What Hath God Wrought?

I guess the first words Samuel Finley Morse sent by telegraph are an appropriate way to christen my new computer.  After the theft earlier this month, I spent much time on the phone and online with Purchasing Power, a union benefits which enables me to buy computers through payroll deduction.  (Thirty-nine payments, and this baby–and the computer I bought for Susie–will be ours free and clear.)

So, this is the first blog entry on my spankin’ brand new Hewlett Packard Pavilion dv7.  The two computers (along with the various accessories and program disks) have been arriving all week, but tonight I finally cut the boxes open and set up both machines.

My new machine.

This afternoon, the leasing agent gave me the keys (all three of them) to our new half double on Maynard Ave.  Officially, Susie and I will be in residence Saturday, although we’re going to begin moving in piecemeal during the week.  (I am leaving most, if not all, of the furniture behind.  One of the reasons I’m leaving Weinland Park is to get away from the two-legged pests around me.  It would be counterproductive to take six-legged ones with me.  Thanks to the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, I’ll be able to start over from the ground up with new furnishings in our new place.)  Susie was happy as ever when she came home this afternoon (from a Unitarian Universalist Youth Conference in Kirtland, Ohio) and walked through the house the second time.  The floors smelled of fresh varnish, and all the keys worked.

Susie and I are “in exile” this week.  Last Sunday afternoon, I was jumped and robbed on E. 6th Ave. while walking to Kroger, after cutting across Weinland Park Elementary School’s playground.  If I wasn’t already vacating the neighborhood, I think I would be much more traumatized by the event, especially if I had the feeling that there was no escape.  The kid that ran up behind me and sent me sprawling across the sidewalk didn’t cause any physical damage, other than some pulled muscles in my shins and two skinned knees.  A bizarre byproduct of the mugging was that I am so grateful that I use a debit card much more often now.  If this had happened anytime before this spring, I would have cashed my paycheck on payday and carried one or two weeks’ worth of wages around in cash in my wallet.  So, as it was, this thug came away with $7 in cash, but I still had money available, even with payday almost a week away.  So, we’ve been staying with Pat and his family until we officially move into our place in the Old North.

I spent much of this weekend working.  The fall quarter started at Columbus State Community College, so I worked eight hours yesterday and four hours today.  The four hours today were much more boring.  I was operating at a serious sleep deficit, because Pat, his daughter, and some of his friends and I went to see Metropolis at the Grandview Theater.  It was the first time I had seen Fritz Lang’s dystopian 1927 movie, and it was Fritz the Nite Owl’s September offering.  The show started at 11, with the latest episodes of Aidan 5 and Metropolis-related music videos.  I wasn’t in bed until nearly 4 a.m., and out of bed again a little after 7:15.  I ran outside after showering and dressing, and barely made it to work on time.  As Messrs. Lennon and McCartney would say, I made the bus in seconds flat.

So what was the high point of the work day?  Nationwide Insurance’s world headquarters looms to the east of the Discovery Exchange, and I watched workers on a scaffold (like high-rise window-washers use) install a letter t at the top floor of One Nationwide Plaza.  They’ve already installed Nationwide’s trademarks and the letters N and a.  Looking out the windows facing west, I could watch the workers as they set the t in place.

Even a four-hour work day, on very little sleep, seems to drag on forever.  It was a little more bearable because there were two overflowing carts loaded with returned books, so I disappeared into the shelves and put the books back where they belonged.  I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t at church, but this is the only Sunday of the quarter that the bookstore is open, and every little bit of extra cash comes in handy.  It was both a blessing and a curse that I had something to look forward to–Susie’s return from the conference, and getting the keys to our new abode.

Amazing that I’m able to hit the right keys, and so post a blog entry that looks like passable English.  I am still learning this keyboard–it doesn’t quite feel right to me yet, although I know I am going to spend many quality hours with it in time to come (especially if I make another quixotic attempt at National Novel Writing Month come November).  Add to that the fact that I am quite exhausted, and I’m surprised this post doesn’t resemble a spilled type tray.

Another milestone of the weekend: I made a pot of chicken soup for dinner tonight, a very generous portion that served all six of us, with ginormous portions left over.  Tanya walked me through the procedure step by step, and I ate two whole bowls of it, and everyone was sated.  I received a lot of compliments.  Next week, I’m learning split pea soup.

