Laid Low By a Fan

That title made me remember a very bad joke: What do Thomas Merton and John Lennon have in common?  They were both killed by a fan.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, I bury all my pride and report that NaNoWriMo ’15 tanked for me within the first two days.  It is a poor worker who blames the tools, but my stopping involved preventing a possible fire and permanent damage to my laptop.  I would log on, and go to Word, prepared to set the keyboard ablaze with my inimitable prose, and be caught short by a warning saying the motor was overheating.  So, the laptop has been under the knife for the past week, as the repair store awaits a new fan.

The preceding paragraph sounds a lot like MTV’s first broadcast music video, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”  (The first MTV video I ever saw was Asia’s “Heat of the Moment,” in 1982.)  When I lamented this turn of events on Facebook, many people pointed out that I could have resumed the work with my ballpoint pen or my typewriter.  To those of you old enough to remember the original ZOOM on PBS, “Take your typewriter, pencil, or pen, and if you make a mistake, ya gotta do it again!”  I suppose I could have, but trying to type everything back onto the laptop once it’s back would put me way behind schedule.  I didn’t save it to my Cloud because I wouldn’t be able to write whenever the mood struck me, like I would at home.  I would have to seek out libraries for writing, and be beholden to their hours.  (I am currently typing this at Thompson Library at OSU.)

I am not a total Luddite, but it seems that technology has not helped in the progress of the printed word.  I think of the “novel-writing machines” that George Orwell describes in 1984, which produce pornography for the proles.  In 1977, I was a big fan of the TV series Lou Grant, and a frequent plot twist was when their new (almost futuristic at the time) VDT system (visual display terminals) malfunctioned, and they risked losing the entire content of the newspaper.

In the pilot episode of Lou Grant, "Cophouse," Lou beholds a portent of how writing will be in the very near future.

In the pilot episode of Lou Grant, “Cophouse,” Lou beholds a portent of how writing will be in the very near future.

So, I was out of the race early this year.  Susie, on the other hand, has been steaming ahead, despite her having some kind of flu bug and her mom recovering from a bout of pneumonia down in Brevard County.  (Susie has also been doing the lights for Surfside Players’ just-closed performance of Steel Magnolias.)

In the month since Susie moved back to Florida, I’ve managed to keep myself busy.  The first days after she left were rough.  I copied a passage from Volume I of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln into my diary, an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his law partner John Todd Stuart in January 1841:

I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.

I have managed to crawl out of the morass, however.  Work has been busy, and I’ve forced myself to attend monthly Blockwatch meetings.  (I tune out when they talk about parking issues, since I am blessed not to be able to drive.)  I have been very interested in all the problems that have come from a hookah bar on N. 4th St.  I have never used tobacco, so I’ve never been interested in setting foot in the place, but the fact that it seems to turn into the OK Corral in the wee hours of the night has been of concern to many homeowners nearby.

There is a certain irony to my concern about the hookah bar.  One of my co-workers moonlights several nights a week at a suite hotel’s bar.  It caters to executives, travelling business people, etc., and the bar (from the pictures I have seen on their Website) is very genteel, with a dress code and plush seating.  Naturally, we have dubbed it the Hood Bar, and are constantly trading “information” about its nightly stabbings, shootings, drug dealing, and dogfights.  (The co-worker who tends bar there thanked us–she said she had no idea that these events happen there.)

I feel virtuous right now.  Colleen’s Collectables (sic) is having a record show at the Haimerl Center (next door to Ascension Lutheran Church) even as I type, but instead of spending money there–yesterday was payday–I’m bringing this blog up to date.  I am down to less than 13 pages in my current holographic diary volume (one of the four $.24 composition books Susie gave me last Christmas), so there is no excuse for me to be neglecting this more public journal.

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NaNoWriMo: Day the Twentieth, Day the Twenty and First

NaNoWriMo has always been a welcome respite from the savages who inhabit Buckeye Nation, but this year, it has been more of a chore than a joy.  So, I’m going public and announcing that I’ve tanked for this year.  It was not an easy decision to make.  When you begin to actually dread pulling up the Word program, and approach the night’s NaNoWriMo writing the way you would a endoscopy or a prostate exam, it’s time to reevaluate.  So, all the signs were there.  And, as Gandhi would say, “The only tyrant I accept is the still, small voice within me.”  Said tyrant has told me that NaNoWriMo is not meant to be this year.  I’m a little sad, a little disappointed, but those emotions come with relief.  I think the story I’m writing can do well, without all the unnecessary word tonnage that this competition encourages.  I definitely can do better when there is no 30-day deadline and minimum word count is not hanging over my head like a wake of vultures.

