Now, Let’s Get This Goddamn Plane Airborne

My traveling by plane happens about as often as seeing a kid from Weinland Park with his pants pulled up, but so I could maximize the time I spend with Susie in Florida this weekend, I will, in a little over an hour, be a passenger on AirTran, and at 2:32 p.m., I will be landing in the Sunshine State.  I’m taking advantage of Port Columbus’ free Wi-Fi to type this entry before boarding begins.

This will be my second time in Florida.  Until Susie began spending her summers (and eventually moved there permanently this past summer), the only places in Florida I had any desire to visit were Fort Jefferson (on the Dry Tortugas) and Key West, particularly Ernest Hemingway’s house and Sloppy Joe’s, the bar he made famous.  (It depresses me to see fraternity and sorority folk coming back from spring break wearing Sloppy Joe’s T-shirts displaying Hemingway’s face.)

There is, although remote, a Merritt Island connection to the title of this post.  Merritt Island is the home town of White House photographer Cecil Stoughton, who took this picture aboard Air Force One on November 22, 1963, as Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office as the 36th President of the United States, two hours after John Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas.  As soon as LBJ ended the oath with, “So help me God,” he turned to his aide and issued his first Presidential order, which is the title of this post.  (I think everyone was glad that someone had shut off the Dictaphone recording the audio before he said this!)

Merritt Island native Cecil Stoughton took this picture of Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, Texas.  A Dictaphone captured the audio.  (The microphone is visible in front of Judge Sarah Hughes.)

Merritt Island’s other famous resident was Zora Neal Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God.  (I have to admit I have never read that, or any of her works, although it seems that high school kids have it on their reading lists more often than when I was in school.)

I think that my neighbors and co-workers think Susie and I have joined the ranks of the jet-setters.  In February and June, respectively, Susie traveled to Costa Rica and Romania.  I have been to Washington this year (for the Forward on Climate Change march), and I was in St. Louis last weekend.  My most-traveled year, however, is undisputably 1983.  I was living in Boston, during the time I was typesetting The Harvard Crimson, and made several trips back to Ohio, and at least two to Washington, D.C.  My furthest trip that year was a Greyhound trip from Boston to Los Angeles.  I was going to the 1983 Continental Conference of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) at de Benneville Pines, in the San Bernardino Mountains.  (It’s located at a dot on the map called Angelus Oaks.)  The trip was over 2900 miles.

I remember when Susie sounded most boastful of her journey.  This spring, she was walking barefoot in the hallway on the second floor of our place.  (All the floors are hardwood, since the previous tenants’ dog had ruined all the carpeting by doing his business all over them.)  I was getting ready for work when I heard Susie cry out in pain.  She had a splinter in the sole of her foot.  It did not look like something easily removable by tweezers, so I took her to an urgent care in Victorian Village.  We were the first ones in after they opened, which meant no wait.  As the nurse was taking down Susie’s information, one of the questions was, “Have you traveled out of the country in the last six months?”  Susie sounded very proud to say, “Costa Rica.”  Steph took her to the doctor before school started in Florida, and I’m sure the question arose again.  Now Susie can say, “Costa Rica and Romania.”  She may even include Poland and Finland, since that was where she changed planes en route.

Speaking of planes, my cell phone calendar (which has now become my appointment diary and address book) just beeped, so I will be heading to AirTran’s gate to await the boarding.

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First Time Blogging Since Turning 50

Early onset senility has not been the reason why I have not logged into this blog in nearly eight weeks.  I won’t waste my readers’ (or reader’s) time by listing all the lame reasons for why I have been absent.  I think I’ve been like many people who try to keep diaries.  They’ll go to the bookstore and buy a blank journal, write in it like mad for a week or two, and then toss it in a drawer and never pick it up again.  As far as keeping this blog current, to paraphrase A. Conan Doyle, “I can but try.”

I turned 500 (oops, one too many zeroes) on April 29.  Since then, I’ve done another stint at the Columbus State bookstore.  After a day trip to Cedar Point, Susie’s sophomore year at The Charles School ended.  At the end-of-year assembly, she learned that she is one of 20 students accepted for the Early College program at Ohio Dominican University.

However, the big news for Susie right now is that she is, even as I type, en route to Romania.  She and six other teenagers–and three adult chaperons–left Port Columbus this morning for a 10-day Justice Trip, representing First Unitarian Universalist Church here in Columbus.  (This was the best expenditure of a tax refund in the 30 years I have been filing!)  Just before I started typing, I received a text message from the church’s Associate Minister, letting me know they’ve all landed safely at JFK in New York.  (They will be there until late afternoon, before embarking on the longest leg of the trip, which is between New York and Helsinki.  There will be much tighter connections between Helsinki and Warsaw, and Warsaw and Bucharest.)

