Now, Let’s Get This Goddamn Plane Airborne

My traveling by plane happens about as often as seeing a kid from Weinland Park with his pants pulled up, but so I could maximize the time I spend with Susie in Florida this weekend, I will, in a little over an hour, be a passenger on AirTran, and at 2:32 p.m., I will be landing in the Sunshine State.  I’m taking advantage of Port Columbus’ free Wi-Fi to type this entry before boarding begins.

This will be my second time in Florida.  Until Susie began spending her summers (and eventually moved there permanently this past summer), the only places in Florida I had any desire to visit were Fort Jefferson (on the Dry Tortugas) and Key West, particularly Ernest Hemingway’s house and Sloppy Joe’s, the bar he made famous.  (It depresses me to see fraternity and sorority folk coming back from spring break wearing Sloppy Joe’s T-shirts displaying Hemingway’s face.)

There is, although remote, a Merritt Island connection to the title of this post.  Merritt Island is the home town of White House photographer Cecil Stoughton, who took this picture aboard Air Force One on November 22, 1963, as Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office as the 36th President of the United States, two hours after John Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas.  As soon as LBJ ended the oath with, “So help me God,” he turned to his aide and issued his first Presidential order, which is the title of this post.  (I think everyone was glad that someone had shut off the Dictaphone recording the audio before he said this!)

Merritt Island native Cecil Stoughton took this picture of Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, Texas.  A Dictaphone captured the audio.  (The microphone is visible in front of Judge Sarah Hughes.)

Merritt Island’s other famous resident was Zora Neal Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God.  (I have to admit I have never read that, or any of her works, although it seems that high school kids have it on their reading lists more often than when I was in school.)

I think that my neighbors and co-workers think Susie and I have joined the ranks of the jet-setters.  In February and June, respectively, Susie traveled to Costa Rica and Romania.  I have been to Washington this year (for the Forward on Climate Change march), and I was in St. Louis last weekend.  My most-traveled year, however, is undisputably 1983.  I was living in Boston, during the time I was typesetting The Harvard Crimson, and made several trips back to Ohio, and at least two to Washington, D.C.  My furthest trip that year was a Greyhound trip from Boston to Los Angeles.  I was going to the 1983 Continental Conference of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) at de Benneville Pines, in the San Bernardino Mountains.  (It’s located at a dot on the map called Angelus Oaks.)  The trip was over 2900 miles.

I remember when Susie sounded most boastful of her journey.  This spring, she was walking barefoot in the hallway on the second floor of our place.  (All the floors are hardwood, since the previous tenants’ dog had ruined all the carpeting by doing his business all over them.)  I was getting ready for work when I heard Susie cry out in pain.  She had a splinter in the sole of her foot.  It did not look like something easily removable by tweezers, so I took her to an urgent care in Victorian Village.  We were the first ones in after they opened, which meant no wait.  As the nurse was taking down Susie’s information, one of the questions was, “Have you traveled out of the country in the last six months?”  Susie sounded very proud to say, “Costa Rica.”  Steph took her to the doctor before school started in Florida, and I’m sure the question arose again.  Now Susie can say, “Costa Rica and Romania.”  She may even include Poland and Finland, since that was where she changed planes en route.

Speaking of planes, my cell phone calendar (which has now become my appointment diary and address book) just beeped, so I will be heading to AirTran’s gate to await the boarding.

Through New Lenses…

It’s a poor worker who blames his tools, but I have slacked off on the blog because I am still trying to accustom myself to a new pair of bifocals.  After insurance, I paid $15 for new Skechers bifocals at the Ohio State University College of Optometry.  Each new pair of bifocals requires adjustment, and learning new habits about where to look, how to align your eyes with your target (horizon, screen, page), and I’m still learning.  It’ll be next winter before I can go in for another eye exam, so I’m making the most of it.

Last Monday night, Susie arrived home from Romania.  She and the others were exhausted, jet-lagged, but very happy to be back.  It took most of the rest of the week for Susie to get back onto Eastern Daylight Savings Time (two nights in a row, she was in bed by 9 p.m., but still up before 6:30 or 7 a.m.).  She went through the laborious process of loading her pictures (both still and video) from her Nikon to her laptop, and from there to her Facebook page.  (There were some 800 pictures, of which she posted at least 300.)  She told me she had written three journal entries for the whole 10 days she was in Eastern Europe.  Part of me wondered why she wasn’t writing pages every night, but I also understand what a friend once wrote to me, apologizing for not having written: “I’ve been living life so much I haven’t had time to write about it.”

