Hitting the Streets

My 53rd birthday was Friday, and I honored it by venturing into unfamiliar terrain for me.  Before heading to work on Friday, I actually set my DVR to record a sporting event–probably the first and last time this will happen.  I set it to record WBNS’ coverage of the Capital City Half Marathon on Saturday morning.

Why?

Because I was one of the people participating in this event.  It has been a springtime event here in Columbus since 2004, and I had never acknowledged its existence, except to curse it while it delayed and rerouted buses well into the afternoon.  I have been walking more and more in the last two years, often doing it during the early afternoon on weekdays in lieu of eating lunch, and since the weather is mostly better (although, this being Ohio, it is quite erratic at times), I’ve been walking more than I have been riding the bus.

One of the reasons I signed up for the Half Marathon was to mentally prepare for Zappos.com Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, which is two weeks from today.  I had such a good time last year that I decided to make it an annual event, both for the trip to San Francisco and for the 7.46-mile journey from The Embarcadero to the Great Highway and all the festivities and celebration that accompanies it.  (It’s much more sensible, and less dangerous, than running with the bulls in Pamplona, which has been on my bucket list since I read The Sun Also Rises in high school.)

The two events are quite dissimilar–in distance, in terrain, and in atmosphere.  Bay to Breakers’ reputation has been for its party atmosphere, involving costumed and naked runners, massive alcohol consumption, and an after-party which necessitates having fleets of paddywagons and ambulances at the ready.  Every year, the organizers have vowed that there would be crackdowns on the open containers, the littering, and the public urination, while at the same time realizing it’s as realistic as issuing an edict banning thunderstorms.  Serious runners participate, but the majority of the people who will be in the Bay City’s event on the 15th are there for the revelry.

The Capital City Half Marathon, on the other hand, is quite different.  It is an event honored by serious runners worldwide–people come from all 50 states and from outside the USA.  I was one of the most bizarrely dressed people to participate.  I was in jeans, a black hoodie (The Weather Channel predicted a high of 60 degrees) that read TIMES NEW ROMAN, and gray tennis shoes that looked like they came from Goodwill for $3.50 (which they did).

The Thursday before the race, I went to the Columbus Convention Center (my bad-weather site for walking), weaving my way through the participants and exhibitors at the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up my race packet.  It contained my T-shirt, my bib (I proudly wore #7489), and an event guide that was about 90% ads.  It reminded me of my trip to Fort Mason in San Francisco last year to pick up the same material, except the Fort Mason location was much bigger, and the salespeople were much more aggressive in pitching their wares (shoes, shirts, Fitbits, energy drinks, etc.).

I knew that I would be banished to Corral J, the furthest back from the starting line at the corner of S. Front and W. Town Sts.  The event assigns runners based on anticipated finish times, with the fastest ones being in Corral A, and the release times are staggered.  There would be too much of a free-for-all if everyone exited at once, and walkers and slower runners would not fare well in the stampede.  (Bay to Breakers has a designated “Walkers’ Corral,” Corral G.)

At the Half Marathon, Corral J was over three blocks south of the starting line, and the loudspeakers did not carry sound well enough to hear what was happening at the front.  The only way we knew when corrals were released was when we moved forward toward the starting line after corrals in front of us were off and running.

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The race is officially under way, and those of us in Corral J are still a good three blocks south of the starting line.

Per the results emailed to me late yesterday afternoon, I crossed under the starting banner at 8:29:07 a.m., almost a half hour after the first starting gun.  When you first begin, you think that the walking is a cinch–one foot in front of the other, repeat as necessary.  Nothing simpler!  The previous week, I did my first Nelsonville-to-Athens walk of this calendar year, on the first weekend, which is less than a mile shorter of the Half Marathon, so I passed under the banner, stepped on the rubber pad, and then the chip began clocking me.  (The timing chip was on the back of the paper bib bearing my bib number and corral assignment, and it activated the timer when I crossed the starting line, and timing would stop when I crossed the finish line.  This article explains it in more detail.)

