Proof That I’m Sleeping More Soundly

The Weather Channel’s Website is notorious for sending me storm warning emails every time the sun goes behind a cloud, so I usually delete them unread from my Inbox.  Tuesday night, I should have paid more attention to them, but I didn’t realize what I missed until afterwards.  I was skeptical as always about any bad weather on the horizon.  As Susie and I were leaving her choir practice at church, the ground was dry and not a drop of rain had fallen.

It would seem that I slept through a typhoon pre-dawn Wednesday morning.  My clock radio went off at 7 a.m. as usual.  I almost always wake up for brief periods of time during the night, still too tired to get out of bed, but awake enough to be able to glance at the digital clock and say, “Ah, I have x hours of sleep left before I have to get up.”  Susie has been on spring break this entire week, so I haven’t heard her moving around as she gets ready to head out to catch the school bus.

Susie was still in bed Wednesday morning when I roused myself a little after 7.  Seven a.m. is late for her, since she has to catch her bus at 6:30 (I think she sets her alarm for 5:45).  As I was in the shower, Steph came in and asked me if I had heard all the sirens during the night.

This completely puzzled me.  What sirens?  When she first mentioned “sirens,” my first thought was that there had been several arrests during the night.  We have no shortage of reprobate neighbors, including the Bickersons on the other side of our half double.  It would not at all be unusual for police to be coming en masse because of some disturbance or another.

When Steph mentioned all the wind and the rain, I realized she didn’t mean police sirens.  The tornado sirens had gone off, and there had been plenty of high-velocity winds and rain pelted the house.  Steph’s bedroom faces the street, and there are no buildings across the street, so she could see and feel it all as it beat against her windows.  (My bedroom windows face the windows of the house next door, so there is a buffer between any weather and my room.)  She said she pulled up Channel 10’s Doppler radar on her laptop, and watched the storm as it changed.  She considered awakening Susie and me, so we could all head to the basement (no doubt with laptop in tow, either on the National Weather Service’s site or Channel 10’s) and wait out the storm.

Before she could marshal the energy to do that, the worst of the storm had passed over our area.  I blissfully slept through the whole thing, and it seems I wasn’t alone.  Adding to my hesitancy about whether a tornado was really happening, the Conrail tracks are not too far from our house, and they run parallel to our street.  The trains’ sounds are easy to block, and I’m sure that if a real tornado was bearing down on us, my first thought would be it was a really fast and a really loud train roaring by.  (I have heard that’s what a tornado sounds like when you’re in the midst of it.)

When I got to work, many of my fellow employees were comparing notes about the ferocity of the storm, how loudly the sirens sounded (and for how long), and what damage they had seen.  One of my supervisors lives in Groveport, and the storm came within kissing distance of her neighborhood.  (Other than some overturned garbage cans, I saw no evidence of a storm, not even felled tree limbs.)

I have never had a fear of storms or inclement weather.  When I was younger, they were a welcome treat, a change from the usual.  When the power went out, it was even more exciting.  The transistor radio was our only conduit for news and information.  Candles burned in every room, and sometimes I would even be allowed to carry a candle of my own–and I was forbidden to be anywhere near matches, even to blow out my parents’ matches after they had lit cigarettes with them.

This never changed.  When I was 10 or 11, a storm was an excellent opportunity to start a taped letter to my grandfather, retired and living in Dunedin, Fla.  Had he lived in this day and age, he probably would have spend his summers as a storm chaser.  My mother said that the grayer and darker the skies were, the greater the chances they would find him lying in the back yard, intently studying the clouds and the sky as they changed colors and patterns.  This stayed with him for life–he always had a book about storms nearby, and these books were his Bible when the weather turned bad.  (He had even given our family a copy of Eric Sloane’s The Book of Storms, which I gripped in my hands whenever I first heard thunder.  I later bought copies of some of Sloane’s other books, such as A Museum of Early American Tools and Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake–1805.)

I doubt I saw 95% of the storms in this book, and
for that I should probably be grateful.

My mother said that her mother would always be yelling out at the back door, “Lester!  Get in here!!  You’ll get soaked!”  My grandfather didn’t care about that.  Storms fascinated him, as much as his other hobbies of bird-watching and rock-hounding.  (He was kind of a rural Renaissance man.  During his long career of public-school teaching, he taught every subject except music, home economics, and typing at least once.)

Whenever I was making these tapes, I would always stop what I was saying whenever the weather report came on, and put the microphone up against the radio speaker and let him hear the announcer read the latest information about where the storm had been, and where it was going.

I’ve lost none of that.  I find storms exhilarating even to this day.  A little more so when I’m indoors, yes, that’s true, but I enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with battening down the hatches, and waiting for it to pass.  (I remember humming REO Speedwagon’s “Ridin’ the Storm Out” to myself sometimes when I’ve been alone and waiting for these crises to pass.)

There are people who, quite understandably, don’t share this attitude.  One of my teachers at St. Mary’s Middle School in Marietta told the class about how storms frightened her mother.  As soon as she heard the first clap of thunder, she would surround her statue of the Blessed Mother with lit votive candles, and out would come the rosary beads.

During the summer of 1987, I was living in a rented room above a small store in Elmwood Place, a village about 6½ miles north of downtown Cincinnati.  I was working as a typesetter at Feicke Web.  About 2 p.m., I was just awakening (I worked an evening shift, typesetting the illustrious Homefinder magazine), and it seemed muggier than usual, and the sky was yellowish bordering on purple.  I went downstairs to get a meal before work.  The owner of one of the shops on Vine St. was sweeping the walk and a chubby pre-teen boy came up to him, his eyes like saucers.  (Years later, the Martin Prince character on The Simpsons made me think of him.)  “Mr. [So-and-So]!” the kid said, out of breath.  “Have you heard the news?  A tornado has been spotted!”  The kid thought that this was indeed grave news.  The sentence came out, “A tore NAY dough has been spot ted,” each syllable a word in its own right.