Susie is the first of our immediate family to journey outside North America.  My overseas travel was 15 minutes in Ciudad Juarez in 1987, where my sole activity was buying a bottle of tequila for $1.15.  Steph lived in upstate New York until she was nine or 10, which meant frequent trips in and out of Canada.  However, Susie journeyed to Costa Rica (for the “Winterim” trip at The Graham School), and now will be headed across the Atlantic Ocean to Romania.  (Although it is known as “the Eastern Europe of Eastern Europe,” Romania plays a prominent role in Unitarian history, and is as important as Jerusalem or Rome.  The only Unitarian monarch, John Sigismund Zápolya, ruled Hungary in the mid-16th century (as John II).)  A Reader’s Digest version of the Unitarian history of the region can be found here.

Our Associate Minister picked us up at 7:45 for the ride out to Port Columbus.  (The flight was supposed to leave at 8:30 a.m., but did not leave until after 10.  He called me, and the parents of all the other youth, around 2:15 a.m. to let us know.)  Before everyone headed to the TSA metal detectors and the American Airlines boarding area, they posed for pictures.  Here is the group, rarin’ to go:

Just across from the American Airlines ticket counter, after checking in baggage and scanning passports.  Susie is on the left, in front of the Honda logo.

There were many planning meetings for this trip.  One of the adult chaperons wisely mentioned that they would be together almost constantly, and they would get on one another’s nerves.  (There will be a buddy system to make sure no one is out and about alone.)  Susie told me that when the Graham School trip to Costa Rica ended, the plane had landed at Port Columbus, and was still sitting on the runway before the passengers disembarked.  One of the teachers in charge told everyone, “I love you all, but I don’t want to see any of you for 72 hours.”
 
I am taking the day off from work.  I thought about coming in to work once I knew Susie was airborne, but my sleep was spotty last night (Susie and I had considered staying up all night, but I caved a little after midnight, and she went to bed around 1 a.m.  I was just getting to sleep when my phone rang, bringing me the news the flight would be leaving later than expected.)  I foresee an early night for me tonight.  I am hoping that Susie and the others will take advantage of the long flight over the Atlantic Ocean to Finland, and get some shut-eye during that.

A Continent Apart…

Central Ohioans are currently reveling in the unseasonably warm temperatures for January.  It is currently 3:38 in the afternoon, and the temperature is 53° F.  Susie, on the other hand, is in Costa Rica (on her “Winterim” trip with her schoolmates at The Graham School), and has probably been to the beach once or twice.  (She may be there right now, as I am typing this.)

Her “big” Christmas present this year was a digital camera, and I am hoping that she will come back with hundreds of pictures to share with her Facebook friends and others.  The only way I’ve managed to keep abreast with what she has done is through her rather terse Facebook posts.  (I let her take her Nook down, mainly so she could play Angry Birds on the flight, but did not want her taking her laptop on this journey.)  She has gone kayaking, played soccer with some kids at a school in Monteverde, enjoyed the best strawberry milkshake of her life, and gone horseback riding and zip-lining.  (She was determined to skip the zip-lining, but did it and, despite being scared to death, loved it.  I am glad I did not tell her that one of the synonyms for it is death slide.)

Susie is the first in our family to leave North America.  My “overseas” travel is 15 minutes in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 1987, en route back from San Francisco.  I walked from downtown El Paso, crossed the Rio Grande, bought a fifth of tequila, and came back to the U.S.  (This was in the pre-9/11 days, when crossing to Mexico or Canada required no passport, and also before Juarez became as dangerous as it is now.)  Steph lived in upstate New York until she was seven or eight, and therefore crossed back and forth in and out of Canada with her family quite often when she was a child.

Susie’s Graham School group left Port Columbus at 6:30 Monday morning.  Neither Susie nor I slept the night before.  She was too keyed up about the trip, and I knew the only way to be up at 3:30-3:45 was not to go to bed.  The mother of one of the girls going on the trip picked us up a little after 4 a.m., and we drove to the U.S. Airways terminal.  Columbus was dark and pretty quiet at that hour, and even the airport seemed to be more peaceful than I usually see it.  (My last trip out there was to buy $150 worth of colones for Susie’s journey.)  The kids (and two teachers) going on the trip were full of energy and excitement.  Nevertheless, three or four of the kids went off en masse to Cup o’ Joe to buy coffee and espresso.

