January Ends Tomorrow

I have, as is my unfortunate pattern, been lax in maintaining this blog, so I’m writing tonight, since I’m fresh out of excuses why I shouldn’t.  The first month of 2016 is at an end as of tomorrow, and it’s been a pretty good one thus far for me.

My annual aneurysm check was in mid-December, and the cardiologist was quite pleased.  The bulge in my thoracic aorta has actually contracted.  Had it dilated any further, this would have warranted additional monitoring, but he told me that if it continues to get smaller.  It is now at 3.9 cm, which is 0.3 less than it was in December of 2014.  If it continues this way, I can go for monitoring every two years instead of annually.

Those birthdays that end with 0 are the ones where you start thinking about mortality, and having a condition like an aneurysm–even though it doesn’t seem to be life-threatening at the moment–helps to drive home the point that I statistically have more years behind me than I do ahead of me.  (Many of the relatives on my mother’s side of the family lived very long lives, but what they experienced during those many years made me realize that it’s the quality of the years, not the number of years, that make the difference.)

I know that I can take some credit for the improvement in the aneurysm.  I have been trying to monitor and log my calorie intake on My Fitness Pal, and I am piling on the walking miles daily.  (Even when the temperature has dipped into the teens, which has been rarely thus far in ’16, I’ve been walking outside.  The Convention Center is undergoing major repairs at the moment, and walking around sawhorses, dropcloths, power tool cords, and lumber is a pain.)

Almost two weeks ago, I bought a Fitbit Flex at Target, and, except for when I’ve been in the shower, it has been on my right wrist constantly, counting the number of steps I take, and even how much (or little, as is usually the case with me) I sleep.  I am still getting accustomed to wearing it, even though I habitually wore at least one bracelet on my right wrist for most of my teens.  Based on my height and weight, the Fitbit recommends 10 thousand steps daily and I have reached that goal every day except once.  On Thursday, I learned that I earned the Penguin March Badge for having logged 70 miles.  (This award’s name comes from the distance of the March of the Penguins, walked by emperor pigeons to their breeding grounds.  I could make an editorial comment here about the lengths to which males will go to get sex, but I’m reining myself in for once.)


My Fitbit Flex


Long ago, I stopped wondering about what would happen if I died.  This was because I realized that plenty would happen–it’s just that none of it would involve me.

I don’t consider myself a morbid person, but one thing the aneurysm did teach me was to no longer take for granted that I am youthful and will always emerge unscathed from any physical or emotional crisis I might experience.  I think back to when I slipped on the ice and waited two weeks before I accepted the fact that the wrist might be broken, and not just bruised.  When I reread A. Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, for the first time since high school, I paid closer attention to the character Jefferson Hope because he, like I, had an aortic aneurysm.  (Conan Doyle, a physician, described it as a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment, and, in true late 19th-century dramatic fashion, it did just that.)

I try to steer away from reading mortality into any anomaly that I find in my body.  Middle age is the time when physicians start telling you to look for all the dangers–that mole that is changing shape and color, that twinge in the left side of the chest that is becoming more than a mere annoyance, getting up from the toilet and seeing a bowl full of blood–and it is key (I keep telling myself) to stop expecting them.

This is a far cry from the immortality that all of us took for granted as children and teenagers.  When we look back on it, the familiar refrain of “It’s a wonder we didn’t get our damn fool selves killed” is the first thing to spring to mind.

Friday Night Mania, Saturday Malaise

I christened the blog at this new site on Friday, and still had quite a bit of energy once I hit Publish and the entry popped up in my Twitter feed and on Facebook.  Not sure why I was so wound up.  (I did wonder if I was heading into a manic episode.)

I stayed online until around 4:30 or 5 a.m., doing one of those self-indulgent activities that actually masquerades as productive work.  I logged onto Collectorz.com, and then brought an armload of records from the living room and began piling them onto any flat surface I could find on this desk, and for the next several hours I was entering information about my LPs (only doing one or two of my 78s, and none of the compact disks!) onto its database.  The work was not as cumbersome as I feared.  In all but one or two cases, I was able to type in a record’s catalog number, and the program pulled in all relevant information from its database.

