Ditched Blog for NaNoWriMo

We are down to the final six days of NaNoWriMo–the authors’ form of PMS–and one sign that I have actually been at the keyboard grinding out the requisite number of words per day has been the neglect of this blog.  This month has been a fairly active one, and not exclusively at the keyboard.

No news is good news when it comes to cardiac news.  There is nothing to report on that front, except for the appointment (and possible cardiac catheterization) on the 11th, just over two weeks in the future.  The aneurysm remains at 4.5 centimeters, 1½ cm shy of how dilated it would be to require surgery.  My understanding is that if I wake up every day, that means it has not burst.

NaNoWriMo has not completely dominated my life this month.  The weekend after Veterans’ Day, I went on a truly quick trip to Washington, D.C.  It was a milestone because this was the first time I had gone as a tourist since about 1983.  Previous blog entries and my diaries bear me out when I say that all of the trips I have taken to Washington since that time have been politically-oriented: anti-war, pro-environmentalism, 350.org, etc.

I don’t know where I learned the phrase “bang-zoom,” but it is fitting for this trip.  I left by Greyhound Friday night (it was supposed to be at 9 p.m., but we didn’t pull out of the station on East Town Street until 10:30 or so), traveled by way of Pittsburgh, and arrived at Union Station in Washington just after 8:30.  My tour guide and boon companion on the trip, of course, was Robert Nedelkoff, who is well versed on D.C. history, although not a native, and literature, music, and other subjects as well.  When I arrived at Union Station, I texted him: Houston, Tranquility Base here.  The Eagle has landed.  It is always good to make allusions like that to someone who is old or well read enough to actually understand them.

One of the stops would be Arlington National Cemetery, since the following Friday would be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, it was “only fitting and proper” to visit his grave.  However, I did feel like I was visiting a grave while I was in Union Station, waiting for Robert to arrive on the Metro.

When I was in Washington in February, Robert and I took a tour of the Barnes and Noble, which was going to close in six to eight weeks.  I bought a journal for Susie and a paperback James Patterson novel (when in Rome… the Alex Cross series takes place in D.C.) for myself.  I went to the site where the former Barnes and Noble had been, hoping to get some satisfaction from seeing an empty storefront.  No such luck.  H&M, a Swedish clothing chain, has opened a store in its place, and there was a very rapid turnaround time between the two businesses.

My main reason for going to D.C. this weekend was to see the JFK exhibit at The Newseum, but I was disappointed with this.  Other than some contemporary hardware (such as the original yellow copy displayed in a Teletype machine from United Press International, the clothes Lee Harvey Oswald wore when arrested, and JFK’s personal Smith-Corona electric typewriter), there was nothing that I either could not access on YouTube or which I had not purchased as DVDs at the Cincinnati Nostalgia Convention.

Author James L. Swanson autographs the copy of End of Days that Robert bought for me.  This event was at Politics and Prose on Connecticut Ave. NW on Saturday night during my visit.

Maynard Ave.’s diarist in residence (left–on the level, complete with bubble in the middle) and Robert Nedelkoff, November 16, 2013, on the balcony of The Newseum.  The Capitol Building and the Canadian Embassy are in the background.

New to me was the International Spy Museum, which seemed to focus more than it should have on James Bond and the various villains and nemeses he has encountered, both through the Ian Fleming novels and the many movies since the 1950s.  This was understandable, it seems to me, since espionage is the type of business that, in order to be successful, leaves as little of a trail, paper or otherwise, as possible.  I was amused to see the gold-plated Royal manual typewriter on which Fleming wrote several of the Bond novels.  (My first exposure to Ian Fleming was, of course, my Little Golden Book copy of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car.)  I also took some pictures of different wire and reel-to-reel recorders to share with a reel-to-reel tape recorders enthusiasts’ group on Facebook.

Ford’s Theater’s exhibits seem to focus more on Lincoln’s career and Presidency more than the assassination.  New to me were swatches from the ropes used to execute the four conspirators in July 1865, and the padded hoods worn by the prisoners during their imprisonment.  (The wardens and jailers at Guantanamo took a page from Edwin M. Stanton’s playbook.  I don’t believe that Stanton was the Keyser Söze who manipulated the events leading up to Lincoln’s murder, but his treatment of the suspects once in custody was unconscionable.)  Some of the possessions that John Wilkes Booth had on his person when he was captured and killed–his wallet, small photographs of five women, and a diary–were also on display, with the diary opened to where 18 pages are missing.