Susie and Flannery after going to get caffeine.

I didn’t stay to see Susie off.  Check-in at the baggage counter began around 5 a.m., a full 90 minutes before takeoff, and the teachers assured us they could take it from there.  I marveled at how efficient Susie had been with packing.  Her suitcase was still small and light enough to go as a carry-on, which saved me a $25 booking fee.  Flannery’s mother and I left just after the attendants scanned and approved passports, and it was still dark when I fell into bed.  There was a text message from Susie on my cell phone when I awoke late Monday morning.  It was time-stamped 8:03, and it said In charlotte.  (They were changing planes in Charlotte, N.C., so I had asked her to text me once she arrived there.  I wasn’t sure about her cell phone service in Costa Rica.)

Back here in Columbus, I’ve kept myself occupied by nights at the bookstore, since the winter semester at Columbus State is in full swing.  This semester, us “old-timers” at the bookstore have been blessed with some very sharp, very hardworking, and very fun rookies.  You always come away from some customers wondering, “Just what is this person doing in college?”, but even they have seemed less than before.

So far, the most noteworthy event that has happened in Susie’s absence has been the end of my years-long quest for a Cisler brick.  I posted an eBay alert for “cisler brick” last year, and finally received an email saying one was available.  (I have written extensively about the significance of this brick in this entry, when I still used LiveJournal as a platform.  This article goes into even further detail.)  I made the payment online, and yesterday, when I came home from work, there was a Priority Mail box on my front porch.  I knew what it was, and my neighbors were a bit puzzled as to why I was so happy about getting a brick in the mail.  (One of my Facebook friends did point out–correctly–that getting it in the mail is better than getting it through the front window.)

The much coveted Cisler brick.

We are heading into a long weekend.  Both the State of Ohio and the bookstore will be closed Monday, in honor of the Martin Luther King holiday, and today is supposed to be the only day with decent weather.  Although I went to bed around 11:30-11:45 last night, I tossed and turned until nearly dawn, so I called off working at the bookstore today, which will definitely be a blow to my pocketbook once that payday happens.

But I did not regret it.  I awoke early in the afternoon, and when I saw that it was in the low 50s, I brought the trike out of drydock (i.e., my dining room), since next week the temperature is not supposed to exceed the mid 20s.  I rode around Olde North and the Ohio State campus area, and ate lunch at Five Guys.  My infirm Dell laptop is not up to my typing speed, so I have made a pit stop at the OSU Library to type this blog entry.

Susie will be back late Wednesday night.  Her plane lands around 11:45 at night, and I will be at the U.S. Airways gate ready to meet her.

Bless Me, Blogspot, For I Have Sinned. It Has Been Nine Weeks Since My Last Entry…

With Susie away for the weekend, I decided that I was fresh out of excuses for not writing in my blog.  When I pulled up the Website to begin typing, I was appalled to see that it has been over eight weeks since I last wrote in here.  I have been alternating all fall between a malaise where holding up my end at work and at home is my major accomplishment, and bursts of short-lived manic energy that usually end up producing nothing constructive, either at home or creatively.

Susie is spending this weekend as a chaplain at a Junior High Youth Conference at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, on the west side of Cleveland.  She left last night, and will probably be back late tomorrow morning.  She and I are both a bit humbled by the fact that our involvement in National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) crashed and burned quite early into the “competition.”  I think she lasted a little longer than I did, but at least she has the constructive reason that she is also working on a writing project with a friend in Akron.  Their manuscript is a shared Google Document, and they work for hours each night online.  (The earliest practitioner of this that comes to mind is Stephen King.  When he and Peter Straub were working on The Talisman, in the early 1980s, their respective word processors were connected by telephone hookup–a primitive modem–between King’s house in Maine and Straub’s in England.)

Susie’s site (work experience) at The Graham School this fall is a twice-weekly stint in the Human Resources Office at the main library downtown.  She is finding the work–mostly filing and compiling packets for new employees–to be quite boring.  I come down on both sides of her predicament.  I can understand her dread of boredom.  As I have learned at my own job, especially in the last two or three years, extreme boredom leads to severe depression for me.  As I age, I find myself less able to combat or offset depression than I did when I was younger.

At the same time, the realist in me wants to tell Susie that there is a name for going someplace you really don’t want to go, and spending the entire day doing something that bores you to tears.  The name for this is employment.  (I have often wanted to say this to parents of gifted children who wring their hands about how bored their children are at school.)