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The course of the Capital City Half Marathon.  The green runner silhouette represents the starting line.

The first two miles or so were familiar terrain–part of the course I walk every lunchtime up Front Street.  It was not under the third mile that we first saw “refueling stations,” places where people (often schools, informal running clubs, or church groups) were giving out free cups of water and Gatorade.

I pleasantly surprised myself when I was keeping abreast of my time. I started the stopwatch of my trusty Casio Super Illuminator as soon as I stepped onto the rubber pad, and did a small double-take when it neared the one-hour mark.  Almost exactly as I reached one hour, I passed the four-mile mark, while I was on the Olentangy Freeway crossing Woody Hayes Dr.

The eastbound leg down E. Lane Ave. was familiar turf to me, especially as we came closer to High St.  (When I visited my mother in Columbus while in high school, I mentioned to her that one of my friends lived on E. Lane Ave. near campus, and she told me that it was an area “with all these cruddy bars and porno theaters.”  This may have been in the waning years of The World Theater at 2159 N. High St.  It later became the Roxy, where I would see The Song Remains the Same (1976).  Hearing about all the cruddy bars and porno theaters made me want to visit E. Lane Ave. all the more.)

The southward stretch of High St. was familiar turf.  I frequently spend hours on end at the McDonald’s, and often eat at either Subway or Qdoba in the same block, although I don’t log as many consecutive hours anywhere as I did at the Subway in Cincinnati in the early to mid-’90s.)  I even felt a little rebellious running in the middle of High St. on a Saturday morning.

Friends and family stood at nearly every block holding up signs while cheering on family members participating.  The onlookers thinned by the time we were well into the race–indeed, I suspect many of the faster runners had already completed the race.  No one was there for me, although I did hear “Go, Times New Roman!” from two or three people.

The race made the rubble that had been the Northside branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library seem beautiful, since it was at Mile 6, which was pretty much the halfway point of the race.  (The real figure is 6.55, half of 13.1, but there was no marker for that.)  As long-time readers of this blog will remember, my memories of the year I lived in Weinland Park are not fond ones, but one sign of the transformation was the remodeled Kroger, which replaced the much derided Kroghetto.  (I did not recognize the produce section of the new Kroger without a cloud of gnats hovering above it.)

When we reached Mile 8, turning onto S. 4th St., I again checked my stopwatch.  I was amazed that I was still maintaining a 4 mph pace.  I was a little sore, but I was breathing well and my body was sending me no signals to slow down or (God forbid!) to stop.

The route became more intricate, with turns occurring every few blocks, instead of miles, once it came through German Village.  Columbus is not hilly, in the way San Francisco or Cincinnati is, but I welcomed any downward incline, no matter how slight.  As we were going south on S. 3rd St., we heard the bells of St. Mary Catholic Church chiming 11 a.m. (a few minutes early).  I said to the woman next to me, “Send not for whom the bell tolls…” and she said, “Don’t say that!  It won’t toll for us until we cross the finish line.”  I felt emboldened when we came into the double digits–the marker for Mile 10.  For anyone in a half marathon, whether running, walking, or participating in a wheelchair, that is like watching all the zeroes roll over on a car’s odometer.  Only 2.1 miles to go, and that is the longest part of the race.

I began to think there may be an end to this madness when I turned off of Deshler Ave. and began going north on S. High St.  The sight of the skyline buoyed my mood, and it cancelled any negative feelings I experienced as a light rain began to fall.  None of had the spring in the step that we had at 8:30, and some had dropped out at the five-kilometer mark, but we received much encouragement as we kept going.

I crossed the line at 11:52:57 a.m., and my official time was 3:23:51.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see that I had finished in less than 3½ hours.  Indeed, I was worried that I could not finish in four hours.  I knew I was a little under 4 mph when I hit the 12-mile mark, but I knew that, barring a fall or the aneurysm deciding at that minute to burst, I would be finishing before four hours had elapsed.  (The officials would begin closing up shop after four hours.)  According to my Fitbit, I reached 10 thousand steps at 9:21 a.m., when I was 72 minutes into the event.

