Moonlighting at the End of the Tunnel

One of the syrupy mantras I’ve heard repeatedly over the past few years is, “No one ever said, on his deathbed, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'”  I know that I am not saying it now, even though the many extra hours I’ve worked these past few weeks have been necessary and–dare I say it?–fun.

Usually, I’ll just work the beginning-of-quarter rushes at the Columbus State bookstore.  That was why it was such a surprise (a very pleasant one!) when my supervisor emailed me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in working nights this spring.  (A manager is leaving Columbus, and I’m pretty much doing his job until they hire a full-time replacement.)

The drawback has been the timing.  I’m still green at the single-parent thing, and now that school is out, Susie has been depressed and bored for much of the day.  She has found some work, a few hours here and there working as a mother’s helper for a year-old little girl (the daughter of her first babysitter), and yesterday she and the Youth Group from church went down to the Feed My Sheep food pantry in Athens County which I’ve described in previous entries.  That’s why it was such good news to see that Susie will be working as a Volunteen at the library this summer.  The deadline for applying had come and gone, but some kids had dropped out of the program, so she applied.  I was all too happy to sign the permission form after she and I came home from dinner at Wendy’s tonight.

But there is an end in sight for the moonlighting.  The Discovery Exchange will be closing at 6 p.m. for the rest of the summer as of the first week in July, once the summer quarter is in full swing.  Since my work day at the Industrial Commission ends at 5, and it takes me 15-20 minutes to walk over to the corner of Cleveland and Mount Vernon Avenues, there is really no point in my working there for half an hour.  So, July 3 will be my last hurrah until the fall book rush.  I will miss the extra cash, but will be glad to be home in the evenings for Susie.

Susie and I have made two or three appearances at the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club since it opened.  This week, neither of us have gone–mainly because of my work schedule, but also because the temperature has only reached the mid-70s for most of the week.  It’s no fun to go swimming and then have to stand around digging slush out of your ears.

Fathers’ Day is next weekend.  Susie and I are going to celebrate by going to see The Wizard of Oz at the Ohio Theater.  Susie has seen it numerous times, and can recite most of the dialogue and songs from memory.  Until she was born, I was rather lukewarm about it.  I never even saw it on a big screen until Susie was a toddler, when I took her to a showing of it at Crosswoods Cinema in Worthington.  And I am sure it’s pure coincidence that The Wizard of Oz is showing during Pride Weekend.

I’ve learned this month how much disruption in familiar physical objects or surroundings can totally disorient me.  The weekend before last, while Susie was at the pool, I walked a block or two north to a little hole-in-the-wall dollar store and replaced my wallet, which was falling apart and barely holding together.  I paid about $2 for a blue tri-fold, and sat at poolside transferring the thick plethora of cards–insurance, business, shopping, etc.–and bus pass from one to the other, along with the few dollars I happened to have in there.  Even though many gift cards and debit cards were expired, I was loath to toss them in the trash barrel by the kids’ pool.  I haven’t carried pictures in my wallet since high school, so I didn’t have to sort through them to see who to keep and who to discard.  (I’d look like Steven Hill–or Peter Graves–going through the dossiers on Mission: Impossible, even though they would always pick the same agents.)

When my dad died, my stepmother sent a huge box to me UPS, which contained his clothes, the flag from his coffin, and his wallet, among other things.  When I went through the wallet, I was surprised to find a small color drawing of Andrew Jackson in with the high school graduation picture of me.  Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts printed trading cards of U.S. Presidents when I was about 11 or 12, which I collected avidly.  Dad always liked Andrew Jackson–safe bet I’m not part Cherokee–because he was the first truly proletarian President, so I let him have the Jackson picture.  (He said his interest in Jackson began when he read Arthur Schlesinger’s The Age of Jackson in college.)

On a larger scale, there’s been disruption in my physical setting at work.  I work on the 10th floor of the William Green Building, and in May I moved to a temporary pod in another section, while workers tore down the old pod walls and set up new ones.  This involved the usual logistical nightmares with cabling phone and data lines, etc.  I didn’t even unpack once I arrived at the temporary pod, since I knew I’d move back as soon as the new area was ready.