Maybe the title of this entry should have been “NaNoWriMo, Day the Last.”

I consoled myself by reveling in my good luck at Goodwill after work.  For a mere $18 and tax, I am the proud owner of Basic Library of the World’s Greatest Music, a 24-volume set of LPs featuring classical composers and their greatest compositions.  My parents had this set when I was a child, and I remember how it took up much of the space in the record drawer of their Magnavox console.  I’ve sought a copy for years, and almost bought the set on eBay for about $100, but today I feel good about making the trip to Goodwill.  (It is not a 100% complete set, so if anyone reading this blog is willing to part with Volumes 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, and 24, send me a private message!)  This is a wonderful collection, and I am surprised that no compact disk edition of it exists.  Once I came home, I signed into Collectorz.com and meticulously logged each album.

The volumes of Basic Library of the World's Greatest Music I bought today at Goodwill.  Truly hit the motherlode today!

The volumes of Basic Library of the World’s Greatest Music I bought today at Goodwill. Truly hit the motherlode today!

I wrote earlier this week about my new Olympus VN-7100 digital voice recorder.  I’ve had to replace my camera this week as well.  My beloved Kodak EasyShare is no more.  I knocked it off an end table and broke its battery door.  Electronically, the camera is probably fine, but that’s rather useless when the batteries keep sliding out.

So, I bit the bullet and I ordered a Nikon Coolpix S3600.  It’ll get its first real workout tomorrow, when I make a day trip to Athens.  I have to see the ruins of The Union firsthand.  (Going to Athens to visit ruins–there’s a precedent there!)  The purpose of this journey is why I didn’t use the phrase “baptism of fire”.  I managed to try out the camera today, when I shot two pictures of the stacks of albums to post on Vinyl Records Forever.

A year has passed, so the doctors at the Ross Heart Hospital are avidly awaiting my arrival Monday morning so they can take a look at my aneurysm and see how far it’s dilated, if at all.  In the last few days, I’ve had some pain under my left arm, and during yesterday’s walk around the Convention Center, I climbed a single flight of steps and had a hard time catching my breath by the time I reached the top.  (Weaving my way through patrons of the Ohio Star Ball–a ballroom dance convention–was an athletic feat all its own.)  But, I’m still here, so I’m not going to worry too much about it.  I will have to skip my morning yogurt and banana Monday morning–that is on its way to becoming a habit.

At least I won’t be walking in the Convention Center tomorrow, when it hosts the Yu-Gi-Go! Regional Qualifying Tournament.  That’s a relief.

I just heard The Alan Parsons Project’s “Can’t Take It With You,” a great song to hear as you meditate on mortality.

NaNoWriMo: Day the Fifteenth

You wouldn’t have been able to tell by watching me, but I did manage to produce almost 1950 words earlier this evening.  I had a hard time staying focused, and, even though I swore up and down that I was bidding adieu to Facebook until I had finished, that wasn’t the case.

I was skittering back and forth between Word, Facebook, and my Gmail account, often after only writing a sentence or two.  I am not sure if that confirms what many people throughout my life have suspected: that I have ADHD.  That condition, although real, is way over-diagnosed, as I think it may have been in my case.  (When I was in first grade, I was taking thioridazine, which I don’t even think is on the market anymore.  I have never heard that one of my many diagnoses was schizophrenia.)

Growing up, I heard a lot of cracks about “hyperactive kid” and “hyperkinetic kids.”  A friend of Susie’s has been diagnosed ADHD, and she has received plenty of grief about it from the kids in her school (she’s a sophomore).  In anger, she posted a video suggesting to the people annoyed by her ADHD, “Drink this!” while holding a bottle of dish soap toward the camera.  “It contains bleach!!”  I can understand her feelings.

In my writing, I have always been reluctant to use onomatopoeia when describing events.  (That’s an excellent spelling bee word, although Todd Rundgren recorded a very clever song about it.  It’s a word that describes a sound: bang, crunch, crack, hiss.)  I’ve avoided them because I always thought they served their purpose better in graphic novels and comic books.