Once I came home, I barely moved the rest of the afternoon.  As far as my breathing was concerned, I was feeling fine.  The many Friday evening yoga classes at The Dharma House in Worthington are showing results, and this was after my thinking that my breathing didn’t need improvement, since I have never been a smoker and have never had a chronic lung condition such as asthma.

I felt more pain in my legs after this event than after my three previous walks from Nelsonville to Athens.  The last one, which I did last weekend, was longer than the previous two.  I began at Rocky Boots, instead of at Robbins Crossing on the Hocking College campus, which added over a mile to the route.  (Laurie, my significant other–more about her in an entry in the near future–drove me down to Nelsonville, instead of my taking the GoBus to the Hocking College campus.  She drove ahead to Athens and met me there.  This walk, which was 12.8 miles,  took over four hours.)  I think the reason why I was in so much pain this time was because I had maintained a faster pace than normal–keeping a pace of over four miles an hour over 13 miles is not easy, whereas with the Adena-Hockhocking Bike Path, I walked at a leisurely pace, stopping to enjoy the scenery, check out train trestles and bodies of water that were new to me, and pay my respects to the goats at the fence of the Good Earth Farm.

Indeed, I was not out of energy by the time I crossed the line on S. High St. by what had been Lazarus Department Stores.  Only chafing prevented me from going another mile.  During Sunday, walking has been more painful, but that is because the callus layer and the dead skin on the soles of my feet came off while I was in the shower, and has exposed two or three spots of raw skin, and putting any weight on them is painful.  I’ve experienced this many times before, and will again, so I still plan to walk at lunchtime, and I will proudly display my finishers’ medal to my co-workers (a very heavy piece of bling) and wear my T-shirt.

And I’m already checking the Nelsonville weather forecast to see if the weather will make a walk next weekend feasible…

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Those of us who walked the whole 13.1 miles all looked like Napoleon’s army retreating from Moscow by the time we crossed the line, but the medal and the sight of a camera rejuvenated us, if only for a moment.

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.)

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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.

Un-Conventional Walking

Along with many other people here in Columbus, I am “waiting in joyful hope” for the coming of the vernal equinox.  The temperature has consistently been above freezing the last day or so, which leads me to believe that the days of below-zero temperatures and pelting snow may well be behind us, even before the official start of spring on the 20th.

My lunchtime two-mile walks have continued as the mercury plummeted this winter.  Instead of walking north to W. 1st Ave. and then walking around Goodale Park, I’ve walked two circuits around the Columbus Convention Center.  This is an ideal indoor walk.

I can walk from the William Green Building through One Nationwide Plaza to the Convention Center via the Hyatt Regency Hotel, courtesy of walkways that extend above the streets.  I don’t wear a coat or jacket when I do my walks, because I get too hot if I do.  However, these walkways are exposed to the weather, so the phrase brisk walk and the word breezeway take on entirely new meanings.

Spring’s imminent return meant that I have resumed the Goodale Park walks.  Mounds of grimy snow are everywhere, and the sidewalks are wet, and more mud is visible than grass.  I have high tolerance for cold weather, but I am much more wary of slipping and falling than I was during my misspent youth, especially after breaking my wrist last year.  If I still thought I was invulnerable, or believed that I was a Weeble (“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”), I would have kept on with the outdoor walking regardless of the temperature.

During the season of walking indoors, I have been fascinated by the variety of gatherings, conventions, and trade shows that use the Convention Center.  Last weekend was the Arnold Sports Festival, hosted by the ex-governor of California, the Gropenator Adulterator himself.  The Convention Center was off limits from Monday last week until the start of the Festival itself on Thursday, so I had to content myself with wandering the hallways of the Hyatt Regency itself, mostly long dead-end corridors of conference rooms and meeting halls.  (Usually, the only time I am in the Hyatt is for PulpFest, which is in August.)

