The Upside of Autumn

I grumble about the end of summer as much as any schoolkid (including my own), but one of its bonuses (at least for those of us who toil in the vineyards of civil service) is that, from September until February, there is at least one paid day off per month.  Monday will be such a day.  Tomorrow night, I will not set the alarm, but that tomorrow will still be a semi-work day for me.  My goal is to make some serious headway in making our new home look more like a home–we’ve hung up clothes, and the office is starting to take shape, but we still look like we’re in transit.

Susie turned 14 on Thursday, and she was quite happy with the Seventeen subscription I bought her, although the first issue has yet to arrive.  (I remember receiving a subscription to Mad for my 11th birthday, and feeling just as good.)  I bought her subscription through Amazon.com, and they sent her an email Thursday morning notifying her, so now she’ll haunt the mailbox until the first issue arrives.  Susie’s grandfather sent her a sketchbook and a pen, and her mom mailed her clothes.  Susie and I had chicken soup at home (the same chicken soup I made two weeks ago–freezers and Crock-Pots are wonderful inventions) and then I took her for dessert at Groovy Spoon, a frozen yogurt restaurant on N. High St. just south of Whetstone Park.
She had a sleepover last night with a girl from The Graham School, so I stayed up almost until dawn, but was awake again by 9.  Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, although we declined the chance to dine with the Klingons.  (We ate lunch at Burger King beforehand.)  Between lunch and the movie, we went to a garage sale on E. Weber Rd.  Susie bought a purse and a scarf.  There was an entire rack of women’s clothes, but nothing she liked fitted her.  I bought a DVD of Kissing Jessica Stein and a two-disk set of Beethoven’s Favourite Piano Sonatas (I’m listening to the “Moonlight Sonata” as I type this, which is appropriate, because the moon is very bright tonight, although it’s not officially full until Tuesday).

Where Susie and I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

The downside of a three-day weekend is that my sleep schedule is now off track.  Since I didn’t get to bed until close to sunrise, and was awake again a mere four hours later, I crashed for an hour or two almost as soon as Susie left for dinner and a movie with her godmother.  Susie is singing at the 9:15 service at church, so we’ll be out of the gate sooner tomorrow morning than usual.  And I’m hardly leading by example!  It’s nearing midnight, and I’m sitting here typing this entry with a bottle of Coke Zero at my elbow.
As I was unpacking, I was scared to death that I had lost the manuscript of my memoir about my friendship with Cincinnati novelist Robert Lowry during the move.  (Most of the text was on the hard drive of the stolen laptop.)  I sent a panicked letter to my friend Robert Nedelkoff just outside D.C., since he has been my consultant and father confessor for much of the project.  (I sent a letter rather than emailing so he could have a hard copy of my new address.)  About two hours after I dropped the letter in the mailbox, I was unpacking one of the big Staples boxes (my packing lacks organization–it always has, it always will), and, voilà, there it was.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  A day or two ago, RobertNed sent me an email thanking me for notifying him of the change of address, and he attached the Word file of the Lowry manuscript, as well as other items.

Now that I have an extant copy of the hard copy, rewriting should head the “to do” list, since–as Robert has not so subtly pointed out–I am in the home stretch of finishing this book.  (Lowry died in December 1994, and the last time I added anything to the manuscript, I was describing the period between the spring of 1992 and the summer of 1993.)  However, it has been so long since I wrote anything, the voice has changed, I’ve fallen out of love with some of the prose I wrote, etc., so it’s best if I did the whole damn thing from the ground up.  Before she moved to Florida, Steph made some invaluable comments and edits in pen and ink on the manuscript, and I plan to incorporate some of these changes in the next incarnation.

An aside here–I changed the music while writing the last paragraph.  Currently, I’m listening to Vivaldi’s “Double Trumpet Concerto for Two Trumpets, Strings, and Continuo in C Major, RV 537 Allegro,” from the album Greatest Hits of 1721.  I love this piece.  What’s funny is that it first came to my attention when I saw All the President’s Men.  During the scene when Woodward and Bernstein suspect that Nixon’s people are wiretapping them, they sit at a typewriter and “converse” by typing, and Woodward blares this music on the stereo to drown out the sound of the typing.

As I was rereading the pages of the Lowry manuscript, I seem to mark the decline of my daily conduct with him to my return to gainful and stable employment, particularly my third-shift job at the main post office in Cincinnati.  I’ve often said that my conversations with him at the Bay Horse Café started off as resembling William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, since Lowry’s life and work fascinated me since I read about him in a 1989 Clifton magazine article.  Toward the end, as Lowry declined mentally, it more resembled Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

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Pulp Non-Fiction

This afternoon, I spent several hours at the Ramada Plaza on Sinclair Rd. at the 40th annual Pulpfest, moving from vendor table to vendor table in the hotel ground floor.  I’ve become much more choosy at events such as these, and gone are the days when I could blow an entire paycheck at something like my beloved Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati.  It would have been impossible for me to scrutinize every book, DVD, poster, and pulp magazine for sale, but I am pretty sure I got a pretty representative picture of what’s available.