Mad magazine satirized the use and overuse of onomatopoeia in a story called “Sound Effects.”  It was just that: no dialogue, just sound effects.

From Mad #20.  The artist is Wally Wood.  My favorite sound in this is in the top left panel, for dialing a phone: Whirr, clickety-click-click-click.  Kids who grew up with Touch-Tone and cell phones will never know that sound.

From Mad #20. The artist is Wally Wood. My favorite sound in this is in the top left panel, for dialing a phone: Whirr, clickety-click-click-click. Kids who grew up with Touch-Tone and cell phones will never know that sound.

I’m still not back on task.  According to the stats, I’ll finish on December 5 at this rate, but I’m sure to have one of those days this month when I’ll be able to catch up.  Still not sure if the manuscript will be finished by the 30th, or if I’ll just reach my quota between the two projects.

But that’s a worry for another time.  Tonight, I will be rewarding myself at the Gateway Cinema near campus, watching (the first time for me) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).  I’ll be going there on foot, which means weaving through all the drunken clowns celebrating OSU’s victory over Minnesota (31-24).  I was forced to listen to it while I was having my late breakfast/early lunch at Tim Horton today en route to the post office.  Football season makes me feel like an early Christian huddling in the catacombs.

NaNoWriMo: Days the Eleventh and Twelfth

No entry last night.  I was just too exhausted, mentally and physically.

I have gone off the reservation for NaNoWriMo, and decided to do something that’s not exactly according to Hoyle, as far as the rules go.  As I was taking my daily lunchtime two-mile walk, I had an epiphany about how I can salvage this project and still finish on time.  I have changed the entire work in progress.

My manuscript last year was called Fifty K in Thirty Days, and the story dealt with a teenage girl and her widowed father as they work on their respective projects.  I had fun writing it, and since I shared it to my Cloud, Susie was (after a fashion) able to read it over my shoulder.

I am taking a hiatus from the Robert Lowry book at present.  Once NaNoWriMo ends on December 1, I plan to pick it up again, and combine the best of my original Lowry book with this, and have a much more concise manuscript than before.

And I am restarting NaNoWriMo from the ground up.  For the first time since the competition began on the first of November, I actually felt impatient to get home and to sit down at the laptop.  Once I went through the mail, I turned on my Windows Media Player (which is playing even as I am typing this entry) and opened a new document, and began typing.  I won’t lie and say that it was effortless, but I went a little over the recommended daily quota, and finished the bulk of the book’s Prologue.

I was tempted to delete the file of last year’s project, but I have vowed not to look at it.  (I never printed out a hard copy, so I am not tempted in that way.)  Some things I kept from the first incarnation, other things (dialogue, a character’s name, and setting) are brand new as of tonight.

My fear is that I will stall on this manuscript, as I did last year.  I already fear that it may become like Greenwich Village bohemian Joe Gould’s ambitious An Oral History of Our Time, which he said was “eleven times longer than the Bible.”  After his death, Joseph Mitchell, the New Yorker writer who told his story in a 1942 profile, learned that the manuscript was imaginary.   Gould carted stacks of composition books around Greenwich Village, but they only contained the same four or five anecdotes and essays, written and rewritten ad nasueam.  The story is told quite excellently in the movie Joe Gould’s Secret (2000), starring Ian Holm and Stanley Tucci.

Two pages from a diary that Joe Gould kept from 1943 until 1947, during the time when he was boasting about his lengthy (and fictitious) manuscript.

Two pages from an 11-volume diary that Joe Gould kept from 1943 until 1947, during the time when he was boasting about his lengthy (and fictitious) manuscript.

The NaNoWriMo Website has said that if I continue at my present rate, I will finish on December 5.  I’ve beaten those odds before, although I am still racking my brain on how to compensate for two days, the day before Thanksgiving (when I’ll be at OSU East for a sleep study), and the holiday itself, when I am making a day trip to Cincinnati to celebrate the day with an old friend.

Robert Lowry’s story does need to be told, and I am in a unique position for this to happen.  (I ordered a copy of his 1990 chapbook, XXIII Celebrities from Abebooks.com just before the Lowry project commenced, since my copy seems to have disappeared, or is buried under the pile of notebooks, Xerox copies, correspondence, and diaries that I refer to (in jest) as my files.)  My copy came from Apollinaire’s Bookshoppe in Toronto.  So, until this project regains momentum, I can be happy that it was a perfect excuse to replace my copy.

