Winter is icumen in/Lhude sing goddamm

Ezra Pound’s parody “Ancient Music” seems so appropriate today, even though the winter solstice is still two weeks away–and I’ve used it before, back when this blog was still on LiveJournal.  The first wave fell yesterday, and we had a small respite from additional snowfall today.  This is, I understand, the calm before the storm.  According to the meteorologists I’ve seen on TV and online, Columbus is due to get slammed again tomorrow.

I took what turned out to be a minor fall Friday morning when I was walking out of my place to the bus stop, thinking the front walk was just wet, not icy.  In the end, I hurt nothing but my pride, but it was painful enough for me to call off from work, down some Naproxen, and sleep for much of the morning.  When I got out of bed, I was not walking like an old lady, like I was immediately after the fall, but I was walking more slowly than usual.

The juxtaposition was not lost on me.  On Tuesday, the mercury climbed into the 60s, so I rode the trike to work.  It took about 45 minutes, and I felt invigorated when I made it downtown.  (A trike ride, even when I undertake it reluctantly, does improve my mood and my overall spirit.  I have often wondered if my mental health insurance will reimburse me for it.  Futile, I know.)

I didn’t ride home until Wednesday night, because I had to head home early to meet the guys from Beavis & Butt-head Appliances, Inc., who were delivering my new washer and dryer.  (I live diagonally across from a Laundromat, but with my own equipment, I have the freedom to do my laundry at 2 a.m. in my bathrobe, if I so choose, or not to take it immediately out of the dryer.)  All they would promise was that the appliances would be at my place between 4 and 6 p.m., which entailed leaving work early, all so those these two could arrive at 6:30.  I could not christen my new machines until the following night, because the dryer did not come with a vent hose.

The trike spent Tuesday night in the BWC garage, and then on Wednesday, I rode it home.  I knew the weather was going to change, and if I didn’t ride it home Wednesday, the bike would spend all winter in the garage.

And Thursday morning, I attempted to walk to work.  I got about two-thirds of the way before it began raining too hard for me to continue.  I rode a bus for the final mile, and then worked until 5, hearing more and more ominous stories about the storm.

What is remarkable is that I managed to do a fair amount of walking today without falling.  Since I have accepted the fact–kicking and screaming–that I am middle-aged, I also know that part of this involves the fact that falls can be much more dangerous and have much more negative long-term effects than they did when I was younger.  Today, I vowed not to confine myself to quarters, so I loaded up my black over-the-shoulder bag with the laptop, two books, my journal, and the typescript of a long untouched manuscript that I am rewriting, and went to Kafé Kerouac, a walk of 0.8 miles.  Never has it seemed so long, so difficult.  The ice was melting in some places, but the bulk of the trip was on slick and bumpy ice surfaces.  Even though I was wearing tennis shoes, I felt myself about to slip several times when I put the soles of my feet on the ground.  (I am sure that if I had been wearing dress shoes, I would definitely have fallen.)

Adding to my worries was what would happen if I did fall.  Hurting myself would be bad enough, but I was mortally afraid of landing on the laptop and ruining it as well.  There were points along the journey when I was hanging onto street signs, shrubs, and garbage cans just to keep stable.

I did get a fair amount of work done while I was at Kafé Kerouac.  I finished the first chapter of the manuscript, and read a chapter of Grant’s Final Victory, the story of the last year of Ulysses S. Grant’s life, his sudden poverty, and the writing of his Personal Memoirs.

Earlier this week, I came home from work and found a large, but light-as-a-feather, parcel sitting on my front porch.  This was major good news, since lately my letter carrier seems to deliver mail only when the mood strikes him.  Inside, mummified in plenty of bubble wrap and balled-up newspapers, was a Simplex toy typewriter.  Novelist Robert Lowry died on December 5, 1994, 19 years ago Thursday.  He began writing at the age of seven, when he asked Santa Claus for a typewriter, and found it under the tree that Christmas.

The Simplex, which I bought on eBay, was the vintage of the model he received.  There is one key, and the operator turns a big rubber wheel to the desired character, and presses the big key so that it prints on the paper below.  (This machine is non-functional, and has not been inked in decades.  I have no plans to try to get it to work; it’s in my office as a conversation piece, and as an inspiration.)

The Practical Simplex Typewriter Number 300.  The keys in the front are painted, and not functional, just like the black keys on Schroeder’s toy piano in the Peanuts comics.

Online, I was kidding Susie that this was the original laptop.  Later that night, I was reading a clipping that I tucked inside the front cover of Jimmy Carter’s White House Diary.  It was a 1981 New York Times article about Carter’s upcoming memoirs.  It made the newspapers when the former President hit a wrong function key and lost two or three days’ worth of work.  More interesting was the description of the machine itself, back in the day when the masses did not know much (if anything) about word processing and computers:

The Lanier machine, which sells for about $12,000, takes up about the same amount of desk space as an electric typewriter but is taller by a foot or more because of the cathode-ray display screen.  The operator works at an electronic keyboard that returns the carriage automatically and also hyphenates and numbers pages.  Removable magnetic disks store up to 30 pages of typed information.

(I displayed a picture of President Carter’s Lanier “No Problem” word processor in an entry last month.)

Word is that we’re supposed to get pelted with even more snow and cold temperatures tomorrow.  I am not planning to go to church in the morning, so I plan to hibernate at least through the morning hours.  A good friend lured me out for dinner tonight, since I had recovered mentally and physically from the walk to and from Kafé Kerouac, but she had a car, so that involved almost no walking.  However, packed snow is much better for walking than ice is, so I may venture out to see what Columbus looks like under this second round of snow.

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Hubris Can Hurt

Mrs. Curtis, an English teacher at Marietta High School, taught a Greek mythology class.  I took the class my senior year, and one thing I never forgot was a sentence she wrote on the blackboard and never erased the entire semester: Beware excessive pride.  (She was a bit of a grammar Nazi–I’ve been called that as well–so I suspect that was why she never wrote the rest of the sentence, for it is a failing we are all open to.  There were certain things up with which Mrs. Curtis did not put!)

