Empty Nest

When I posted my last entry, I was hoping that one form of childish magical thinking actually was true: If I did not talk about it, it would not happen.  The events of this past week have proven me wrong.  I avoided the subject in my blog, in my emails to friends, and in my diary, but feel that I should pass along the news to the people who follow this blog.

Susie will be living in Florida for the foreseeable future.  This came about because, despite her stellar grades at The Charles School, and being one of 20 students admitted to Ohio Dominican University’s Early College program, she was quite unhappy at Charles, and said she would have a nervous breakdown if she returned there in the fall.  Steph emailed me to tell me that Susie had been asking about what the schools are like in Merritt Island.

And (just my luck!), Steph happens to live in one of the few places in Florida where the schools are actually half decent.  We did not force Susie to make a decision one way or the other, mainly because it would cast a pall over her entire time in Romania, and prevent her from enjoying the trip.  Steph and Mike came to Columbus the Saturday night after Susie’s return from Eastern Europe, and we reached the decision in an emotional session at Susie’s counselor’s office–Steph, Susie, and me, with a Kleenex box very handy.

Susie informed her friends that evening, when the parents and kids who went on the Romania trip gathered at the Unitarian Universalist church for a pálinka tasting (a fruit brandy indigenous to the Carpathian Basin).  This was sad news, especially as they were reeling from the taste of the brandy (I drank Sprite, and was glad I did, judging from the reactions of people who drank).

Susie’s last hurrah in Columbus was the Saturday before she left.  She marched in the Gay Pride Parade with her friends from the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.  I went downtown with her, and we wandered back and forth among the floats and the banners on Front St. before she found some Kaleidoscope kids, so I left her with them and went back to find a place to shoot some pictures.

I had plenty of pride (lower-case p) when they came marching up Broad St. and turned the corner onto N. High.  Not only was Susie with the Kaleidoscope contingent, she was proudly carrying a Pride flag.

She told me later that she wished it had been the Bisexual Pride Flag, much like the one she had designed for herself for the Pride parade two years earlier.  Also, she showed the usual teenage embarrassment when she saw Dad there on the curb with his camera out.  She must not have minded all that much, because by evening, it was her Profile picture on Facebook.

Susie carrying the Pride flag on W. Broad St. during the Columbus Gay Pride parade, June 22, 2013.

Susie left for Florida (by way of upstate New York, where many of Steph’s family still lives) a week ago today, early Wednesday morning.  The night before, we went to Steph’s live reading at Kafé Kerouac.  The reading was only a little successful in diverting my mind from her departure.

This is a picture of her and me after the reading:

Susie and me at Kafé Kerouac, June 26, 2013.

I have managed to stay busy and diverted since Susie’s departure.  My old Ohio University friend Ivan has been here since Wednesday night, visiting from Vermont.  (He lived in Columbus after graduating from Ohio University, but moved back to Vermont in ’08 when his father became terminally ill.  He has stayed there since, including during the recent death of his mother.)

Comfest took up much of my weekend, the annual Community Festival (the “party with a purpose”) in Goodale Park from Friday night (June 29) until Sunday evening, the 30th.  There were vendors’ booths, topless women, blocks-long lines for beer and wine, discreet but rather open pot-smoking, overheated dogs, families with SUV-sized strollers and complaining children, teenage Juggalos trying to sell moonshine from Big K cola bottles, and bands.

Saturday night’s festivities closed early, because of a massive thunderstorm with lightning, high winds, and pelting rain.  The musicians on the Gazebo and Bozo Stages did not want to use their microphones and amplifiers during an electrical storm, so the music shut down before dark (the storm began sometime around 7:15 or 7:30).  Some of the vendors (food and otherwise) stayed open, but by 9 p.m., police were trying to shoo people out of the park, saying that it was closed.