Major Change in My Life on the Horizon

Steph returned from Florida very early Thursday morning, and is planning to move there permanently this June.  She’s already burning up Craigslist and other Websites searching for work.  Although we have no future together as a couple, as far as Susie is concerned, we have always been on the same page whenever it comes to her happiness and wellbeing.

Both separately and together, we spoke to her about the changes that will be taking place in the next two or three months.  Most prominently, we would let her decide where she would live, and with who.  There were advantages and disadvantages to both choices, as there always are.  She has lived here in Columbus her whole life, and has friends through school and church, as well as godmothers and proximity to the Unitarian Universalist youth conferences sponsored by the Ohio-Meadville District.  Alternately, Florida would provide a fresh start, a clean slate, the excitement of starting from the ground up, reinventing herself.

We told her she had until June to make the decision.  If she elected to live in Florida with Steph, she would stay here in Columbus until Steph established herself, job- and apartment-wise.  (Steph posted on Facebook that she is looking for preschool teaching jobs in the Tampa Bay area, and is willing to go as far north as New Port Richey.  Florida is one of the 12 states I have never visited, so I don’t know the geography or layout.)

Susie has made her decision.  She wants to stay in Columbus with me.  Steph’s and my final parting is unsettling enough that she feels moving to completely foreign terrain–especially with a parent who is also learning the lay of the land–would be worse without the comforting presence of people she knows and loves, and familiar surroundings and routines.  She is starting at Whetstone High School this fall as a freshman, and, although it is a new school, she will be with many of her friends from Dominion, and it is in the city where she has lived her entire life.

I was a little flippant when I titled my previous entry “Diary of a Bachelor Father.”  I guess I was more prophetic than I realized.  My thought had been that Susie would elect to stay with her mother, mainly because a teenage girl would want to be very close to her mother during this period of biological transition.  Steph will still be a very active part of Susie’s life–nothing will change that.  She will still see Susie during vacations and holidays, and I’m sure they’ll be in constant email and Skype communication.

This is not hitting me like a ton of bricks.  I am, in fact, surprised and humbled by Susie’s decision.  Nor is it the first time when I anticipated single parenthood.  The first time I thought it might be possible was when Susie was less than a week old.  She was born on Monday, and she and Steph left Grant Hospital on Friday. We had been home about three hours when Steph went into congestive heart failure.  The squad took her to Riverside Methodist Hospital, and I stayed behind with infant Susie.  When Tanya and Pat knocked unexpectedly at the door an hour later (Tanya, our midwife, was pregnant–very pregnant–with her daughter at the time), I feared they had come to deliver the news that Steph had died.  But this was not the case.  They offered to take Susie for the night so I could be with Steph.  Susie had her first sleepover at four days of age.

During both heart surgeries, the possibility that I would raise Susie alone loomed over us.  Susie was not quite two when Steph had her first one, in 1999.  At that time, Steph and I decided that I would use insurance money to pay for a housekeeper and nanny until Susie started kindergarten.  In 2008, during the most recent heart surgery–which included my 45 seconds of widowhood–I thought single parenthood was a distinct possibility, and was trying to gear up for it emotionally.

The transition will not be as abrupt this time.  Steph will be here until June, and the past week has shown me that I am up to the job.  (I wasn’t always, and I’m the first to admit it.  During the pregnancy, I often wrung my hands about what a bad parent I would be, since my mother, father, and stepmother were horrible parents.  The paradox is that the more I doubted my abilities as a parent, the more people who knew me believed I’d be an excellent parent.)

I’ve told this story when this blog was at LiveJournal, but I think it bears repeating.  There was a man in his early 60s named Buddy whom I saw on the Sullivant Avenue bus several times a week while going to or from work, running errands, shopping, etc.  He remembers when I’d carry Susie on my shoulders, and he called her “Susie Q.”  (Susie will probably never be a Creedence Clearwater Revival fan.)  One day, I ran into Buddy on the bus and casually mentioned I was meeting Susie’s mom for lunch.  He did a double take.  “Her mom?”  I said yes, puzzled as to why this was such a jolt to him.  “Man, I always thought you were a widower.”  He had never seen Steph with Susie and me, and when he grew up, the father didn’t play as active a role in the child’s day-to-day life, especially if the child was a girl.

As for romantic or remarriage plans for me, there are none.  I am still surprised that I ever married at all, because for most of my adolescence and young adulthood I vowed never to marry.  I echo the words of Abraham Lincoln (in an 1838 letter) on the subject:

I have come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying, and for this reason, I can never be satisfied with anyone who would be blockhead enough to have me.

