Last Quiet Moments for Awhile

Today is May 31, the day I call the Diarists’ Holy Day of Obligation, but, May 31 or no, I am posting tonight because this is the last day of relative quiet and inactivity I will have for the next three or four days.

I will make the obligatory Samuel Pepys reference by showing a picture of the six manuscript volumes of his diary, now housed at Magdalene College:

With that out of the way, I will go on to explain why this weekend is going to be packed to the rim with activity and emotion.

Susie will be reading her Faith Statement at a potluck Saturday evening at church.  She has been on two weekend retreats, and met with her fellow Coming of Age students on Sunday mornings for much of the year.  Like the journalist she hopes to become, she was at the keyboard finishing up the statement as the hands of the clock grew later and later.  If that wasn’t enough, the world premiere of Steph’s play, TeenTalk.com debuted Tuesday night at The Graham School, and Susie was one of the actors.  (See below YouTube file for the finished product–complete with cameo appearances by the P.A. system.)

For Unitarian Universalist adolescents, Coming of Age is the equivalent of bat mitzvah or Confirmation.  In true UU fashion, logistics and scheduling went down almost to the wire, with a blizzard of emails going back and forth between mentors, ministers, kids, parents, etc.  On Sunday morning, Susie will be reading Oh, the Places You’ll Go! at the 10 a.m. service.

But there’s more.  Steph and her partner, Mike, are en route here by way of car and Amtrak from the Space Coast of Florida even as I speak type.  At the same time, Steph’s father, Ray, aged 84, is headed here from Milwaukee by Greyhound, and will be arriving about 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.  This will be the first time I have seen Ray in at least six years, and the first time I have seen Steph in over a year, and the first time I have met Mike.  Much has changed in all this time, and I think we’ll all be treading lightly until we finally feel comfortable.  (Steph and I talk almost daily by IM and email, and sometimes by phone, and are more of a united front as parents than we were when we lived together.)

The first rainfall in over a week is going on right now.  Before I started typing, I ran outside (when it was still sprinkling, and not raining hard, as it is now) and put a blue 12′ × 12′ plastic pool cover over the trike.  I doubt one good rain will ruin the trike, but nonetheless I hurried out there to cover it.  I must be like the owner of a new car, who dies a million deaths the first time he sees a scratch, no matter how microscopic, on his beloved vehicle.

At the same time, I know I should not be complaining about how hectic this weekend will be.  Susie will be going to Florida with Steph for the summer, and I probably will not see her until mid-August.  This means I’ll have about 10-12 weeks of quiet and time to myself.  Time will tell if that translates into a renewal of my long-moribund mental energy to write–poetry, blogs, diaries, or anything else.  I will be back at the bookstore Monday night, for at least the coming week, as summer quarter is just around the corner at Columbus State Community College.

Susie went on Graham’s class trip to Cedar Point today.  She had to be at school an hour earlier than normal.  I was still getting dressed when I heard her shutting the front door and sprinting toward the bus stop.  Yesterday was the last day of school, and Susie greeted me with the news that she is now a sophomore… not that there was any doubt in my mind.

Another semi-noteworthy event I’ll share.  I received a package yesterday containing the Sears Silvertone AM radio I bought on eBay.  It’s currently sitting on my night table, which is too cluttered right now to be photo-worthy.  I combed the Internet for months for the same model I remember seeing in our house when I was a kid.  Dad bought it when he was a student at the Catholic University of America in the late 1940s, and I used it on and off for much of my life.

As prone to coincidence as I am, the first thing I did when I took the radio out of the box was check the underside.  I last saw Dad’s radio on my desk when I left home in 1982, and it was nowhere to be found when he died in 2000.  When I was a child, I scribbled on the underside of the radio with a crayon, and apparently it was indelible.  My first thought was that I had ended up with his radio again.  This was not the case this time.

When I was younger, the clock lit up in an eerie orange, and the words MAGIC GLOW rimmed the lower part of the dial.  By the time I left home, the clock no longer glowed.  This is true with the model that arrived yesterday, but the clock still keeps time.  I moved the AM dial around from low to the high end, and could barely pick up 610 WTVN, and only then with plenty of static.  I’m sure the radio has seen better days, and I am not going to expend any mental energy constructing an antenna.  I’m just glad to have this radio and this model by the bed.

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Radio, Reunion, and Rain

Many black-and-white “B” horror movies from the 1940s and 1950s concluded with the words THE END filling the screen in big runny capital letters.  These words would then disappear, and then a huge ? would dominate the screen.  While Susie, Steve, and I were headed down Interstate 71 yesterday for the 26th Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention, all the while I was composing a fitting tribute to the convention, its denizens, and the many times I have attended.

