when I began typing this entry.  That’s a good typing song, as I discovered on fall afternoons in Athens when I earned a little extra beer money typesetting The Athens News.  Other than the radio, the music selections were quite limited.  The office had about three eight-track tapes, and one of them was The B-52’s.  I wished there was a way to fast forward an eight-track, because I had heard “Rock Lobster” so many times on Boston radio that I wanted to scream, but “Planet Claire” was an excellent song for typing.  I know that junior-high typing classes often typed to music, and that would be a great choice.  (Currently, Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” is playing in my ear buds, and that is another song I’d add to the list.)  Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter” would be up there as well, but I’m not sure it’d occupy the top slot.

"It’s Complicated" Doesn’t Sum It Up

Facebook’s choices of “Relationship Status” are quite limited.  In addition to “Married,” “Single,” “Widowed,” etc., it lists “It’s Complicated” as one of the choices.  Several people I have known–from Ohio University, from college, from former jobs–have listed their statuses that way.  Many times, I didn’t feel I was close enough to them to ask them to elaborate.

I now list my status as “It’s complicated.”  It will be complicated for some time to come, but I already know the outcome.
>Steph and I decided, calmly, without tears, raised voices, or words spoken only to be regretted later, that we will end our 14-year marriage as soon as it is practically possible.  Neither of us have been happy for some time, and what will ultimately constitute happiness in our eyes differs so radically that remaining together will ultimately breed only resentment.

I wish I had the answer to when this will come to pass.  In 1975, the group Tavares released a song that said, “It only takes a minute, girl, to fall in love.”  That is true, but to fall out of love takes many years and, in many cases, a few thousand dollars.  This will be an amicable divorce.  After we sign the paperwork, I can see Steph and me going out to lunch together.  We are not going to enrich lawyers, because we come to the table in full agreement regarding custody for Susie (Steph will retain full custody, but I will have very liberal visitation rights and will still have a voice in decisions that affect her life and well-being).  There isn’t that much joint marital property, since we don’t co-own a home, boat, or vehicle.

During the next few months, we will be settling financial matters, as well as making decisions regarding health and insurance.  We need to satisfactorily resolve these be for we set foot in the Clerk of Courts’ office to ask for the divorce paperwork.  No-fault divorce is the law of the land in all 50 states (except New York, but no-fault divorce will go into effect there next month), so we can end the marriage without any finger-pointing or negativity.

Indeed, no one is the villain here.  I have long realized that I would make a terrible spouse for anyone.  I married Steph because I held a glimmer of hope that maybe I was wrong about that, and I was shaken by the idea of spending the rest of my life wondering.  However, 14 years of marriage has proven to me that I am a person who should not be partnered.  I am also coming to wonder if partnered, not-partnered is hard-wired genetically, like being left- or right-handed.  When Steph and I married, many of the guests whom I invited came to the ceremony with a “This I’ve gotta see!” attitude.  When I made a visit to Cincinnati a month or two after my marriage, I stopped in a bar I used to frequent.  My former across-the-street neighbor was tending bar, and he said, “Paul, you’ll never believe this.  The craziest rumor’s been going around Clifton about you…”  He stopped in mid-sentence, glanced at the ring on my left hand, and said, “Oh, Jesus!  It’s true.”

Surely, I had no positive role models of marriage growing up.  My parents were monsters, people who had no business marrying, and even less business parenting.  I tried to take into consideration that not all marriages are like theirs, but they were so unavailable to me emotionally and spiritually that I learned to draw on my own resources, maybe to the point that I am either unwilling or unable to fully ask or receive that from anyone else.

The entries I post after this one will not all focus on the divorce.  Both Steph and I are maintaining our lives and our interests.  Steph is returning to the choir at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, singing at the 9:15 a.m. services.  I will continue to habituate the Sporeprint Infoshop and the events that interest me when I see them posted on the Columbus DIY message board.  We remain living together, although my office is now my bedroom.  (I have a twin mattress on the floor, which I upend when I am not sleeping.  Or at least I will upend it once I buckle down and clean this room–I’ve taken a page from Oscar Madison at his worst lately.)