There is probably a cause and effect at work here, but when I decided not to continue with NaNoWriMo this year, ideas for the novel I began (about four or five pages, altogether) began popping up.  I have begun to jot these down in notebooks, and will keep filling them in as they come my way, and in October begin working on some type of outline.  And at midnight on November 1, 2013, I’ll begin the book again from scratch.

I bought this Jack Kerouac Bobblehead from the Lowell Spinners, and put it on my desk in the hope (vain, thus far) that it would inspire me to keep my nose to the keyboard, much like Schroeder’s bust of Beethoven atop his toy piano.  Still has yet to happen.

Steph made a brief trip to Columbus last month, and all went well.  She made the trip so Susie could apply for a passport.  Since Susie is a minor, both parents have to be present when she applies.  Susie will be going to Costa Rica in January on a school trip (“Winterim”), and we wanted to make sure that the passport was in her hands well before her departure.

The only frustrating moment was when we applied for the passport itself.  Steph and Susie went to the FedEx Office downtown for passport photos, and then met me outside the post office across from the building where I work.  According to the State Department’s Website, we could obtain a passport at this post office branch.  When we got to the counter, the clerk told us that they hadn’t handled passports in years.  After venting some frustration, we took a taxi to the main post office on Twin Rivers Drive, where we knew they processed them.  The clerk behind that counter was a joy and a delight, and we finished the process in less than 10 minutes.  (Susie’s passport came in the mail last week.)

The passport will also come in handy next summer, when Susie and the youth group in Columbus hopes to fly to Romania, which is the first place where people first began to call themselves Unitarians.  This will include tours in Transylvania and Hungary.  In a way, it is analogous to a trip to Rome or Jerusalem.  Once Susie comes home from Costa Rica, I’m going to put an ad in Ohio State’s student newspaper, the Lantern, looking for someone to tutor her in Hungarian.

One place where Susie and I differ is that she still has not outgrown trick-or-treating.  I never cared much for it after I got to be about eight or nine, despite my love for sweets at the time.  Susie turned 15 last month (I bought her Taylor Swift’s new album, Red, and my friend, comic book writer Ken Eppstein, graciously signed a set of Nix Comics for her), but she was glad to walk around with a 12-year-old girl from church.  Columbus was quite the exception, in that trick-or-treat took place on Halloween’s actual date, October 31.

I usually mark the occasion by listening to a compact disk of Orson Welles’ infamous dramatization of The War of the Worlds, broadcast October 30, 1938, which scared the nation to death by describing an invasion from Mars in the form of news bulletins and the diary of a survivor.  (I was pleased to see one Facebook friend posting allusions to the broadcast: “Listening to Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.”  To show him I was in the loop on this, I quoted the voice of a ham radio operator after the Martians conquer New York: “2X2L calling CQ, 2X2L calling CQ.  2X2L calling CQ, New York.  Isn’t there anyone on the air?  Isn’t there anyone on the air?  Isn’t there… anyone?”)

But on the weekend after Halloween, I went to a very festive post-Halloween party at a friend’s house that is about a five-minute walk from home.  The young woman who hosted the occasion is fun to be around, and you are always in a good mood when you leave.

Saying goodbye to Amber, hostess extraordinaire.  (I have been a teetotaler for almost 15 years, but usually in party pictures, I’m the one who looks like he most has his load on.  This is one of the rare exceptions.)

 


Susie and her friend are working on a novel that includes a heroin addict as one of its characters, so as part of her research, I showed her Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak in The Man With the Golden Arm (1955).  She watched with one eye and kept her other eye on her laptop for most of the movie, but she sat in rapt attention and stunned silence during the withdrawal scenes.  This was not Reefer Madness’ silliness.

I was happy about Obama’s re-election, although I did not stay up to wait for the announcement.  I went to bed a little after 10 on Election Night, and at that time Mitt Romney was leading by some 80 or 90 electoral votes.  Susie was awake before I was on Wednesday morning, and I asked her on my way out the door.  She told me that she learned sometime around 11:30, from one of her friends on Tumblr.

What struck me that morning was that regardless of who won, I still would be getting up, catching my bus, and going to work, making payments on Susie’s trip to Costa Rica, and mailing a check to my landlord.  (The governor’s race in 2014 is another matter altogether.  Governor Kasich has announced that he plans to run again.  His dream for State workers is for us all to be living under bridges and drinking Night Train while his cronies run privatized State agencies.)

Dateline: Merritt Island, Fla.