Definitely, the atmosphere at the convention was more funereal than I have ever seen.  Soon after the flyer appeared online, all of us on the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio email list received word this would be the final convention.  Susie and I had discussed the possibility of going on Friday, auditioning for the broadcast re-enactment, and spending the night.  I finally decided against that because I did not want to spend the extra money for a hotel.

Around 10:30 Saturday morning, Steve, Susie, and I pulled into the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blue Ash, the convention headquarters.  We headed straight to the dealer room, which is the nucleus of the daytime activity.  (There are workshops and talks held in conference rooms here and there in the hotel, but the dealers are the heart and soul of the show.)  There were a lot of people greeting each other, many people moving from table to table, and laughing, joking, and reminiscing.  However, it did not escape me that the festivities were more akin to a wake, than to a reunion.

Susie did quite well.  Many vendors were looking to unload lots of merchandise, so she came away with several books and DVDs at below sticker price.  One man is sending her a complete set of all the Harry Potter movies, since she did not have enough cash on hand.  He said try ’em out for a few days, if you like them, send me a check.  I anticipate mailing him a check really soon.

Even in misunderstanding, there was charity and good will.  A man laid out a table of free goods, including eight-track tapes (which I ignored; I never owned an eight-track player even when they were in vogue), albums (mostly 101 Strings and Mantovani), and even a prerecorded cassette or two.  (I took Neil Diamond’s soundtrack from The Jazz Singer and a Liberace tape.)

On the adjacent table, the man had an assortment of cassettes, of everything from my beloved CBS Radio Mystery Theater to The Catholic Hour to Journey to Freedom.  I grabbed a handful of several tapes, including Nick Carter, Master Detective.  (I have a personal connection, a <6 degrees of separation situation with that show.  Its star, the late Lon Clark, had lived in my W. McMillan Street apartment in Clifton during his years as a studio musician for WLW-AM and his job at the Cincinnati Summer Opera.  (Mutual hired him for Nick Carter during World War II.  Another WLW studio singer, Doris Day, once played gin rummy in the same apartment.)

A little while later, I took another tape to give Susie, and the man told me the tapes were $.50 apiece.  I apologized, and began unloading all the tapes from my bag, explaining that I thought the freebies extended to both tables.  He put up a hand.  “Keep the ones you already have,” he said.  I thanked him.

Cassette sales got cheaper and cheaper the last few years, especially with the advent of MP3 disks.  Why pay $1 or $2 for a single episode of a show, when you can pay a dollar or two more and get the show’s entire run on a single disk?

Steve bought the complete run of Night Gallery, and I surprised myself by getting two MP3 disks of a radio game show, Information Please.  (I remembered the title because my parents had given me an Information Please Almanac for 1974 on my tenth Christmas.)  I had heard excerpts from the show before.  A panel of experts discusses questions mailed in by the listening audience, and if they could not answer the question, they relied on humor and double entendres instead.

All three of us posed for pictures with one of the Radio Convention’s demigods, Bob Hastings.  Bob has had a long career in radio and television.  His most memorable radio performance was Archie Andrews, where he played the title character.  (The late Hal Stone, who played Jughead, attended the convention annually until his death in 2007.)  The first year Susie went to the convention, she borrowed my microcassette recorder and interviewed Hastings for a school project.

Your faithful blogger and Bob Hastings.

Bob Hastings is also in this 1971 All in the Family episode, “Judging Books by Covers.”  He plays Tommy Kelsey, the bartender.  (The episode is memorable because three ABC-TV soap opera stars are in this scene: Hastings, who would play Captain Burt Ramsey in General Hospital; Steve is portrayed by Philip Carey, who became Asa Buchanan on One Life to Live; and Roger was played by Anthony Geary, who played Luke Spencer, America’s sexiest rapist, on General Hospital.)

Part of the joy of the radio convention is the excuse to venture into Clifton, the neighborhood near the University of Cincinnati where I lived in the early to mid-1990s.  Susie was excited because we would be seeing her friend Cynthia, whom she met at a Unitarian youth conference at our church two years ago.  Cynthia lives in Westwood, and she and her parents braved the rain (which was almost constant by this point) to come to Clifton and meet us for lunch at Chicago Gyros.  Susie and Cynthia were overjoyed to see each other, and it was a good time meeting her parents.
Steve headed back to Columbus because he had a meeting to attend, so I flipped open my laptop and bought Susie and myself two seats on the 6:30 bus back to Columbus.  The bus ride was a comfortable one, heading north under gray and wet skies.  Susie was frustrated because the bus’ Wi-Fi seemed to be DOA, so she listened to her iPod and I dozed a little.
I am glad I checked my email once we were back in Columbus.  At the convention’s closing ceremonies, Bob Burchett, the founder, announced that he has decided there will be a convention next year.  The board has been very active with discussions and debate about logistics, finances, etc., but the consensus is that no one wants to see the tradition die.
I was very happy to receive this news.  So, I predict that an April 2013 entry will talk about the next convention.  Stay tuned.