There was a we’ll-look-back-on-this-and-laugh moment during the convention.  A seller from Michigan specializes in manuscripts, first editions, and signed copies.  On his table, he displayed a two-page handwritten letter (circa 1928) from H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos.  I asked how much it cost.  “Twenty-five,” he said.

My friend Steve wrote his master’s thesis on Lovecraft’s body of work, so I went outside and texted him immediately.  (Cell service is nonexistent in the ground floor of this hotel.)  I texted, 2pp Lovecraft letter (handwritten) on sale for $25!.  He texted back, Wow.  Authenticated?  He was wise to ask this, because I went down and spoke to the dealer, and this brief discussion brought me back down to earth.  I went back upstairs to where there was cell reception, and sent another text message, Never mind.  It’s $2500!”  Steve texted back, That sounds more like it. 😀.  Lovecraft died in 1937, and any of his papers, hand- or typewritten, appreciate more and more annually.

I was able to keep my spending reasonable.  When I was going to St. Mary’s Middle School, I gave a speech in my forensics class (a classy way of saying “public speaking”) on my growing book collection.  Among other gems (nothing particularly valuable or collectible), I showed a double novel, They Buried a Man.  The husband and wife who own and operate Hooked on Books in Bolingbrook, Ill. had the book.  (My copy disappeared in the many moves from Marietta to Boston, Cincinnati, Athens, etc. over the years.)  So, for a mere $5, I now own They Buried a Man once again.  Ace Books published an entire series of “Ace Giant Double Novels.”  They’re the size of a typical paperback of the period (1955), selling for $.50.  Mildred Davis was the author of both They Buried a Man and the other novel, The Dark Place (G-543).  When you finish reading one novel, you would turn the next page, and the final page of the other book would be there upside down.  Two covers, two complete books, two for the price of one.

I learned about Pulpfest from mystery writer, law professor, and attorney Francis M. (“Mike”) Nevins, Jr., whom I met several years ago at the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati.  The convention came to Columbus in 2009.  It had previously been in Dayton, so I never attended until it came to the Ramada Plaza.  I am not surprised at the overlap between the old-time radio crowd and the pulp enthusiasts’ crowd.  I saw some of the same faces, and some of the same merchandise was available.  (There were very few audio recordings for sale, but several vendors sold DVDs of movie serials, 1950s TV shows, and B movies.)

Very interesting choice of music right now.  I’ve programmed my laptop to shuffle the music files stored there. Here I am writing about a convention for pulp fiction and genre enthusiasts–the theme is the 80th anniversary of The Shadow–and the song that came up just now was “Spooky,” by the Classics IV.  (When I was in high school, the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s cover was quite popular, but I admit I like the Classics IV version better.)

And now for a double whammy music-wise.  The next song that came up was  “Read ‘Em and Weep,” by Barry Manilow.  Besides admitting for all the world to read that I have a Barry Manilow album ripped to my laptop, I’ll ‘fess up the reason why this song hits me in the gut.  Steph and I were married 15 years ago tonight at Highbanks Metro Park in Powell.  In the eyes of the law, we are still married, but tonight we are over a thousand miles apart.  And now, it’s a thousand statute miles apart–we have been thousands of miles apart spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for much longer.  I know it’s best that we’re apart, and I think I’ve adapted well to single fatherhood (and this month of full bachelorhood), but that doesn’t make this date any easier.  Anyone who has suffered the bitter end of a relationship can appreciate the lyrics of this song.

I am not long back from dinner with Steve and Mike Nevins at Noodles and Company (I highly recommend their Wisconsin macaroni and cheese with meatballs, by the way), and later tonight I will make the three-mile trek to Grandview for the Return of Nite Owl Theater.  The film tonight is Teenagers from Outer Space.  I have never seen this, nor have I heard it before it appeared on Fritz’ Website.

I bought two DVDs at the convention at $10 apiece.  One was Barfly, a movie that had me in stitches when I first saw it in the early 1990s.  The only Charles Bukowski book I had read at the time was Post Office, a novel I loved but did not fully appreciate until I went to work at the main post office in Cincinnati in May 1992.  Barfly‘s setting reminded me very much of the 600 block of East Main Street in downtown Cincinnati, where I spent many afternoons and early evenings with Robert Lowry, the once-famous Cincinnati novelist who died broke and out of print in 1994.  I was a bit of a snob about where I drank, and I considered Lowry’s hangout, the Bay Horse Café, to be beneath my station–I was used to college bars, and thought they were a step up from Skid Row establishments such as The Saloon and the Bay Horse.  (The college bars were, after all, college bars, even if you had to step through a minefield of spilled beer, broken glass, and vomit to get from the bar to your seat.)