Today was the coldest day that I have walked outside.  I came out of the deli where I usually have lunch, and considered keeping the walk indoors, but decided to go ahead and pound the pavement outside.  I am still not used to the cold weather (yesterday, the temperature reached the mid-60s), and I wished that I had worn a hat, but I made the walk in the usual 40 minutes.

I will be much more wary once snow starts falling.  My 50-year streak of never having broken a bone ended this winter when I slipped on ice, so that has made me overly cautious about walking when the sidewalk is icy, or even overly wet from rain.  I go through my pocket notebook from last winter, and I can tell when I had the injured wrist, because my handwriting is spiky, uneven, and almost illegible.  Usually, it is almost textbook D’Nealian, just as I learned at North Hills School over 40 years ago.

I was sweating blood about my word count (or lack thereof) until I read a Facebook post from one of Susie’s friends: “At This Rate You Will Finish On: April 26, 2015.  Thanks, NaNoWriMo.”

That made me feel better about switching gears and starting a new project.  When it’s time to cut and paste the manuscript into their template for word count verification, I am going to put both manuscripts in there, since I have written over 16 thousand words since November 1 between the two books.

NaNoWriMo: Day the Tenth

The amount of work I did tonight was negligible.  I did finish another chapter, and I was about three paragraphs into the next one, when I realized that it just wasn’t happening tonight (whatever “it” is/was).

At first glance, this would be the ideal night to chain myself to the laptop and write the night away.  Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, which is a holiday for me, so I can burn the midnight (and predawn) oil until the Snapple is no longer working its stimulant effect.

I was never a huge "Calvin and Hobbes" fan (If Calvin was my son, he'd be dead), but this panel does symbolize the way my creativity felt tonight.

I was never a huge “Calvin and Hobbes” fan (If Calvin was my son, he’d be dead), but this panel does symbolize the way my creativity felt tonight.

The problem may have started because, like I have on many another occasion, I have forgotten that I cannot nap.  I left work 1½ hours early today, which happens quite often on the eve of a holiday (especially a three-day weekend).  I looked through the mail when I came home, and decided to go up to the bedroom just to wind down.

Famous last words.

When I next remembered anything, the sun had almost set, which meant at least two hours had passed.  The sleep was not particularly refreshing, and only hunger drew me out of bed, although I was pretty much shambling once my feet hit the floor.

The cause may be that I forgot to take my Lamictal this morning.  I had it refilled late Sunday afternoon, but forgot to put it in my knapsack before I left for work this morning.  It has been excellent in keeping my bipolar disorder in check, and I see now that skipping even one day of it is not a good thing.   It’s  not a magic pill that will immediately cause me to produce prizewinning American literature just by clicking a mouse, but it does prevent the lows from getting too low, and, even though I may still cycle back and forth between euphoric mania and very deep depression, the changes are not as extreme.

It has been at least 10 years since my last psychiatric hospitalization, and I don’t see one looming in the near future.  Medication and regular visits with my nurse practitioner (I am seeing her tomorrow afternoon) have managed to keep me on an even keel, and I have seen an overall upswing in my mood these past few months.

But physical health issues loom.  An old friend posted on Facebook that he feels keenly aware of his own mortality, as his 50th birthday is just around the corner and his mother just turned 70.  I try to obsess about the aneurysm, but every time there is the slightest twinge of pain in the left side of my chest, I panic.  A doctor at the Ross Heart Hospital will be looking at it later this month, so we’ll see if it has dilated to the point where the word “surgery” starts coming into the conversation.

It took more than a year after the diagnosis, but I have been firmer in my resolve to not let the aneurysm turn me into an invalid.  I have never been an athlete, and I’ve taken an almost perverse pride in that fact, but I eagerly look forward to my two-mile walks every day at lunch, and have taken some trike rides for the exercise, not just as a way to get from one place to another.  Earlier in this blog, I’ve written about the Critical Mass Bike Rides.  The trike has not gotten as much mileage this summer as it has in summers past, but this has been because walking burns more calories than riding.