Susie is adamant that she never wants to eat rye bread again as long as she lives.  It seems that rye bread is a staple of the Romanian diet.

I am pleased that there were no crises with any of the travelers.  On the morning Susie arrived in Romania, I did get a text message asking for a PIN number.  (Instead of exchanging currency, like I did for the Costa Rica trip, I bought Susie a $150 prepaid Visa card, since the Hungarian and Romanian currencies are so erratic.)  I texted her back two possible numbers, and offered to send her money by Western Union if they didn’t work.  (As it turned out, the card did not operate with a PIN.  She was able to buy most things–clothes, tea, munchies, etc.)

Susie was the first one of the travelers down the concourse at Port Columbus, and I took this picture of her after the welcome-home hugs and kisses:

Susie upon her return to the U.S. at Port Columbus International Airport (CMH), Monday night, June 17, 2013.

I put Susie a little more at ease when I told her that we can stand down from “red alert” about my aortic aneurysm.  While she was in Romania, I went to see a vascular surgeon at the Ross Heart Hospital on the Ohio State campus.  The worst part, as always, was the time on the treadmill for the stress test.  I am proud that I managed to stay on it for over 7½ minutes, and achieve the 180+ beats per minute that the technicians wanted.  In previous stress tests, I’ve had to bow out either from exhaustion or from pain in my joints.

The vascular surgeon has said I do not need to see him again until November.  At that time, he will check the aneurysm again and see whether it has dilated any further–once it reaches 5.5 or 6 cm, then it will be time to plan surgery.  In the meantime, I am on Coreg (for blood pressure) and Lipitor (for cholesterol), one each morning.  I have tried to ride the trike more; earlier this month I rode from Franklinton through Victorian Village, Olde Towne East, and back across the Scioto to Franklinton, a distance of almost nine miles.  My knees were sore at the end, but my stamina was mostly intact.

Right after telling me he would see me in November, the doctor ordered an ultrasound echocardiogram, to be done immediately.  This took almost an hour, and the technician scanned my heart from every possible angle, and my shirt was stuck to me with conducting gel for the rest of the afternoon.  Apparently, he didn’t find anything radically amiss, because his office didn’t call me to say, “Come in sooner.”

This weekend was Pride weekend in Columbus.  It’s the third largest gay pride celebration in the U.S., behind San Francisco and New York, and Goodale Park and downtown Columbus was electric with activity and pageantry.  Susie and I wandered the vendors’ and food stands in Goodale Park Friday night, when everyone was at their best.  (Since it was evening, it got cooler, and it was before everyone would be dehydrated and exhausted from Saturday’s march.)

Yesterday morning, Susie and I went downtown and wandered around the many groups (churches, political parties, and businesses) represented in the parade, until Susie found some of her friends from the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, the only organization in Ohio solely dedicated to LGBTQ youth.  Susie has visited their facility on N. High St. fairly frequently, and came home laughing and full of anecdotes after a Friday evening laser tag activity they sponsored.

I was not going to participate in the parade, but I took a position on High St. with my camera.  I shot some video as well, such as when the parade rounded the corner from W. Broad onto High St., and the insane rantings of a street preacher with a sandwich board and a bullhorn.

But there was only one picture I had to take.  I waited for Kaleidoscope’s banner to appear, and they came, shortly after banners from the King Avenue United Methodist Church and the church a block west of me, the Maynard Avenue United Methodist Church.  And I almost dropped my camera in surprise.

Susie, who vowed that she would hijack a ride on a float (as opposed to walking the 1.2 miles from City Hall to Goodale Park), was just ahead of the Kaleidoscope banner, and she was carrying the Pride flag.  She was naïve enough to assume I would not immortalize the moment with my camera:

Susie on W. Broad St., flag-bearer for Kaleidoscope Youth Center.

Susie apparently did not object too much to my picture-taking, because one of the flag-bearing pictures became her Facebook profile picture later in the afternoon.  Classmates of hers from The Charles School have posted to compliment her and to “like” the picture.

