A Continent Apart…

Central Ohioans are currently reveling in the unseasonably warm temperatures for January.  It is currently 3:38 in the afternoon, and the temperature is 53° F.  Susie, on the other hand, is in Costa Rica (on her “Winterim” trip with her schoolmates at The Graham School), and has probably been to the beach once or twice.  (She may be there right now, as I am typing this.)

Her “big” Christmas present this year was a digital camera, and I am hoping that she will come back with hundreds of pictures to share with her Facebook friends and others.  The only way I’ve managed to keep abreast with what she has done is through her rather terse Facebook posts.  (I let her take her Nook down, mainly so she could play Angry Birds on the flight, but did not want her taking her laptop on this journey.)  She has gone kayaking, played soccer with some kids at a school in Monteverde, enjoyed the best strawberry milkshake of her life, and gone horseback riding and zip-lining.  (She was determined to skip the zip-lining, but did it and, despite being scared to death, loved it.  I am glad I did not tell her that one of the synonyms for it is death slide.)

Susie is the first in our family to leave North America.  My “overseas” travel is 15 minutes in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 1987, en route back from San Francisco.  I walked from downtown El Paso, crossed the Rio Grande, bought a fifth of tequila, and came back to the U.S.  (This was in the pre-9/11 days, when crossing to Mexico or Canada required no passport, and also before Juarez became as dangerous as it is now.)  Steph lived in upstate New York until she was seven or eight, and therefore crossed back and forth in and out of Canada with her family quite often when she was a child.

Susie’s Graham School group left Port Columbus at 6:30 Monday morning.  Neither Susie nor I slept the night before.  She was too keyed up about the trip, and I knew the only way to be up at 3:30-3:45 was not to go to bed.  The mother of one of the girls going on the trip picked us up a little after 4 a.m., and we drove to the U.S. Airways terminal.  Columbus was dark and pretty quiet at that hour, and even the airport seemed to be more peaceful than I usually see it.  (My last trip out there was to buy $150 worth of colones for Susie’s journey.)  The kids (and two teachers) going on the trip were full of energy and excitement.  Nevertheless, three or four of the kids went off en masse to Cup o’ Joe to buy coffee and espresso.

Susie and Flannery after going to get caffeine.

I didn’t stay to see Susie off.  Check-in at the baggage counter began around 5 a.m., a full 90 minutes before takeoff, and the teachers assured us they could take it from there.  I marveled at how efficient Susie had been with packing.  Her suitcase was still small and light enough to go as a carry-on, which saved me a $25 booking fee.  Flannery’s mother and I left just after the attendants scanned and approved passports, and it was still dark when I fell into bed.  There was a text message from Susie on my cell phone when I awoke late Monday morning.  It was time-stamped 8:03, and it said In charlotte.  (They were changing planes in Charlotte, N.C., so I had asked her to text me once she arrived there.  I wasn’t sure about her cell phone service in Costa Rica.)

Back here in Columbus, I’ve kept myself occupied by nights at the bookstore, since the winter semester at Columbus State is in full swing.  This semester, us “old-timers” at the bookstore have been blessed with some very sharp, very hardworking, and very fun rookies.  You always come away from some customers wondering, “Just what is this person doing in college?”, but even they have seemed less than before.

So far, the most noteworthy event that has happened in Susie’s absence has been the end of my years-long quest for a Cisler brick.  I posted an eBay alert for “cisler brick” last year, and finally received an email saying one was available.  (I have written extensively about the significance of this brick in this entry, when I still used LiveJournal as a platform.  This article goes into even further detail.)  I made the payment online, and yesterday, when I came home from work, there was a Priority Mail box on my front porch.  I knew what it was, and my neighbors were a bit puzzled as to why I was so happy about getting a brick in the mail.  (One of my Facebook friends did point out–correctly–that getting it in the mail is better than getting it through the front window.)

The much coveted Cisler brick.

We are heading into a long weekend.  Both the State of Ohio and the bookstore will be closed Monday, in honor of the Martin Luther King holiday, and today is supposed to be the only day with decent weather.  Although I went to bed around 11:30-11:45 last night, I tossed and turned until nearly dawn, so I called off working at the bookstore today, which will definitely be a blow to my pocketbook once that payday happens.

But I did not regret it.  I awoke early in the afternoon, and when I saw that it was in the low 50s, I brought the trike out of drydock (i.e., my dining room), since next week the temperature is not supposed to exceed the mid 20s.  I rode around Olde North and the Ohio State campus area, and ate lunch at Five Guys.  My infirm Dell laptop is not up to my typing speed, so I have made a pit stop at the OSU Library to type this blog entry.

Susie will be back late Wednesday night.  Her plane lands around 11:45 at night, and I will be at the U.S. Airways gate ready to meet her.

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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.)