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.)

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A Weekend Quite Short on Sleep, But Who Had Time?

Saturday morning and afternoon was one of those days when I logged quite a few miles without ever leaving the Columbus city limits.  To a bank on High Street to cash a check, then on the long journey to the West Side to pay a bill, and then to the library.  I’m almost always thankful that I don’t drive, but never more than when I have to make these junkets to run different errands on far-away ends of town.  Susie had dinner with one of her godmothers on Saturday evening, and Steph pretty much stayed home for the entire weekend.  I took advantage of the long bus ride to begin Steve Thayer’s novel Moon Over Lake Elmo, which I’m sure will be good, since I enjoyed The Weatherman and Silent Snow so much.

Saturday night lasted well into Sunday morning, and my friend Scott and I were witnesses to a quasi-historic occasion in Columbus.  We were on hand at the first Columbus World Naked Bike Ride, an event that has happened annually in England, Canada, and more enlightened U.S. cities.  Neither of us rode, nor did we get totally naked, but we were there to support the protest against excess dependence on oil and to celebrate the human body in all its glory.

As opposed to the OSU/AXE Undie Run last month, this event did not receive any publicity at all.  Police were notified that there would be scantily clad (and possibly unclad) people on bicycles and other human-propelled vehicles headed from the Short North to downtown and around the Arena District and back north. However, I did not see a squad car, there were no TV mobile units, and E. 5th Ave. (where the Third-Hand Bicycle Cooperative‘s headquarters are) looked so deserted at first that Scott and I wondered if the event had been cancelled.

But it hadn’t been, even though a heavy rain was falling.  At first, the Co-Op’s garage was almost deserted, except for a few guys sharing tools, bicycle advice, and a bottomless supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon (Scott and I were one of the few teetotalers that night).  It looked just like a typical bike shop.

All that changed starting around 10:30-10:45 p.m.  Bike-riders (and riders of other vehicles) began arriving, and soon paintbrushes and tubes of acrylic paint were in demand as much as wrenches and calipers.  Although Scott and I were by far the oldest people there–the oldest of this crowd was probably 15 years younger than we were–we felt welcomed.  Some women just removed their shirts, and wore sports bras or halter tops, although several women rode topless, and men were mostly in tight briefs, jockstraps, or thongs.  Most of the topless women took advantage of the free body-painting, and the designs ranged in complexity from museum-quality work (executed in a very short time!) to simple line drawings.  I overheard one topless woman in the parking lot asking her friend how she should be painted, and I jokingly suggested she should have the BP logo painted on her.  When she emerged from the crowded, chaotic garage, I saw that she indeed have a shield painted above her breasts, with the big “BP” painted in the middle.

Several men did strip completely, which I am not sure is wise from a safety standpoint if you’re a bike-rider.  The only woman who shed all her clothes was a pixie-like woman of 20 who arrived wearing nothing but a porous white shawl and a black thong, both of which she took off for the ride, and which remained off for the rest of the night.  (She shouted, “I love you!” and blew kisses to each pedestrian she met en route to and from, I heard.)

I was astonished to see that the ride actually took off at 11:59 p.m., as planned.  Even at 11:50 p.m., there were many people crowded into the garage awaiting body paints, tools for last-minute adjustments to their bikes, etc., that I wondered how they were going to leave on time.  I wasn’t sure when they would return, because I knew this was a ride, and not a race.  Because of the falling rain and wet pavement, no one was encouraging speed.

Scott and I lingered in the Short North, after making a vain car trip southward to see if we could “catch ’em on the flip-flop”, as the CB radio enthusiasts used to say.  By the time we got back to E. 5th and Hamlet, the wet and exuberant naked riders had begun to arrive.  That was when they adjourned to a warehouse in the alley behind the Co-Op, a nondescript white building that looked like a small airplane hangar.  The warehouse now served as a clubhouse and impromptu dance hall.

We stayed until nearly 4 a.m., and spoke with many people, watched people in varying degrees of intoxication attempt the climbing wall, and made frequent trips outside for air.  The building was not well ventilated, and most of the people there smoked, so we went out into the alley, both to breathe and to be able to talk without having to scream over music.

The whole event was memorable and idyllic for me, but what stands out in my mind were one or two specific incidents.  Someone found hula hoops in a storage area, and one woman managed to maintain, without losing any momentum, her hoop around her waist for quite some time.  If I had the laptop with me, or a cell phone that accessed the Internet, I would have checked with The Guinness Book of World Records to see if there was a standing record for topless hula-hooping.

I had brought a camera along, but never took it out of Scott’s glove compartment, since I didn’t know any of the people at the gathering.  Around 3:30-3:45 a.m., there was a Kodak moment in the alley that I will regret never capturing.

Many of the people there tried out bikes they had never seen or ridden before.  One person had ridden a tall bike, and a woman at the party wanted to try it out by riding it back and forth in the alley.  (The bike reminded me of those penny-farthing bikes that were popular in the 1880s, minus the huge front wheel.)  After some difficulty, she was able to climb in the bike’s saddle (see picture, courtesy of Wikipedia) and make some initially shaky progress down the alley.

A car came down the alley, and there was a man in his late 50s or early 60s behind the wheel.  I wish I had captured the look on his face–the wide eyes and the perfect O of his mouth–when he looked out in front of him and there’s this gigantic bike in the beam of his headlights, and riding it is this rather well endowed woman wearing nothing but a smile and a pair of bike shorts.  He would have needed CPR if he had glanced inside the entrance of the warehouse to see the party going on there.

My friend Steve Palm-Houser writes a bicycling column for The Examiner.com.  He was unable to come to the ride, since he and his wife were in Chicago, but he pumped me for information on Monday, and here is his article:  Columbus Cyclists Join World Naked Bike Ride.  You can imagine how much arm-twisting it took on his part to get me to go and be his eyes and ears to this event!

I found out about the Naked Bike Ride when I saw
this card at the Weber Market one night.

Only in Clintonville can you have a schedule like this: Sat 10 p.m.-Sun. 4:30 a.m.–World Naked Bike Ride and party.  Sun 12:30 p.m.–Church Annual Meeting.  Sun 5:00 p.m.–Picnic at Whetstone Park with Susie’s youth group.