Slow Day at Mineral

This Presidents’ Day was the first Monday I haven’t been working for quite some time, so I put it to use.  My friend, retired R.N. Jacques Angelino, and I made the trip (72 miles each way) down to Mineral in western Athens County.  Jacques has made the trip at least 500 times, each time with his Toyota bursting at the seams with clothes, school supplies, personal hygiene items, and food to deliver to the Feed My Sheep food pantry.  He always brings his 97-year-old mother Jackie along, and she sits in the Faith Believers’ Ministry sanctuary and bags pasta and rice.

The turnout today was low.  We traveled down in the driving rain and low-lying fog and went to work filling food boxes from the shelves that lined the pantry walls.  Cans of tuna, corn, Spam, kidney beans, green beans, and soup went into the boxes on the worktable, all the co-workers prayed over them, and then when the cars began lining up outside at 1 p.m., they were ready to go.

I took this picture last June.  These are full boxes of food,
ready for distribution to the people coming by for them.

As the end of February nears, we expected there to be a long line of people coming to get food packages, but there were probably only 20 to 25 customers altogether.  My guess is the line will be bumper-to-bumper next week, the last day of February, but we took long breathers between cars, and many boxes remained on the worktable in the pantry, ready to go out next week.

Rev. Ray Ogburn, the pastor of the small Faith Believers Ministry (which hosts the pantry) justifiably takes pride in the fact that his is the only pantry in Athens County which has never run out of food.  In addition to filling the outgoing boxes, we restocked from the backup supply of food in the Sunday school room and the trailer next door.

Contributions are always a touch-and-go business, and Ray isn’t always flush to buy food from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.  Since Athens County is the poorest of the 88 counties in Ohio, unfortunately there will be a need for his service for quite some time.  Jacques told me about an elementary-school girl from the church who came down one Monday with her mother to help hand out food, and she asked her mom, “Where do the people who come here go to work?”  Her mom explained that there were no jobs for them in this area, and this was why we were down here helping.  Employment is so scarce in the area (the Office of Workforce Development placed it at 8.2% in December) that people frequently car- and vanpool to day labor jobs in Columbus, Parkersburg, and Lancaster.

More and more I find myself in total agreement with the words of St. John Chrysostom.  (I have long been reluctant to cite his quotes, because he is also the author of some anti-Semitic sewage called Eight Homilies Against the Jews, which was Mein Kampf before there was Mein Kampf.  Rabbi Michael Lerner took him to task quite handily in his excellent book The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on the Left.)

However, these words of St. John Chrysostom should be inscribed above the altar of all houses of worship:

It is not possible for one to be wealthy and just at the same time.  Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?

Jacques brought 10 lovely afghans from church and gave them to people with young children.  Women at the church spent many hours knitting these, and another woman crocheted the separate panels together, and now children in Athens County will sleep in warmth in the near future.  He gave one afghan to a woman who turns 85 next week, and I took a picture of it with his one-shot camera.  (I was going to bring my new DXG Model 506V mini-camcorder/still camera.  I got it at the end of January at the Really, Really Free Market, and it works just fine.  Unfortunately, it came minus the CD-ROM with the driver, so I have no way of loading my pictures and video clips into the laptop at present.  I sent an email to DXG asking about sending me the disk with the driver.)

He has also made it a point to include a children’s book or two in each outgoing food box.  He believes that children should start reading and learning at as young an age as possible, and I totally agree with this.  When Jacques taught elementary school in inner-city Washington, D.C., he was constantly appalled during his home visits when he saw the total lack of reading material in any of his pupils’ homes.  I live at the other extreme, where books consume every flat surface of my living quarters, but he would go to houses where there was nothing to read–not even a TV Guide or a Holy Bible, let alone a dictionary or a newspaper.

I was home by late afternoon, and the mercury dropped just far enough that the rain turned to wet snow.  The ground was already covered by the time I stepped out of the house for my weekly meeting of the Radical Mental Health Collective at Sporeprint.

I do not/will not elaborate on what happens at the meetings, because confidentiality is the first order of business for such a gathering.  The only chiseled-in-stone rule of the Collective is a mantra that members of Narcotics Anonymous use as a guide:

Who you see here,
What you hear here,
Let it stay here,
When you leave here.


The reply is: “Hear, hear!”