First Time Blogging Since Turning 50

Early onset senility has not been the reason why I have not logged into this blog in nearly eight weeks.  I won’t waste my readers’ (or reader’s) time by listing all the lame reasons for why I have been absent.  I think I’ve been like many people who try to keep diaries.  They’ll go to the bookstore and buy a blank journal, write in it like mad for a week or two, and then toss it in a drawer and never pick it up again.  As far as keeping this blog current, to paraphrase A. Conan Doyle, “I can but try.”

I turned 500 (oops, one too many zeroes) on April 29.  Since then, I’ve done another stint at the Columbus State bookstore.  After a day trip to Cedar Point, Susie’s sophomore year at The Charles School ended.  At the end-of-year assembly, she learned that she is one of 20 students accepted for the Early College program at Ohio Dominican University.

However, the big news for Susie right now is that she is, even as I type, en route to Romania.  She and six other teenagers–and three adult chaperons–left Port Columbus this morning for a 10-day Justice Trip, representing First Unitarian Universalist Church here in Columbus.  (This was the best expenditure of a tax refund in the 30 years I have been filing!)  Just before I started typing, I received a text message from the church’s Associate Minister, letting me know they’ve all landed safely at JFK in New York.  (They will be there until late afternoon, before embarking on the longest leg of the trip, which is between New York and Helsinki.  There will be much tighter connections between Helsinki and Warsaw, and Warsaw and Bucharest.)

Susie is the first of our immediate family to journey outside North America.  My overseas travel was 15 minutes in Ciudad Juarez in 1987, where my sole activity was buying a bottle of tequila for $1.15.  Steph lived in upstate New York until she was nine or 10, which meant frequent trips in and out of Canada.  However, Susie journeyed to Costa Rica (for the “Winterim” trip at The Graham School), and now will be headed across the Atlantic Ocean to Romania.  (Although it is known as “the Eastern Europe of Eastern Europe,” Romania plays a prominent role in Unitarian history, and is as important as Jerusalem or Rome.  The only Unitarian monarch, John Sigismund Zápolya, ruled Hungary in the mid-16th century (as John II).)  A Reader’s Digest version of the Unitarian history of the region can be found here.

Our Associate Minister picked us up at 7:45 for the ride out to Port Columbus.  (The flight was supposed to leave at 8:30 a.m., but did not leave until after 10.  He called me, and the parents of all the other youth, around 2:15 a.m. to let us know.)  Before everyone headed to the TSA metal detectors and the American Airlines boarding area, they posed for pictures.  Here is the group, rarin’ to go:

Just across from the American Airlines ticket counter, after checking in baggage and scanning passports.  Susie is on the left, in front of the Honda logo.

There were many planning meetings for this trip.  One of the adult chaperons wisely mentioned that they would be together almost constantly, and they would get on one another’s nerves.  (There will be a buddy system to make sure no one is out and about alone.)  Susie told me that when the Graham School trip to Costa Rica ended, the plane had landed at Port Columbus, and was still sitting on the runway before the passengers disembarked.  One of the teachers in charge told everyone, “I love you all, but I don’t want to see any of you for 72 hours.”
I am taking the day off from work.  I thought about coming in to work once I knew Susie was airborne, but my sleep was spotty last night (Susie and I had considered staying up all night, but I caved a little after midnight, and she went to bed around 1 a.m.  I was just getting to sleep when my phone rang, bringing me the news the flight would be leaving later than expected.)  I foresee an early night for me tonight.  I am hoping that Susie and the others will take advantage of the long flight over the Atlantic Ocean to Finland, and get some shut-eye during that.

Susie: From Heat to Heat

I’ve informed my Facebook friends that today begins the longest month of my life.  To be specific, this morning at 8:55 Susie boarded a Southwestern Airlines plane and flew to Tampa to spend a month with Steph in New Port Richey.  The heat here in Columbus has been oppressive for much of the past week–I’m sure it makes Washington, D.C. in August feel like a walk-in freezer.  But Susie is not fleeing the heat by going to the Gulf Coast of Florida.  If anything, it’ll be just as bad, if not worse.

Last night, I slept very badly.  Part of it was feeling down about not seeing Susie for a month, but part of it was worry about if (or how) I would drop the ball in the pre-flight and -boarding logistics in getting Susie aboard her plane this morning.  I have not flown since December 1983, when I was still living in Boston.  This is partly because I wholeheartedly agree with a line in Cervantes’ Don Quixote: “The road is always better than the inn.”  I don’t really feel like I’m traveling when I get into a sealed aluminum tube and overlook clouds, little houses, and golf courses, and then disembark at my destination.