I have yet to take a melatonin tablet, but sleep will be fast approaching.  So, I’ll try to type some thoughts about the long trip to Orlando that ended early this evening.  I left Columbus at 9:15 last night, and spent the next 22 hours on Greyhound, and actually arrived at Orlando 20 minutes early.

This is my first time in the Sunshine State.  Susie has been down here all summer with Steph and Steph’s partner Mike.  Susie will be coming back to Ohio with me on Sunday morning (another first: the first time I have been on an airplane in almost 30 years), and I’m spending a little R and R here in Merritt Island, on the Space Coast of Florida.

I am glad I made the trip down by bus, although the portions of the trip occurring in the nighttime hours were tedious, once I left Cincinnati.  It was odd for me for a bus trip to not terminate in Cincinnati, so when the rest stop ended, I had to remind myself that I was going further south.  I was not able to sleep very well as the bus went down Interstate 75 through Kentucky, although I did manage a few scattered hours once the bus crossed the Tennessee line.  All I had to eat on that leg of the trip was an overpriced bag of animal crackers, which I bought at the Greyhound station in Chattanooga.  (The same bus station also featured 20-ounce bottles of Coke products for $2.25.  I passed on that!)

My only change of buses was in Atlanta.  The bus station there is too small and too chaotic, which is surprising for a city that size.  However, with the help of the station manager, the driver of the Atlanta-to-Orlando leg of the trip quite efficiently loaded the passengers, and we made very good time all the way to Orlando.  (During a rest stop in Tifton, Ga., I had some fried chicken at Church’s, which was my only meal until Steph, Mike, Susie, and I had a big dinner at Kelsey’s Pizza Pasta Kitchen in Merritt Island.)

The brevity of this account is a far cry from the first travelogue I ever wrote.  I think the first “long” manuscript I ever wrote (long since lost) was when I was 11.  It was called “Two Trips to Richmond, Virginia,” and I described two trips I made with my parents to Richmond, when my uncle was seriously ill with the congestive heart failure that would eventually kill him.  I faithfully described every bathroom break, food stop, Mail Pouch barn, and trip to the hospital that I could remember.  The end product was 48 single-spaced typewritten pages.

I am no stranger to long bus rides, but this one took a lot more out of me than I thought it would.  Even taking a melatonin tablet on the bus didn’t help me sleep.  I didn’t read much, either, because it seemed that would require more mental energy than I could summon.  My mood perked up as the bus neared Orlando, and especially when Susie ran up to me and hugged me in the terminal.

Now that I’ve visited Florida, there are only 11 states I have yet to visit.  They are in the Pacific Northwest, the Deep South, and Alaska and Hawaii.

I went to Volunteers of America and bought a large suitcase for this trip, and then had to buy a larger knapsack than the one I usually carry–one that would fit this laptop, as well as books, my diary, camera, and other necessities of travel.  Even so, I looked overloaded, because I also had to carry the black over-the-shoulder bag containing my CPAP machine.  (On the way back from Kelsey’s, we did some grocery shopping at Publix, since I had to buy distilled water for the machine.)

I had difficulty loading Blogger’s page while I was on the bus, otherwise I may have attempted an entry in “real time.”  (I have a hard time picturing Jack Kerouac with a laptop during his travels.)

Now, as Samuel Pepys would say, “And so to bed.”

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.

Banishing Thoughts of Work Until Tuesday

When I left the job today at 5 p.m., I made it a point to shut off the weekday and Saturday alarms on my cell phone–your faithful blogger/online diarist does not have to work anywhere until 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.  I did set the 8:45 Sunday morning alarm, so I can go to the informal 11 a.m. Christmas service at church on the 25th, but, other than that, my sleep will be open-ended.

The only downside to this news is that Susie is not here to celebrate the holiday with me.  Late Wednesday afternoon, she boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando, so she can spend Christmas with Steph.  My friend Steve took us to Port Columbus International Airport, and her flight left on time, at 4:50 p.m.  She was due to arrive in Orlando at 7:05 p.m., but, according to Steph, she actually arrived a few minutes early.  After I saw that her plane took off on time, I went to the Discovery Exchange and worked the usual 2½ hours.  (I had given my supervisor a “definite maybe” about whether I’d be there.  If Susie’s flight left on time, I would be in for work, but if it was late, I would not come in.)  The last day of school at The Graham School was Tuesday, and Susie will return to Columbus on January 3, the day before Winterim starts.