About 10 days before the Arnold Sports Festival, I was walking in the Convention Center and noticed that there was a level of anxiety so high it almost thrummed in the air.  The electric marquee above the entrance to the Convention Center announced that it was the Ohio State Bar Examination, and I saw people sitting on the floor and on every available cushion with notebooks, highlighters, and thick reference volumes.  Every liberal arts major considers a legal career, even if for only 30 seconds, so I had sympathy for the people who would soon be in the huge exam room, with Scantron sheets in front of them and number-two pencils gripped in their hands.  An armed Columbus Police officer stood just a few steps from the entrance, next to the sign that said cell phones and other electronic devices were forbidden.

I mentioned to a friend that I had contemplated law school on and off throughout high school.  He said, “I can’t imagine you habitually lying for money.”  I took that as a compliment, but I was/am starry-eyed enough (or maybe naïve enough) to think initially of Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow when I heard the word lawyer.

The first afternoon of the Ohio State Bar Exam, I was emailing an attorney friend of mine who works at the Health Department.  I told him about the bar exam, and asked him, in jest, if it was an experience he would like to relive.  “As for the bar exam, once was enough,” he said.

The exam was quite a juxtaposition with the Arnold Sports Festival or, at the end of January, Ohayocon 2015.  (I was quite amused by the variety of costumes and ambiguous genders I passed.  Two of Susie’s friends were there, and for all I know I may have walked past them without knowing it.)  I do remember hearing several people talking animatedly about sacrificing virgins at this Ohayocon (which meant, I imagined, that the next day the Convention Center would be completely abandoned).

The walks to Goodale Park these last few days have been invigorating, once I overlook the melting ice and the mud everywhere.  I usually only go into Goodale Park itself during Pride and ComFest, but I love walking around its perimeter.  I walk north until I reach W. 1st Ave.  One impressive piece of architecture on this walk is at the corner of W. 1st Ave. and Park St., a columned stone building that used to be the Second Church of Christ, Scientist.  I posted on Columbus Underground asking what the building is now, and learned it now houses a debt collection agency, and formerly an architectural firm.

The pond in Goodale Park, taken during ComFest 2014.

The pond in Goodale Park, taken during ComFest 2014.

Growing older, I have come to respect the snow, and to try to give it as wide a berth as I can.  This doesn’t mean that I turn into a recluse during the winter, but I now walk much more slowly than I used to, especially when I suspect that the ground beneath me is slick.  When the alarm goes off in the morning, the first thing I do is reach for the remote control and turn on the TV in my bedroom so I can see The Weather Channel, and I look at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to see the local temperature.

Snow no longer means sled-riding and forts and snowball fights (although I shied away from them as a teenager, because one kid I knew loved to make snowball fights more exciting by putting cherry bombs and M-80s in the snowballs).  Sled-riding on a flexible flyer was as daring as I ever got, while some of my friends used metal saucers, car hoods, Fiberglas-coated plastic sheets, and even an old gate rescued from the neighbor’s trash.

I watched The Weather Channel’s ongoing coverage of the snowstorm that hammered Boston, a storm that far surpassed anything I experienced in the 18 months I lived there (or across the Charles River in Cambridge).  I watched a press conference conducted by Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, and I was dumbfounded by what some alleged adults were doing in Boston.  It was hard to believe that the mayor had to come on national TV and tell people to stop jumping out second-story windows into snowbanks.  (This is like the mayor having to call a press conference telling people not to eat yellow snow.)

The Mayor of Boston telling people “This isn’t Loon Mountain”

After dark, I was quite content to walk around outside wearing a down-filled shirt.  I felt no need to wear my heavy jacket, and I did my lunchtime walk wearing a hoodie.  So all the signs are there: spring is returning, which means outdoor walks will be the rule, and not the exception.

Heading to the Office Tomorrow to Wind Down

This has truly been a weekend that was packed from top to bottom with activity–too much.  I’m typing while in the midst of a serious sleep deficit, so, Beloved Reader, you’re forewarned that the content of this entry may not hang together or flow in any coherent pattern.  When I’m this sleep-deprived, giving me access to a blog or journal is about as advisable as letting a two-year-old play with power tools.