And the day before Thanksgiving, I’ll be the guest of OSU East Hospital, for yet another sleep study, in the never-ending and vain search for me to find a C-PAP that I can actually tolerate.  I awaken several times in the course of every night, usually just enough to know that I am awake, and look at the digital clock on my night table to see how long before the alarm actually goes off.  Needless to say, this is not conducive to restfulness, and leads to a circular pattern where I am drinking more and more iced tea during the day as a maintenance drug.  Of course, excessive caffeine consumption only disrupts the sleep cycle even further.  (I have abstained from carbonated drinks, even Dasani water, since April or May, but my caffeine consumption is as high as it ever was, from drinking iced tea.)

I won’t be ending this entry with “And so to bed.”  That looms quite a few hours from now.

NaNoWriMo: Day the Eighth

Not working on Alone With 26 Letters yesterday was not because I was remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy.  I was afraid last night that I was beginning a slide into the depressive pole of my condition, but, since I seem to have been able to keep busy today, that does not seem to have been the case.  It was very stop-start, and I had trouble keeping myself focused, but I did manage 1700 words today, starting just after dark.

I didn’t get out of bed until nearly noon, and once I had showered and dressed, the day started with a laugh for me.  When I came downstairs, there was a record mailer in the space between my front door and the storm door.  I cut the package open, and laughed, remembering what I had ordered.  (I was still recovering from the bait-and-switch from my previous eBay order–which I described in yesterday’s entry.)

The record was Saturday Night Fiedler (Midsong JW-36467), which featured the late Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra performing the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever (1977).  I had heard snide references about this album for years, and for awhile I had thought that it had been a novelty record, a satire worthy of Dr. Demento.

I was wrong.  It is a real record, Fiedler’s final production, released in the spring of 1979, just two months prior to his death.  I remembered Arthur Fiedler from watching Evening at Pops on WOUB-TV as a child.  Saturday Night Fever has special significance for me, since it was the first movie that I lied about my age to see.  (I have only come clean about this since I began blogging.  Previously, I have told people that The Exorcist (1973) was the movie that had this honor.)

The cover of the album that was in today's mail, Saturday Night Fiedler.  It was the final album for the conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.

The cover of the album that was in today’s mail, Saturday Night Fiedler. It was the final album for the conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.

I considered confining myself to quarters and trying to make some effort to clean my place–I have let the clutter get to the point where it has gone beyond just a mere eccentricity, or as the characteristic of a bachelor pad, but the temperature in the mid- to the upper 50s lured me out of doors.  So, in many ways, it was another typical Saturday for me.  I bought some records at Goodwill, salvaged two or three from the “free” box in front of Used Kids, and read the first few chapters of Andrew Vachss’ Flood on my Nook over lunch at Qdoba.

There was some excitement and a quick letdown over the last 24 hours.  I didn’t leave the house until late yesterday morning, since my sleep had been so poor Thursday night.  I had called in to my supervisor to tell her I would be in after 1 p.m., and when I was finally vertical and moving, I went out to check the mail and saw a catalog and a letter from O.U., both of them addressed to Susie.  I thought that this was the long awaited acceptance letter, so I took it to the OSU post office and asked them to send it to her Express Mail.  This was the type of news, I thought, that she should see first.

So, this afternoon, there was an email from Susie.  I knew that the Express Mail envelope had made it to Merritt Island, because I had tracked it, and asked the U.S. Postal Service to send me a text message with each change in status.  Susie’s email said that it was a letter saying they still had not received her high school transcripts.  She is taking the letter to school with her Monday and seeing what is or is not happening with that.

Facebook is full of running commentary about the Buckeyes’ game against the Michigan State Spartans, which is going on while I’m typing this.  I have more respect than ever for George Orwell, because he wrote about much that has come to pass when he published 1984.  I don’t know if he knew anything about Ohio State football, but he described its fan base:

So long as they [the Proles] continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern…Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.

NaNoWriMo: Day the Fourth

I was so disgusted about the results of the election, not just here in Ohio, but nationwide, that turning off access to Facebook and Gmail was the only way I could remain sane tonight.  This meant that I tackled my nightly quota for NaNoWriMo more enthusiastically than I have any of the other three nights since the contest began.

I vote at the Tuttle Recreation Center, and I was glad to see that, if there was low voter turnout in Ohio tonight, you would not have known it if you had been at Tuttle.  The parking lot was jammed, and the poll workers had posted a sign saying they will tow if anyone who was not voting was parking there.