“Beware excessive pride” is a maxim that lay deeply buried in my subconscious until this week.  As I’m sitting here in my study typing this entry, Susie is downstairs watching a video, I have Jethro Tull comfortably blaring from my speakers, and I am in pain.
The pain is an aftereffect of my own hubris (“excessive pride, presumption, or arrogance (originally toward the gods)”, per Wiktionary.org).  A co-worker of mine has been ribbing me for weeks about my avoidance, if not complete aversion, to joining the gym at work.  He has even offered to pay for my first month’s membership.
He and I trade barbs about my lack of physical fitness and I come back with remarks about his age.  (He is several years older than I am, and played football and baseball in high school, and coached track when he was in the Army.  He spends every lunch hour on the treadmill or working out with weights.)
Last week, he challenged me to walk with him from our floor in the William Green Building (the 10th), all the way to the topmost floor.  He knows that I enjoy walking long distances and for hours at a time, so I guess he wanted to see just how fit I truly was.  (According to body mass index charts, I’m constantly straddling the dividing line between overweight and obese.)  I shrugged this off, thinking, “Piece of cake.”  Walking was walking, wasn’t it?  After all, I reasoned, I did plenty of walking during the six years I lived in Cincinnati, and no two neighborhoods are on the same level there.

Chuck, my co-worker, said, “Tuesday morning, 10 o’clock.  Meet you at the door to the stairs.”

I told him I’d be there.  When I got back to my desk, I logged into GroupWise (our combined email and scheduling software platform) and under October 25, 10 a.m., I logged, “Walk to the top of the building with Methuselah,” making sure he would get a copy.

So Tuesday at 10, I met him at the door to the stairwell.  Usually, I spend my 10 a.m. breaks in the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation library, reading The Columbus Dispatch or The Wall Street Journal, but I decided that I would forego this until lunchtime.  So there I was at 10, and Chuck was at the door.  We exchanged the banter about whether we had the paramedics on standby, should we have a defibrillator waiting, etc.

The William Green Building, my workplace since 2004.

And then he and I began trudging.  I knew he would be faster, since he habitually uses the Stairmaster in the gym.  I sailed up the first two or three flights, and then I took 10- or 15-second breaks after I had gone up four or five floors.

The William Green Building is 530 feet tall, and it has 33 floors altogether.  I did not realize, until this trudge was in progress, there were three additional floors.  The Industrial Commission’s executives’ offices are on the 30th floor, known either as “Thirty” or “the Vatican.”  I had assumed that was the topmost floor.  But, as we kept going upward, Chuck informed me that there were 33 floors altogether.  Floors 31-33 contain the air conditioning equipment, the elevator mechanism, and generators.

The walk up to 33 was not fun.  I have occasionally walked from the lobby to the 10th floor, and came through the door at the conclusion of the walk thinking someone would have to jump-start my heart.  My legs were aching, but I felt okay as far as my breathing was concerned.  Chuck told me later he worried a little when I stopped to take the mini-breaks.  My legs were hurting a bit by the time I triumphantly placed my hand on the door to the 33rd floor, like a mountain climber planting a flag.

Then came the trip back down.  When I’ve started the day (or returned from lunch) by going up to the 10th floor by stair instead of elevator, at least I could be sure that I’d be sitting for awhile thereafter.  According to my stopwatch, Chuck and I took 8½ minutes to go 23 floors.  I shut the stopwatch off once I touched the door with “33” painted on it, so I didn’t time the trip back downstairs.

We hadn’t descended very far before I felt like my legs were going to buckle.  I’ve heard expressions such as “It’s all downhill from here” all my life, and that would lead me to believe that downhill would be easier.  Wouldn’t gravity be doing most of my job for me?

Yes, it would, and if I wasn’t careful, gravity would be doing the job too well.  I had to make sure my shoes were firmly planted on each step, and I held onto the handrail until my knuckles were bloodless.  This was one of those situations where you just had to ignore the pain.  I had taken Monday off from work, so the untyped ex parte orders and doctors’ reports were piling up on my desk.  I couldn’t just stay in the stairwell indefinitely.  So I paced myself, gritted my teeth, and made it back to the 10th floor.  “I’m proud of you, man!” Chuck said.  He had been worried when I wanted to take a break on the way up, but I did it.

Once I got back to my desk, that was when I began to sweat, and that was when the pain in my gastrocnemius muscles really began to hurt, and the pain hasn’t let up yet.  Since Tuesday morning, I have dreaded stairs, especially when I have to go down them.  When it’s necessary, I hold my legs rigidly, like a wishbone, and you can tell from my expression that it’s an ordeal I want to finish as soon as I can.

Compare this to when I was at Ohio University, in the fall of 1986 through the spring of 1987, when I steadfastly refused to use elevators, in an effort to lose weight.  (During high school, I resembled Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! cartoons, more so when I grow the scraggly goatees that preceded my first real beards.)  I drove my friends crazy by insisting on using stairs, thinking I would burn off any excess weight.  Never mind that I was going to bars almost nightly and drinking beer by the gallon.)

So where do I stand right now?  The pain is still there, and it’s not limited to when I’m climbing stairs.  I usually carry a bottle of Aleve in my knapsack, since I’m so prone to shin splints, and I’ve been using it pretty heavily these past few days.  Tonight, I walked the 1.2 miles from Giant Eagle to my house.  (I had gone to the Whetstone library to pick up reserves, and, as I left, Susie asked me to pick up some bread.  I took the bus from home to Whetstone, and from Whetstone to Giant Eagle, but decided to walk back home.)  I’m not sorry I did it, but I was hoping I could walk out whatever cramp or knot I gave myself during my marathon stair climb on Tuesday.

Pride goeth before leg cramps.

This Entry Shouldn’t Be Happening

That is to say, it shouldn’t be happening at the present moment.  The clock on the computer says 3:41 a.m.  My cell phone is in agreement.  In just under four hours, I need to step out the door and make my way to the bus stop, and then put in eight hours at the Industrial Commission.

