Trying to Rise Above the Torpor of Summer

My neglect of this blog (and any other type of writing, other than emails) is Exhibit A of my current lack of emotional, physical, and spiritual energy of late.  I’m beginning to think I may have the polar opposite of seasonal affective disorder–I become more sluggish and unproductive in the summer months, whereas most people with SAD completely shut down in the wintertime.  Columbus has been tropical this summer, and the relative humidity saps my energy.  I am sure that the months of 13-hour workdays has not helped, either.

We shall soon see.  At 4 p.m. yesterday, the summer quarter rush at Columbus State Community College ended, and with it my evening hours at the bookstore.  From now until fall, I will only be working 9 a.m. until 12 noon on Saturday mornings.  Susie is especially happy at this news, because it means I will be home with her more evenings, and we’ll be able to go to the pool, and we can eat dinner earlier.  (It’s been so damn hot that neither of us wants to cook, so we’ve eaten out most evenings.)

Susie worked as a Comfest volunteer for the first time this year.  She enjoyed the work, especially getting a free T-shirt and a pink Comfest mug, but she hated having to pick up so many cigarette butts.  She made quite liberal use of the hand sanitizers strategically located by the Porta-Potties.

I went to Comfest both Friday night and Saturday afternoon-evening.  I worked at the bookstore, during its extended rush hours, on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  I know I’ll be grateful for it once they hand me the paycheck in Human Resources, but I still had a being-kept-after-school feeling during the entire work day.

Comfest negatively affected me in only one way.  Susie and I waited on W. 5th Ave. and High St. for the 5 bus to Grandview for the monthly Return of Nite Owl Theater at the Grandview.  (The movie was The Terror, with Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson.)  The exodus from Goodale Park snarled up traffic so much that the 5 never arrived.  It’s been my practice to walk to the theater on Fritz nights, but between the proliferation of drunks and the humidity, I told Susie this month we’d take the bus.  (The movie at the end of July will be Teenagers from Outer Space, which will go along wonderfully with Pulpfest ’11 at the Ramada Plaza.)

I did quite well at the Really, Really Free Market on the last Sunday in June.  Earlier tonight, I sent an email to the Webmaster of Notebook Stories bragging of my achievement.  Susie came away with some clothes, and I came away with five spiral-bound planners.  (Their dates range from 2006 to 2008, but if I ignore the pre-printed dates, they will be quite useful.)  Two were from Greek-letter organizations (Phi Delta Theta fraternity and Chi Omega sorority), and the other three were from St. Bonaventure University (where Thomas Merton taught English from 1940 until he resigned to join the Trappist monastery in Kentucky), Southern Methodist University (which houses George W. Bush’s Presidential library–I wonder if all the pictures have been colored in the books), and Seattle Pacific University.  (I found something amusing in the St. Bonaventure planner–under Saturday, February 2, 2008, one of the events in the schedule is 4:00 p.m. Pre-Super Bowl Mass and Reception.)

My cache of new notebooks, courtesy of the Really, Really Free Market on  June 26.

There was absolutely no way Susie or I were going anywhere near downtown on Friday night, when Red White and Boom was happening.  I am lukewarm at best about patriotic celebrations.  I think they–and the people who participate in them–are the (very!) secular equivalents of the ostentatiously pious folks that Jesus lambasted in the Sermon on the Mount.  (When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in synagogue and at the street-corners, for everyone to see them.  I tell you this: they have their reward already.  Matthew 6:5, New English Bible.)

Susie and I went to First Friday, a potluck held at church on–when else?–the first Friday of every month.  The attendance was pretty sparse, between Red White and Boom and the congregation being scattered to the four winds for vacation.  We found some friends of ours.  Susie spent most of the time conspiring with talking to a kid who will be her lab partner for science classes at The Graham School come September.

I took her to Kafé Kerouac after we left First Friday, and this turned out to be quite the stroke of good timing.  She learned about their Wednesday night poetry slams, and she plans to go and read some of her poetry.  (I’ve always avoided poetry and writing groups, because listening to them discussing their poetry and their projects reminds me of teenage boys bragging about sex: The ones who are talking about it the most, are doing it the least.  I have never publicly read or participated in a slam because my voice is almost totally without affect–an Asperger’s symptom characteristic–and performance counts as much, if not more, than content.

