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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Reduced Moonlighting, But No Spike in My Energy

From now until after Labor Day, I’ll only be working Saturday mornings (9 a.m.-noon) at the Discovery Exchange.  I happily greeted this news, but with the reduction in my moonlighting responsibilities has not come a jump in my energy level, or any motivation or desire to put any effort into the activities that I yearn to do whenever my time is occupied with work.  In The Journals of John Cheever, he frequently describes “cafard” as his current state of mind, and that matches mine.  So far I can truthfully write that I haven’t followed his lead and tried to dull or reverse the cafard by a return to drinking.

A case in point is the fact that I didn’t make it to church this morning.  (During the fall, I am pretty conscientious about attending services, but this slacks off in the summertime, when the services are almost all lay-led.  Many Unitarian congregations discontinue services altogether in the summertime.  The flip explanation for this is “What other denomination could God trust out of His sight for three months?”  The truth is that 19th-century Unitarian ministers were anxious to get out of Boston during the summer.  Boston in the summer makes Washington, D.C. in August seem like a deep freeze.)  This summer would be when I’d make one of my rare appearances, because the erstwhile president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, John Buehrens, was speaking.  I was so exhausted and/or unmotivated that I didn’t even bother to set my alarm before going to bed last night, and by the time I finally summoned enough energy to get to bed, there was no way I could get showered, dressed, and out of the house in time to make it to the 10 a.m. service.

Thanks to Susie, I was able to perk up a bit during the afternoon.  We spent the day in Clintonville, eating lunch at the Golden Arches, and then she had a hair trim at Lucky 13.  I posted on Facebook later in the afternoon that we exhibited mutual respect.  I was bored while Susie’s stylist shampooed and trimmed her hair, but the time would be too short to really concentrate on the book I had with me, or to take out my ballpoint and write in my diary, and none of the magazines in the rack interested me.  I knew Susie wanted a hair trim, so I stayed there and waited, and she looked great when she stepped from the chair.

We walked up to the Whetstone Library, but I was distracted on the way by a cluttered antique store we passed a block or so from Lucky 13.  The very petite Corona portable typewriter in the front window called to me, but I didn’t feel like paying $30 for it.  Nonetheless, I ignored Susie as she ostentatiously tugged at my wrist and tried to pull me away from the store, and we went in.  She and I had just spent 20 minutes or so in Wholly Craft, an offbeat craft store she loves, which sells everything from jewelry to journals to clothes, all of it hand- and locally made.  I indulged her browsing, and she was gracious enough to indulge mine.  I looked at several typewriters (still searching in vain for a Simplex toy typewriter, circa 1925, which was the first machine for my friend, novelist Robert Lowry), and a $20 Teac reel-to-reel recorder briefly tempted me.  I was not tempted to buy them, but a suitcase full of Edison phonograph cylinders selling at $3 apiece held my attention for quite awhile.  (As I write this, I’m typing with Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” blaring from my laptop speakers.  Juxtapositions, anyone?)

Probably just as well there was no phonograph for sale.  That would have made buying the cylinders all the more tempting.

Susie and I went to a “poolnic” this afternoon at Olympic Swim and Racquet.  (In case you haven’t figured it out, this word is a portmanteau of “pool” and “picnic.”)  Susie and I made a quickly-in-quickly-out trip to Kroger and bought two pies, and she was in the water more than she was poolside with the food.  (Although I brought my suit, I never did get in the water… although I kept meaning to.)  The other people from the poolnic brought much good food–macaroni and cheese, beans, watermelon, assorted vegetables, so Susie came home quite sated.)

Yesterday afternoon, after the bookstore, Susie and I went to a joint birthday party/graduation celebration near the Walhalla Ravine.  The college graduate was a young woman who was Susie’s first babysitter, and this woman’s daughter just turned a year old.  (I still remember the mother, age eight or nine, carrying infant Susie around the church and proudly announcing, “This is my baby!”)  One of the other guests graduated from Parkersburg High School, 12 miles from my hometown of Marietta, Ohio–although he graduated in 1994 and I in 1981.  (When two intellectually inclined people from the Mid-Ohio Valley leave the area and meet each other years later, you’d swear you’re listening to two former POWs comparing their Hanoi Hilton experiences.)

I found myself admitting that the people of Marietta High School weren’t as provincial and bigoted as I have described them previously–either in one-on-one conversations or in this blog.  Maybe I was in a charitable mood because my 30th-year high school reunion was last night in Marietta, and I wasn’t attending.  But I told this person that my classmates were tolerant of my always reading books, or always holding a pen, or announcing at an early age that I wanted to be a poet–instead of a race car driver or a Marine.  The attitude was pretty much like, “Don’t make fun of Billy.  He can’t help that he was born blind.”