Yet here it is, with the hands of the clock nearing 4 a.m., and I am wide awake.  I did go to bed just before midnight, but did nothing but lie there in the dark for hours.  This is ironic, because with narcolepsy, it’s often a minute-to-minute struggle to prevent falling asleep, but try though I might, I couldn’t wind down enough.  When I was in a child, my bedroom was situated in such a way that the cars passing by on 7th St. cast moving shadows along the opposite wall from my bed.  It didn’t always work, but oftentimes that had a lulling effect on me, almost like counting sheep.

My current wakefulness may be because of a weekend of excess.  From the late 1970s until Susie’s birth in 1997, weekends of excess were not unusual for me.  This weekend, I overdid it on two things–walking and sleeping.  (There are worse things, I’m sure, but I am having a hard time understanding that at this precise moment.)

I’ve been overdoing it on the walking partly because I was making up for lost time.  It’s been too hot and too humid to walk for much of the summer, and the first day that the relative humidity was under 70%, I jumped at the chance, walking 5½ miles after work to Great Southern Shopping Center to pick up my new camera at Wal-Mart.  Re-embracing walking also came as an attempt (not always successful) to shake off a bout of depression that has gripped me for much of the summer.  One of the things I do when I’m on the “depressive” end of the bipolar pendulum is self-isolate.  I’m not financially secure enough for the luxury of total agoraphobia, so I have managed to get out of the house to get to and from work each day.  And at the end of the day, just doing that made me feel like I’ve donated a pint of blood.

I spent much of Friday night through Sunday morning pounding the pavement.  I was out walking into the wee hours of Saturday morning, tumbling into bed as it was getting close to dawn.  (Campus is quieter on weekend nights than it will be when OSU is in session, but there were still quite a few drunks out on High St.)

One thing I noticed while out walking around the bar patrons (and weaving through crowds of them on the sidewalks or at United Dairy Farmers) is the change in my attitude about seeing drinkers, and how radically it’s changed from when I first went off the sauce.  I made several halfhearted attempts to quit drinking after I left Athens in 1989, but they never lasted more than a few months at best.  I didn’t become a complete teetotaler until after Susie was born.  For the first year or so, every time I passed a bar, saw people have a glass of wine with dinner, or even take Holy Communion (when I’d go with Steph to an Episcopal service; Episcopalians, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians use wine, and not grape juice, for Communion), a jealousy I didn’t even know was there would surface.  Looking inside a bar made me feel like the diabetic kid with his nose pressed against the candy store window.  I don’t feel that way anymore.  And I haven’t developed the convert’s zeal that leads me to look down my nose at those who still imbibe.  (I guess I could classify myself as straight edge these days, but my excessive caffeine consumption and the fact that I am an unapologetic carnivore would bump me from that culture in some circles.)

I burned quite a few calories walking (about 320 per hour at the pace I walk), but unfortunately I was too exhausted to go to Grandview in the morning for the matinee showing of The Terror.  It would be weird to see Fritz the Nite Owl’s show by daylight, but this was the movie that Susie and I missed because the 5 bus, snagged in post-Comfest traffic, never came.

I wrote about retiring a pair of shoes and replacing them at Goodwill in my previous entry.  Saturday, Scott and I walked around the area north of Lane Ave. and west of High St., but stopped a little short of Clintonville itself.  My pedestrian urges were not 100% sated, so after he dropped me off at home, sometime around 11:30, I couldn’t concentrate on reading or writing, so I went out again.

Classes haven’t started at Ohio State, and the football season doesn’t start until September 3, so I wonder why the fires are already starting.  Friday night-Saturday morning, someone on E. 11th Ave. set an old love seat on fire and threw it into the yard.  Everyone seemed content to sit and watch it burn until the flames caused a wooden deck on the apartment next door to start smoldering.  (All the lights were off in that apartment, so either everyone had gone to bed or no one was home.)

Early Sunday morning, I saw some smoke and an orange glow in one of the alleys just south of Lane Ave.  I went over to see what was happening.  A dumpster was burning.  Three or four guys (and one woman) were standing in the alley; one had called 911, and the others were taking pictures of it with their iPhones.  I have a cheap Motorola cell phone that can take about 20 seconds of footage at a time, so I turned it on and shot some pictures of the blaze before the firefighters arrived:

My guess is that someone set this fire.  The young woman thought that it started when someone pitched a cigarette into the dumpster, but this had the earmarks of a deliberate fire.  On the other side of the alley, several people stood in their yards and doorways, clustered around holding beer bottles and cans, watching it like it was a movie.  I tried to keep my distance, before and after filming the above, mainly because I didn’t know if anything explosive was in the dumpster.  For all anyone knew, someone had discarded gasoline or aerosol cans in there.

I awoke late this morning with a bad pain in my left shin (and the right, but to a much lesser degree), and I knew that walk-a-thons like the ones of Friday and Saturday were out of the question.  I geared down my pace considerably for the one-mile walk to Family Dollar to buy some socks and underwear, and negated all my healthy walking with a too-big lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken on W. 5th Ave.  While I was at the main library later in the afternoon, I Twittered: Real dilemma on my hands here.  Should I ignore the pain in my shin and walk today, so I can work off the huge meal I ate at KFC?  A friend in San Francisco posted Listen to your shin, a reply that was “liked” by three people.  (My Twitter posts automatically appear on my Facebook page.)

And I did listen to my shin for most of the day, but I came home and napped for an hour or two (thereby missing an early Sunday night meeting I had planned to attend, and had entered onto my cell phone–which is my appointment diary these days).  When I awoke, the shin pain was bearable, but it was there.  So I walked to Kroger and bought some naproxen, which may keep the pain at bay enough for me to do some walking for recreation and exercise.

I have had my Windows Media Player on shuffle while I’ve been typing, although I limit to the songs I ranked as five-star songs–a potpourri that varies from classic to New Wave.  Considering my situation, it’s bizarre that Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” came up just now.  I guess it could have been worse; it could have been The Beatles’ “Good Night.”