The weekend actually began on Thursday, Steph’s and my 13th wedding anniversary.  She did not want the traditional present for the 13th–lace.  (I had to email a librarian to find out what it was; I used to have an appointment diary that listed all the anniversary gifts.)  So, we went to dinner at the Wildflower Cafe, where the cuisine was excellent.  Then we indulged ourselves by thrift-shopping.  The book selection was pitiful, but we did buy plenty of much needed kitchenware, and I bought some T-shirts.  I even scored a coup and was totally oblivious–a pair of tan Skecher tennis shoes for $7.  Steph was quite impressed.

Friday I slept a little later than usual, since I was using my second “cost-saving day”.  Due to budgetary issues, as I have ranted at length earlier in this blog, all of us State of Ohio employee are taking 10 unpaid days off.  It could be much worse than it ended up being, because they’re spreading the 10 days out over the life of the contract by subtracting 3.3 hours from each paycheck, so we won’t have entire days missing from our checks.

Friday was, however, a day loaded with activity.  Pulpfest was this weekend, held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Sinclair Road, about three miles from where I live.  I invited mystery writer Francis M. (“Mike”) Nevins to a dinner party at our place, since he’s always first in line to attend Pulpfest during its previous events in Dayton.  (This was the first time it was in Columbus.)  I met Mike at the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati in 2006, when he made the trip from St. Louis, where he lives.  I was already familiar with him, because I had read his exhaustively researched biography, Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die.  We saw each other annually in Cincinnati, and emailed back and forth periodically in the meantime.  Susie interviewed him with her microcassette recorder for a school report when she and I went to the convention in ’07.

Steph and Susie spent most of Friday preparing the house for this fete, while I ran errands to Giant Eagle to buy food and other necessities, and then to Target for some more kitchenware, and I stopped in Great Clips for an overdue beard trim.

The party went quite well.  One of our guests is a copyright attorney, so she and Mike shared some common ground, since he teaches copyright law at St. Louis University.  We had a crowd who was quite well read and at least three people attended Pulpfest the next day, not including myself.  Mike is quite a raconteur, and he told us about situations he’s faced in his academic and literary careers.

I’m grateful to Steph and Susie for collating and stuffing The Bag for me while I was out running errands.  The bundles of ads arrived on our front porch Friday morning, and the work was all done when the party started.

Susie’s friend DeeDee spent most of the weekend with us.  I had to run some errands on Saturday morning, and then I spent some time at Pulpfest.  (En route there, I walked from our house to Olympic Swim and Racquet, because Susie and DeeDee had left in such a hurry they had left membership card and guest pass behind.  I’ve become quite hooked on walking since I began delivering The Bag; on Facebook I said that if I go a day without a good walk, I feel like a heroin addict one day off the needle.)

My major coup from Pulpfest (for more information, go to http://www.pulpfest.com) was buying a first-edition Pocket Books paperback of Cornell Woolrich’s The Bride Wore Black for $12.  It was printed during World War II.  Facing the front cover is a caveat that says: “THIS IS A WARTIME BOOK.  THIS EDITION WHICH IS COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED IS PRODUCED IN FULL COMPLIANCE WITH THE GOVERNMENT’S REGULATIONS FOR CONSERVING PAPER AND OTHER ESSENTIAL MATERIALS,” complete with a picture of an eagle carrying a ribbon that says “BOOKS ARE WEAPONS IN THE WAR OF IDEAS” in its beak and a book in its talons.  On the back, it says “Send this book to a boy in the armed forces anywhere in the U.S… only $.04 postage.”  (See below)

I also bought (for $2!), the autographed memoirs of the late radio actor Hal Stone, Aw… Relax, Archie!  Re-laxx!, titled after his signature line when he played Jughead on NBC’s Archie Andrews radio show.