His life probably would have been a happier one had he stuck to this.  The dreadful novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter failed to explain how a vampire hunter would marry an emotional vampire like Mary Todd.

Susie and me, December 2010

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.

Washington Beckons

Now I’m watching the clock waiting for 11:30 to get here, so I can be en route to the One Nation Working Together march tomorrow in Washington, D.C.  My original plan was for Susie to come with me, but another road trip, especially one this long, was too much, coming on the heels of the trip to North Olmsted last week.  Additionally, Susie is the stereotypical “Are we there yet?” kid when it comes to travelling.  If she was getting impatient for the two-hour journey to Cleveland to end, the seven-plus hours to Washington would be excruciating for her.  She told Steph on Monday that she really didn’t want to go.

I made a few phone calls, trying to fill the seat.  We have a donor who provided the bus free of charge (I’m not sure who), so I was working the phones and the email trying to find someone to go with me.  Steve was tempted, but he declined; big work week, so he was looking forward to spending the weekend staring at the ceiling.

But, I will not be travelling alone.  Amelia, Steve’s 20-year-old daughter, is coming with me.  I think it’s her first time in Washington.  The only road trip I’ve ever taken with her has been to Mineral, but I’ve been with her and her dad locally for several events, such as the Isaiah 58 rally at the State House and the Ramadan trip to the mosque.  I’m sure she’s enthusiastic about the trip.

During some idle time at the computer, I went on Google Maps and calculated how much I will have traveled between Friday night and Sunday morning, when Amelia and I return to Columbus.  The total will be 1372 miles.  There was the trip to and from North Olmsted last week, and last night Pat and I went to the Winchester Tavern in Lakewood to see Allan Holdsworth in concert–the third time I’ve seen him.  (What amazed me about that little junket was how comparatively early we were headed back to Columbus.  The concert began at 9 p.m., and there was no opening band.  The show was over by 10:30.  Pat and I stopped to get gas and pick up some burgers before we left Cleveland.  I think my clock radio said 1:15 when I came back to my bedroom/study.)

Before I promise an illustrated blog entry upon my return, I need to conduct an experiment here.  Sunday night, after coming home from North Olmsted, I tried to load some additional pictures from the Con.  Blogger.com was not cooperating, and I understand from other bloggers they were experiencing the same thing.  (The problem is not in your set!)  So, I am going to try and load a picture below:

 Susie and her friend Harriet back up their friend
Florida (at microphone) during the talent show at North
Olmsted last Saturday night.  They were insurance against
stage fright or chickening out.

Houston, all systems are go and all lights are green!  This is the picture I tried to post Sunday without any success.  Now I know that the malfunction with Blogger.com and loading pictures has been repaired, so I’m taking the Kodak EasyShare with me to document the march.
My fellow bibliophile and collector of arcane knowledge Robert Nedelkoff is meeting us for lunch at 1:45 at Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy, a restaurant and bar located on G St., NW in Foggy Bottom.  It’s always good to see him; this will be our third in-person meeting, and I believe I will meet his wife Rene this time.  I have never heard of this eating establishment.  The building hasn’t been a pharmacy for years, but the name is too normal for a Washington, D.C. pharmacy.  Two chains (since defunct) in Washington had names that always brought a chuckle to me.  One was Drug Fair, which was absorbed by Walgreen last year.  (Drug Fair could also have been the name for Lafayette Park after dark.)  The other was Peoples Drug, which always made me think it was a huge methadone clinic.
Right now, I just glanced at my watch.  It’s 11:08 p.m., and Steve and Amelia will be coming around to pick me up soon.  I’m packing light–camera, diary, the latest New Yorker, and a copy of On the Road (my equivalent of carrying a St. Christopher’s medal, I suppose).  Just like the New Jersey trip, I will handwrite the blog in a pocket date book (scrambling around my desk to find one), and then post backdated entries in here, assuming Blogger.com’s ability to load pictures doesn’t crash while I’m gone.

This is One of Those Memorable Birthdays

I started my life on April 29, 1963 at a hospital (St. Joseph’s in Parkersburg, W.Va.).  I turned 47 today, and I started this birthday in a hospital.  From 10:30 last night to mid-afternoon today, I was at the hospital while the doctors, nurses, and technicians were trying to figure out the cause of my chest pain and shortness of breath (It said “SOB” on my chart, and I’m sure many people who have met me over the years will second that!).