Lazy Saturday: Missing Movie, Buying and Christening New (Old) Shoes

My job at the Discovery Exchange (Columbus State’s bookstore) is on hiatus until the day after Labor Day, so I’ve been enjoying this time off to the hilt, including a very open-ended Friday night bedtime.  The downside to this is that I’ve ended up sleeping through Saturday morning and early afternoon events that I’ve not wanted to miss.  But I am boasting a new–to me–pair of shoes.

Even though it was close to 5 a.m. when I tumbled into bed last night this morning, I fully intended to walk to Grandview this morning for the matinee re-showing of The Terror, starring Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff.  (Fritz the Nite Owl showed it at midnight the Saturday of Comfest, and Susie and I waited and waited for Bus 5 to take us to Grandview Ave., but it never came, hopelessly snarled in all the northbound traffic exiting Goodale Park.)

The show started at 11 a.m., so I planned to have pavement under me by 9:30.  My alarm went off at 8:45, I cursed it, shut it off, and promptly went back to sleep.  It was past noon when I finally got out of bed for good.  (I rationalized it by remembering my years of third-shift work, at The Crimson and at the Cincinnati post office, when 12 noon would be considered rising too early.)

I also took a pass on two chances to be civic-minded.  The Stand Up for Ohio Festival was at the Ohio State Fairgrounds today, easily within walking distance (for me), and my original plan was to go after the movie.  (The event featured the Ohio Players, Grand Funk Railroad, and Nikki Giovanni.)  I couldn’t summon the interest or mental energy to make my way there, despite being 100% on the same page with the goals of the organization–namely the repeal of Senate Bill 5, the bill which effectively ended collective bargaining for Ohio’s civil servants.

The same was true for the Weinland Park Festival.  Even though it was much closer, I declined to go to this as well.  In the year that I have lived here, I have fallen almost completely out of love with Weinland Park, and I would have felt hypocritical going to the Festival, as if my warm body being there indicated that I affirmed and took pride in being a resident.  At best, it would have been like going to the Thanksgiving dinner of relatives you loathe because they happen to set such a good table.

So what did you do, O blogger?  I went to the Goodwill in Baja Clintonville (by the Giant Eagle) to buy shoes, since there were holes in the soles of the pair I was wearing.  In my un- or underemployed days, I would have remedied this by filling the holes with newspaper and using the shoes until the soles started flapping.  But today, for a little over $7, I came away with a gray and white pair of Adidas tennis shoes, and a black T-shirt from Sloppy Joe’s in Key West.  (I have never been to Key West, nor to Florida, but I bought the shirt because of the picture of Hemingway on the front.  (Hemingway and friends habituated this bar until he moved from Key West in 1939.)

Once I put on the new shoes and pitched the ones I had been wearing, I broke them in by walking about three or four miles around Clintonville and the North Campus area.  (I remember when I was delivering newspapers on Knox St. in Marietta when I was in high school.  I overheard a little girl tell her mother, “I’m putting on my new shoes so I can break out in them!”  Art Linkletter was right.)

When I sign onto online chat boards, I’ve considered using Walkingman as my screen name, but I haven’t.  I would think people would associate it with the James Taylor album of that name–one of his least commercially successful and one of my least favorite.  A friend suggested Walkingdude, but I vetoed that right away.  I’ve never liked the word dude, and I think it sounds idiotic without the word ranch after it.  But the main reason is because this is one of the many nicknames Stephen King uses in The Stand for the demonic Randall Flagg, the novel’s mega-antagonist.

Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg in the ABC-TV miniseries of The Stand.

I thought of this while I was eating a quick meal in Subway this afternoon.  One of the books that came in at the library for me was Hardcases, which is Volume IV of Marvel Comics’ graphic novel adaptation of The Stand, and I was reading it while I ate.
More walking is on for tonight.  My friend Scott and I were going to go to the Eid ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan) celebration tonight at the Al-Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Hilliard, but then he remembered he promised to go to a bonfire at his brother’s house, so we’re walking after he comes back from the bonfire.

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.

Took My First Decent Walk This Afternoon

The longest walks I’ve taken so far this year have been the hop-skip-and-a-jump trips to Kroger (10-15 minutes long) and back, and I’ve been using the cold weather as my reason to hold off on putting any serious pavement under my feet.  Hopefully, I’m snapping out of that, even though March and the vernal equinox are still a ways away.

I walked home from work this afternoon.  The temperature has hovered around freezing all day (according to The Weather Channel, it’s now 33º outside), and I don’t think I ever saw the sun all day, but when 5 p.m. rolled around, I began the northbound walk up High St.  I kept at a pretty good clip, and managed to cover 1.8 miles in 32 minutes–not quite 4 mph.  I didn’t feel as refreshed as I have in walks past, didn’t feel like I could go another 1.8 miles with no effort, but I’m glad to have done it.

My after-work walk is a good warm-up for what is becoming my last-Saturday-of-the-month tradition, the trek to Grandview for the monthly return of Nite Owl Theater.  This Saturday, the movie is House on Haunted Hill, a 1959 picture starring Vincent Price.  The walk is just over three miles, and I’ll be leaving the house around 11 in order to make the midnight showing.  Once the picture ends, I’ll be making the reverse journey home, which means I probably won’t be in bed until about 3 a.m. at the earliest.

One of the things I managed to do to shorten the walk was to stay on the opposite side of the street from Abbott’s Antique Paper and Emporium.  Even though I had little more than pocket lint on me, had I gone there, I would have fallen in love with their inventory, as I always do.  I’ve long gotten over drooling over the ’70s-era pinball machine, but the racks and racks of framed magazine covers, extant issues of Life, Collier’s, and Look, and framed ads for Coca-Cola and other artistically rendered products, have tempted me.  One Comfest I bought a complete New York Post of December 9, 1980 with the giant headline JOHN LENNON SHOT DEAD, and have considered framing it and hanging it up ever since.  I need to find glass that will slow down the yellowing process, since direct exposure to sunlight wreaks havoc on the cheap paper on which newspapers are printed.

