Time-Tested and -Honored Social Media

Several blog posts ago, I wrote about the SoHud Block Watch that my neighbors have organized in response to the graffiti, car break-ins, thefts, and vandalism occurring in our particular patch of Columbus the last several months.  Word of mouth worked well when the idea of a Block Watch first started to percolate, and this quickly progressed to closed groups on Yahoo!, Google Groups, and Facebook.

The latest meeting was last night at the Maynard Ave. United Methodist Church.  I was unable to be there in person, since I went to a parents’ meeting at The Charles School at Ohio Dominican University, where Susie began classes last Monday, but I was able to play a part before the meeting occurred.

With all the cyberspace methods of spreading news now available to just about anyone, the SoHud Block Watch decided to spread the news the old-fashioned way.  When I came home from work Monday, there was a stack of leaflets and a roll of Scotch tape in between the storm door and my front door.  The organizer had assigned me territory as to where to hang these.  So, the following night, I went out with the little stack of leaflets and the roll of tape, and began taping them to the doors of houses.  My territory was east of where Susie and I live, short blocks sandwiched by N. 4th St. to the west and the Norfolk Southern train tracks to the east.

I needed the exercise, and it was not as brutally cold as it has been the past several nights, although it was icy and I nearly fell several occasions.  (Grudgingly, I am coming to realize that I am coming to an age when a fall can have serious consequences.  So far, I have imitated the Weeble: I wobble, but I don’t fall down.)  I went up and down both sides of the block on Wyandotte Ave., E. Maynard, Chilcote, and Clinton, before I ran out of flyers.

One of the organizers of the Block Watch publicly complimented me on Facebook for a job well done, since several newcomers from the sections I canvassed appeared at the meeting.  While I was out in the night with my stack of flyers and the roll of tape, I felt a little like the town criers you see in children’s stories about the American Revolution.  (I remember seeing a flyer in a supermarket that was called Town Crier, and its logo was a guy in a tri-corner hat, ruffles, tights, and boots, ringing a bell, and from his wide open mouth was a voice balloon shouting, “Hear ye!  Hear ye!”)

My route was supposed to cover E. Tompkins as well, but I ran out of copies.  (Before I began distributing, I put two copies in my diary, so when those pages are studied by the historians of the future, there will be extant copies for all to see.)  Many flyers, whether for political candidates, bands, pro- or anti-abortion rallies, or store openings, usually end up in the trash within hours.  Sometimes, I have looked on eBay to see if anyone is selling original copies of the Hands Off Cuba! Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets that Lee Harvey Oswald distributed on the streets of New Orleans in the summer of 1963.  I have also looked to see if anyone has the original handbill for the Ford’s Theater performance of Our American Cousin for the April 1865 night when Lincoln was assassinated.

Wonder how many of these were discarded before Lincoln went to the theater that night?

In 1960, Richard Nixon, who was then Vice President, made a campaign stop in Marietta when he was running against John F. Kennedy for President.  My parents, who were quite enthusiastic Kennedy supporters, went to see Nixon speak in front of the National Guard Armory on Front St.  I have always been irritated by the fact that my dad eventually lost much of his ’60 Kennedy campaign memorabilia–his PT-109 tie bar, his Frank Sinatra campaign record (“High Hopes”), and his ALL THE WAY WITH JFK button, but he did manage to keep a little pamphlet called The White House–American or Roman?, by V.E. Howard.  It addressed the question of whether it was proper for a Roman Catholic to be President.  After reading two or three paragraphs, you can tell that the answer is a screeching “No!”  (I keep my copy inside the front cover of a 1922 book, The Suppressed Truth About the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, by Burke McCarty.  The “suppressed truth,” of course, was that the Vatican was behind Lincoln’s murder.)

When I arrived in Boston in 1982, I arrived pretty much broke, and was desperately searching for jobs that paid very soon after taking them.  Before I took my short-lived job as a dishwasher and busboy at a delicatessen in Brookline, I considered taking a job leafleting in Harvard Square.  These were small flyers for any business that paid to produce them, anything from shoe stores to tailors.  The pay was minimum wage, and it meant standing out in the weather and trying to press these into the hands of passersby who avoided you as much as they avoided the panhandlers, and also competing with people handing out other types of printed matter.  Women in hijabs timidly held out “paper against Khomeini,” and Scientologists badgered people about taking a “personality test.”  (I told one that I already took one, and it said I was obnoxious.)  Hare Krishnas endlessly tried to issue invitations to free vegetarian meals (I kept one of their brochures in my wallet, in case I ever needed a free meal), and Bridge Over Troubled Waters workers tried to get literature to runaways and kids living on the streets about their services.  I decided not to try to take this job, although the leafleting service would have hired anyone who could stay in one place and move one arm for eight hours.

I have searched eBay, so far in vain, for the WANTED FOR TREASON handbills that circulated in Dallas in November 1963, in the days before John Kennedy’s assassination.  These featured front and side photographs of Kennedy, and was styled like the posters that hung in post office lobbies.  Many Dallas-area Democrats (and Republicans who were not on the far end of the political and lunatic spectrum) probably declined them, and tossed them into the nearest trash can, but their value skyrocketed from the moment the news spread that Kennedy had been killed.

Political extremists, both Left and Right, still cling to the art of the leaflet.  As recently as my last few trips to Washington, for peace and anti-fracking marches, I have come home with “9/11 was an inside job” flyers, poorly printed and typeset descriptions of chemtrails and how they’re turning us all into zombies, and the evils of the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral Commission.