The chest tightness and shortness of breath happened during my last hour and a half at work, but I managed to conceal it from my co-workers.  When I left work, I debated heading straight for the hospital, but I’ve had these symptoms before, and they’ve always quickly passed, so I decided to let it ride for awhile.

I let it ride until about 10:30, when the pain, the shortness of breath, and the tightness were all impossible to ignore.  I called Pat, and he took me over to Riverside Methodist Hospital, site of Steph’s 1999 heart procedure.  Fortunately, it was a pretty quiet night in the E.R., so they took me back almost right away.

Pat stayed with me until I was assigned to a room.  The nurses drew blood, I had two enzyme series, and the nurse kept giving me nitroglycerin tablets to lessen the pain in my chest.  The tablets did bring down the pain, but the flush of heat and the shortness of breath almost cancelled any benefit.  It’s probably the closest a male can come to hot flashes.

The E.R. doc who came in took down the pertinent information I gave him, and his grimness made me worry. “I’m not liking what you’re telling me,” he said.  He specifically asked about family history of heart disease, and  I told him my father and his father both died of heart attacks, and the doctor was especially concerned that my grandfather had died at 52, a comparatively young age.

The nurse added morphine to my IV, as an added measure for pain reduction, and told me in the morning they’d be giving me a stress test.  I should have been happy they weren’t ordering a cardiac catheterization.  Steph has had several, but even without her first-hand knowledge, I can’t imagine having a needle jabbed up your groin is all that pleasant.

The hospital gave me two birthday presents (not counting the morphine!).  One was a very nice bracelet, and the other was a Mylar balloon that said Happy Birthday!.  This is a picture of the bracelet:

I decided that whenever I received a hospital bracelet, I’d staple it to a page in my diary.  This current volume has more than its share, in between my CT scan in December, the chest X ray at Mount Carmel West Hospital, the gallbladder surgery, and now this.

The CT scan was better than the one I had in December, especially since it didn’t entail drinking any barium beforehand.  I still rolled my eyes when I was lying on that moving table listening to the machine tell me, “Take a deep breath.  Now hold it.”  I was thinking all the while, If I could do that, I wouldn’t be here.

Pat left once I was settled, after calling Steph to let her know my situation.  I was in and out of sleep until morning.  I think I fell asleep to the National Weather Service radar.

There was lots of waiting before the stress test, which was fine with me, because I’ve had them before, and they aren’t pleasant, especially for a non-athlete like myself.  In the meantime, a technician injected me with a radioactive isotope (good thing my days of fathering children are long over!) and I had a gamma camera scan, which took awhile.  I was able to lie still during it; I was so exhausted that I must have gone to sleep during it.

And then it was time for the stress test.  I had to stay on the treadmill, at (allegedly) a walking pace, until my heart rate was 150 beats per minute.  This took about 10 minutes, with the treadmill’s speed and incline steadily increasing.  I wasn’t supposed to run, just take long strides.  All the while, I kept thinking of the closing credits of The Jetsons, with hapless George Jetson trapped on the dog-walker and shouting, “Jane!  Stop this crazy thing!”  The nurse and the technician kept telling me how well I was doing, but I thought I was going to collapse at any second.  I was so exhausted I definitely did fall asleep during the second gamma camera scan.

The doctor finally discharged me in mid-afternoon.  Nothing wrong with my heart and lungs, but they were still clueless as to the cause of the pain.  He wrote me a Vicodin prescription for the pain, so I’m ready in case it returns.  The ultimate diagnosis was Chest pain–pleural.

So, I’ve been in bed most of the evening since I returned home.  (I came home via the Goodwill thrift store, where I treated myself to a new–to me–pair of tennis shoes and a T-shirt advertising The Florentine, an Italian restaurant that truly made living on the West Side more pleasant.)  Susie visited me with her present and a cake, but mostly I was in and out of sleep.  I do plan on working in the morning, although I will bring Vicodin along with me just in case the pain returns.

I chuckled when I thought about being in Lafayette Park in Washington last month, taking my dose of codeine-laden cough medicine by drinking it straight out of the bottle.  I was worried a police officer would see it and arrest me.  (My psychologist pointed out that I was hardly the first person to take opiates in Lafayette Park.)