While mustering the words to describe this turn of events, I went and pulled down my diary from the summer of 1996, the year we married.  Scotch-taped inside one of the pages, after an entry a week before the wedding itself, was a paragraph I clipped from The Discoverer, First UU’s newsletter.  We had mailed about a hundred invitations already, but in case we missed anyone from the church, we submitted this to the newsletter:



A similar announcement ran in the newsletter of 

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which Steph also 

attended at the time.  We had an Episcatarian service worthy of King’s Chapel in Boston.

We mailed out many wedding invitations, and people learned the date and time as soon as the next day, or a week to 10 days later, depending on the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service and how far away from Columbus they lived.  But the news of the end of our marriage, because of the Internet, traveled to people we love at the speed of light.  This afternoon, Steph and I sat down, each of us in front of a laptop, and wrote the following Google Document, which we emailed to friends in our address books:

Dear Friends and Family,

It is with some sadness and some relief that we share news that we are ending our marriage as soon as it is feasible to do so, most likely within the next 18 months.  We will be sorting out some financial, health, and insurance matters before we even file for the divorce and expect THAT may take upwards of six months.  In the meantime, we consider ourselves to be single, simply roommates who happen to be co-parenting.  

 We have decided that our priorities are Susie and our respective roads to happiness.  That means there will be major changes ahead for all of us, but that we will try to keep things as level as possible for Su as we can, though, at some point, we will stop sharing the same home and that will mean huge changes in her life as well.  Luckily, we are all resilient as hell and will get through this just fine.  

 Before you all start guessing at the whys and wherefores, we will tell you that no one here has done anything really wrong.  Over many years together, we have grown apart and gone our separate ways, so much so that we now find our paths lead in opposite directions.  If you want to know more specific details than that, you are welcome to ask.  We will tell you whatever you want to know within the boundaries of our own abilities to know.  We do, however, ask that you not question Susie about any of these matters.  If she wants to talk to you, she will let you know and we would be glad she has reached out to someone.  But, please let her be the one to open the discussion.  

 One thing we can tell you for sure is that our daughter will be in Steph’s fulltime custody throughout these months and into the future.  Paul will remain her loving and devoted father with all the responsibilities and rights so accorded.  

 The divorce will be an amicable one.  While the marriage may be ending, the friendship and deep respect we have for each other is intact, if not stronger, for having made this decision.  We leave the marriage with no animosity toward each other.  We do not feel that our many mutual friends need to “choose sides”.  We will always be a part of each other’s lives.  We do ask that everyone show Susie the support and love that she will need during this difficult time to come.

 Peace to All and Blessed Be!

Steph & Paul

 That is about all there is to report at the moment.  There is a financial morass to sort out, because both of us want to emerge from this as unblemished as we can.  I would like to think we will sail through that, but reality is much more different.

Hardly a Day of Rest

The last entry ended on a note of suspense, kind of.  When last we saw our fearless blogger and diarist, he was planning to walk from Fallis Rd. in Clintonville to his abode two miles south, all the while carrying a La-Z-Boy recliner on his back.  The recliner was in perfectly good shape, so no idea why its owner put it at curbside.

Well, I lasted about a block and a half before I aborted mission.  However, I didn’t think it’d be right to ditch the chair in front of someone else’s house, so I reversed direction and put it back where I found it.  My back made a crack sound that resembled a piece of firewood when you break it in half.
Now that that’s out of the way…

I am soooo glad that the weekend continues tomorrow!  This Sunday, which we’ve heard is the “day of rest,” was anything but.  Now that my new Hewlett Packard Pavilion Entertainment Notebook PC no longer sits amidst clutter, I am typing my first blog entry on it.  Susie must have been exhausted, ’cause I have my music on fairly loud (not wall-shaking) in my office, which is just down the hall from her bedroom, and she’s sleeping  right through it.  (I have Windows Media Player on “shuffle,” so it’s a tossup as to what will play next.  Currently, it’s America’s “Today’s the Day.” I’ve already heard Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Shadow Captain,” and LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.”)
The busy day began at 12 midnight, not at sunrise.  Midnight found me still hip deep (almost literally) in cleaning up my office, a task that I never truly completed since Steph and Susie gave up trying to use it as a sewing room.  The arrival of the new computer was also the excuse I needed to get to work and finally try to make the office neat.  I’m still Walter Mittyish enough to try and imagine this room many years from now, the entrance door gone, and a cable-thick velvet rope across the doorway, while tourists gape through the doorway to behold the room where HE wrote the…  As I was making this room presentable, I subconsciously had that in mind when I envisioned the finished product.  (TANGENT ALERT:  When my friend Robert Nedelkoff and I toured the Newseum in Washington in March, one of the exhibits we saw was the NBC News office of the late Tim Russert, Meet the Press host.  It wasn’t a pigpen, but there was clutter enough to make it appear that Russert had put in his share of long, sleep-deprived hours there over the years.  Ironically, the Newseum is now the site of ABC News’ This Week Sunday morning program.)