The process went efficiently, as it has the last few times I voted.  (I have voted in every election since 1981, when I turned 18, whether it was local, state, or national.)  This was the first time I had voted at this precinct, so I was afraid that I would end up having to cast a provisional ballot, but they had me on the books, and the address on my ID matched what they had in the book.

In Franklin County, the voting machine resembles a laptop upended on an easel, and it uses touchscreens.  The whole process took less than five minutes, and I came away with my I VOTED TODAY sticker proudly stuck to my shirt (soon to be pasted into a page in my diary).

Norman Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943.  It was part of a series called "The Four Freedoms."

Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943. It was part of a series called “The Four Freedoms.”

In exercise news, I stayed away from the steps today, since I didn’t completely shake the cough until much later in the day.  I walked a little more than my usual two miles, and, at day’s end, felt energetic enough to walk from downtown to Tuttle Recreation Center to vote, and then home.  I burned a few calories sitting at the keyboard.

While recounting my conversations and experiences with Robert Lowry, it has almost been like getting into Peabody and Sherman’s WABAC machine and going back to my life in Cincinnati in 1990.  I describe that time in my life the same way my dad described his Army experience or that I describe parochial school: I would not have missed it for the world, but there is no way I would do it again.

Mr. Zimmerman summarized my feelings best in “My Back Pages”: “Ah, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now.”  Another way to summarize that time of my life, as I look back on it almost a quarter century later, is from the title of a book written by Snoopy.  The cartoon shows him pacing back and forth on his doghouse roof, trying to think of a title for his next masterpiece, while the typewriter sits in front of him.  He comes up with the perfect one: Things I’ve Learned After It Was Too Late.

The Cincinnati experience was a good one for me, overall.  I do wish I had been more prudent with money.  If I had not been a drinker in those days, I am sure my cash would have stretched further, and my employment would have been more stable.

This is the first time that a NaNoWriMo project has cost me more than the caffeine and bad food I’ve consumed while I’ve been writing.  I learned, to my dismay, that I was missing my copy of Lowry’s chapbook XXIII Celebrities, which I had bought at Acres of Books in 1991.  So, I went to Abebooks and ordered a new copy from a bookstore in Ontario.  Now, I hope that it arrives before NaNoWriMo ends.

NaNoWriMo: Day the First

National Novel-Writing Month–NaNoWriMo–began at the stroke of midnight (local time) all over the world this morning.  Here in Columbus, tonight is the Buckeyes vs. the Fighting Illini.  Two events, poles apart.  The irony does not escape me.

I was at the computer at the stroke of midnight, but there was no way I could have cheated.  As the clock struck 12, I was in pitched battle with Word 2010, trying to set up a document format that is to my liking.  It is during times like these that I love my typewriter even more, and, were a word-processed document not required to “win” NaNoWriMo, I would be doing the project on my Royal Royalite.

This year, I am going off the rails a bit.  The “No” in the above portmanteau stands for “novel,” but this year I am composing more of a memoir.  I have written in past blog entries about my friendship with Robert Lowry (1919-1994), a Cincinnati native who enjoyed some literary success in the years after World War II, and whose destroyed his career with alcoholism, mental illness, and anti-Semitism.  The working title is Alone With 26 Letters, which is a line from the afterword of Lowry’s an american writer at the end of his life, a collection of autobiographical poems he wrote in lieu of a memoir.

After years of never finishing a manuscript that went on for chapters and pages, I have decided to start again from the ground up, and write a memoir, hopefully not one where the pages will multiply like tribbles with no end in sight.

(I realized how rudderless the original manuscript had become when Steph and I–we were still living together at the time–could never agree whether I was writing a biography or a memoir.  This time around, there is no doubt.  This is a memoir.  I will be filling in background from Lowry’s own writings and from other sources, but the story will take place mostly through my eyes.)

I also confess that, other than this blog and my diary, the only time I seem to do any writing is during NaNoWriMo.  I don’t know what has been causing this block.  I didn’t finish the manuscript that I began last year, which is ironic, since Susie was insisting I email chapters and sections to her nightly, both before and after.

More ironic is the fact that I knew my subject matter: It was NaNoWriMo, although I called it a different name, which was also the title of the book: 50K in Thirty Days.  The story followed a middle-aged widower and his teenage daughter as they embark on the project, including its effect on schoolwork, relations with peers, etc.  (Susie was especially fond of the parts of the plot that involve the daughter and her girlfriend, who is not inclined toward literature and who is an effective, albeit annoying, counterpoint to the daughter’s single-minded pursuit of the goal of writing.  Susie was especially annoyed that I never came to the part of the novel where Hannah, the daughter, comes out to her grandmother and extended family at Thanksgiving dinner.)