The other reason is financial.  Greyhound is cheaper than flying, usually, and the experience of moving from one town to another is much more exciting and fulfilling to me.

Susie’s trip through customs and onto the plane was flawless.  My co-worker Janice and her husband Steve picked us up just before 7:30 this morning and drove us to Port Columbus, and Susie and I came prepared.  She had her new state-issued ID in hand, with a backup document (a notarized copy of her birth certificate).  It was smooth sailing from the Southwestern Airlines check-in counter to the boarding area.  I had to show my ID to get an “escort’s pass,” so I could stay with her until she was airborne, and we had to put our shoes and our pocket contents into little plastic buckets to pass through the metal detector and fluoroscope machine.  (This was nothing new to me.  You often have to jump through these identical hoops to go to the post office across the street from where I work.  This has been in effect at a heightened level since 9/11, although shades of it began to appear after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.)  Susie didn’t carry any bottles of liquid.  Her laptop was the only item she had to remove from her backpack and put through the scanner.  I had deliberately left my keys behind, because I was afraid that my ring knife–that constant souvenir of my job at the Cincinnati post office–would raise some red flags.

Susie’s flight left on time, at 8:55.  While she waited, she drank a big cup from Starbucks, and sat on the floor writing in her journal.  I stayed in the boarding area until I saw her plane actually lift off.  (I texted Steph at 8:56 a.m.: Susie’s plane is taxiing down the runway.  Departing on time!)  Steph texted me at 11:04: We have her.  By the time that text arrived, I was back home trying to nap, since I had slept so badly last night.

Susie and I did get some respite from the heat, with a little help from our friends.  The air conditioning in our half-double is the Calvin Coolidge variety: It does not choose to run.  So, we spent Thursday and Friday evenings at Pat and Tanya’s, and I surprised everybody at Olympic Swim and Racquet by not only getting into the pool, but by immersing myself completely underwater for about 45 seconds.  The water was not cold at all around 6:30 or 6:45, since the sun was shining directly down onto the pool.  (Pat made comments about “the Great White Whale” as he saw me in the water.  No doubt he was alluding to the title of this blog, which honors the creator of said Great White Whale.  He, of course, resembles Michelangelo’s David.)  We were all so exhausted that once we got to Pat and Tanya’s house, everyone–adults and kids–were fast asleep by 10:30.  On Friday, I worked the sound system at Trinity United Methodist Church in Marble Cliff, for the 10th annual dinner of the Mid-Ohio Workers’ Association.  After the meal ended, I had planned to meet everyone at Olympic for the 9 p.m. showing of The Karate Kid, but Pat texted me a little before 8 to let me know the pool was closed and the movie postponed.  (Susie enjoys the nighttime swimming more than the movies.  She would have gone even if the movie had been Marmaduke, just for a chance to swim in the pool under the lights at night.)

Pat and I ate lunch at the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest on Friday.  It was on the site of the old Ohio penitentiary, which played host to O. Henry and Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, and was the site of a horrific fire (322 inmates dead, 150 injured) in April 1930.  The combo, led by Brian Olsheski, playing on the AEP stage was quite impressive.

I am typing this at the OSU Library.   According to my cell phone, it is 5:52 in the afternoon.  I had considered going up to Olympic and immersing myself for awhile, since it is just as miserable out as before, but I have seen several people coming inside the library with wet umbrellas, and there is a sound I keep hearing.  I cannot decide whether it’s thunder and wind, or someone pushing a book cart.  Either way, it looks like no pool for me tonight.

I changed my iGoogle page slightly to reflect Susie’s journey to see her mom.  On the opening page, I display Columbus weather.  It says the current weather here is 88 degrees, with thunderstorms.  (That answers the question I asked in the previous paragraph, doesn’t it?)  Until Susie returns, I have New Port Richey’s forecast in the display as well.  Currently, it’s cloudy and 93 degrees there, but the forecast says there will be thunderstorms for the next several consecutive days.  I feel for Susie, because I know she had visions of relaxing on the beach during her visit, and that won’t be happening for the next few days.

No doubt about it–that’s thunder I’m hearing.

This table appeared in The Columbus Dispatch‘s Website.  The mercury has been climbing quite a bit these past weeks!