Quick Supplement to the October 6 Entry

When I posted on Susie’s 16th birthday (October 6), I mentioned that I had sent another gift to her, but I could not divulge it, because it had gone astray in the mail stream.  (Someone in the Columbus post office probably threw it in the wrong tub, which meant it went on the wrong flight, and ended up in Honolulu instead of Florida.)

The USPS people in Hawaii were able to right its course, so Susie received her gift, albeit a little later than I hoped.  There were two gifts in the padded envelope.  One was a spiral Beatles notebook (which Susie says will either be her next journal or an idea notebook).  The other was a black T-shirt from Records Per Minute, one of the many eclectic record stores (very minimal inventory of compact disks and cassette tapes) that I haunt, and to which I have brought Susie.

I gave Susie the notebook on the left.  All four of these choices are available from The Fab Four Store.

I was briefly tempted to buy one for myself, so as to continue my own diary, but I am using a large bound legal ledger right now.  I told myself that once I turned 50, I would use these books as diaries, instead of the Dollar Store composition books I’ve used for the past decade or so.

I am home from Fritz the Nite Owl’s showing of Halloween (1978).  Hate to cut it short, but it is past 3:30 in the morning, and the caffeine I had at Studio 35 has long ago worn off.  I realized that I had been quite unfair to my readers, leaving you dangling about what Susie received for her birthday.  So, now that we’re all breathing again, I will post this entry and crawl toward the bed.

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Sweet Sixteen for Susie

With my penchant for precision, I waited until exactly 1:13 p.m., when Susie was born, before calling to wish her a happy birthday.  (She didn’t hear the message.  Her voice mailbox has been full for quite some time, because we forgot the passcode, and her phone was on vibrate.  We IMd on Gmail a few minutes later, however.)

Susie’s birth time is easy to remember.  It’s 13:13, in European or military time.  Mine is also simple–12:34 p.m.  One two three four.  My obsession with detail even revealed itself at Susie’s birth.  Susie was delivered, after some 36 hours of labor, by Caesarean section, at Grant Medical Center.  When she finally made her debut, I was behind the sterile screen with Steph, so I could not see the actual event.  Our midwife took the single-use camera out of the breast pocket of my scrubs, and took the picture.  Susie still had the umbilical cord connected to her, and the nurses had yet to clean her.  I grabbed the camera back from the midwife, turned around and took a picture of the wall clock.

I was on Amazon.com last week to order Susie’s gifts.  They were DVDs of the fifth and sixth seasons of House, and a copy of Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem!, which is Holy Writ for anyone who participates in NaNoWriMo.  (This is October, and November, the month for National Novel-Writing Month, is looming on the horizon.  Susie and I “won” NaNoWriMo in 2011, and since I’m doing the empty-nest thing, I guess I cannot plead too many distractions when I undertake it this year.)  I am not sure if Susie will try her hand at NaNoWriMo this year, but November is the perfect month for it.  It’s so literate people can have something to do during college football season.

Right now, I am unable to write about another one of Susie’s gifts.  I approach this with some reluctance because, as a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, I am sensitive to criticism about it.  On Tuesday, I sent her a parcel via Priority Mail.  Included in the price is a tracking number, so your package leaves a trail beginning at the post office counter (in this case, at the Christopher Columbus station downtown, 43215) and ending up at its destination–which would be Merritt Island, Florida 32952.  I set up an alert so that the site would email Steph and me with each point in the package’s journey.

On Thursday, the email notified us that the package had arrived–not at the sort facility in Orlando, but in Honolulu.  I was an expediter’s assistant when I worked at the main post office in Cincinnati, so my guess is that someone in Columbus threw this package into the wrong tub, which meant it went out on the wrong flight.  We were in limbo until this morning, when I opened my email and saw that the package had made it to the sort facility in Orlando.  Unless someone drops the ball there, Susie should receive it tomorrow.  (I won’t disclose the contents, because Susie reads this blog.)

The government shutdown continues.  It brings back memories of 1995, when another shutdown occurred.  At the time, I was working for the Internal Revenue Service here in Columbus as an appointment clerk, and for that entire week, the atmosphere at work felt like a prisoner on Death Row waiting for a phone call from the governor.  On November 13 at midnight, Congress’ continuing resolution would expire.  I was on the phone to taxpayers and their representatives, telling them that I was cancelling appointments–no auditors would be there.  Our supervisor told us to report for work the next morning.

Outside the Federal Building, Mike Russell of WBNS-TV (Channel 10) interviewed me.  The only quote from that interview aired was my saying, “None of us got into government service with dollar signs in our eyes.”  I stand by that statement.  Anyone who enters government service at any level for financial gain is a fool.  Russell wanted to film more at my place on Highland St., so I came home and told Steph, “We’re having company.”  “Who?”  “Channel 10.”  Russell and a film crew arrived, and took some reaction shots of me watching Dan Rather on The CBS Evening News–on my black and white portable.  He showed me talking about living from one paycheck to the next, and how I would feel the loss of even one day’s wages.  (Compare this to an elderly woman who worked at the Industrial Commission when I arrived in 2004.  She had been there since World War II–hired when most men were in the service–and when she retired, supervisors found several uncashed paychecks in her desk.  If my paycheck is short $50, I feel its loss!)

We also came in the next morning, although the government officially closed for business at midnight.  I called a few more accountants and taxpayers and told them about the cancellations.  Finally, around 10 a.m., I left to get a Coke, and when I came back, my supervisor said, “Paul, sign your furlough letter and go home,” handing me the letter and a pen.  I signed it, put on my jacket, and headed for the door.  The telephone on my desk rang.  Just on instinct, I turned and reached for the receiver.  Then, I just shrugged my shoulders and walked out, and headed home.

The shutdown ended on the 19th of November.  I remember a video clip of Bob Dole (R-Kansas) saying, “If the government shuts down, his [President Clinton’s] fingerprints will be all over it.”  We see how well that worked during the 1996 elections.  Clinton was re-elected with 379 electoral votes, and he carried 31 states and the District of Columbia.

This weekend has not been totally boring.  I did some major cleaning in my study (the living room is next, since it’s turned into an Oscar Madison-type bachelor pad, which, even in my re-bachelor state, I’m not liking) and discovered a small pocket diary that I bought on eBay earlier this year.  It covers only the month of January 1887, and, because of its age and fragility, I will leave it blank.  It is also the only time I have ever seen an entire appointment book that covered only one month.  (I have seen five-year diaries–although I never used them–and appointment books where the whole week appears on two pages.)

I wonder if the Rhode Island Underwriters Association gave their clients a new diary every month, as a perk for buying a policy.

I left work early and went to a rummage sale at a friend’s house on N. 4th St.  Most of the selection was women’s clothing, which, of course, did not interest me.  I did buy $6 worth of records, including The Rock ‘N’ Roll Era–1963 (the year of my birth), a Time-Life compilation.  I was a little dismayed it did not contain “I Will Follow Him,” by Little Peggy Marsh, which was the #1 hit the week I was born.

(The week Susie was born, the #1 hit was Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind/Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”  I believe it was the recording of the version of “Candle in the Wind” that Sir Elton John sang at Princess Diana’s funeral that summer.)

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.)