The other was Kill Me If You Can, a 1977 made-for-TV movie starring Alan Alda as Caryl Chessman, a career criminal executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin in 1960 for rape and kidnapping.  I was in junior high when I saw the movie for the first time, and it turned me into an opponent of the death penalty, and it led me to read the four books Chessman wrote while on Death Row, including his autobiography, Cell 2455, Death Row and his only novel, The Kid Was a Killer, published two or three months before his execution.  I have not watched the movie in its entirety, and I won’t tonight, but I am glad to finally have a copy.

Many of the vendors organized their products by genre, author name, or publisher, and many issues of Argosy, The Phantom Detective, and Dime Mystery Book were in chronological order.  That was good,  because I was on a mission to find a specific 1955 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for a friend.  (I came away with two “I have it, but not here”s, but I collected email and snail addresses from both vendors, and will contact them in the next day or so.)  At the same time, serendipity can be your friend as well.  I have lost track of how many books I now own by discovering them completely by accident while in search of something else.  I have prowled bookstores and a misfiled book just happens to me one I’ve tried to find for years.

Some typical PulpFest fare.

These books were considered the epitome of risque fiction in the 1950s.  I did not see much gay or lesbian pulp fiction, but I am sure many of the vendors had it for sale.  Gotta love it: “It was a beautiful honeymoon–for four!”

I first became aware of Mike Nevins when I read his massive biography of mystery and suspense novelist Cornell Woolrich Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die.  I did not meet him for several years afterwards, and he was pleasantly surprised that I knew of his book about Woolrich.  Tonight at dinner, he signed the introductions he wrote for Woolrich’s posthumously published Tonight, Somewhere in New York and the Ballantine reprint of The Black Path of Fear.

One dealer was selling a $100 copy of Woolrich’s 75-page novella Marihuana (originally on sale in 1944 for a dime!), and alongside it was a title I found much more intriguing.  This was Frederic Brown’s The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches, both published by Dell.  The title did not intrigue me enough to fork over the price he wanted.  Just coincidentally, it was the same price as my electric bill, and I think Susie would like to come back to a house with electricity.

If I knew for sure it worked, I would have bought a big outdoor dial thermometer that advertised Blue Coal (“America’s finest anthracite”).  When I’ve streamed episodes of Suspense from Archive.org or listened to the disks and tapes I’ve bought over the years, Blue Coal came up quite often as a sponsor, as did Roma Wines and Autolite Spark Plugs.


It’s miserable out tonight, and the relative humidity is sky-high, as it has been for much of July, yet I will soon be lighting out for Grandview.  Susie and I wanted to go last month, but the post-Comfest traffic snarled all buses headed away from Goodale Park and the Short North, so we didn’t get to go.  (Susie didn’t want to walk, as I usually do, and as we did when we saw Dementia 13 in May.)

Next stop: Grandview.


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.”

Nil per os; Susie and Matthew Morrison; Plywood

How celebrate Columbus Day?  I’m probably not alone in this, but I’ll kick off the day with a fasting blood draw.  I think it’s time that I have my blood sugar checked, because in the past six to eight weeks I’ve noticed that I’m almost constantly thirsty, and often find myself making mad dashes to the bathroom.  It is now just 11 p.m., and I had my last non-water at 9 p.m.

The title is Latin for “nothing by mouth,” a medical direction for patients (usually written on charts and hospital bracelets as “NPO”).  I never took a Latin class, despite two years at a Catholic middle school.  However, my dad was an English professor, and he grew up Catholic pre-Vatican II and attended the Catholic University of America, so he was fluent in Latin.  I picked up enough Latin by sheer osmosis that I had a very easy time learning pharmacy shorthand when I worked at Medco Health.  When my fellow trainees were sweating blood over the difference between bid, tid, and qid, (twice, three times, and four times per day, respectively), I just told them to remember bicycle, tricycle, quartet, and it would be easy.

I’m usually pretty good at gleaning a word’s meaning from looking at its Latin roots, although I have been off base from time to time.  (My biggest faux pas was that for years I thought a pedophile was somebody with a foot fetish.)