Part of the exhibit at the Petersen House, across the street from the theater, includes a large tower representing every known book written by or about Lincoln.  The house itself is where Lincoln died, with several additions.  The silliest one included Lincoln in various contemporary media, including a cover of The Amazing Spider-Man where he shares the frame with Spider-Man and Captain America.  I was a little miffed they did not show a still from the Star Trek episode “The Savage Curtain” (Stardate 5906.4).  I was very glad they did not display anything from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

The crowning jewel of the trip was–aside from the excellent meatloaf at Jake’s American Grille on Connecticut Ave., NW–a visit to the Politics and Prose bookstore.  I heard James L. Swanson speak, promoting his new book, End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.  The new hook, these past few years, for Kennedy assassination books, has been the lone gunman theory, and Vincent Bugliosi’s doorstop Reclaiming History has been the most convincing.

I did get to the microphone to ask one question, dealing with the sudden estrangement between Marina Oswald and her benefactor and hostess, Ruth Paine, the Quaker woman who took Marina in rent-free and helped care for her two infant children when the Oswald marriage began to go on the rocks.

Swanson autographed End of Days for me, as well as the copy of the coffee-table book Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution I bought at Ford’s Theater.

I’m so surprised that I’m typing this at 6:37 a.m. on a Monday morning.  I am very slow to get out of bed in the morning, but I took a “nap” once I came home from Soulful Sundown, the monthly 5 p.m. service at the Unitarian church.  This nap lasted well past midnight.  I woke up, heated some Chef Boyardee lasagna, but decided not to try and sleep any more.  I went into my office, typed 1831 words of the NaNoWriMo project, and then decided to use the momentum I had started to write here in the blog.

Soon, it will be time to dive in the shower and then catch the bus, for another day of civil service.

Dateline: Merritt Island, Fla.

I have yet to take a melatonin tablet, but sleep will be fast approaching.  So, I’ll try to type some thoughts about the long trip to Orlando that ended early this evening.  I left Columbus at 9:15 last night, and spent the next 22 hours on Greyhound, and actually arrived at Orlando 20 minutes early.

This is my first time in the Sunshine State.  Susie has been down here all summer with Steph and Steph’s partner Mike.  Susie will be coming back to Ohio with me on Sunday morning (another first: the first time I have been on an airplane in almost 30 years), and I’m spending a little R and R here in Merritt Island, on the Space Coast of Florida.

I am glad I made the trip down by bus, although the portions of the trip occurring in the nighttime hours were tedious, once I left Cincinnati.  It was odd for me for a bus trip to not terminate in Cincinnati, so when the rest stop ended, I had to remind myself that I was going further south.  I was not able to sleep very well as the bus went down Interstate 75 through Kentucky, although I did manage a few scattered hours once the bus crossed the Tennessee line.  All I had to eat on that leg of the trip was an overpriced bag of animal crackers, which I bought at the Greyhound station in Chattanooga.  (The same bus station also featured 20-ounce bottles of Coke products for $2.25.  I passed on that!)

My only change of buses was in Atlanta.  The bus station there is too small and too chaotic, which is surprising for a city that size.  However, with the help of the station manager, the driver of the Atlanta-to-Orlando leg of the trip quite efficiently loaded the passengers, and we made very good time all the way to Orlando.  (During a rest stop in Tifton, Ga., I had some fried chicken at Church’s, which was my only meal until Steph, Mike, Susie, and I had a big dinner at Kelsey’s Pizza Pasta Kitchen in Merritt Island.)

The brevity of this account is a far cry from the first travelogue I ever wrote.  I think the first “long” manuscript I ever wrote (long since lost) was when I was 11.  It was called “Two Trips to Richmond, Virginia,” and I described two trips I made with my parents to Richmond, when my uncle was seriously ill with the congestive heart failure that would eventually kill him.  I faithfully described every bathroom break, food stop, Mail Pouch barn, and trip to the hospital that I could remember.  The end product was 48 single-spaced typewritten pages.

I am no stranger to long bus rides, but this one took a lot more out of me than I thought it would.  Even taking a melatonin tablet on the bus didn’t help me sleep.  I didn’t read much, either, because it seemed that would require more mental energy than I could summon.  My mood perked up as the bus neared Orlando, and especially when Susie ran up to me and hugged me in the terminal.

Now that I’ve visited Florida, there are only 11 states I have yet to visit.  They are in the Pacific Northwest, the Deep South, and Alaska and Hawaii.

I went to Volunteers of America and bought a large suitcase for this trip, and then had to buy a larger knapsack than the one I usually carry–one that would fit this laptop, as well as books, my diary, camera, and other necessities of travel.  Even so, I looked overloaded, because I also had to carry the black over-the-shoulder bag containing my CPAP machine.  (On the way back from Kelsey’s, we did some grocery shopping at Publix, since I had to buy distilled water for the machine.)

I had difficulty loading Blogger’s page while I was on the bus, otherwise I may have attempted an entry in “real time.”  (I have a hard time picturing Jack Kerouac with a laptop during his travels.)

Now, as Samuel Pepys would say, “And so to bed.”