I am also proud to say that $1.50 bought me a copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Typewriter in the Sky, without a penny of it going to those loons in the Church of Scientology.

What baffled me was a table near the sign-in desk stacked to my eye level (I am 5’8 3/4″) with hardback, jacketed copies of Elizabeth Hand’s Generation Loss, copyright 2007 by the Small Beer Press of Northampton, Mass.  These were free–someone encouraged me to take two or three.  One was enough.  I am completely puzzled why mint-condition books were 100% free of charge.

I accomplished my main mission at Pulpfest, equally as important as spending the paltry check The Bag sent me.  Mike sold me two rare anthologies that featured works by Cornell Woolrich, as well as a copy of his new novel, Beneficiaries’ Requiem.

Next on my agenda was taking Susie to Club Havana down in the Short North, so she could practice and perform in the concert she and her fellow campers spent 10 days organizing.  The club was crowded, the noise level was gelding, and Susie performed quite well.  Steph went from the nightclub with some of her friends to decompress with the help of some mojitos, so I took the girls back home on the bus via Dairy Queen.

And I delivered The Bag in the predawn hours, stepping outdoors just after midnight and finishing after dawn.  It rained on and off during the night (mostly on, and torrentially in some intervals), and I must have been a sorry sight when I came home.  The ironic thing was I did the all-night delivery so I could make it to church for the 10 a.m. service.  But I knew I was close to collapse by then, and I did sleep very spottily for most of the morning.

So how was your weekend?

I Came *That* Close (Hands 1/8″ Apart)

The idea that, at any moment, your life could come to an abrupt conclusion or irreversible change has been beaten to death by theologians, inspirational authors, Chinese fortune cookie writers, and mystics since the dawn of time. It’s a subject that I try to avoid in any type of writing.

But there’s never an always, and always an exception. I came close to rounding out my lunch hour (and my immediate future) in the emergency room yesterday.

Payday Fridays involve walking from my office building to the credit union, and then running different errands. Yesterday, I had completed the circuit by going to the post office across from my office building to buy and mail some money orders, and was coming out the door and walking toward the corner of Spring and High. (The Federal Building is on the northeast corner of the intersection, the William Green Building–where I work–is on the northwest.) I waited at the corner for the light to change so I could cross High Street.

I heard two or three car horns honking–not just honk, but the long protracted sound when the driver puts all his/her weight on it to my left. Just then I saw a black SUV (I think–I’m crummy with car models, but it resembled a Brinks truck) with a woman busily and animatedly jabbering away on her cell phone and barreling through the intersection, running the red light and heading northward toward Nationwide Insurance and the Short North.

I was close enough to have caught the wind from her passage. A guy stopped at the light and I exchanged “What the hell?” glances. It had happened too fast even for my adrenaline to kick in, so I didn’t tense up or instantly get a dry mouth. (It does worry me that the prospect of instant death didn’t even rattle me that much.)

If I had taken one or two more steps forward, I would have been hit, and I doubt this woman would even have known she had done it. And I wonder just how injured I would have been. Since it all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to tense up, and that causes the bulk of the injuries. (I used to love those safety flyers from the Red Cross that tell you: “If you find yourself about to fall, try to relax.” Very easier said than done.) My grandfather said that one time he saw a very drunk man stagger out of a bar in Wheeling, right into the path of an oncoming streetcar. The streetcar stopped, but not before it hit the guy and knocked him a few feet in the air. The guy landed on his back, lay in the street for a second, and then got up, shook his fist at the conductor, and went on his drunken way. If he had been sober, he probably would have been killed.

This was also one of the rare occasions when I did everything according to Hoyle when it came to the rules of the road. During my 18 months in Boston, I quickly learned that crosswalks were just decoration, and crossing any street involved daily playing out Frogger, an arcade game that was popular at the time. I quickly developed the practice of strolling across the busiest street at any point convenient to me. Soon I was able to stroll through four lanes of traffic as if I was crossing my own living room. (I never did try a stunt that friends in Marietta and I used to do out of boredom during heavy traffic–get halfway across the street and then pretend to lose a contact lens, amusing ourselves as all the drivers sat fuming while we crawled around in the crosswalk.)