My friend and O.U. classmate Ivan received some happy news from me earlier this month.  His former apartment building (at the corner of N. 4th St. and E. 8th Ave.) was demolished.  I got my digital camera and took some brief footage of some of the demolition.  The building was marginal to start with.  Ivan’s basement apartment had bars on the window, and there was often gang graffiti decorating both the interior and exterior of the place.  If the front door was locked, no one thought twice about just kicking it in.  Ivan said that he went into the utility room to do his laundry one day and two or three guys were sitting in there, nonchalantly loading guns.

Campus Partners and the city are going to put 10 houses on the site where the two apartments were located.  They’re going to be built pretty close together, five on N. 4th and five on Hamlet St.  (Ivan and I had christened his building “Charminel North,” named after Charminel Towers, the decrepit apartment building near the main library which was evacuated and eventually demolished in the 1990s.)

Above is the footage that I took of the destruction of Ivan’s erstwhile residence.

Can Safely Say the Foot is Healed

And I say that without a return visit to the podiatrist.  I spent much of today on the move, on foot.  I was in no pain when I was finished, and sighed a little when each journey ended.  (I let out a mental “Awww!” when I came to my destinations, much like a kindergarten class when playtime ends.)  I was not in pain at the end of any of these walks, nor am I now.

I took three major walks today, and I jotted down the times in my breast-pocket notebook once I ended them.  (I used the stopwatch on my cell phone.)  Taking the first step toward the divorce, I took the bus down to a law office in German Village this morning, and decided to walk back, since I left my return time open-ended on the affidavit I gave my supervisor.  The walk was 49:46.01 minutes long, and the distance was 2½ miles, according to Google Maps.  (I didn’t use the exact course it plotted, but its distance figures are good enough.)  The office was just south of Schiller Park, and I stuck to the streets the whole time and didn’t try to shortcut through the park itself.

Susie will be returning to her Monday home school history class next week, and several books from its reading list arrived at the Whetstone library during the day today.  (So did the DVD of The Accused I reserved last week; I have never seen that movie.  That’s odd, since I was living in Boston at the time the gang rape in New Bedford occurred, the “Big Dan’s” case on which the story is based.)  Susie was at the library already, and I took a different route than usual.  I rode the Indianola bus (as usual) north, but got off the bus at the corner of Indianola and Fallis (once again, cool the mirth: It rhymes with “Wallace”) and walked west until High St. and then north.  This was 19:04.76 minutes, covering 1.1 miles.  Susie and I walked home, which took 44:47.87 minutes to cover two miles.  The total was 5.6 miles.  I keep telling myself I should get a pedometer and track a day’s walking in earnest.  (I do have one, which came in a Happy Meal several years ago, but I never calibrated it, and I’m doubtful as to its accuracy.)  I was also carrying a knapsack full of the books for Susie’s class, so the walk was much more aerobic than usual.

In the ’70s, Mad published a Dave Berg “Lighter Side of…” cartoon that featured a young man boasting about the 100-mile hike he and his friends will begin the following day.  He tells his girlfriend they plan to cover 25 miles per day.  While going over everything he packed, he realizes he forgot to buy salt tablets, and he’d better hurry to the drugstore and get some.  The drugstore is just around the corner, and in the last panel we see him hopping in the car and driving there.  That’s one of the many reasons I’m glad that I don’t even have that option.

Today was “Would you correct my report?” day at work.  My co-pilot is in training, so I fielded her tasks, as well as my own.  I offset the boredom by listening to Oprah: A Biography, by Kitty Kelley, on CD.  I borrowed it more out of morbid curiosity than anything else, and I find myself thankful that Kitty Kelley will probably be dead by the time I reach any fame or notoriety.  (After reading The Lives of John Lennon and Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!!, I felt the same way about Albert Goldman.)

I began the audio book thing in the summer of 1986, when I had a less-than-thrilling temp job with the State’s Division of Elevators, typing elevator (and earlier, boiler) records onto a database as they were converting to computerized records.  I seem to remember the first extant book I listened to (borrowed from the library) was Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke.  My dad referred to it as my “offsetting therapeutic support.”  I used to love the narrator’s instructions preceding the actual start of the book.  My friends and I always got a laugh out of this:

Should a cassette fail to play properly, hold it flat in the palm of your hand and slap it smartly against a hard, flat surface.  If this does not work, and you cannot otherwise free the reels, call us at the number that appears on the enclosed copyright information card.  Give us the name of the book, and number of the cassette.  We will immediately send you a replacement at no charge.  Discard the broken cassette.

I normally loathe waiting rooms, but the one I visited today redeemed itself.  There was the usual scatter of dog-eared two-year-old magazines, and some toys here and there for children dragged along by their parents, but there was a waist-high bookcase with a sign HELP YOURSELF TO A BOOK! against one wall.  I came away with a Signet paperback of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

Making the Transition From Office to Office/Bedroom Permanent

I moved permanently into my study a few weeks before Steph and I decided that we would end our marriage.  However, I’ve decided to take advantage of the long weekend to give the office a long overdue cleaning, which made me more Indiana Jones than Molly Maid.  Before Steph and I sent the Google Document I cut and pasted into an earlier entry, Susie helped me move a twin mattress into the study.  This is a small room, so when I’m not sleeping, I upend it against one wall, Murphy-bed style.

Pictures will follow.  The project is not yet completed.  I marvel at my ability to generate clutter.  I am an incorrigible Oscar Madison, which is one reason why I’m sure that I’d be a bad roommate, as well as a bad spouse.  The room is now a bachelor pad of sorts, and the phrase has two connotations.  You either conjure the image of a total pigpen, barely fit for habitation, and the other is a lair for seduction (à la Glenn Quagmire on Family Guy).  I’d like to strike a happy balance between the two.

I have never been much for elegantly decorated living quarters.  The only reason I gravitate toward larger dwellings is because of my books.  I know that there are such things as Kindles and iPads, but they’ll never take the place of the feeling of being surrounded by literally thousands of volumes.

