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!”

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Winter is icummen in, Lhude sing Goddamm

I am really not in the habit of quoting demented anti-Semites in my blog (especially on the first night of Hanukkah), but snow flurries were falling when I stepped out the door for work this morning, so Ezra Pound’s poem seemed appropriate.  The official start of the winter solstice is still three weeks away, but since snow has fallen, that’s close enough for me.

Snow and books bracketed my day today.  I hit the snooze one time too many when the alarm on my cell phone rang this morning, so I had to hurry through showering, getting dressed, and making my way out the door.  I wasn’t even completely dry when I stepped onto my porch.  I was wearing a hoodie when I left, but when I saw the snow falling, I turned right around and grabbed my winter coat and my gloves.  While walking to the bus stop, I called my supervisor and told her I’d be just a little behind schedule.  (This used to happen so often that I used to call and say, “I’ll have the usual!”)  Arriving a little late means a shorter lunch hour.

I did some volunteer work after dinner tonight.  One of Sporeprint Infoshop‘s offerings is a lending library, and it is in dire need of organization.  Jeremy, a union organizer, posted a notice on Facebook asking people to come for a “Spore Library Work Session.”  The selection of books there is quite varied, and there is quite a catholic (lower-case C) assortment of writings from the radical and anarchist Left.  The bookshelves take up almost the entire west wall, and curve over toward the center of the main room.

Misfiled and disorganized books are a mixed bag.  I have gone into bookstores in search of a particular volume, and, while searching for it, I’ve found a treasure completely out of the blue.  If it had been shelved where it belonged, I never would have encountered it.  On the other hand, I realize the truth of the librarians’ maxim: A mis-shelved book is a lost book.

A mis-shelved book at Sporeprint is not necessarily gone forever.  Their selection is not as vast as Ohio State’s, or Widener Library at Harvard, or even our own Columbus Metropolitan Library, but one careless person putting a book in the wrong place, with no indication of where the book belongs, can cause a person to waste much time searching for it.

The project is not finished–far from it–but Jeremy set up a good system.  He armed us with small stickers (to go on the books’ spines).  I brought a stack of books from one shelf, and then looked inside the book.  Just past the title page, I’d search for the Library of Congress call number, which publishers usually (but not always, as we learned!) print along with other cataloging information.  (An example: I just pulled down Allen Ginsberg’s Journals Mid-Fifties.  Its call number is PS3513.174Z473 1995.)

Another person, Ben, stood by at one of Sporeprint’s two PCs.  He pulled up the Library of Congress‘ Website, and we made a pile of all the books that had no call numbers printed inside.  He would take each book and type the title into the database, and then make call number stickers based on what came up.

We worked until about 8:45, and made tentative plans to continue the project in a week or two.  I was a little disappointed, because I was on a roll, and having a blast looking for the call numbers and writing them on the small stickers.  My only complaint was that I had bad luck with my pens.  They either didn’t write, or wrote too lightly, or the ink would smear no matter how gently you handled the books.  I looked like the President signing a new bill into law.  He uses several pens when doing this, so he can give them away as souvenirs.

I may have gotten even more work done if I had a two-liter of Diet Pepsi at my elbow, but that’s a no-no tonight.  I’ll be going back to the Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza tomorrow morning (taking a vacation day from work) and getting another MRI, another MRI that they’ll pay me for, not vice versa.  They sent me an email saying I should lay off caffeine for 12 hours prior to the examination.  (It’s a cardiac MRI, and I’m going to earn the money this time.  They’re giving me an IV dye and putting me on the treadmill this time.  The last time I was just on my back with my head in a dryer-like apparatus, listening to WOSU-FM the entire time.)

In the evening, I’m heading to the Linden area to pick up an IBM Wheelwriter, the first electric typewriter I’ve ever owned.  (The soon-to-be-ex-owner and I have been exchanging emails and playing phone tag about my picking this machine up since I saw on Columbus Freecycle that he had it available for anyone who wanted it.)

My current audiobook at work is reflective, I suppose, of the volunteer work I did tonight.  I finished Dracula this afternoon, and began Allison Hoover Bartlett’s The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, the story of Charles Gilkey, a man who was a notorious book and document thief, not because of the vast fortune it would bring, but out of a obsession with owning and hoarding books, where bibliophilia crossed over into bibliomania, which is classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder.  It’s a form of hoarding, much like the person who dies in a cluttered house with 30+ cats and each room stacked floor to ceiling with yellowing back issues of The New York Times.

Dateline: Weinland Park

I almost said this was from my new “20,” but many of my readers may have come of age in the post-CB radio era, and never heard C.W. McCall’s one-hit wonder “Convoy.”  (A “20” is a location, in CB jargon.)  Anyway, this is the first time I’ve had the energy and the solitude necessary to type this, my first blog entry from our new home in Weinland Park.  (That’s the name of the neighborhood, as well as the city park.  We’re most definitely not living in the park itself!)