My major purchase was only a semi-Comfest purchase.  My favorite booth is from One Man’s Treasure, a small electronics and retro technology store in Millersport.  All weekend, I lusted after a Panasonic RQ-320S cassette recorder, a model from the 1970s.  Its main attraction was that it had a combination hand-held and condenser microphone, something I had never seen before.  I did not decide that I had to own it until Sunday night, after Comfest ended for another year.  I emailed the proprietor of One Man’s Treasure, and asked if I could send him a money order (including shipping and handling).  Ivan offered to drive me to Millersport on Monday evening, so we made the 66-mile (round trip) journey after work Monday.  I have only tested the tape recorder for a few seconds, but the sound quality, based on the “Testing… one… two… three” that I recorded, is quite crisp, especially for a machine that old.  The model seems to be in mint condition.

I think that it will be awhile before it totally sinks in that Susie will not be back for awhile.  I am used to spending the summers on my own, but when school starts again, and I come home to an empty house every evening, then I think I will finally grasp it.

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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.

My Dinner with Susie; The Easiest $20 I Ever Earned

Unlikely I’ll limit myself to those two subjects once the fingers really get going across this keyboard.  Imagine how much longer and rambling these blog entries would be if I used all my fingers to type, instead of just the two index fingers (and those at 80+ words per minute!)

Susie and I made our first trip in ages to our beloved Blue Danube Restaurant on North High Street Wednesday night.  I’ve loved the place since 1986, when the late Adam Bradley took me there–the food is quite affordable, it has a very eclectic jukebox, the service is good, and the clientele is like having a front row seat at the circus.  I never took Susie there until they banned smoking.  (In the days when they still allowed smoking, Steph told me to toss my clothes into the laundry basket and head immediately for the shower whenever I returned from there.)

The Blue Danube, 2439 N. High St.

Susie and I both ate quite well, one of those meals where we roll and stagger out of the restaurant.  The total bill came to $26, including tip.  We had just missed a southbound High St. bus when we left, so we walked back to Weinland Park, all two miles of it.  Both of us still felt stuffed when we came home, despite our having burned off at least half the calories we consumed.

Gay Pride Weekend just ended in Columbus.  Susie and I went to a potluck at church Friday night, and she helped make signs for the march, while other people helped bake.  Susie worked with an entire cookie tin full of crayons and colored markers, and produced her own sign.  Someone else stapled it to a stick for her, which was a good thing.  The staple gun at church is capable of inflicting Passion of the Christ-type wounds in the hands of inexperienced people (double meaning there, both of them would work).  After we came home from the potluck, I went out to Goodale Park, where the LGBT community had set up booths, food stands, and music equipment.  It had rained earlier in the evening, and I think that kept some people away, but the sky was clear by the time I reached the park.  The ground was muddier than I would have liked, but the sidewalks were dry.

I walked home in an alley parallel to High Street, and out of the blue a guy offered me $20 if I would stay with his very drunk boyfriend.  How drunk was the boyfriend?  He was so drunk, he was unconscious on the concrete under a fire escape.  I would earn the $20 to stay with the drunk while the sober half of the couple went to get their car.  I agreed, and the sober boyfriend left.  A lesbian couple came up the alley, took one look at the guy prostrate on the ground, and one of them said, “Party on!”  I refrained from making any snide comments about him.  Although I haven’t touched anything stronger than Diet Pepsi since 1998, I have been too drunk to make it home under my own steam more times than I care to admit.

The sober guy came back, and the two of us loaded the inebriated one into the car.  As I tried to get him to his feet, I marveled at how somebody has finally invented a boneless person.  The guy was almost completely dead weight, but the boyfriend and I finally managed to get him in a sitting position in the passenger seat of the car and put on his seat belt.  (I even found myself saying, “Hold on, Baba Looey!” while I was trying to get the guy into position.  No idea where that came from–I haven’t seen Quick Draw McGraw, even on Boomerang, since I was about six.)  The sober guy, true to his word, handed me a $20 bill before he got behind the wheel and they drove off into the night.  I was pleasantly surprised to get the money, although I would have chalked it up as a mitzvah performed had he not paid me.