We moved to the new area.  It occupies the same section of the 10th floor, but the layout is different.  I have four section-mates, all very good people.  However, my pod is a bit removed from theirs.  Since I do virtually all of the Industrial Commission’s medical transcribing, I have higher walls and am separated from all the noise.  (I love my co-workers dearly, but they can get boisterous.)  I spent Friday and part of Monday moving and finally trying to settle in, and I’m still getting my bearings, and getting disconcerted when things aren’t where they were previously.

I am bringing this entry to a close, because morning comes way too early.  Tomorrow will be a jam-packed day.  I have an appointment with a podiatrist in the morning, going to Columbus State to get my paycheck immediately after that, then I’m working at the I.C.–transcribing the doctor who dictates at an auctioneer’s pace.  The bookstore beckons afterwards, and to end the evening on a festive note, I’m taking Susie to dinner at my (our) beloved Blue Danube Restaurant on High Street.

Couldn’t stand the show, but it’s an appropriate graphic for my work life this spring.

The Night We Called It a Day

I’ve done enough organizing and tidying up around my worktable that I can get to my turntable without obstruction for the first time in weeks.  I celebrated this event by putting on a Dave Brubeck Quartet LP from the mid-1960s, Angel Eyes.  One of the songs on this album is “The Night We Called It a Day.”  It’s not my favorite song on this particular album (that would have to be “Diamonds for Your Furs”), but it is truly appropriate to my current life situation.

(Even now, by the way, I’m still on a vinyl Brubeck jag.  Currently spinning is Anything Goes!  The Dave Brubeck Quartet Plays Cole Porter, and I’m listening to “Love for Sale” as I type.)

Steph is now in Florida, on the eve of beginning a new job, and already beginning a new life.  Susie and I saw her off at the Greyhound station downtown early Friday morning, and she left at 7:30 a.m. for a 26-hour bus ride to Titusville, via Cincinnati, Nashville, Atlanta, and Orlando.  Since Susie had to be at school to audition for a speech, we didn’t stay with Steph until she boarded, but left her as the line was moving toward the gate and onto the bus.  This was the point where the driver was announcing “Tickets out of the envelopes, please!”  (Steph had ordered her tickets online beforehand, and they had arrived in the mail earlier in the month.)  Steph teared up hugging Susie goodbye, and I gave Steph a very cursory farewell hug, and went out with Susie to East Main Street so she could catch her bus to school and I could head home.

(I had planned to just arrive late for work, in the interests of returning to normal as soon as possible after Steph’s departure for Florida.  However, earlier in the week Human Resources sent me an email saying that I had one cost-savings day left, and it had to be used very soon.  Not remembering it was the day Steph was leaving, I asked for May 27, more because it would make my Memorial Day weekend longer.)

Susie and I are bearing up quite well.  Despite this entry’s title, there was no night (or day) Steph and I decided to stop being together.  It’s been a gradual process, and even going through nearly 16 years of memories (my own memory supplemented, of course, by reams of diaries and shoe boxes full of breast-pocket notebooks), I can’t pinpoint one point where it started to go bad.  So in the end, there is little sadness on my part.  There is, instead, much relief.  I feel that the limbo has lifted, and the way is clear for me to look at the next phase of my life.  And last Friday is as much of a milestone in my own history as 1066, 1492, 1215, 1776, and 9/11 are in world history.

The record has now gone to “What is This Thing Called Love,” and the best answer I can give right now comes from the computer in WarGames (1983) describing thermonuclear war: “A strange game.  The only winning move is not to play.”  This is not universal, by the way.  It’s just the way I think I have to live in order to preserve my own sanity.