Because of financial necessity, in my late teens and 20s, I often lived in single rooms, such as dormitories, rooming houses, or the YMCA.  I was always willing to settle for less than optimal conditions in exchange for the chance to live alone.  While I was moving crates of books, I found a copy of Straight Talk from Prison, the autobiography of Lou (“The Convict Writer”) Torok, written while he was at the Chillicothe Correctional Institute in the 1970s.  In one of the early pages, there is a picture of Torok in his cell.  The cell looked almost like the room I rented in the Elmwood Place neighborhood of Cincinnati:

I corresponded with Torok while he was confined
at the Luther Lockett Correctional Facility in
Kentucky (where he died in 2000).  Ironic, when you
consider that one of the captions in the book said: 
“Lou at work in his cell.  Looming in the foreground,
his typewriter stands as a symbol of rehabilitation for
‘The Convict Writer.'”  Guess not!

While switching this room over to full-time living quarters, I took another step away from tokens of marriage.  On the wall to the left of my desk, I hang a large United States map that came from National Geographic.  Next to that was a framed needlepoint that Steph gave me on St. Valentine’s Day 1997, just after we learned she was pregnant with Susie.  It says: “Paul, You are my forever Valentine.”  I’ve put that in a drawer, and replaced it with a Beatles poster (the Abbey Road cover) which came from the Really, Really Free Market last Sunday.
I went to the Main Library downtown yesterday, and realized, after I checked online, that I needed to pick up something at Whetstone as well as downtown.  I thought about hoofing it the whole way (a little over six miles), but I didn’t because the temperature was in the 50s, and I wore a short-sleeved shirt.  So, for want of a hoodie…
And I wish I had walked it, autumn temperatures or no.  I rode most of the way up High St. on the bus with a guy who worked with me at Medco, and had a reputation as the plant’s resident malcontent.  He no longer has the job–mostly because of his being himself a little too often–but he still has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Leveque Tower about the place.  He holds me in awe because I was able to go “over the wall” and escape to a better job.
I needed a big walk today, and even though it’s midnight right now, I’m thinking about walking to and from Whetstone Library as soon as I publish this entry.  (That’s about 4½ miles round trip.)  I found some CDs that aren’t overdue yet, but I’d better return them before they’re buried again.

I needed a big walk because I had a big breakfast.  Most of the congregation of First Unitarian Universalist Church is at the Labor Day retreat in the Hocking Hills.  This is also the last three-day weekend that will feature really nice weather, so when I considered those two factors, I knew church would be a ghost town this morning.  So, Susie and I went to breakfast at the Clintonville Resource Center, where I generously partook of sausage casserole, scrambled eggs, potatoes, apple juice, and a pastry.  Not only did Susie eat less than I did, she burned most of it off working in their garden planting carrots and radishes.  I walked back with her and then took a siesta for several hours in the afternoon.  By comparison, I had a small and late dinner of two tuna sandwiches and milk.

According to the icon from The Weather Channel on my monitor, it’s 57 degrees outside.  So I’ll dress sensibly for the walk–either a hoodie or a windbreaker.  Monday also marks the end of the season at Olympic Swim and Racquet Club, and Susie wants to be there, even if she’s digging slush out of her ears after the final dive.  (Last year, when they announced the pool was closing for the season, a lot of the kids joined hands and dove en masse into the pool from the sides, which is a no-no per the pool’s rules.)

Susie and I were last there Thursday evening, after Steve came over to help Susie with her geometry homework.  (He ended up as baffled as she was, although he did better than I did.)  I had brought my Memorex MB1055 cassette recorder along, because I was in the midst of taping a letter to a friend.  (The friend doesn’t have a microcassette recorder, so I didn’t bring Diane.)  Yes, recording a letter from poolside smacks of John Cheever, but I wanted it to be in the mail before the long weekend.  I didn’t get very far, because the lifeguards decided to blare the OSU-Marshall football game over the loudspeakers.  They tuned the radio to 97.1 FM The Fan and put the microphone up against it.  I couldn’t concentrate with that blasting in my ear, and I’m sure my friend wouldn’t be able to pay attention to me with that in the background.

And so to walk…

Hardly a Day of Rest

The last entry ended on a note of suspense, kind of.  When last we saw our fearless blogger and diarist, he was planning to walk from Fallis Rd. in Clintonville to his abode two miles south, all the while carrying a La-Z-Boy recliner on his back.  The recliner was in perfectly good shape, so no idea why its owner put it at curbside.

Well, I lasted about a block and a half before I aborted mission.  However, I didn’t think it’d be right to ditch the chair in front of someone else’s house, so I reversed direction and put it back where I found it.  My back made a crack sound that resembled a piece of firewood when you break it in half.
Now that that’s out of the way…

I am soooo glad that the weekend continues tomorrow!  This Sunday, which we’ve heard is the “day of rest,” was anything but.  Now that my new Hewlett Packard Pavilion Entertainment Notebook PC no longer sits amidst clutter, I am typing my first blog entry on it.  Susie must have been exhausted, ’cause I have my music on fairly loud (not wall-shaking) in my office, which is just down the hall from her bedroom, and she’s sleeping  right through it.  (I have Windows Media Player on “shuffle,” so it’s a tossup as to what will play next.  Currently, it’s America’s “Today’s the Day.” I’ve already heard Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Shadow Captain,” and LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.”)
The busy day began at 12 midnight, not at sunrise.  Midnight found me still hip deep (almost literally) in cleaning up my office, a task that I never truly completed since Steph and Susie gave up trying to use it as a sewing room.  The arrival of the new computer was also the excuse I needed to get to work and finally try to make the office neat.  I’m still Walter Mittyish enough to try and imagine this room many years from now, the entrance door gone, and a cable-thick velvet rope across the doorway, while tourists gape through the doorway to behold the room where HE wrote the…  As I was making this room presentable, I subconsciously had that in mind when I envisioned the finished product.  (TANGENT ALERT:  When my friend Robert Nedelkoff and I toured the Newseum in Washington in March, one of the exhibits we saw was the NBC News office of the late Tim Russert, Meet the Press host.  It wasn’t a pigpen, but there was clutter enough to make it appear that Russert had put in his share of long, sleep-deprived hours there over the years.  Ironically, the Newseum is now the site of ABC News’ This Week Sunday morning program.)