It’s almost 11 p.m. right now, and the neighbors right now are going full blast–so I’m playing Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells to drown them out.  If their decibel level is still off the charts later on, I will really crank the volume on this laptop (I have my Tweakers plugged in as well) when Oldfield plays “Sailor’s Hornpipe” in increasingly high volumes and manic tempos at the end of the second movement.

Bookstore work yesterday made me feel like I was being kept after school.  Susie went to the Pride march, and she proudly displayed her self-made sign for all to see, and participated in the post-march festivities in Goodale Park until mid-afternoon.  Fortunately, people were there to take pictures and post them on Facebook.  It wasn’t as good as being there, but I re-posted pictures of Susie on my Wall.

A very color-coordinated Susie during the Pride March yesterday.  (The Ohio Supreme Court is in the background.)  She chose the colors of her clothes and her leis quite deliberately.  Many thanks to Linda McNabb for the photo.

I arrived in Goodale Park after the work day ended at 2 p.m.  I made my leisurely way up toward Goodale Park, stopping for lunch at the Golden Arches and then waiting for the bus.  The wait at the bus stop took longer than usual, because of all the Pride events downtown and the Short North.  One of the first things I remember when I arrived at the park was hearing the Capital University Pride Band playing mainstays from the early 1980s.  (This is the 30th anniversary of Pride in Columbus, so I’m guessing that’s why all the ’80s music kept coming up.)  It was the first time I’ve ever heard “867-5309/Jenny” played by a brass band.  I have always pitied anyone who had that number, or Pennsylvania 6-5000.

There were many slogans supporting gay marriage, and I support it from a small-L libertarian standpoint.  Lately, though, I have been seeing it through the very jaundiced eye of my recent experience on the marital front.  I recently told a gay friend of mine that whenever I hear about gays and lesbians wanting to marry, I think of an incident during John Kennedy’s Presidency.  During either the Bay of Pigs debacle or the Cuban Missile Crisis, Barry Goldwater was in the Oval Office with an increasingly sleep-deprived and edgy JFK.  After receiving some worrisome news on the phone, JFK turned to Goldwater and said, in complete exasperation, “And you actually want this fucking job?!”  That’s pretty much my take, from where I sit at the moment.

Susie and I celebrated Fathers’ Day in culinary delight this morning, making our first visit in eons to Hometown Buffet in Consumer Square.  I can’t remember the last time we ventured toward the west side of Columbus, out toward my erstwhile employer Medco Health, and the 40 Motel.  (The latter has been much less interesting since the owner stopped posting witty comments on the marquee outside.  One of my favorites was NEVER PLAY LEAPFROG WITH A UNICORN.)  Susie and I both ate well–I highly recommend Hometown’s meatloaf, by the way.  I went up to the buffet three or four times, but in an effort to be abstemious, refrained from having dessert.  It’s like people I see who order mountains of food and then wash it down with Tab because they’re watching their weight.)  But we atoned for it by shopping at Kroger afterwards.  Getting all the groceries home in two backpacks on the bus was a Sisyphean project.

I’m going in to work late tomorrow.  I have a few errands to run in the morning, so I have the luxury of not setting the alarm when I finally do hit the sack.  My work week consists of the Industrial Commission and the Discovery Exchange this week, although Saturday will be jam-packed from the moment my feet hit the floor that morning.  The bookstore will be in the morning, Comfest will take up much of the day, and then around 11 p.m. Susie and I will be headed to Grandview to the latest Return of Nite Owl Theater.  (Fritz the Nite Owl will be showing The Terror (1963) with Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff.  When I heard those names, I was hoping the movie would be The Raven.)

This has been the weekend, but I sure don’t feel all that rested!

Not Much Sleep, But Plenty of Pride

Another one of those weekends that is so crammed with activity that I almost feel like I’m going back to work to relax.  I spent much of the weekend in Goodale Park, taking in the sights and sounds of Pride Weekend.  It was almost an unofficial precursor to ComFest, which is next weekend at the same site.  (Until recently, these events coincided, but they now occur separate weekends.)