The punch line to this whole thing, of course, is that if/when I enter all the information about every recording I own (Susie says I am treading the fine line between collecting and hoarding), I probably will keep them shelved in the same disorganized fashion as they have always been.


peanuts_proud_records Although it was first starting to get light outside when I finally went upstairs to bed, I was up again by about 8:30 or 8:45, so I could go to the 10 a.m. showing of Cartoon Capers at the Ohio Theater.  I was a little late in arriving, because the bus ran into a few snags, including The Color Run.  East State Street was closed so that workers could hoist a Mr. Peanut neon sign onto the façade of a building.  They used a crane, so they cleared the street for an entire block, including the block where the theater is.

The Ohio Theater shows Cartoon Capers twice each summer, but I didn’t go to the first one because it coincided with the Gay Pride Parade.  I remember feigning hardship when Susie was about nine or 10.  She had a friend at our place for a sleepover, and part of the plans included going to Cartoon Capers on Saturday morning.  I “grudgingly” agreed to take them, although I think everyone knew that I was taking me as much as them.

My mental and physical energy tanked by the time of the intermission, probably caused, and certainly not helped, by not having eaten since about 7 p.m. the previous night.  I left before the intermission ended, and went directly to Subway and ate a big meal.  That improved my mental energy a little, but when I headed home, my plan was to log another armful of records, go to the library, and go to one or two yard sales in the neighborhood, not necessarily in that order.

Instead, I crashed and fell asleep on the love seat in my living room.  I slept for two or three hours, and only the sound of the letter carrier coming up on the front porch brought me back to full wakefulness.  I am not sure I would have stirred fully had he/she not opened the storm door to put a package in there.

Even though I didn’t feel all that energetic, I managed to walk for about 45 minutes (about three miles) north to Laughing Ogre Comics.  I felt like a bit of a ghoul, but I just had to pick up Issue #36 of Death Life With Archie, in which Riverdale’s favorite son actually dies, jumping in front of a bullet to save his friend Kevin Keller, the first openly LGBT character in the Archie Comics oeuvre.

Archie will be back, alive and well, in Issue #37, although I’m not sure how they will accomplish this miracle.  When Susie and I decided to attempt National Novel Writing Month, we were talking about fictional characters killed off and then resurrected by their creators.  I told her that, hands-down, the best return from the dead was Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”  Unquestionably, the worst was the return of Bobby Ewing in Dallas.  Killed off at the end of Season 8, he appears, alive and well in the shower at the end of Season 9, to the surprise of his fiancee.  As it turned out, she had dreamed the entire season that he was dead.

Ruminating about Sherlock Holmes, from his “death” in “The Adventure of the Empty House” to his aforementioned return to the pages of Strand magazine led me to spend the rest of last night watching “A Study in Pink,” which is the debut episode of BBC One’s Sherlock.  Susie introduced me to it over a year ago, and we would sit up and watch the episodes on DVDs that I had checked out of the library.

There’s been no coherent thread holding this entry together.  That has happened before, of course, and it will happen again.  Anyone who has followed this blog at its previous sites knows this is quite common.

On Friday night, I was able to cross something that had been on my “to do” list for much too long. I dictated a long promised and too long delayed audio letter to a friend in California.  I had recorded one earlier in the week, but the tape was too cheap, and as I was in the home stretch of side 2, I realized the tape had wound three or four times around the capstan of my Panasonic RQ-32OS.  I had to throw away that cassette, after needing to use a butter knife to get it out of the machine.  So, I was proud that I was able to sit down, microphone in hand, and record an entirely new letter to him.

On the B side, I included a 1949 episode of Archie Andrews, the radio comedy based on the aforementioned comic books.  I put that in as a memorial to Bob Hastings, who played the title role.  He died on June 30 at the age of 89.  (He played Elroy Carpenter on McHale’s Navy and Captain Burt Ramsey on General Hospital, but I remember him as Tommy Kelsey, the bar owner on All in the Family.)  I met him at several old-time radio conventions in Cincinnati, and he sat down for an interview with Susie, who was all of nine years old at the time.  She came to the convention, armed with her microcassette recorder, to interview him for a class project.