Evangelism learned the value of the flyer long ago.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, managed to condense his version of the New Testament into a short little work called The Four Spiritual Laws, which is short enough to be readable over a single cup of coffee and a sandwich.  And, there is Jack T. Chick, a Talibangelist who has published booklet-sized comic books to spread his own way-out-there version of the Gospel (along with other “little-known facts” such as that the Vatican was responsible for the Holocaust, that Dungeons and Dragons is a gateway drug for Satanic worship, etc.), and many of his tracts are given out at trick-or-treat (with or without razor blade-studded candy), left in Laundromats, or on buses and public restrooms.  One tract you won’t see much anymore is Lisa, which is beyond question his most grotesque.

I’ll make one brief segue before ending this entry.  I finally broke down and bought an external keyboard, since my keyboard has been DOA, when I tipped over a cup of milk on it.  The thought never occurred to me until this week, but tonight Susie and I went to Micro Center so she could buy a new power cord for her Acer laptop.  For a mere $4.05, I bought an Inland external keyboard.  It took less than 10 minutes to install, and now I am back in business.  It’s not as easy to use as the regular keyboard, but it is much better than trying to use the onscreen keyboard!

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Banishing Thoughts of Work Until Tuesday

When I left the job today at 5 p.m., I made it a point to shut off the weekday and Saturday alarms on my cell phone–your faithful blogger/online diarist does not have to work anywhere until 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.  I did set the 8:45 Sunday morning alarm, so I can go to the informal 11 a.m. Christmas service at church on the 25th, but, other than that, my sleep will be open-ended.

The only downside to this news is that Susie is not here to celebrate the holiday with me.  Late Wednesday afternoon, she boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando, so she can spend Christmas with Steph.  My friend Steve took us to Port Columbus International Airport, and her flight left on time, at 4:50 p.m.  She was due to arrive in Orlando at 7:05 p.m., but, according to Steph, she actually arrived a few minutes early.  After I saw that her plane took off on time, I went to the Discovery Exchange and worked the usual 2½ hours.  (I had given my supervisor a “definite maybe” about whether I’d be there.  If Susie’s flight left on time, I would be in for work, but if it was late, I would not come in.)  The last day of school at The Graham School was Tuesday, and Susie will return to Columbus on January 3, the day before Winterim starts.

I won’t be totally alone for the holidays.  I will be having Christmas dinner with Steve and his family after the service at First UU, and I am planning to go to the 10 p.m. Christmas Eve service.  Nor did I go overboard with gifts.  I bought for Susie, and she will open my gifts to her on Christmas morning in Florida.

My period of solitude at work has ended.  Due to an organizational shuffle at work, I am in a new department, and I was working alone in its new area on the 10th floor, but my co-workers joined me this week, so now I have other people around me while I’m working, and I am glad to have them.  My desk is near the south-facing window, so I have a good view of the Leveque Tower, and a not-so-scenic view of the back of the YMCA.

One of our supervisors has donated a small library of audio books.  Currently, when I have been scanning documents, and not listening to doctors’ audio dictations, I have been listening to The Stand (the original edition, although I hope Stephen King decides that The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition should be recorded.  (A co-worker has generously reduced this large novel to three optical disks by recording it as MP3 files.)  I have that and It (also on MP3 files) at my desk, along with cassettes of Kerouac’s On the Road read by Matt Dillon.  The only other audio book I have is an abridged reading of Thomas Merton’s Run to the Mountain: The Story of a Vocation, which is the journal covering the years between his conversion to Roman Catholicism and ending a week before he entered the monastery in Kentucky where he spent the rest of his life.

I was excited when my supervisor sent this email about the collection of audio books she was donating.  I went over to see what she supplied.  One was To Kill a Mockingbird, and there were some Nicholas Sparks novels (the only one I ever read was The Notebook), and some abridged James Patterson novels, not all of them Alex Cross novels.

However, she did have–unabridged–all of the Twilight novels.  I probably will not read them.  Except for Dracula, vampire stories have never interested me that much, and my attraction to Dracula was because Stoker told the story in an epistolary format.  Susie read the first two novels in the Twilight series, reading them over her friends’ shoulders.  Since then, she has come to agree with Stephen King, who so famously wrote that

Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity.  Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.

Before I worked for the State of Ohio, I worked as a data entry typist (known as a “header entry operator”) at Medco Health Solutions.  I had brought my love of audio books with me, a love that began in the summer of 1986, when I was working as a temp for the State, in the Division of Elevators (and Boilers before that).  At Medco, enough of us listened to audio books that there was a lot of swapping and borrowing back and forth.  Because of this, I read things I would not normally have read, such as Sue Henry’s Murder on the Iditarod Trail and the novels of Clive Cussler.  The only time I voluntarily did without was when the only books available to me were Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind novels.

Their lunatic theology aside, the books are not that well written.  I learned this when I was waiting for a bus, and someone had left behind a copy of Glorious Appearing: The End of Days at the bus stop.  (This is apparently Volume XII of the series.)  Bored, I read the first few pages, and shook my head and left it behind for the next poor bastard.  (I think the person left it behind the same way some people do with the little religious comic book tracts of Jack T. Chick, in a bizarre way to proselytize.)  The late Christopher Hitchens (I won’t call him great, because no one who supported the Iraq War is great) described the Left Behind series most eloquently and accurately as “generated by the old expedient of letting two orangutans loose on a word processor.”

I had thought that I would be working at the bookstore tomorrow morning, but a four-, instead of six-hour day.  Yesterday morning, however, there was an email from my supervisor, wishing me a merry Christmas and telling me the bookstore would be closed Christmas Eve.  So, I am going to stay up as late as I want to tonight, and sleep as late as I choose.  With the 12-hour work days I have been logging lately, that is indeed a welcome gift.

It’s 100% irrelevant to the entry, but here is a plate from Christmas 1988, depicting the President’s House at Marietta College, a scene from my home town.  (My dad was never president of Marietta College–nor did he want to be–but I went to three or four functions here in my day.)