I was proud of Susie Friday night, when she performed in the Cabaret Night at Dominion Middle School.  The attendance was sparse, and many of the kids scheduled to appear were no-shows, but Susie and her friends were on hand to perform two brief skits from The Wizard of Oz.  Susie played the Wicked Witch of the West in one scene, and the Scarecrow in another.  (There may have been better attendance if it hadn’t been Memorial Day weekend and if the baseball team wasn’t away at a championship game.)  Several of the acts listed in the program didn’t happen, because cast members were absent, and the drama teacher, Emily Foster, had to fill in for some of the roles, but I was proud that Susie was front and center.  Despite the fact that she said goodbye to her mother 12 hours earlier, and that she may not see her mother again for weeks, or maybe months, she gave her all once she was onstage.  That makes the no-shows’ excuses rather lame, methinks.

Dominion Middle School, where Susie will be a student until the end of this week.

Saturday night, Susie and I walked the three miles to Grandview for the monthly Return of Nite Owl Theater. The movie last night was Dementia 13, the first commercially successful film of Francis Ford Coppola.  Susie thought she’d doze off during it, especially after the long walk, but she was riveted to her seat.  I even found myself warming up to the latest installment of Aidan 5 (a detective, circa 2070, tries to solve the mass murder of his clones), which had left me a little cold when I had seen it in March before Carnival of Souls.  I dismissed it then as a cheap Sin City wannabe, but now I want to go to the site and watch the episodes from the beginning.

First Unitarian Universalist Church went to one service per Sunday as of this morning, and Susie and I marked the event by sleeping late.  (Smaller UU churches shut down for the entire summer.  The stock answer when non-Unitarians ask about this is, “What other denomination could God trust out of His sight for an entire summer?”)  We went to the Really, Really Free Market in the afternoon, and the pickings were slim this month–there is no way to predict it.  I knew, however, that Susie would not go away empty-handed.  Next door to the Sporeprint Infoshop is the Third Hand Bicycle Cooperative, and last week a generous soul donated eight or 10 children’s bicycles.  Most of them were for kids of kindergarten age and a little older.  My friend Randall told me this last Monday, and he set aside a 15-speed Huffy Mont Clare for Susie–the only one that might have been big enough for her.  Between Monday night and Sunday afternoon, he filled the front tire and adjusted the handlebars and the saddle, and now Susie has a bike.  She has had limited success in learning to ride them in the past, so I’m worried that it may gather dust, but I’m hoping to encourage her to take it to Weinland Park this summer and give it a whirl.  (It’s in our dining room right now, because we don’t have a bike chain and lock.  Even with one, I’m not sure if keeping it outdoors is a good idea.  I can see someone in this neighborhood owning the tools to snap a thick U-lock in half like a twig, and Susie had a bike stolen when we lived in Franklinton and kept it out front.)

Susie and I went to an excellent Memorial Day cookout in Clintonville, at the home of our friends Steve and Kittie.  The undisputed star of the show was their granddaughter, who will turn a year old in July.  I picked up the little girl, and she did the exact thing Susie did when she was an infant: she made a grab for my glasses, which instantly skittered to the deck.  I had completely forgotten how fascinated babies are by glasses, and how they’ll make a grab for them when given the chance.  (Susie also loved tugging at my beard, or pulling things out of my breast pocket, when she was a baby and I was holding her.  It made me very briefly consider shaving off my beard until she was older–and this from a guy who considers it a deal-breaker if a romantic partner asked me to get rid of my beard!)

Since I was (am) so proud of Susie for stepping up to the plate and performing so well on such an emotional day, I am posting this video from Friday night’s Cabaret at Dominion.  (Susie is in the blue T-shirt, portraying the Wicked Witch of the West–riding a push broom!–and the Scarecrow.)

Movies al Fresco

Susie and I went to the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club last night for movie night.  (I had forgotten about it, until my friend Pat mentioned it to me over lunch yesterday.)  They never seem to know the name of the movie that far in advance.  Pat told me he had just learned the picture was going to be Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  I am not a big fan of fantasy-adventure films, so I looked it up on The Internet Movie Database once I got back to the office.  It sounded like something Susie would enjoy, since she could easily sit and watch each of the Harry Potter movies one after the other.