I won’t be totally alone for the holidays.  I will be having Christmas dinner with Steve and his family after the service at First UU, and I am planning to go to the 10 p.m. Christmas Eve service.  Nor did I go overboard with gifts.  I bought for Susie, and she will open my gifts to her on Christmas morning in Florida.

My period of solitude at work has ended.  Due to an organizational shuffle at work, I am in a new department, and I was working alone in its new area on the 10th floor, but my co-workers joined me this week, so now I have other people around me while I’m working, and I am glad to have them.  My desk is near the south-facing window, so I have a good view of the Leveque Tower, and a not-so-scenic view of the back of the YMCA.

One of our supervisors has donated a small library of audio books.  Currently, when I have been scanning documents, and not listening to doctors’ audio dictations, I have been listening to The Stand (the original edition, although I hope Stephen King decides that The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition should be recorded.  (A co-worker has generously reduced this large novel to three optical disks by recording it as MP3 files.)  I have that and It (also on MP3 files) at my desk, along with cassettes of Kerouac’s On the Road read by Matt Dillon.  The only other audio book I have is an abridged reading of Thomas Merton’s Run to the Mountain: The Story of a Vocation, which is the journal covering the years between his conversion to Roman Catholicism and ending a week before he entered the monastery in Kentucky where he spent the rest of his life.

I was excited when my supervisor sent this email about the collection of audio books she was donating.  I went over to see what she supplied.  One was To Kill a Mockingbird, and there were some Nicholas Sparks novels (the only one I ever read was The Notebook), and some abridged James Patterson novels, not all of them Alex Cross novels.

However, she did have–unabridged–all of the Twilight novels.  I probably will not read them.  Except for Dracula, vampire stories have never interested me that much, and my attraction to Dracula was because Stoker told the story in an epistolary format.  Susie read the first two novels in the Twilight series, reading them over her friends’ shoulders.  Since then, she has come to agree with Stephen King, who so famously wrote that

Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity.  Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.

Before I worked for the State of Ohio, I worked as a data entry typist (known as a “header entry operator”) at Medco Health Solutions.  I had brought my love of audio books with me, a love that began in the summer of 1986, when I was working as a temp for the State, in the Division of Elevators (and Boilers before that).  At Medco, enough of us listened to audio books that there was a lot of swapping and borrowing back and forth.  Because of this, I read things I would not normally have read, such as Sue Henry’s Murder on the Iditarod Trail and the novels of Clive Cussler.  The only time I voluntarily did without was when the only books available to me were Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind novels.

Their lunatic theology aside, the books are not that well written.  I learned this when I was waiting for a bus, and someone had left behind a copy of Glorious Appearing: The End of Days at the bus stop.  (This is apparently Volume XII of the series.)  Bored, I read the first few pages, and shook my head and left it behind for the next poor bastard.  (I think the person left it behind the same way some people do with the little religious comic book tracts of Jack T. Chick, in a bizarre way to proselytize.)  The late Christopher Hitchens (I won’t call him great, because no one who supported the Iraq War is great) described the Left Behind series most eloquently and accurately as “generated by the old expedient of letting two orangutans loose on a word processor.”

I had thought that I would be working at the bookstore tomorrow morning, but a four-, instead of six-hour day.  Yesterday morning, however, there was an email from my supervisor, wishing me a merry Christmas and telling me the bookstore would be closed Christmas Eve.  So, I am going to stay up as late as I want to tonight, and sleep as late as I choose.  With the 12-hour work days I have been logging lately, that is indeed a welcome gift.

It’s 100% irrelevant to the entry, but here is a plate from Christmas 1988, depicting the President’s House at Marietta College, a scene from my home town.  (My dad was never president of Marietta College–nor did he want to be–but I went to three or four functions here in my day.)

Planes and Backyard Movies–All Under the Harvest Moon

Every day I’m happier about Susie’s and my move to Old North.  The cleanliness, pride, and simple respect the neighbors have makes it infinitely preferable to Weinland Park, but the friendliness has made me feel even better.

After Susie came home from Youth Group yesterday afternoon, she and I were walking to the bus stop, so we could go shopping at Kroger.  There were about five people standing on the sidewalk as we went by.  I recognized one of the men as someone who often rides the 4 bus to and from downtown with me every morning.  (He’s in the minority on these particular schedules, since he works neither for the State of Ohio nor Nationwide Insurance.)  They invited Susie and me to a backyard movie at 8 p.m.  Without even asking what they were showing, I accepted.