And I have more free time than ever, since I am essentially living in bachelor quarters again.  Yes, I am almost constantly tired from not sleeping enough, or from sleeping very poorly when I do.  The best advantage of my job is that it is one I can leave behind at 5 p.m., and not even have to think about until 8 the following morning.  My health is relatively good, although the time to check on the aneurysm will be coming around later this month.

The extreme example, which I try to remember, is Ulysses S. Grant.  He was a horrible President (The Ohio Presidents, with the exception of William Howard Taft, are a pretty sorry lot overall), but in the last year of his life, while broke and dying of throat cancer, he was able to write through excruciating pain.  He wrote his Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant so that his family would be financially comfortable.  He wrote the final lines less than a week before he died.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant writing his Personal Memoirs in Mount McGregor, N.Y. in 1885, while terminally ill.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant writing his Personal Memoirs in Mount McGregor, N.Y. in 1885, while terminally ill.

Another concern has been how much I have let clutter overrun the place lately.  If my domestic conditions were like The Odd Couple, I would forever be Oscar Madison.  But my lack of energy and drive has worried even me lately.  I am not ashamed of the rows and rows of books and records–they’re almost my trademark.  However, I have let papers, unread magazines, laundry, and other detritus invade the “public areas” of the place until I have to go to the library or at work to find a surface clear enough to use a pen and paper.  And, of course, I am forever on the mañana plan when it comes to keeping the place neat.  I don’t know if that will affect my creativity and my ability/desire to write, but it is a good first step.

Yesterday I declined the invitation to go to the monthly Critical Mass ride, mainly because it was just too wet and cold.  I think this marks the beginning of the time when I will be wearing my black, down-filled long jacket more frequently.  I have been on the ride twice, and both times thought I would collapse before it reached its end, but so far I’ve been able to hang in and make it through.  Yes, I would be feeling pain and exhilaration at the same time, but I was always glad I went.  In addition to not wanting to ride in the rainy weather, I believed I would be too exhausted to be able to type or focus.

Maybe I should follow the example of Schroeder, in this Peanuts strip:

I've never been an athlete, but I wonder if Schroeder has the right idea, even though he and I love different keyboards.

I’ve never been an athlete, but I wonder if Schroeder has the right idea, even though he and I love different keyboards.

Today, I am 88% to my daily goal.  The contest requires 50 thousand finished words in order to “win,” so 1667 per day is a good rate to follow.  While the Buckeye fans are at the ‘Shoe watching the game against Illinois, it will be a good time for me to be trying to get the final 200-odd words in to be able to stay on track.

And maybe even try to make my living quarters presentable.  Who can say?

Only Tuesday, Already Dragging

Steph and Susie are at their choir practices at the Unitarian Church, and I’m at the Franklinton Library typing this.  (After the library closes, it’s off to Kroger to buy meat for Wednesday and Thursday nights’ dinners.)  I’ll be truthful–I’m not really in the mood to be writing, but this is when I need to be doing it, especially with NaNoWriMo slated to begin less than two weeks from now.  I may actually gain some writing momentum by then if I remember to keep up with the blog and the diary.  (The best analogy I can think of, and it’s not a wonderful one, is leaving a faucet running slightly at all times in the winter to keep the pipes from freezing.)

Much as I loathe the man, I was quite impressed that Ronald Reagan was able to write in his diary every day, except for when he was recovering from being shot.  

I won’t buy the hardcover version, except from a library discard sale or an independent bookseller on ABE, but I guess he was proof that people still keep handwritten diaries.

I typed a specialists’ report by a psychologist, and did mostly Statements of Fact the rest of the day.  I was quite happy about doing the latter, because it meant I could play music while I worked.  I have to play it at a volume audible only in my cubicle, but I went through an impressive variety of music–Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, and Boston.  I played a little of my "Nathan" disk as well.