My first thought was that this kid was way overreacting.  But later I realized that the village would never be cavalier about tornadoes.  Elmwood Place experienced substantial damage during the Super Outbreak of tornadoes in April 1974, from one of the minor storms that spun off the tornado that flattened Xenia.  I doubt this kid was alive then, or if he was, he would have been an infant, but he must have grown up hearing anecdotes about it from the time before he could walk.

So, I’m old enough to sleep through a storm that produced many decibels of noise, from rain, wind, and sirens.  It’s a hell of a way to learn my sleeping is improving, that I’m actually sleeping more soundly.

Helluva Prize I Won

Whenever I go to an open-air festival, such as Comfest, Pride Weekend, or Hot Times in Olde Towne East, I often make up for (usually) not buying anything at the vendors’ booths by entering whatever drawings or contests they have.  (This was how I acquired the Kings in Their Castles book at Pride Weekend last summer.)  Usually, I don’t count on winning anything, and I grudgingly accept the fact that I may be bombarded with emails and phone calls pushing the product.

I’ve entered contests just for the sake of entering them, even when the prizes I won were totally useless to me.  As a kid, I remember winning a two-year subscription to a hardware store distributors’ newsletter, and two free shaves at a barber shop in Bakersfield, Calif.  (I was too young to shave then, and–as my recent pictures will attest–the prize is just as useless to me now as it was then.)

This time I won a prize.  I am the proud recipient of three 100% free workout sessions at CORE Fitness Studio.  My reaction at first was that this was like giving a kid with a broken leg a pair of roller skates, but I decided to keep an open mind, got on the phone, and set up a session for this morning.  I am by no means the beanpole that I was in high school, and I naïvely thought that once I swore off booze for good, the pounds would just melt away and the beer gut would be a not-so-fond memory in a matter of weeks.

I came to the session with many misgivings.  I have had few positive experiences with sports, and physical-education classes were nightmarish for me.  I cultivated a small library of quotes to justify my hatred of any type of physical activity: “I am a brain, my dear Watson, and the rest of me is a mere appendage,” a quote by Sherlock Holmes (who was an excellent fencer, boxer, and equestrian), and my fellow Ohioan Thomas Alva Edison: “All I ask of my body is that it carry around my head.”

Being ridiculed by your fellow students in phys. ed. for your lack of physical prowess or ability was bad enough, but the worst part was when the teacher joined in or encouraged the ridicule.  This was the case in junior high, and another student and I who received the brunt of the teacher-encouraged ridicule were so angered by it that we plotted (I’m not sure how seriously) various ways of ending the treatment.

The trainer I worked with at CORE today was quite decent.  He evaluated my body mass, and calculated my ideal weight (my current weight minus about 40 pounds, I’m sorry to say), and the regimen he put me through today wasn’t totally pleasant, but I didn’t come out of it feeling sore, or vowing not to come back.  He was the antithesis of the stereotypical middle-school phys. ed. teacher who would organize a dodge ball game, explain the rules, blow his whistle, get the kids started, and then go back to his office and smoke a cigar.

The block on Parsons Ave. where CORE is located.

My trainer was with me every step of the way, spotting me during my first experience with bench-pressing (I won’t reveal the weight), small free weights, and the stationary ski/walk machine (I don’t remember the name of it.)  I surprised myself by being able to do about six or seven sit-ups and push-ups–I didn’t think I could do any!  I wasn’t too stiff and sore–I was able to walk the mile and a half from CORE (on Parsons St. in Olde Towne East, just south of Broad St.) to the office without wanting to collapse anywhere en route, and while I was more aware of some of the muscles and nerves in my body than I was when I first walked in, none of them were jangling in pain.  I didn’t even need water until I came in to work.  (I belong to the Water Club at work–about $2 per pay period for unlimited access to water from The Water Store’s cooler.  Yes, bottled water is a scam, but the water in the cooler is colder than what comes from the fountain.)

I was even planning to walk home from work, but once the tornado sirens began sounding around 4:30, I decided to come home on the bus.  My pod is right near a west-facing window, and I could sit there and watch the visibility lower by the minute.  I could see the main post office on Twin Rivers Dr., but it was blurry and indistinct, like I was looking at it without my glasses.  Off in the distance, the twin buildings of the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety were totally obscured.  If I looked hard enough, I could barely make out the steeple of St. Aloysius Church just west of ODOT and Public Safety, but if I didn’t know it was there, it wouldn’t have registered.

I am a floor warden, so when the alarms began to whoop outside, and the alarm lights began to strobe, I made sure everyone headed to the nearest stairwell to await further instruction.  It was so close to 5 p.m., the last quitting time for the night, that I had no one to shepherd to safety once 5 p.m. came, so I left as well, and waited for the bus with a nice background sound of tornado sirens.  Other than the rain, it wasn’t bad outside once I got onto High St. to await the bus.  (I saw one of the windows on my floor actually ripple once or twice during one of the wind gusts, so I was concerned about going out into the weather, but it turned out not to be anything major.)

Although I’m quite tired right now, I’m typing at a pretty frenetic pace.  I’m using the Stones’ “When the Whip Comes Down,” from the Some Girls album, as background music while I work.  (I’ve never had a typing lesson, but I’ve heard about typing classes where the students would type to music.)