After they draw the pipette of blood, I’m meeting Jacques at church, and he, his almost-centenarian mom, and I will be headed to Mineral and the Feed My Sheep Food Pantry.  (I try to go whenever I have a Monday off from work.)  It’ll be good to be down there putting together food packages.  We’re not quite halfway through the month, so I don’t know if there will be a mob scene on hand or not.  Ray Ogburn, the director of the pantry, is rightfully proud of the fact that his pantry has never run out of food.  The quality of the food varies–it depends on what people donate, and what Ray can buy from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

I took Susie to a political rally at the back of the new Ohio Union last night.  As much as I would like to think she was eager to see our incumbent U.S. Representative Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus) and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher (currently running for the U.S. Senate), the truth is that the drawing card was Matthew Morrison, who plays Will Schuester on Glee.  She waited patiently (barely) through the speeches by Fisher, Kilroy, and lieutenant governor candidate Yvette McGee Brown until Morrison came onto the podium, and her eyes were out on springs the entire time he was speaking.  Once the rally ended, she joined the throngs (I almost typed “thongs”–do Freudian slips extend to the keyboard?) flocking around Morrison.  I spoke briefly with Fisher, since he was at Oberlin at the same time as a dear friend of mine who died in 1997.  Susie asked for my notepad and my pen, and, after almost being smothered by the crowd, she emerged a little later, victoriously waving the pad.  “I got it!  I got it!” she said, bouncing up and down.  I looked at the book.  Sure enough, Morrison had scrawled his name onto the page.

I scanned the page before I tore it out of the notebook for her, so
Susie could share it with her Facebook friends.

Susie has added it to her autograph collection (which includes autographs by Jim Davis, Lemony Snicket, and Emma Watson).  The only political signature she has is John Glenn’s, which I got for her when I attended a Democratic rally at the Holiday Inn in Worthington last month.  (Senator Glenn also signed an autograph for me, replacing the one I lost.  He signed that one in 1974, when he came to Marietta to dedicate the Ohio River Museum.)
Susie also managed to shake Morrison’s hand, and she gleefully proudly shared the news with her friends at church this morning.  The other day, I was rereading XXXIII Celebrities, an autobiographical chapbook by Robert Lowry, the Cincinnati-born novelist I befriended the last few years of his life in the 1990s.  He wrote of the famous people whom he had met (Babe Ruth held the four-year-old Lowry in his arms in 1923; Lowry rejected a story by Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin scolding him for a Time review he wrote).  If I ever wrote of such a thing, I’d have to write about the only celebrity who has ever kissed me.
It wasn’t Julia Roberts.  It wasn’t Madonna.  It wasn’t Jennifer Aniston.
It was–of all people–David Susskind.
During the summer of 1983, a skeleton crew stayed on at The Harvard Crimson to put out the summer edition of the newspaper (twice daily in the summer, instead of five days per week) and produce The Confidential Guide to Courses at Harvard-Radcliffe.  I sublet an apartment near the Tufts campus and spent almost every waking hour on Plympton St.  One day, I came up from The Shop, deserting my CRTronic Linotype long enough to get a Coke or go to the bathroom, and there was a man in his early 60s sitting in one of the swivel chairs by the rows of overworked typewriters.  The semicircle of Crimson personnel followed every word with rapt attention.  He spoke of his plans to travel to the Soviet Union to interview Yuri Andropov, and when he mentioned the coup he scored with his 1960 interview of Khrushchev, I knew this was David Susskind.  Susskind spoke of the gifts that Soviet citizens wanted most from the United States: toiletries, long-playing records, and–this surprised me–feminine hygiene products (pads and tampons), since Soviet women usually resorted to using newspaper.
When he stood up to go, I put out my hand to introduce myself.  (I didn’t tell him that I knew of him primarily from voice impressionist David Frye’s albums Radio Free Nixon and I am the President.)  He didn’t even see my proffered hand, but instead took my elbows, bent over, and kissed both cheeks.  I’m proud to say I accepted it much more graciously than Archie Bunker did with Sammy Davis Jr.:
We are currently in search of new living quarters.  As much as we love Clintonville, we feel we need to move to a place where rent is less expensive.  The reason is because wherever we move will become bachelor quarters for me (although I’ll technically be a grass widower, not a bachelor) once the divorce is final, and we want it to be affordable enough for someone who will be making child support payments.
Scotty and I looked at some places in Franklinton, the neighborhood just west of downtown Columbus where we once lived, yesterday.  (If you read my pre-February 2009 posts here, you’ll read a chronicle of our Franklinton life.)  The neighborhood seems to have borne the brunt of the tanking economy.  Houses fully occupied are sitting vacant, many of them are boarded up.  If I was in the plywood supply business, I would have a net worth in the seven figures just from Franklinton alone.  We looked at one house and were just appalled by the state of disrepair.  (The landlord told me on the phone: “It’s unlocked, just let yourself in!” when I tried to arrange a time to meet him.)  The gutters were shredded and hanging off the edge of the roof, every upper floor ceiling bore massive water stains, the tub needed to be totally replaced–it was way beyond re-glazing.  My guess is that the landlord was deliberately keeping the place unlocked, hoping that a homeless person will pass out in there with a lit cigarette and he can reap beaucoup insurance dollars afterwards.  (I doubt professional arsonists advertise on Craigslist, so I doubt the landlord would ever go that route.)