Scott and I went down Friday night, when the festivities were just starting.  We perused the food booths, the art booths, and the political ones (not just gay rights issues, but Stonewall Democrats, pro-choice groups, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Libertarian Party, etc.), and the many, many vendors.  I entered a raffle for a trip for two to Florida (unless you hear otherwise, readers, I did not win).  I did win a book, Kings in Their Castles, from TLA on Demand (“We put the HARD in hardcore VOD”) when I spun a prize wheel.

Spinning the wheel to win a copy of Kings in
Their Castles.
Progressive Insurance’s booth featured a unique way of attracting people.  They handed out small cards with the Progressive logo (Flo the Progressive Girl was not there in person, I’m sorry to say), and the women at the table wrote risqué slogans on them and laid them out on the table so you could pick out the one you liked, or you could make your own.  Two of my favorites are below:
Too much glare on the Progressive badge, but hers
reads YES, THEY’RE REAL.

No double entendre, no blatantly political message:
I LIKE EVERYONE.  She’s just keeping it simple.

And, lastly, my own.  I opted for safe.

The Pride theme this year was Family, and I had been lukewarm about whether or not to participate, until I received some email from volunteers at Find-A-Grave.  They provided me with a picture of the tombstone of my aunt, Mary Anne Evans, who died in 1980, aged 49, and is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Wheeling.  Aunt Mary Anne was a lesbian, although the word was never used in our family.  She and her life partner, Lois, lived together in the small house on Third Street in Marietta that had been ours until I was six years old.  I did a Google search on Lois and found out she died this past New Year’s Eve in an assisted living facility in Wheeling.  I looked at her obituary online from The Wheeling News-Register, and there was no mention of Aunt Mary Anne preceding her in death.  They are buried in the same cemetery, but not together.
Aunt Mary Anne and Lois were happier together than a lot of heterosexual couples I knew, especially my parents.  Lois was, I believe, the first adult I was allowed to call by first name, rather than Mr. or Mrs. Someone, and that was a big deal to me as a kindergartener.  I never thought twice about the fact that they shared a bed.
The same was true of Owen Hawley, a longtime colleague of my dad’s at Marietta College.  My dad told me when I was very young that he lived with another man, the same way someone else would live with a wife or a husband.  His partner, Ralph Schroeder, died in 1976, and Owen Hawley died in 2006.  They are, like my dad and stepmother, buried in Mound Cemetery, along with many Revolutionary War soldiers and the early political and religious leaders of Marietta.  I am not sure, but they may be the first gay couple to be buried there:
They’re hard to see, but there are ankhs engraved
at the top of their tombstones.

I slept too late to march with First UU in the Pride Parade, although I scrambled downtown by bus in time to take some pictures of the parade as it turned off High Street onto Buttles and into the park itself.  I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, talking to people and taking pictures.  Around 5, I went back north on the bus so Susie and I could have dinner at Burger King and then head to Olympic Swim and Racquet to see Alice in Wonderland once the sun went down.  (It was the one with Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp, but Susie spent most of the time in the pool rather than watching it.)
The Weather Channel icon on my main menu was flashing “Heat Alert!” all weekend, and vendors were charging outrageous prices for bottled water.  Two women were so desperate to escape the heat that they stripped down to bras and panties and dove into Goodale Park’s pond, which is always green (and not from reflecting the grass’ color).  I saw several teenagers (boys and girls) do this at ComFest one year, and I shuddered at the thought of the algae, the trash, the broken glass, and the other objects that lie beneath its surface.  (The fact that the bottom isn’t clearly visible is a red flag that you shouldn’t be in there.)  Yet, they were undeterred:
She was prudent enough to dive in there with mouth closed.
After she gets dressed, her next stop should be the booth
where they were giving out free hepatitis shots.