I had enough momentum going that I was reluctant to actually finish the task, even though I knew I was in the home stretch when I began taking bag after bag of accumulated trash downstairs to the big trash cans in the alley behind our house.  I was appalled at how many bottles of flat bottles of Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist I found.  Thank God I don’t smoke, because I would have burned down any of my dwellings long ago.

It was still dark out when I decided to immortalize the moment for posterity.  That meant that I decided to christen the Kodak EasyShare C180 that came as a free gift with the computer.  I posted the finished products directly to Facebook, but I would die before neglecting my Blogspot readers:

The center of operations, featuring my new HP open
on the desk, and the usual overloaded bookcases.

Yes, Virginia, there were reference books before
Wikipedia.  Under Big Boy and the Smith-
Corona Galaxie XII manual typewriter, my New
English Bible occupies a carefully chosen spot.  It
is nestled in between The Art of Fine Words, a tribute
to Arthur Hopkins (1897-1965), who was The Harvard
Crimson‘s head linotypist for 36 years, and the Thorndike-
Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary.  My logic: The
first printers were monks who produced Bibles, sacred sheet
music, and illuminated manuscripts; the Bible is The Word; and 
the dictionary is all words.

I’m not sure if I tried for the juxtaposition of the
different types of notebooks here.  The plastic
drawers contain MP3 disks of various radio shows,
money order receipts, some rings I no longer wear,
etc.  The screen-saver is a rare picture of a smiling
Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), along with his then-captain, Christopher
Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), from “The Cage,” the original Star Trek pilot–
later incorporated into Part I of the episode “The Menagerie.”
If I look up, here’s what I see.  The headstone marks
the grave of my friend, Cincinnati-born novelist
Robert Lowry (1919-1994), and below that is a 1962
article from the University of Cincinnati News Record 
about his book Party of Dreamers.
Simple explanation for this picture:
This is the gallstone Dr. Campbell removed
(along with the gallbladder) at Grant Medical
Center last February.  I like it better where it is now.

I finally ran out of steam sometime around dawn.  I could hear birds singing outside, and it was just starting to get light outside, but not bright enough to shut off the streetlights.  I think meteorologists refer to it as civil twilight.  When I went to sleep, I knew it would only be for a few hours, because Susie and I planned to go to church–the first time services were at 10 a.m., something that will continue until after Labor Day.
Susie went to a friend’s house after the service, and I went to Kroger to buy an Entenmann’s cake for a party she and I were attending in the afternoon (going all out!).  My energy levels were beginning to flag, so I forced myself out of the house to buy bread and mail some letters at Giant Eagle.  It didn’t perk me up as much as I would have preferred, because the walk to the party seemed to take forever, and it was only a little more than a half mile from our house.
The party (especially the company) invigorated me quite a bit.  Good hosts, good people, good food, and good conversation all around.  Our hosts are dear friends, but this was the first time I had ever been to their house.  (Susie had been there before, several times as a toddler, and just last month for a baby shower, but it was my first time.)
Susie and I left the party to head north to our friend’s apartment to feed the cats, change the litter boxes, and make sure the two cats were fed and happy.  Susie and I did manage to arrive at Olympic Swim and Racquet for the last hour it was open.  I didn’t bring a towel or swim trunks, because I had no plans to get in the water.  Susie changed in the locker room and was in the drink the minute they blew the whistle to announce that kids were allowed in the pool once again (the last 15 minutes of every hour are for adults only).  I had brought my trusty portable office–the blue bag complete with diary, books, MP3 player, and Diane the microcassette recorder–along to entertain myself while Susie was in the pool, but I slept in one of the plastic deck chairs at poolside until someone came on the loudspeaker to announce the pool was closed for the night.
And now it’s midnight, and I’m wide awake!  I thought I’d collapse over the keyboard while typing this entry.  Susie has remained asleep, through comparatively high-decibel pieces such as Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” and The Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.”
I’m having lunch with a friend at 1 p.m., so I can theoretically sleep until 12:45 if I want.  I doubt I will. 

How Far Removed I Have Become…

My friend Scott and I went walking for the first time this calendar year.  Much has interfered with walking these past several months–the snowfall, my persistent cough, the gallbladder surgery and the recuperation.  Tonight, all the stars were in alignment.  Our schedules meshed, the weather was beautiful, and I actually felt energetic.

We toured the new Ohio Union for the first time tonight, a beautiful structure with an excellent food court (we ate dinner there), and I was amused to see the lyrics of “Carmen Ohio,” the OSU alma mater, chiseled inside the main lobby.  We each worship at our own unique shrines, I suppose.

Scott and I didn’t do as much walking as we planned.  A friend had asked Scott to make sure all the doors were locked at a rental property he owns east of campus, and once that was done, I told Scott I wanted to swing by FedEx Office and buy a new notebook.

Getting close to FedEx Office (nee Kinko’s) was much easier said than done.  The music at the O Patio and Pub was deafening, and the patio was at capacity.  It almost had the atmosphere of Michigan weekend or pre-Notre Dame football.  We asked around, and the first annual OSU AXE Undie Run was launching from there at 9 p.m.  The idea of this event was to wear clothing you will donate to the homeless and run a little less than a mile in your underwear.  (AXE, the sponsor, manufactures men’s toiletries.)  The race kicked off in front of the O Patio (near the corner of E. 15th and High) and would end at Pearl Alley and E. 16th, about a block north, via a circuitous route around Iuka and Woodruff Aves.  Ohio State was competing with nine other universities–whoever donated the most clothes (by weight) receives a half-naked statue.

As nine o’clock drew near, I admit I forgot all about buying a notebook.  There was a genuinely fun atmosphere as both women and men stripped down to their briefs and bras.  (The oldest participant was a man in his 60s, a memory I’m trying to exorcise from my head.)  Scott and I enjoyed watching it.  The atmosphere was festive, and I doubt any woman or man felt threatened in any way.