Weinland Park is the neighborhood bordered by E. 5th Ave. to the south, N. High St. to the west, E. 11th Ave. to the north, and the Conrail tracks to the east.  The statistics for this section of town are grim, but I know many people who remember when the Short North, which is probably the trendiest neighborhood in Columbus, was a neighborhood no sane person would venture into after dark.  Neither Olde Towne East nor German Village were always the yuppie paradises they are now.  Weinland Park has a long way to go, but it’s quite suitable to our–my–needs.

The arrow on this Google Map does not represent
our house.  This is the Weinland Park neighborhood,
with the A indicating (I think) the Godman Guild.

It is just north of Italian Village, and it is a nice walk, and not an overly long one, to the OSU campus.  At the same time, it’s not so close to OSU that we will have to deal with the rioting, empty beer cans, open containers, and public urination that come after every Buckeyes football game, whether won or lost.  We are in a half double, and the layout is quite similar to the Clintonville place we just vacated.

Most importantly, the rent is quite affordable.  High school home economics teachers used to tell kids that rent should never consume more than 25% of your income, and in the last decade or so, I have wondered whether or not that was realistic.  For the first time since I’ve lived on my own, I think that I’m actually going to be doing that.  In the next few months, Steph and Susie will be moving out, once our divorce is final.  Neither Steph nor I know how much I will pay in child support, but living here, I can realistically expect to maintain this half double as my bachelor quarters without breaking my bank.

Friday was the day of the big move.  Steph, Susie, and I spent much of the week packing, weeding out, and moving everything down to the first floor of the old place.  Steph went to Cincinnati for the weekend that afternoon, and I made the big move from Clintonville to Weinland Park during the evening.  My friend John brought his pickup truck, and in quite a few back-breaking relays, we moved the furniture.  Steve and his daughter Amelia (my companion on the “One Nation Working Together” Washington trip earlier this month) did quite well transporting my books and the other contents of my office.  We started around 6 p.m., and it was after 2 a.m. Saturday before I was able to say, “That’s a wrap.  Cut and print.”  Susie had made and collapsed into her new bedroom while John, Amelia, Steve, and I were still moving items.

As I observed on Twitter, any friend can help you move.  True friends will help you move bodies and books.

Soon after everyone departed, I fell asleep in my new bedroom.  I was so tired I fell asleep fully clothed (including shoes, watch, and glasses) on the mattress, and I was too wiped out to put sheets on the mattress.  It wasn’t until morning that I realized that the smoke detector in my bedroom is defective–it chirps about every 30-45 seconds.  I tried installing a new battery, which did no good.  I even called the fire department to ask their advice–they told me to speak to my landlord, which I did (via voice mail).  I was too tired for it to disturb me.  I think that Friday night-Saturday morning, I could easily have slept on a bed of nails, the way that Zen Buddhists have mastered.

My sleep was not long, because I had to be awake for the guy from WOW Internet and Cable to come and install the cable.  Steph crossed the threshold this morning when she came back from Cincinnati, and we’ve been unpacking and sending things to their appropriate rooms.

We don’t plan to do much entertaining, so the front room (the living room) has become my office, and the middle (dining) room is where Steph and Susie have set up their laptops, and where the TV and Wii reside.  Steph’s and my bedrooms are in the same locations as they were in Clintonville.  She has the master bedroom, and I have the middle one.  Susie’s back bedroom is flooded with light in the afternoons, and she has the most closet space.  (We estimated the house to be just post-World War II, which means the two bigger bedrooms have very narrow closets.)

Susie was quite ingenious.  Her closet includes steps to the attic, and the attic is permanently off limits.  At the top of the steps, there is a hatch that is closed up with a combination lock.  Since Susie’s dresser was falling apart, we left it behind, and Susie has used the steps to the attic in lieu of shelves.  She’s stacked her pullover shirts, underwear, socks, etc. on the steps as she would lay them out in drawers.

Another drawing card for me is the proximity to Sporeprint Infoshop.  (I’ve shared the link and sung its praises before, but I’m doing it again.)  Sporeprint events, such as the Really, Really Free Market and Food Not Bombs were what attracted me to the Weinland Park area initially.  I walked past Sporeprint’s E. 5th Ave. headquarters this afternoon, headed home after errands to Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, and someone there invited me inside.  I came home laden with bread, pastries, eggs, and a cherry pie.  And all I did was make contact and say hi.  I have long wanted to volunteer with Sporeprint, and I can do it, now that I’m closer.  It’s also a shorter walk home from any activities that occur at the Awarehouse, the bike repair bay/party hall in the alley behind E. 5th Ave.

I’m typing this at the worktable in the living room/office.  Both Steph and Susie are asleep in their rooms, and since I’m going to be working tomorrow, I should follow their lead.  The office is not set up yet–I still have several crates and boxes to unload, but photographs will be forthcoming once I’m finished.

This malfunctioning fire alarm causes me to be grateful for having narcolepsy.  Since I fall asleep easily, whether I want to or not, I should be able to sleep through having that thing going off all night.

Interesting acoustic counterpoint here.  I hear a long train on the Conrail tracks to the east of my house, and while I’m typing, I’m listening to Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” coming from the laptop.  The sounds aren’t all that compatible.