Olympic shows outdoor movies 3-4 times during the summer, and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to going to a drive-in.  (Yes, folks–I am 47 years old, and I have never been to a drive-in movie.)  Since I’ve never had a driver’s license, I can’t initiate a trip to one.  My first exposure to the concept was watching the opening and closing credits of The Flintstones, and passing the Riverside Drive-In on St. Rt. 7 heading out of Marietta toward Belpre or Parkersburg when I was younger.

Since the movie ads were usually opposite the funnies, I perused them in between glimpses of “Peanuts,” “Blondie,” and “The Family Circus.”  That was when I realized there were certain movies that never seemed to appear anywhere but the drive-ins.  The title that jumped out at me particularly was Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.  That’s the type of title that you don’t easily forget.  Just how much it stayed with me became evident when I bought a VHS copy of it at one of the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Conventions in Cincinnati, along with a tape of Little Lulu cartoons and an equally memorable cinema classic called Robot Holocaust.

The Riverside Drive-In usually featured such fare, and the newspaper was the only way to know what was playing.  It seemed like no matter what time of day or night we passed it, the marquee usually read

3 & 10
with no signage or advertising telling you what was playing.  (Usually, however, it was such fare as The Gumball Rally or They Call Me Trinity, or whatever Porky’s precursor they could get away with.)
Drive-ins posed a logistical question that puzzles me to this day.  What if you live near one, and they’re showing an R- or X-rated movie?  When I was in eighth grade, our class took a day/night trip to Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh to see the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  (Our music teacher was/is a true musical genius whom I never appreciated at the time.  Rather than playing us scratchy Beethoven records on a boxy classroom mono phonograph, he chartered a bus and took us to hear Beethoven performed under the baton of André Previn.)  That night, all of us tired and cranky, we headed back to Marietta on I-70.  I remember passing a drive-in, and getting maybe a 10-second look at what was on the screen.
“Oooh-la-la, looky what they’re doing!” I ogled to my seatmate, gesturing out the window.  (I seem to remember it was a Western–probably The Outlaw Josey Wales or a revival of The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.  Nothing pornographic.)  He gave a cursory glance out the window, considered the source, and rolled his eyes.  (This particular classmate took a very jaundiced view of his classmates’ obsessions with sex and fixations on the sex goddesses of the day, such as Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Lynda Carter.  He–along with rest of us–took for granted this was because he had a vocation to the priesthood.  As it turned out, he was gay.)
So, if you lived near a drive-in, and you constantly had to keep your kids away from the windows because they’ve scheduled a Linda Lovelace film festival, would the courts just say, “If you don’t like it, move!”  (Granted, it’s not like they’re living near a nuclear waste dump.)
In the past, Susie used the movie nights at Olympic as an excuse to swim after dark.  Olympic keeps the big pool open, and shows the movie on a bed sheet stretched across the rear fence.  Susie was in and out of the water for the first 20 minutes, and then was hooked on the movie from then on.  I watched with one eye and started to read (my latest attempt!) Norman Mailer’s doorstop about the CIA, Harlot’s Ghost with the other, but I came away making a mental note to give myself a refresher course in Greek mythology.  I think I’d start by seeing if I still have my dad’s old hardover of Bulfinch’s The Age of Fable.
I’m glad Susie became fascinated by the movie, because the lifeguards cleared the pool when heat lightning appeared.  I didn’t even realize it at first.  The sky was clear, and the moon was almost bright enough to read by, but when I glanced up, I did see flashes here and there.  There was never any thunder, and Susie and I walked back home afterwards without any precipitation.
Outdoor movies continue tonight.  Susie and I are going to pack a small picnic and see The Wizard of Oz at Whetstone Park tonight at dusk, a movie she never tires of seeing.  (I had never seen it in a theater until I took her when she was three or four.  I had only seen it on TV.)  She is so fascinated by the movie that she even watched while I tested the urban legend about whether Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is deliberately synchronized to the movie, as described in this Wikipedia entry.  (It isn’t, except when all the clocks and chimes go off at the beginning of “Time” is when Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch of the West makes her first appearance.)
And, as I type, Susie is out with her godmother Anne seeing Marmaduke.  A very cinematic weekend for her, leading up to her being at camp all next week.