The"Nathan" disk originated at the late, lamented (at least by me) Beekman’s Bagels on North High Street, just south of 15th.  I was in there on an extended Saturday afternoon, drinking Diet Pepsi by the quart, piddling away at another manuscript on a different laptop (an IBM ThinkPad, which has also gone to the Great Database in the Sky), and enjoying the array of music playing, which included Johnny Cash followed by Tom Jones followed by Elvis (both Elvii, Costello and Presley), and also featuring John Coltrane’s cover of "My Favorite Things."  I complimented the mix to Nathan, the kid working behind the counter, and asked him if he’d burn me a copy if I brought in a blank disk.  When it played (it was an MP3, so it ran for several hours) out, he ejected it, wrote his name ("Nathan") and the date (in ’03) and said, "My gift."  There are several tracks that were never labelled, so it’s like Cracker Jack when I play it, a surprise in every package.  I was amused that one of the cuts was Erika Eigen singing "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper," from A Clockwork Orange.

I took a 30-minute break from work in mid-morning because I had to go to the bank.  It was interesting how just a half hour out walking around reinvigorated me.  I went down to the nurse’s office after lunch and bummed an antihistamine, because I’ve been sneezing like someone’s sprinkled pepper under my nose, and had to drink Diet Pepsi all afternoon to keep from nodding off.  Just hope I don’t crash for the night during Special Victims Unit.  (Ellen Burstyn played Elliot Stabler’s mother in last week’s episode.  She’s had plenty of experience playing mothers of demon-possessed children since The Exorcist, I suppose.)

One of Susie’s birthday presents was a fixed male dog, a German shepherd and chow mix named Emory.  Emory is feeling more at home, although there is a lot of bad blood between him and our tabby cat, David.  (Emory is eight, so he’s outgrown many of the habits that made Susie’s other dogs less desirable.)  The best thing to do when no bipeds are in the house is to leave Emory closed in Susie’s bedroom with a bowl of water.  It keeps him from going nuts.

Unwinding Pre-Church

Steph is too tired, and the bug that made Susie feel crummy came back for an encore this morning, so I’m at Panera across from Our Lady of Peace Church, eating a bagel, drinking a small river of Diet Pepsi, and blogging before I head over to First UU for church.  I’m here alone today.

I barely left the house yesterday because Steph and I gave the living and dining rooms a long overdue cleaning and rehab.  One of the benefits was that we found Clara, the smallest of the nested wooden Russian dolls a friend of mine sent Susie from Moscow several years ago.  (Susie named the outermost one Mrs. Doll, and, in descending order, the smaller ones are Sarah, Mara, Cara, and Clara).  Clara had rolled under the couch while Susie and her friends were playing with the dolls, and she had been MIA ever since.  (I had been afraid she’d rolled down the furnace register, so I was relieved that she was safe and sound, albeit a little dusty.)

I left the house yesterday to go to the post office (I bought stamps and post cards) and to Family Dollar, and in the evening to take Susie to her friend Rosemary’s for a birthday party.  (It was at Skate America, and all the kids were meeting at Rosemary’s house beforehand.)  Steph and I ate some leftover spaghetti and watched Fay Grim, which I liked much better this second time around.  Steph had started to watch it under protest, mainly because she couldn’t stand its predecessor, Henry Fool, but she ended up thinking it was fantastic.  Susie came back, far overstimulated, from Skate America shortly before 10:30.  As soon as Fay Grim ended, I walked over to Rosemary’s house and got there just as the kids were returning.  (Seeing James Urbaniak, who played Simon in both films, on the season premiere of Without a Trace whetted my interest.)

My office is the next big cleaning project I want to tackle.  I’m sorry to report it no longer looks like the pictures I posted here last June.  I won’t post pictures of how it looks now, but I want to have it cleared before NaNoWriMo begins in November, so it won’t become a dawdling tactic.  ("I’ll get to work on the novel, but first I want to clean this shithole up!" has become a familiar stalling tactic.  "As soon as I get organized" is another one I use quite often–and waiting for me to get organized is as realistic as leaving the porch light on for Jimmy Hoffa.)

I was quite disappointed that McCain decided to debate Obama after all.  It would have been such a wonderful visual showing Obama, Jim Lehrer, and an empty podium.  As for the bailout, these bankers should be left to stew in their own juices–you made your bed, now sleep in it.  I feel like batching up all our bills and outstanding debts (and they are legion!) and mailing them to Congress and the White House to apply for a no-strings-attached bailout.

P.S.–I accidentally erased Without a Trace before I had watched half of it.  Any of you beloved readers still have a tape of it?