I had enough momentum going that I was reluctant to actually finish the task, even though I knew I was in the home stretch when I began taking bag after bag of accumulated trash downstairs to the big trash cans in the alley behind our house.  I was appalled at how many bottles of flat bottles of Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist I found.  Thank God I don’t smoke, because I would have burned down any of my dwellings long ago.

It was still dark out when I decided to immortalize the moment for posterity.  That meant that I decided to christen the Kodak EasyShare C180 that came as a free gift with the computer.  I posted the finished products directly to Facebook, but I would die before neglecting my Blogspot readers:

The center of operations, featuring my new HP open
on the desk, and the usual overloaded bookcases.

Yes, Virginia, there were reference books before
Wikipedia.  Under Big Boy and the Smith-
Corona Galaxie XII manual typewriter, my New
English Bible occupies a carefully chosen spot.  It
is nestled in between The Art of Fine Words, a tribute
to Arthur Hopkins (1897-1965), who was The Harvard
Crimson‘s head linotypist for 36 years, and the Thorndike-
Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary.  My logic: The
first printers were monks who produced Bibles, sacred sheet
music, and illuminated manuscripts; the Bible is The Word; and 
the dictionary is all words.

I’m not sure if I tried for the juxtaposition of the
different types of notebooks here.  The plastic
drawers contain MP3 disks of various radio shows,
money order receipts, some rings I no longer wear,
etc.  The screen-saver is a rare picture of a smiling
Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), along with his then-captain, Christopher
Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), from “The Cage,” the original Star Trek pilot–
later incorporated into Part I of the episode “The Menagerie.”
If I look up, here’s what I see.  The headstone marks
the grave of my friend, Cincinnati-born novelist
Robert Lowry (1919-1994), and below that is a 1962
article from the University of Cincinnati News Record 
about his book Party of Dreamers.
Simple explanation for this picture:
This is the gallstone Dr. Campbell removed
(along with the gallbladder) at Grant Medical
Center last February.  I like it better where it is now.

I finally ran out of steam sometime around dawn.  I could hear birds singing outside, and it was just starting to get light outside, but not bright enough to shut off the streetlights.  I think meteorologists refer to it as civil twilight.  When I went to sleep, I knew it would only be for a few hours, because Susie and I planned to go to church–the first time services were at 10 a.m., something that will continue until after Labor Day.
Susie went to a friend’s house after the service, and I went to Kroger to buy an Entenmann’s cake for a party she and I were attending in the afternoon (going all out!).  My energy levels were beginning to flag, so I forced myself out of the house to buy bread and mail some letters at Giant Eagle.  It didn’t perk me up as much as I would have preferred, because the walk to the party seemed to take forever, and it was only a little more than a half mile from our house.
The party (especially the company) invigorated me quite a bit.  Good hosts, good people, good food, and good conversation all around.  Our hosts are dear friends, but this was the first time I had ever been to their house.  (Susie had been there before, several times as a toddler, and just last month for a baby shower, but it was my first time.)
Susie and I left the party to head north to our friend’s apartment to feed the cats, change the litter boxes, and make sure the two cats were fed and happy.  Susie and I did manage to arrive at Olympic Swim and Racquet for the last hour it was open.  I didn’t bring a towel or swim trunks, because I had no plans to get in the water.  Susie changed in the locker room and was in the drink the minute they blew the whistle to announce that kids were allowed in the pool once again (the last 15 minutes of every hour are for adults only).  I had brought my trusty portable office–the blue bag complete with diary, books, MP3 player, and Diane the microcassette recorder–along to entertain myself while Susie was in the pool, but I slept in one of the plastic deck chairs at poolside until someone came on the loudspeaker to announce the pool was closed for the night.
And now it’s midnight, and I’m wide awake!  I thought I’d collapse over the keyboard while typing this entry.  Susie has remained asleep, through comparatively high-decibel pieces such as Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” and The Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.”
I’m having lunch with a friend at 1 p.m., so I can theoretically sleep until 12:45 if I want.  I doubt I will. 