The movie was El Mariachi, which I had never seen (neither had Susie).  Our hosts, Jeremy and Deborah, made us feel welcome right away.  The temperature was in the mid-60s, and I was perfectly comfortable, since I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but Susie was wearing a T-shirt and was about to head back to the house to get a blanket, but Deborah very quickly produced one, so Susie was all set.

Fortunately, Jeremy put on the English captions.  My knowledge of Spanish is confined to counting to 20, and I only know this from years of Sesame Street.  Susie is taking a Spanish class at The Graham School, and she mastered counting to five, thanks to Dora the Explorer.  Jeremy and Deborah hung a bed sheet across the back wall of the garage for a screen, and put brick-sized speakers at either end of the row of chairs.  (There were six of us there altogether.)

Airplanes seem to fly over every four or five minutes throughout the movie.  (And El Mariachi is not a long movie–it’s less than 90 minutes.)  Sometimes the planes flew so low their navigation lights cast shadows on the ground.  None of us had ever seen that many commercial planes flying over the neighborhood with so little time between them.  (When I lived in Franklinton and Weinland Park, police helicopters, along with their mega-candlepower searchlights flashing around the neighborhood, were so common that we paid little attention to them.)  Last night, we only saw one helicopter, which was flying at high speed, and which I suspect was on its way to Riverside Methodist Hospital.  All of the planes were eastbound, so I suspect we’re in Port Columbus’ flight path.

The moon is not officially full until tomorrow night, and it is the harvest moon.  The Wikipedia says that October 11 is the latest that the harvest moon can be.  (The harvest moon is the first full moon after the start of the autumnal equinox.)  The moon was very bright last night, and there were white ringlets of clouds in the night sky almost directly above the yard.  The movie, the moon, and the company made the evening a very pleasant one.

The movie Susie and I saw last night in our neighbor’s back yard.

Susie and Rising Voices sang “Night Winds” at the 9:15 service yesterday morning, so we had to be at church early.  (I almost always go to the 11 a.m. service, and rarely am out of bed before 8:45 Sundays.)  We left just before 8, because Rising Voices’ director wanted to have a small rehearsal on the risers, and wanted all hands on deck by 8:45.

I was glad I went to the early service.  Susie and the kids sang quite well.  I shot the first non-test video with my new Kodak Easy Share C143 (my DXG camera gave up the ghost this summer, so I replaced it, going back to the model which worked the best for me) when they sang.  Below is the video I made:


There was a Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown stalks into the panel fit to be tied.  He had gone to the store to buy a Hallowe’en mask, and the store didn’t have any.  One of his friends asked if they were going to order more.  Furiously, Charlie Brown said no, they weren’t.  “They were too busy putting up Christmas decorations!”  This afternoon, I received a Facebook invitation to the church’s annual winter concert, which will be December 18 at 4 p.m.  (Mark your calendars now, folks!)  I will be front and center, since Susie will be performing.  I’ll be missing her for Christmas, since on the 21st, she’ll be flying to Florida to spend Christmas and New Year’s with Steph.  Susie will be headed to Orlando on the last day of school (she’ll be leaving school a little early that day), and will be flying back the day before Winterim begins at Graham, January 3.  (Steph forwarded me Susie’s Southwest Airlines itinerary the other day.)

I wasn’t the dynamo I planned to be today when it came to getting this place completely ready.  I had vague memories of hearing Susie getting ready for school–getting dressed, fixing her lunch, shutting the front door, etc.–but it wasn’t until almost 11 a.m. when I hauled myself out of bed.  I bought some kitchen and cleaning supplies at Dollar General, and managed to set up my Crosley phonograph, but there is still a scatter of boxes in the living room.  And I confess I wasn’t all that organized when it comes to list-making. I don’t realize we don’t have something until the need arises.  I took some lasagna out of the oven tonight and then saw the only knives we had were butter knives, so I put the lasagna on top of the oven to cool and then dashed around to the corner market and bought a cheap set of steak knives so I could cut the lasagna.




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.

Susie Sees Her New Home–Inside and Out

Around dusk last night, Susie and I took the bus from our soon-to-be-ex neighborhood (Weinland Park) so I could give her a brief tour of the half-double in Old North Columbus (known more informally as Baja Clintonville).  I was racing the sunset, and only expected her to see the exterior.  I won’t have the keys in my possession until a week from tomorrow, and we don’t officially live there until October 1.

Our timing was excellent.  We got off the bus and were walking westward on East Maynard, and the first thing I noticed was that our half double was blazing with light.  I looked up and I saw Jerome, the leasing agent I’ve been emailing, speaking with, and meeting with since the word go, as he crossed the street from his truck, paintbrush in hand.  I was glad to see him, and asked if I could give Susie a brief tour of her new home.  He said sure, so we went in.