The title of this post refers to my realization (something I keep having to learn and relearn) that I’ve moved a generation away from the college crowd.  I have haunted college campuses and environs for most of my life.  My late father was an English professor at Marietta College, so we lived within blocks of the campus, and even at a young age I knew his students, as dinner guests, as babysitters, and later as friends.  As a teen, I frequented the Gilman Student Center on the Marietta College campus, since it had the best pinball machines and the first video games in Marietta.  In high school, I often hitchhiked to Athens (50 miles away) to drink or lose myself in the stacks at Alden Library.  When I landed in Boston, I lived in Boston University’s student ghetto and earned my living typesetting The Crimson, which brought me in close proximity to the Harvard campus.

So now I am a generation removed.  As Scott and I watched everyone stripping down for, and participating in, the Undie Run tonight, it came to me that these students were young enough to be my children.  Many of them were born while I was at Ohio University in Athens.  It was easy for me to forget this fact, since I didn’t become a parent until I was 34, but that is the exception, not the rule.  (I still shudder, however, when I think of a woman who worked alongside me at the Cincinnati post office, 30 years old and already a grandmother.)

College is often the happiest time of many people’s lives, but there are certain college towns that students and alumni love so much that they never leave, and they become fixtures.  Ann Arbor is like this, as is Athens, and so is Chapel Hill.  I knew people in Athens who stayed and worked for degree after degree, and once they had exhausted this, took low-paying jobs in town just so they could remain in the college milieu.

The most obvious (and tragic) example of this was a guy I knew in Athens, whom I’ll call Dirk.  He went to O.U. on the GI Bill in the late ’50s and graduated with a degree in education.  He taught in several elementary and secondary schools in Appalachia, and in the mid-’80s, about when he turned 50, he decided to return to Athens for a master’s in special ed.

Dirk lived in an apartment off campus, and went to classes at O.U. for about a year and a half.  Finally, his faculty advisor told him he was just wasting his money on classes, and that he would never be a good enough teacher.  Nonetheless, he stayed on in Athens, living on an allowance from his mother, hanging out mostly with students 30 years younger, taking his meals in the cafeteria, etc.  He was free with advice to students on how to conduct their romantic lives (though he was a lifelong bachelor), their academic lives (although he had washed out of his own program), and was a zealot about telling people to “act responsibly” (this from a man in his 50s living on his mother’s largess.)  I am not a Christian, but you gotta wonder if Jesus of Nazareth knew such a person when he spoke: How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-5)


I was in the cusp between my college years and the kids I saw tonight while I lived in Cincinnati.  As soon as I could afford it, I moved to an apartment in Clifton, near the University of Cincinnati, and the closest thing that Cincinnati would ever have to Greenwich Village.  I set up shop in the Subway restaurant across from my commodious W. McMillan St. apartment, and developed a rapport, if not deep friendships, with many of the people who worked there.  I was the one who made runs to the convenience store for cigarettes and beer, and, when the manager banned alcohol on the premises, the “sandwich artists” stored beer in my refrigerator.

Soon, I was permitted unlimited refills on soda pop, which I drank by the gallon, and even allowed to run tabs, which I paid off as soon as I was flush.  Here is a page from my notebook (actually a pocket 1994 appointment diary) which listed my tab.  The initials at the bottom are the manager’s, indicating that I had paid the debt in full.

TANGENT ALERT: Even as I was extending my adolescence well into my 30s, I did have my eyes out for bigger and better jobs and more exotic places to live.  Some were practical, some outright unrealistic, as another page in the same pocket diary will show:

Planning to live as an expatriate in the Czech Republic
at the same time I was rolling pennies for bus fare–
realistic, eh?

The first signs that I was moving beyond being a peer was when I was in a conversation with some students at  a bar near my place.  Somehow we got on the subject of when we were first allowed to stay up late.  I mentioned that the first time I was allowed to stay awake past dark was in July 1969, so I could watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon.  By the reaction this wrought, you would think I was reminiscing about seeing off the Santa Maria on its voyage to the New World.
And I knew I was different from the kids working there.  Some of the Subway workers called me “rabbi,” mainly because of my wire-rimmed glasses and my beard.  (If I had joined the Hasidim, it would make my wardrobe more colorful, to be sure.)  It was joking and respectful at the same time.
Many of the customers saw me as a fixture, as much as the fountain drink machine and the bright yellow booths.  I was the guy who would sit there for hours, either writing in a big red journal or poring over Kerouac or Hemingway.
I even felt this to a small degree when I first arrived at O.U. as a student in the spring of 1984.  I had the mystique of having lived in “the real world” for three years between high school and college–for a year unemployed, and two years working a “real” job.  This also brought the added bonus of being the only person in a freshman dorm who could buy hard liquor.  The age barrier goes up fast, but it was only tonight that I realized just how far removed I was.  I remember shaking my head at a 1990 editorial in Clifton magazine (U.C.’s literary magazine, published quarterly) which mentioned the Kent State massacre.  “We were alive then.  We couldn’t walk yet, but we were alive.”  I was in first grade then!
To make up for a somewhat depressing blog entry, I will post the few pictures I took at tonight’s Undie Run.  I apologize for their quality.  The flash on the camera was never that great, and the batteries are beginning to run low.  But here they are:
Not exactly a motto that would meet Mother Teresa’s
approval, but “Philanthropy Just Got a Whole
Lot Sexier” has more allure than “Give the shirt
off your back.”

AXE’s professional staff, handing out complimentary
socks and wristbands until they were gone.  GOOD
SAMARITAN GONE WILD might actually make
some teens return to Sunday school.

The man on the right manages the AXE Undie Run
Road Show.  If he can land an Undie Run at Brigham
Young University, he has my undying respect and
awe.

Preparation for the event–one of many
police cars and emergency vehicles, and
one of many photographers and guys
from the dirty-raincoat contingent.

Preparations for the run itself, as 9:30 p.m. draws
ever closer.  (They didn’t start until around 9:45,
actually.)

Day is done, gone the sun, and with it my
ability to take decent pictures.  All pictures
taken afterwards were mostly silhouettes.