Your Faithful Night Angel Blogging Here…

I’m typing this at church–the First Unitarian Universalist Church here in Columbus–around 2:30 in the morning.  I have spent many an hour in this building in the last three decades–as a guest, and as a member–but this is the first time I have spent the night.  Columbus is hosting the spring Youth-Adult Committee conference (known as a “con” in the lingua franca of the Unitarian Universalist Association) this weekend.  Susie is here, and I am a sponsor.

But how am I a night angel?  I am one of the adults who volunteered to take a shift walking around the church and making sure that all the kids are safe, doors to the outside are shut, that no one is doing anything they shouldn’t be doing, etc.  I have the 3 a.m.-5 a.m. shift, so I’m racing against the clock (and my battery power–I left my cord in the other room) to bring this blog up to date before I go on duty.

As the clock nears 3 a.m., many kids are still wide awake, playing games, singing, socializing, playing euchre, washing down Tortilla chips with room-temperature lemonade and playing the piano in Fellowship Hall.  (The piano selections have run the gamut from the “Ode to Joy” to “Piano Man” to “Eleanor Rigby.”)

When Susie and I went to the fall conference in Pittsburgh, it was a bit overwhelming for her, and for me I felt like I had come full circle.  In the spring of 1979, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the spring youth-adult conference of the Ohio-Meadville District.  (North America is divided into several autonomous geographic districts by the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston, somewhat analogous to a diocese in the Roman Catholic or Episcopal churches.  The Ohio-Meadville District covers most of Ohio, all of West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Southwestern New York.)  The camp was at Camp Tippecanoe, a YMCA facility in Harrison County, Ohio, and by the end of the first evening I was happy that I had gone.

For the next five years, I faithfully attended district youth conferences, fall and spring, as well as conferences at the national level (sponsored by Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), the national youth group, which, I soon learned, had an uneasy, and often very antagonistic relationship with many churches and with the denomination itself) travelling any way I could.  I rode Greyhound buses, I hitchhiked, I pre-arranged rides with friends headed to the same conferences.  All of this was before Internet and flat-rate long distance and cell phones, so I ran up astronomical phone bills at home and at church, impatiently awaited the arrival of the letter carrier daily, and developed many friendships that have lasted to the present day.

The youth have a much freer hand in governance than they did during my teen years.  I am eagerly looking forward to the worship service Saturday evening, because the one in Pittsburgh last fall was quite moving.

SEMI-TANGENT ALERT:  Compare this to a conference I went to in Massachusetts, which had no worship service on its agenda.  A musician and composer friend of mine at the conference and I were not happy about this.  He and I told the advisors (adults), “Just give us about 45 minutes in private, we’ll have a worship service for you.”  Locking ourselves in the minister’s study, we spread out several books of poetry, the Bible, and Hymns for the Celebration of Life (the predecessor to the current hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition), and a notebook.  We batted ideas and reading suggestions back and forth, hashed out an Order of Worship, and emerged with a service that went quite well.  I regret to this day that we didn’t think to record it.  One or two people were unhappy that two people ran the entire worship service, but if someone else had stepped up to the plate, we would have been happy to let them help us, or even take over the entire show.  Except for these minor rumblings, people complimented us on the service the rest of the weekend.

I do not know if Susie will be as enthusiastic or as zealous about conferences as I was.  It fulfilled a need in me that is far different from the way she is maturing.  It is no exaggeration (and this is neither the time nor the place for me to elaborate) that had I not found Unitarian Universalism, and through it the youth movement in its many incarnations, I would be in a very different place and situation than I am now.  It is not too much of a stretch to say that I would either be incarcerated or dead today.  I was listening to Steely Dan’s Katy Lied during work today, and the refrain of the penultimate song on that album is “Any world that I’m welcome to/Is better than the one I come from.”

If my life had a soundtrack, that would cover that aspect of my life.

Ohio-Meadville District of the Unitarian Universalist Association