Normally, a house full of empty rooms doesn’t attract much interest, but Susie walked from room to room, quite enthralled.  The fact that it’s not in Weinland Park is 95% of the charm, to be sure, but she was already mentally planning where her bedroom furniture will go in the new place.  (She’s decided she doesn’t want to have the head of her bed under the windowsill, because she’s tired of hitting herself in the head upon awakening.)  She took over the master bedroom when Steph moved out, but I’m reclaiming it in this new place.  All of the rooms smell like fresh paint, and Jerome said the only major project remaining was to stain and varnish the floors.  (I like hardwood floors, especially since I don’t own a vacuum cleaner at present.  There was shag carpeting on the upper floors when I took the first tour of the place, but it’s gone now.  That was mainly because the previous tenants had a big dog they let run wild–which may be okay if you live out in the country, but not in a half double in the big city.  The shag carpeting smelled of dog urine, but when I came to hand over the check for the deposit, the carpet was gone and the second floor deodorized.)

Susie and I spent the next hour at Kafé Kerouac, using their computers.  I thought about writing a blog entry last night, but I was using a computer that dropped its Internet connection whenever somebody sneezed, and a machine that was very slow to respond to anything I typed.  I am a very fast typist, and using that computer last night reminded me of what I heard about Linotype operators back in the days of molten lead and hot type.  The mark of a good linotypist was that he would have to stop and wait for the machine to catch up to him.  For me it was just frustrating.

We walked south on Indianola most of the way home.  The evening was young, and students are starting to return to Ohio State for the fall quarter, so there were students wandering around with cases of beer.  It was barely 11 p.m., and already quite a few of them were under the influence.

We began to smell smoke around Indianola and E. 11th Ave.  At first, it was a sooty smell, like someone had been barbequing and had removed the food from the grill.  But the smell kept getting more intense the further south we walked,  and before long I suspected there was probably a fire somewhere nearby.  We were close enough to campus for me to think at first it was someone being careless with an impromptu bonfire or couch-burning, but as we walked further from campus, we began heading east toward our house.

It says a lot about Weinland Park and how unsafe we feel when I told Susie we should walk toward the fire.  I knew we would be safe there, because a fire would have police officers and firefighters everywhere, so nothing could happen to us.  We were walking past St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral at Indianola and E. 9th Ave. when I looked east and saw a column of black smoke rising up against the night sky.  I knew the fire had to be pretty much under control, because I saw two fire engines leaving the scene at a rather leisurely pace.  As we walked, I saw a few embers of flames glowing here and there on the roof of a building, and I guessed right away where the building was.

There was a 1969 comedy movie called If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.  A similar phrase would be, “If it’s burning, this must be N. 5th St.”  (I’ve explained it before, but to avoid confusion: The numbered streets in Columbus are the exact opposite of Manhattan’s.  In Columbus, streets run north-south, avenues run east-west.)

And sure enough, a white frame duplex on N. 5th St. was on fire.  To my untrained eye, it looked like a total loss.  I’ve walked past it before, when headed toward OSU or anywhere else north of Weinland Park, and the doors were boarded up and the windows painted shut.  Whether this was arson or not, I have no idea.  Before I began typing this entry, I looked at The Columbus Dispatch‘s Website, and there was no story about it.  Fires on N. 5th St. no longer count as news.  My neighbor Rory’s blog hasn’t mentioned it yet, and he has had an ongoing series about Weinland Park fires.

Weinland Park’s official flag.    

Last night’s fire made me more thankful than ever that we will be leaving this dismal neighborhood.  During the year it has been home, I tried to reassure myself I was living there ahead of the curve.  (I have vague memories of when the Short North was a neighborhood no sane person would venture into after dark, and now it’s the trendiest neighborhood in Central Ohio.)  If anything, the neighborhood has deteriorated even further in the past year.  The drug peddling, the mugging, and the burglaries have become more brazen.

Susie wants out of Weinland Park as much as I do, and it is two weeks before we officially live in the ‘Ville again.  However, she did show a naivete about the neighborhood that almost made me laugh.  I went ahead and ordered two new laptops, and asked that they be shipped c/o a friend’s house–he works at home a lot, and his wife is usually home during the day.  I wondered about bringing them home to Weinland Park, and our neighbors seeing us bringing in new computers.  “We can do it while everyone is at work and school,” Susie suggested.

Work?  And school?  Weinland Park residents?