At the Doo Dah Parade, I Expanded My Horizons and Learned a New Word

Am I the only person out here who was ignorant of planking before today?  The Doo Dah Parade began 45 minutes late this afternoon, which meant many bored and restless parade-goers lining both sides of N. High St. in the Short North.  (Correction–Susie and I stationed ourselves at the tail end of the parade, and we were out on High St. awaiting it at the time it was stepping off from another point in the Short North.  07/05/2011)  There was a sign on the façade of the Short North Tavern proclaiming a 1 p.m. stepping-off time, but they were nowhere near ready to go.  Children kicked and chased beach balls back and forth across High St., and then Susie saw some of the alleged adults trying out planking.  This means lying down in the street face down, arms at your sides, long enough for one of your cohorts to snap a picture.  Said picture will most likely be on the Internet within hours.  Susie heard about it when one of her Facebook friends posted about it, and then ran pictures of her and her sister doing it.

So she tried it today, lying parallel to the center line on North High Street.

Susie demonstrates her new interest, planking.

Since the Doo Dah Parade “organizers” posted a schedule on their Website’s home page, I thought that the 1 p.m. starting time was pretty firm.  Susie and I hurried through lunch at Mac’s Café, since we arrived there at about 12:15.  We both ate well, and decided to skip dessert because we were worried about missing the start of the parade.

July 4 tardiness seems to be a time-honored tradition.  When I was 11, Dad and I went up to Lookout Point on Harmar Hill in Marietta to see the fireworks (which were shot from the Washington County Fairgrounds).  They were supposed to start at 10 p.m. sharp, but it was about 11:20 before the first rocket screamed into the air.  In the meantime, there were many restless, tired, bored, and hot kids being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and their parents’ patience was fraying by the second.  I remember hearing three girls entertaining themselves by pinching one another, chanting, “Pinch!  Pinch!  Pinchy-pinch!”  (That night, I wrote in my diary about “three giddy girls” who “were age nine, looked seven, and acted four.”  This from my mountain of years!)  Dad and I didn’t get home until past midnight, and my mother–in a rare moment of genuine righteous anger–was angry about the late start, and talked about writing a letter to the editor complaining about the progressive lateness of the fireworks display. 

In an earlier entry this week, I wrote about the 50th anniversary of the death of Ernest Hemingway (which was July 2).  While looking for something else, I found my tattered Lancer Paperback of Ernest Hemingway: The Life and Death of a Man, by Alfred Aronowitz and Pete Hamill.  It appeared in 1961, very shortly after Hemingway’s suicide, and I bought it because of the description on the back cover, which describes Papa’s life as one anyone would envy:

He lived his life as he chose.
He went wherever he wanted to go, he fished whenever he wanted to fish, he hunted whenever he wanted to hunt, he loved whenever he wanted to love.
He lived a life of truth: the only worthwhile endeavor for a man.
His life and writings touched and changed millions of others; the legacy of genius he left will never be forgotten.
He died as he chose…

 The Doo Dah Parade featured the usual suspects, especially the Marching Fidels–a retinue of Fidel Castro lookalikes, complete with beard, olive-drab army jackets, and cigars.  The Fishnet Mafia, sponsors of the monthly Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35, were out in force, doing the Time Warp again (and again!) all the way down High St.  Some of the marching acts were beyond description or theme, such as this one:

The work day beckons at 8 a.m., but luckily I only have a half day.  I just “happened” to schedule an appointment for the afternoon after the return from a long weekend, and when 5 p.m. comes, I’ll have to overcome the hard-wired urge to head toward Cleveland Ave. and the Columbus State bookstore.  I won’t be working there until next Saturday morning, so Susie and I will be at poolside tomorrow evening.  (Christ, I sound like a character from The Stories of John Cheever!)  The weather looks like it will cooperate; the high is supposed to be 89 degrees and cloudless.  I may even go in the water myself!  (During the ’70s, I used to shudder when I watched the “Take the Nestea plunge!” commercials on TV.  They would still have to pay me a five-digit sum to act in one of those!)

Making the Transition From Office to Office/Bedroom Permanent

I moved permanently into my study a few weeks before Steph and I decided that we would end our marriage.  However, I’ve decided to take advantage of the long weekend to give the office a long overdue cleaning, which made me more Indiana Jones than Molly Maid.  Before Steph and I sent the Google Document I cut and pasted into an earlier entry, Susie helped me move a twin mattress into the study.  This is a small room, so when I’m not sleeping, I upend it against one wall, Murphy-bed style.