But yesterday, I waited for the WALK/DON’T WALK light to change in my favor. I had my MP3 player with me, but it was in my pocket, as were my ear buds.

It wasn’t until later, back at my desk and transcribing again, that I realized what could have happened. I’m not the type that dwells on worst-case scenarios daily. I have quoted Lincoln’s thoughts on this earlier in the blog: “If I am killed, I can die but once; but to live in constant dread of it, is to die over and over again.”

Nevertheless, I am reminded of a piece that ran in Mad magazine late in 1973, showing sheet music covers with appropriate photographs.  This was their suggested graphic for “What a Difference a Day Makes”:

Cold Weather Be Damned, I’ve Been Walking!

I’m proud of the fact that I have done a fair amount of walking this weekend.  (The weekend isn’t over yet–I have tomorrow off because of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and I plan to be walking with my friend Scott in the afternoon, one of the rare times we get to walk together during the daytime.)

I went with Susie to and from the Franklinton library (two or three blocks each way), to Family Dollar to get her new pre-paid cell phone (she ended up buying a NET10 model), and then on to the gift shop at Mount Carmel West Hospital so she could buy a new Webkins doll.  I left her back at the library while I ran to Herbert’s Market, the little corner grocery at the corner of Sullivant and S. Glenwood, to buy bologna, bread, milk, and eggs for dinner.

And today after church, we planned to go to the Whetstone Library, which is almost exactly one mile from the Unitarian Church.  Steph and Susie went on Project Mainstream, while I went ahead of them on foot.  It was straight down N. High Street, and downhill most of the way.  The temperature has been in the 20s today, so my fingers and toes weren’t freezing to the point of immobility, and I really didn’t feel like I just had to get indoors and into the heat right then or else freeze to death.

I didn’t feel that way last night when Steph and Susie asked me to go out to Tim Horton to buy Timbits.  That turned out to be a futile mission, because I got to Tim Horton just after 9, when they took drive-through window customers only.  They wouldn’t serve me at the window, since I was on foot.  (Most places are that way, although I have stood in line at bank drive-through windows and no one has said a word.)

Elsewhere in this blog I wrote about a family trip in the summer of 1978, when we were going to see my step-grandparents at their home in the exciting metropolis of Spiceland, Indiana.  I got enough of my family very fast, and always did, so I escaped them by boldly deciding to walk to New Castle, which was the next biggest town.  It was almost eight miles north on Indiana 3, but it got me away from them, even if I was somewhat sunburned and aching by the time I stopped at a McDonald’s in New Castle for lunch.

Some snow is falling right now, but it’s not threatening visibility, and the wind doesn’t seem to be blowing much, if at all. 
 

Stephanie Held Hostage, Day 2

We still have no date for the open-heart surgery at Riverside, and that is because the surgeons and technicians there are still trying to clean up their own wreckage. In yesterday’s entry, I described how the initial cardiac catheterization went kaflooey when the technician placing the catheter managed to completely penetrate an artery and then stick a vein. After plugging that mess surgically, they managed to do the cardiac cath via Steph’s right arm. I was sleeping on Pat and Tanya’s couch this morning just as it was starting to get light, and Steph called me, and she sounded miserable. She was in pain and she was groggy and nauseous. I was ready to make it over to Riverside from Pat and Tanya’s on foot (just a little over a mile), but Pat gave me a ride there.

