One of Those "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" Posts

Tonight is my night off from the Columbus State bookstore, since it’s only open until 6 on Fridays.  (My night shifts start at 5:30, so there is no sense in working for only half an hour.)  I enjoy the job at Columbus State, and my co-workers are good people, but I still felt great when all I had to do after work is come home via the local branch of the library (to pick up reserves).

Most nights this week, I’ve simply been too wiped out to sit down and type an entry once I’m home, and once Susie is in bed and Steph has retired to her bedroom for the night.  That is why the entry I’m writing at the moment will not hang together, subject-wise, and I doubt it’ll flow in any conventional sense.

Slowly, I am easing myself back into walking.  The bookstore job has entailed a lot of walking back and forth on the second floor, either shelving books, straightening out awkwardly placed volumes, or helping customers.  Although the vernal equinox was Sunday, temperatures in the 20s and 30s have made return appearances in Columbus this week, so I haven’t considered walking home after the bookstore job ends at 8 p.m.  (It ends at 9 p.m. as of Monday.)  I logged plenty of mileage on the floor, but I have only had two “real” walks since I last posted.

The first was on Saturday night.  The monthly “Return of Nite Owl Theater” was a week early, because Fritz the Nite Owl is at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis this weekend.  I walked the three miles each way to the Grandview Theater and thoroughly enjoyed the 1962 black-and-white film Carnival of Souls, starring Candace Hilligoss.

I found the movie even more enjoyable when I realized that its director, Herk Harvey, filmed some of it in a place I have actually seen.  The abandoned amusement park where the heroine is trapped by disembodied souls cavorting about is the Saltair Pavilion, located just west of Salt Lake City.  I remember seeing it in 1987, as I was en route by Greyhound from Athens to San Francisco for spring break. It stood out in the midst of the Great Salt Lake on over a thousand pilings, and I remember seeing it from I-80 and wondering just what it was.  (A year later, I was walking down High St. here in Columbus when two young Mormon missionaries tried to proselytize me.  Both were Utah natives, so I got them off on a big tangent by describing the building and asking what it was.  We ended up talking about that, a welcome break from Mormon theology.)

This is from Cardcow.com.  A picture of Saltair in its heyday, and a post card
that gave me a laugh.

I walked very briskly home, because the temperature dropped 10 or 15 degrees during the movie, and I was a little underdressed for the weather.

The other walk was because of a fax machine error.  One of my co-workers tried over six times to fax paperwork to OPERS (the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, what we pay into in lieu of Social Security).  It went through our machine fine, but never seemed to arrive on the other end.  She was getting more and more frustrated, because the meter was running on the deadline for submitting this paperwork.  Finally, I told her I’d run it over to OPERS’ office on E. Town St.  It was exactly a mile each way from our office, and I needed to get some pavement under me, no matter how much I had been resisting it.  She was quite grateful.  She sealed it all in an envelope and gave it to me, and I left the office at 12:30.  (“Cue the theme from Rocky,” I told her on my way out.)

It was a good walk.  Despite being a little out of practice for me (I wish I had the mindset that I had when I posted all my entries and Tweets about always jonesing for a good long walk), I kept a pretty good pace and obeyed all the WALK-DON’T WALK signs, which is something totally out of character for me.  It was misting just a little, so I very conscientiously kept my co-worker’s envelope underneath my sweat jacket.  (I thought of my cousin Bob, describing to a desk sergeant how he knew that he had paid a speeding ticket: “It was drizzling rain, and I got into my car with that envelope, and I carried it upside down, so the rain wouldn’t blot the address, and I put it in that fine box by the Delaware County Bank.”)  I gave her envelope to the receptionist in PERS’ lobby, and when I asked for a receipt, she Xeroxed each page, date-stamped the front one, and handed them back to me.  I put them back in the envelope and returned to the office.

Some of our customers at the bookstore are people who, for whatever reason, dropped out of high school, and are at Columbus State to get their GEDs.  The GED books are in constant demand, and I am sure many of them are very diligent students.  (I considered dropping out of high school and going for the GED, but my dad insisted I get a job if I did that, and Ohio was 49th in employment at that time, and regular work was anathema to me at that period of my life.)  After he retired from Marietta College, Dad taught GED classes a night or two a week, and he told me that many of the students there were more conscientious than his college students.