While I was typing, my idiot neighbor has set off a string of fireworks and firecrackers.  There is a momentary lull at present, but I’m waiting for the noise to start up again, so I can call the police, and the dispatcher can hear the noise in the background.  (I have had minimal personal experience with shooting off fireworks and recreational explosives.  Since most of the jobs I’ve held in my 29 years in the workforce have involved typing, I realized that having hands is a good idea.  The only body parts I no longer have are my tonsils and gallbladder.  That’s enough.)

I never really how truly exhausted and sleep-deprived I was until yesterday.  After I left the bookstore, Susie and I took the bus to Graceland Shopping Center to pay the electric bill at Kroger, pick up dinner, and go to the hardware store.  She and I went to China Garden, a smorgasbord she and I both enjoy.  She and I both ate until we could barely move, and we were walking in major slow motion across the parking lot to Sears Hardware.

Once we got home, I told Susie I was going to take a brief nap before I did anything else.  I remember my bedside digital clock saying 8:20 when I lay down.  I didn’t even get undressed, not even my shoes.  When I felt rested enough to get out of bed and get on with the day, it was 8:30, as in a.m.  It was Sunday morning coming down.

Update: I called the police about the pyrotechnics next door.  I learned to use 911 for any time I call the Columbus Police Department, unless I’m in the mood to wade through their voice mail prompts and spend four minutes on hold.  The entire block smells like sulfur, and I hear the whistle of bottle rockets every few minutes, and no sign of the police.  If I had it to do over again, I would have called and reported gunshots.  (Hey, I’m no expert in ballistics–gunshots and firecrackers do sound alike to the untrained ear, don’t they?)

After breakfast this morning, Susie and I went to a yard sale on Medary Ave.  She bought a file folder, and I bought a pristine copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition, a 1987 Book-of-the-Month Club edition.  It’ll reside on my shelf between my 1938 Modern Library edition of The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Baker’s exhaustive biography.

It was “altogether fitting and proper,” as Lincoln would say, that I should buy this book.  (Susie brought it to my attention, and I happily ponied up the $.50 for it.)  Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death, by his own hand, in Ketchum, Idaho.  I haven’t read the obituaries that appeared, and I am sure it was front-page news all over the world.  However, through the many connections I’ve made in the old-time radio world, I found Harry Reasoner’s radio obituary, broadcast on CBS radio, where he tried–with iffy success–to emulate Hemingway’s prose style.

The Doo Dah Parade beckons tomorrow afternoon.  Neither Susie nor I are setting alarms, although after my megasleep yesterday into this morning, I am now quite wide awake.  Nonetheless, we’ll be awake in plenty of time to make it to the Short North for the parade.

Eve of Departure

Susie is packed and ready to go, and I’m pretty sure I am as well.  The Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) Reunion, aka “Garden of LRY”, officially begins at 5 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, and to me this night is Christmas Eve, the last day of school, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one.  I think I’m packed–I promised Julie, who was nice enough to drive Susie and me on this safari, that I’d pack light.  (Since I originally planned to take Greyhound to this Reunion, packing light was my original intention.)

Susie will be picking up a new state on this trip.  She’s never been to New Jersey before.  She has been to Pennsylvania, which is the only other state we will cross on this journey.  She’s not looking forward to the long drive, but as I get older, I take Cervantes’ words more to heart: “The road is always better than the inn.”

Julie’s husband Marc is attending an academic conference in Seattle, and she worried about the logistics around meeting him at the Newark airport.  (The Reunion itself is near Newton, N.J., in Sandyston Township.)  But, a mutual friend of ours from Queens will meet Marc’s flight as he is heading to the camp.  This came about in a blizzard of phone calls and emails among all of us today.

Jacques and I met for beverages at Kafé Kerouac this evening, but I became more and more frustrated because their Wi-Fi and this computer just could not connect, regardless of how many times they reset the router.  To keep from seething, I suggested that Jacques come with me and take an impromptu tour of Sporeprint Infoshop, the “radical social center” on E. 5th Ave. which is becoming quite dear to my heart.  We drove down and met with two volunteers, and Jacques came away quite impressed, especially with the lending library, the non-sectarian food distribution, the Internet-ready computers ready for anyone who needs them, and the fact that Kroger has been quite generous with donations of bread, cakes, and pastries.  Sporeprint is located directly across the street from Vineyard Columbus’ food pantry and free clinic.  Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet that “Work is love made visible,” and that should be printed on a banner that stretches over the street above E. 5th Ave. between Summit and N. 4th.