Being nauseous and groggy was the least of everyone’s concern. Steph was losing circulation in her right arm–the hand and forearm were cold to the touch. After some exploring with an ultrasound and Doppler, it turned out there was a clot in the arm where the cardiac catheter had gone in. They determined this in mid-morning, and it was not until nearly 6 tonight that Steph went in (under local anesthetic) to have this clot removed. I was worried the whole time (and this week makes you think in terms of worst-case scenarios) that while everyone was taking their sweet time with this, what was to stop this clot from breaking off and going into the brain or the heart? Steph was under the knife for a little over an hour. My First UU friend and walking partner Scott stayed with me in the families’ waiting room until the doctor called and told me that Steph sailed through the procedure, but would be in recovery for awhile. Scott and I waited in her room for almost an hour until they rolled her back in, barely conscious and having a very hard time tracking. Steph did, with some help, seem to be aware of Scott’s and my presence. She spoke with Susie for a few minutes. I only heard Steph’s end of the conversation, but I gleaned from that that Susie was telling her of her homeschool activities that day.

And now I am going to run out of paid leave at work, and just because the doctors have been cleaning up their own debris. The open-heart has almost become an afterthought.

As Linus Van Pelt once wrote to the Great Pumpkin, “If it sounds like I’m bitter, it’s because I am.”

Backlog of Dictation, and Walking After Sunset

I apologize to everyone for not posting yesterday, but I was in constant motion almost from the minute my feet hit the floor yesterday morning.  I set a new record at work–I transcribed six medical reports in one day.  However, that doesn’t begin to put a dent in the backlog of doctors’ reports in our queue.  I spent most of the day with my headphones on and my two fingers tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard.  Sometimes I would get so wrapped up in the work that I became oblivious to the passage of time.

I jumped into this backlog at a good time.  The cardinal rule with dictation is FIFO–first in, first out.  In other words, transcribe the reports in the same order that they were posted to the queue.  Som my timing was perfect–three reports from one doctor, averaging about six minutes in length; and the others were psychiatric reports, which are always fascinating.  Unfortunately, I have Dr. Magoo, the boring doctor from Cleveland, on deck for tomorrow.  (I won’t hassle him by posting his right name here; my co-pilot Lynne and I try to imagine what this guy looks like, and Lynne has sold me on the idea he looks like Mr. Magoo and/or Elmer Fudd.  Just to be contrary, I’ve suggested he resembles Antonio Bandares or Brad Pitt.)

My friend Scott G. and I are going to try to make the walks a regular Tuesday evening thing.  Last week, we did a few turns around Schiller Park in German Village.  I had suggested Westgate Park for a change of scenery, and he was amenable to the idea.  He picked me up after I had a dinner of stuffed peppers at home.  We got to Westgate, and you could count all the lit street lights on one hand.  At first, I wondered if there had been some temporary blackout, but it seemed that this was standard for Westgate.  It was so dark I had a hard time finding the water tower on the edge of the park.  It’s what I use to orient myself when I’m there, since my sense of direction is not very good.  (In the darkness, it reminds me of the Martian tripod machines in the original War of the Worlds novel.  See the Classics Illustrated comic edition if you’re not picturing it.)

So, Scott and I drove back down Sullivant Avenue and decided to walk (illegally–we were trespassing) at the campus that houses the offices of the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (hereafter referred to as MRDD).  This occupies at least a city block, and several buildings and garages are spread out over quite a distance.  Besides the thrill of being on the wrong side of the NO TRESPASSING signs, it was adventurous because it was hard, in the darkness, to plot a walking route, so each path was a new experience.  One road was inclined enough that it required some effort to walk up it.  (We tried to swing by that way as much as possible!)

I have to confess, gentle reader (or readers, I hope vainly), that part of the thrill was being somewhere we weren’t supposed to be.  I think it’s the latent juvenile delinquent in me.  In high school, I racked up an impressive portfolio of status offenses, and, although I enjoyed the walk, I enjoyed walking past patrol cars on the grounds and having the cops inside not give us a second look.  (Feeling this way, I admit, is the same as throwing leaves on a just-painted porch.  There was an age when a NO TRESPASSING sign would have been as effective at deterring me as scaring ants away by throwing sugar on the ground.)

We’re at the library, since Steph is teaching a piano and a voice lesson.  Almost time to trudge the 2-3 blocks back to the home place, so I’ll commit this entry to cyberspace and close up shop.