What appalls me is how many people have no clue how to locate their books, or how to determine what books go with what courses.  The layout of the second floor shelves is pretty straightforward.  Subjects appear alphabetically, and the course numbers are numerical within those.  The free-standing bookshelves go from A through N.  N through the end of the alphabet (Veterinary Technology).  In the “teach a man to fish” spirit, I explain that when someone asks how to find a book.  On several occasions, I have had to pretty much lead the person to the book they want, and then point to the shelf tag to show them what books or materials go with the courses.

I had the same issues when I worked at DuBois Book Store in Cincinnati, situations which I satirized (quite mercilessly) in my as-yet-unpublished novella The Textbook Diaries.  My constant thought when these situations arose was, “If you need to be led by the hand to find your books, and cannot puzzle out an alphabetical shelving system and straightforward shelf tags, then maybe college isn’t for you.”  That thought even popped up once in awhile when I was in Harvard’s orbit.  Most of the people I met during my 18 months in Cambridge were bright, intelligent, and creative, but there were some whom you knew were only there because their parents could afford the tuition and promised generous contributions.

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Christmas Eve 2010

Christmas Eve is the second day of my four-day hiatus from work.  (I took yesterday off, a “cost-savings day” decreed from on high, one of the 10 unpaid days dictated by our latest contract.  Having to take yesterday off so angered me that I could only sleep until 10:45 a.m.!)

Susie has already opened one of her gifts–the Super Mario Galaxy game for the Wii.  She’s christened it already, and plans to play it while waiting for Steph and me to wake up tomorrow morning.  (It wasn’t even my intention for her to open this gift.  When I handed her the package, I thought it was another gift, which she will open in the morning.  I ordered online from Amazon.com, and the gifts have been coming from Amazon, as well as distributors all over the country.  There is one present still at large, but we’ll be okay if it arrives before January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas.)

She and I went to the 5 p.m. Christmas Eve service at First UU this evening.  (There’s a later service, but we wanted to be home for a delicious ham, sweet potato, and green bean dinner.  Midnight Christmas services are definitely the creation of celibate clergy!)  Susie gave her friend a poster of Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd and gave a younger friend a journal and a set of pens.

I remember one Christmas Eve during my bachelorhood where I saw something that was rather poignant.  I was living in Cincinnati, and Christmas Eve was my one night off from the post office.  (I didn’t make any effort to make the trip to Marietta, because I had no desire to see my stepmother or -sisters, plus I had to be back on the West End toting barge and lifting mail on Christmas Night around 9 p.m.  Why didn’t I head to Athens to see my mother?  For the same reason John McCain doesn’t send Christmas cards to his captors at the Hanoi Hilton.)  I decided to explore the bars in Clifton, my neighborhood and still favorite Cincinnati neighborhood.

One of the bars I habituated was the Submarine Galley, located on the south end of Short Vine.  The beer was cheap and the jukebox had a very good selection.  (Also, I had been around a few galleys in my typesetting days.)  I went inside and the atmosphere was more somber than a Good Friday vigil.  The lights were turned down low, and the jukebox was dark.  The bartender had a boom box sitting on the shelf with all the liquor bottles, and it was playing Christmas carols.  There were only a dozen or so people in the bar, and they all looked like they were in there alone.  There was very little eye contact, and everybody seemed to be intently studying the drinks in front of them.  My mood was already low enough, and I didn’t want it dragged down any further.  (Irish wakes are much more cheerful, and those usually occur with an open casket in the room!)

I didn’t even stay for one drink, but went instead to Cory’s, a jazz bar a few blocks south (George Thorogood filmed the “I Drink Alone” video there), and enjoyed a wonderful performance by nonagenarian James “Pigmeat” Jarrett, a jazz pianist who had performed with Duke Ellington.  Some other friends of mine, who were far from, or estranged from, their families, were there, and we ended up closing the place up and having an after-hours party at their apartment in that warren of streets south of West McMillan.