Jacques came away marveling at the work Sporeprint promotes, especially the Really, Really Free Market the last Sunday of every month.  He plans to attend (as do I) the special one which happens on the 29th of this month (noon until 5 p.m. in Weinland Park, 211 E. 7th Ave.).  In addition to free clothes, books, bread, etc., there will be free services offered–hair-cutting, face-painting, children’s shows, etc.  I plan to be there.  Those of you who read this blog who live in the Columbus area, I strongly encourage you to come.  Those of you that miss it, I will describe it in a forthcoming entry.

Out of curiosity, I checked Google Maps for the directions to the 4-H camp in New Jersey.  It offered three routes, and the travel time varied by, at most, 30-45 minutes.  Julie says we’ll probably take I-71 to I-80 (which makes sense, because it avoids the Pennsylvania Turnpike and all those tolls).  I asked her out of mere curiosity–she’s driving, her word is law.  She says the car has a GPS, which she’ll be using for the first time, so I’m sure it’ll suggest the same thing.

The first “long” piece of prose I ever wrote, other than a penciled autobiography when I was 10, was a 48-page, typewritten, single-spaced description of two trips to Richmond, Va. I made with my parents when I was almost 11.  While writing this, I remember keeping the Exxon road map of the trip spread out on the bedroom floor by the typewriter, so I could trace the journey.  (It stayed spread out because I could never master the art of folding maps.)  The GPS makes that a little different.  Gone are the days when this would be your guide:

It would be invaluable to travel with this, even though it was crumpled up in a ball in the glove compartment, complete with melted Tootsie Rolls and old McDonald’s napkins and coffee stirrers.

Well, I’m not a tiny tot, but my eyes are all aglow, and I am finding it hard to sleep tonight.  Nevertheless, I am going to post this entry and make the attempt.  The camp is beyond Wi-Fi range, so I plan to handwrite blog entries in a notebook and then scan them, backdated, into this blog once I’m back in Columbus.

A Group That is Doing the Heavy Lifting

When it comes to the work of social justice, many left-identifying people (including, I’m sorry to say, many Unitarian Universalists) resemble teenaged boys and sex: The ones who are talking about it the most, are doing it the least.  Somewhat by accident today, I saw the work of some people who are not afraid to get some dirt under their fingernails when it comes to helping where it is needed.

I was taking the southbound Indianola bus downtown late this morning when I glanced east on E. 5th Ave. and saw a generously laden table and clothes rack sitting in front of the Sporeprint Infoshop at 172 E. 5th.  (I have fond memories of that block, since it was the launching site of last month’s World Naked Bike Ride.)  The signs over the tables said this was the REALLY, REALLY FREE MARKET.  I now have a much-underlined and -HiLited International Publishers pamphlet copy of The Communist Manifesto and a shirt or two.

The Sporeprint Infoshop hosts the Really, Really Free Market the last Sunday of every month from 12-5.  There are clothes, books, toys, and food.  Four days a week (see the above link for the specific times), Sporeprint opens its common area to all comers, complete with computers (Internet access) and a lending library.  Those with meagre (or no) funds can use the computers to search for jobs online, work on resumés, or look for social service agencies’ contact information.

I had an interesting conversation with a man named Noel, who also came to get some books and some clothes.  The attitude at Sporeprint, we agreed, was different from many of the “do-gooders”, professional or otherwise.  There is no sense that these are wealthy people throwing a crumb or two they wouldn’t miss.  Sporeprint (and the Third Hand Bicycle Cooperative next door) are probably struggling to keep their lights on and their spaces rented.  Many of the people working there are students, many are un- and underemployed.  Children came during the time I was there, as did a woman easily in her late 80s, and we all felt like we were in friends’ living rooms.

Food Not Bombs operates from Sporeprint, serving vegetarian and vegan meals every Sunday from 5-7 p.m.  (Much of this food comes from the two Arawak City Gardens on N. 4th St. and N. 5th St.)

Local information from Food Not Bombs.  If you are not in
need of their services, please spread the word to someone who is.

Though small, the library has a very catholic (lower-case c) selection of books, from classics to textbooks to political culture.  There’s a spinner nearby stocking many ‘zines (self-published magazines and journals), which was truly a pleasure to behold.  I was afraid that the ‘zine and the broadsheet had been crushed under the wheels of the Internet.

The people at Sporeprint have taken their time, pooled their resources, and come together with a project and a place that is doing the work many people support in theory.  (Since becoming a union steward, my favorite children’s book has become The Little Red Hen.  I hear a resounding “I will!” from Sporeprint and Food Not Bombs when the hen asks, “Who will help me plant the grain?  Who will help me harvest the wheat?”)