Pictures will follow.  The project is not yet completed.  I marvel at my ability to generate clutter.  I am an incorrigible Oscar Madison, which is one reason why I’m sure that I’d be a bad roommate, as well as a bad spouse.  The room is now a bachelor pad of sorts, and the phrase has two connotations.  You either conjure the image of a total pigpen, barely fit for habitation, and the other is a lair for seduction (à la Glenn Quagmire on Family Guy).  I’d like to strike a happy balance between the two.

I have never been much for elegantly decorated living quarters.  The only reason I gravitate toward larger dwellings is because of my books.  I know that there are such things as Kindles and iPads, but they’ll never take the place of the feeling of being surrounded by literally thousands of volumes.

Because of financial necessity, in my late teens and 20s, I often lived in single rooms, such as dormitories, rooming houses, or the YMCA.  I was always willing to settle for less than optimal conditions in exchange for the chance to live alone.  While I was moving crates of books, I found a copy of Straight Talk from Prison, the autobiography of Lou (“The Convict Writer”) Torok, written while he was at the Chillicothe Correctional Institute in the 1970s.  In one of the early pages, there is a picture of Torok in his cell.  The cell looked almost like the room I rented in the Elmwood Place neighborhood of Cincinnati:

I corresponded with Torok while he was confined
at the Luther Lockett Correctional Facility in
Kentucky (where he died in 2000).  Ironic, when you
consider that one of the captions in the book said: 
“Lou at work in his cell.  Looming in the foreground,
his typewriter stands as a symbol of rehabilitation for
‘The Convict Writer.'”  Guess not!

While switching this room over to full-time living quarters, I took another step away from tokens of marriage.  On the wall to the left of my desk, I hang a large United States map that came from National Geographic.  Next to that was a framed needlepoint that Steph gave me on St. Valentine’s Day 1997, just after we learned she was pregnant with Susie.  It says: “Paul, You are my forever Valentine.”  I’ve put that in a drawer, and replaced it with a Beatles poster (the Abbey Road cover) which came from the Really, Really Free Market last Sunday.
I went to the Main Library downtown yesterday, and realized, after I checked online, that I needed to pick up something at Whetstone as well as downtown.  I thought about hoofing it the whole way (a little over six miles), but I didn’t because the temperature was in the 50s, and I wore a short-sleeved shirt.  So, for want of a hoodie…
And I wish I had walked it, autumn temperatures or no.  I rode most of the way up High St. on the bus with a guy who worked with me at Medco, and had a reputation as the plant’s resident malcontent.  He no longer has the job–mostly because of his being himself a little too often–but he still has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Leveque Tower about the place.  He holds me in awe because I was able to go “over the wall” and escape to a better job.
I needed a big walk today, and even though it’s midnight right now, I’m thinking about walking to and from Whetstone Library as soon as I publish this entry.  (That’s about 4½ miles round trip.)  I found some CDs that aren’t overdue yet, but I’d better return them before they’re buried again.

I needed a big walk because I had a big breakfast.  Most of the congregation of First Unitarian Universalist Church is at the Labor Day retreat in the Hocking Hills.  This is also the last three-day weekend that will feature really nice weather, so when I considered those two factors, I knew church would be a ghost town this morning.  So, Susie and I went to breakfast at the Clintonville Resource Center, where I generously partook of sausage casserole, scrambled eggs, potatoes, apple juice, and a pastry.  Not only did Susie eat less than I did, she burned most of it off working in their garden planting carrots and radishes.  I walked back with her and then took a siesta for several hours in the afternoon.  By comparison, I had a small and late dinner of two tuna sandwiches and milk.

According to the icon from The Weather Channel on my monitor, it’s 57 degrees outside.  So I’ll dress sensibly for the walk–either a hoodie or a windbreaker.  Monday also marks the end of the season at Olympic Swim and Racquet Club, and Susie wants to be there, even if she’s digging slush out of her ears after the final dive.  (Last year, when they announced the pool was closing for the season, a lot of the kids joined hands and dove en masse into the pool from the sides, which is a no-no per the pool’s rules.)

Susie and I were last there Thursday evening, after Steve came over to help Susie with her geometry homework.  (He ended up as baffled as she was, although he did better than I did.)  I had brought my Memorex MB1055 cassette recorder along, because I was in the midst of taping a letter to a friend.  (The friend doesn’t have a microcassette recorder, so I didn’t bring Diane.)  Yes, recording a letter from poolside smacks of John Cheever, but I wanted it to be in the mail before the long weekend.  I didn’t get very far, because the lifeguards decided to blare the OSU-Marshall football game over the loudspeakers.  They tuned the radio to 97.1 FM The Fan and put the microphone up against it.  I couldn’t concentrate with that blasting in my ear, and I’m sure my friend wouldn’t be able to pay attention to me with that in the background.

And so to walk…