I spent part of yesterday indulging myself.  My supervisor gave me a $25 Wal-Mart gift card.  Wal-Mart is not one of my favorite places, even less so during the Christmas holidays, but I went south to Great Southern and braved the hoards of shoppers.  My purchases were pretty utilitarian–blank DVDs and CDs, mostly.  I was proud to get a two-disk copy of Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal for $5 (I’ve never seen the second movie).  I considered buying a diver’s watch, but decided not to because the dial was as big around as a silver dollar and the case weighed about a ton.  I can’t swim a stroke, so don’t ask me the appeal of a diver’s watch!

Yesterday, I also ran a more essential errand.  I must truly be drifting into insanity, because I will be taking a temporary evenings-and-weekends job at the Discovery Exchange, which is the bookstore at Columbus State Community College.  I will be helping with the rush period, before the winter quarter begins on January 3.  I applied online early in November, and had almost forgotten about it before the bookstore manager called me and asked me to come in after work last week for an interview.  After she recommended me for hire, I filled out information online about my last few addresses (I had to plow through the last few volumes of diaries to get the dates I lived at certain places), my criminal background if any, etc.  Yesterday, I stopped by the Human Resources office and filled out a W-2, signed up for SERS (School Employees Retirement System), and completed an online I-9 (an Employment Eligibility Form).  The Department of Xenophobia Homeland Security, via the Ohio Department of Public Safety, provided an amusing two-page Terrorist Exclusion List, and I had to indicate whether I was a member of any of them.  (If I was, would I admit it on a form when applying for a job?  If I did, I doubt that the Keystone Kops in Homeland Security would bother to follow it up.)  It was gratifying to see Kahane Chai, the Kach Party, and the Real IRA on the list, since the conventional wisdom seems to be that terrorism is the sole province of the Islamic world.

Discovery Exchange, Columbus State Community
College (283 Cleveland Ave.)

I’ll be starting at the Discovery Exchange Monday night after work, I believe.  After I gave the H.R. office all my information, they submitted it online, and there was a notice in my email when I got back from Wal-Mart saying my new employee Novell account is open.  I sent an email to my supervisor-to-be asking where and when to report to work.  She apparently didn’t get the message, and the bookstore was closed today, so I anticipate a phone call from her Monday morning.  I’m going to work at the Industrial Commission Monday morning planning to race-walk the eight-tenths of a mile to the bookstore.

One of my few completed writing projects is a novella called The Textbook Diaries, which I based on my experiences working at Du Bois Book Store in Cincinnati.  I worked there at the beginning and conclusion of almost every academic quarter at the University of Cincinnati for most of the time I lived in the Queen City, sometimes when I was otherwise unemployed, sometimes when I was also working at the Cincinnati post office.  I met quite a few characters, made a few friends, and had a variety of bizarre experiences during these stints, and had enough to create a manuscript.  (Charles Bukowski had already skewered one of my other employers, the U.S. Postal Service, so I figured I had textbook stores to myself.)  I took some dramatic liberties with my life and situation, rearranged some incidents, and embellished others.  I flatter myself by saying the finished product is what George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying would look like written by Bukowski.

Here is part of the first page of the manuscript, resurrected from the still-unsorted boxes of my writings and notebooks.  (This will be your chance to see it before you have to pay admission to see it under glass.☺)

When I learned I was getting the job at the Discovery Exchange, I emailed my friend Robert in Silver Spring, and the title of the email was “Son of Textbook Diaries,” since I may have more material by the time my job ends.  (I remember a New Yorker cartoon I hung over my desk when I was a teenager.  It showed a woman and her friend looking through a doorway, where one of the women’s husband is sitting at a desk, industriously at work on a typewriter.  The wife says, “Harvey fictionalizes my every word and deed.”  Maybe that’s what I should do at this job!)

It’s after 11 p.m., and it will be Christmas in about 45 minutes.  I’ve been to two Christmas services this season, one more than usual.  Both of them, the Qabalah celebration and the one tonight, made me think of a quotation from a Unitarian Universalist minister, the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, whom I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in person here in Columbus.  Long before I met him, I was familiar with his words.  A friend from several UU youth conferences would always sign off her letters with his words, words with which I will conclude this entry tonight.

May we dedicate ourselves to the proposition that beneath all our diversity and behind all our differences there is a unity which makes us one and binds us forever together in spite of time, and death, and the space between the stars.  Let us pause in silent witness to that Unity.