So Long, Ypsi Brownstone ?

An illustrated bear waves farewell as a dotted line of ants surrounds the entire periphery of his form.
Captain Bluebear and the Ant Pack Honey Travelers.

After some hedging and hem-hawing, I’ve decided I’m selling the Ypsi condo. Change happens, and it is time. It’s the place I’ve lived longest in this life, first as a renter from 2009-2012, then as an owner from 2014-2023. Some Gregorian calendar subtraction, carry the one, and the total is 12 years. But then you kind of sort of have to subtract the past five years because I’ve spent much of each year in Virginia since 2018. Seven-ish years at the condo, and then some. Memories and fix-ups. The fix-ups include painting most rooms, new hot water heater, air conditioner, insulation, cedar fence, new toilets, flooring, and so on. A lilac bush in front, sage and lavender in the side yard, and several hosta plants cousin-ed from the next door neighbor’s overgrowth a few seasons ago.

The prospective sale sets in motion several cascades for several people, including Ph., who has lived there for the past three years. Moving can be stressful, and yet, having stepped through quite a few of the care and consideration gestures for everyone affected by the change, onward song hums quietly toward emptying the place by the end of June, having a painter refresh everything in early-mid July, followed by robust cleaning, and finally, the listing. The realtor, too, was an easy selection because I simply went with the person who gained the confidence of my neighbors who’d sold their places in the past couple of years. I’ver never enjoyed the real estate hustle, but this time is different for being slower moving.

A few items of mixed value remain for the round trips I’ll be making to Michigan and back each of the next few months. Whew, is it a lot of driving, but the roads are usually easy, and the northern half of Ohio has in it an antiques and concrete yard decor place I will stop at to stretch my legs and browse the wares on one of the routes. On this most recent return, I carried along a gardening chest loaded with half gallon and quart Masons for fermentation experiments and other Wonder Hollow food storage. I also brought two cloth boxes of old basketball trophies, a yoga mat and ball, two shepherd’s hooks, a set of chimes, two small sponge balls Is. and I used to play catch with in the living room, a few old storage containers holding things like my mom’s cell phone from when she died in 1997, a small stuffed elephant I’m pretty sure belonged to my brother when he was a tot, a 7th grade report I wrote on black bears in agriculture class, a photocopy of the 1992-1993 Park College basketball individual/team statistics, a handheld space invaders game that kept me company on long bus rides around 1982 would be my guess, and a stack of books—a copy of Network Sense, a history of Park College, a few yearbooks, and of course a copy of Moers’ The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, which properly/rightly belongs to Ph., but which Is. said I should take to Virginia. I read it to her as goodnight tuck-ins for the better part of eight months or maybe longer, and so it lasts, an imprint enduring of another moment of major life changes and felt upheaval. It’s an illustrated but mostly textual sojourn, a wandering narrative, more about the paths and ways than about the destinations. Conjuring a multiverse/pluriverse episodist hodology more wandering adrift than a tightly bundled odyssey; how many directions can we go in more or less at once? Book means a lot to me. And to Is. And to Ph., as well. So once he is settled again in his new place, I’ll order him a copy to make sure he has it on the shelf for T., when she’s eight, ready at dusk for trailing nightzillion wonders sleepily and softly into dreamscapes.

A Dimensional Hiatus

The latest bedtime storytime jags come from Moers’s The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, a fantastic slingshot across Zamonia, equal velocity-measures zany, smart, and surprising. Tonight, Bluebear began his transition away from the Nocturnal Academy and out of life, what is it now?, six?, The Gloomberg Mountains. To leave the school, he has to make his way through an especially disorienting labyrinth. Bluebear walks on and on until walking gives out, Fitbit.

For several hours I remained lying on my back, spreadeagled with my gaze fixed on the roof of the tunnel. I had made up my mind to dematerialize, vanish without a trace, rust away like a piece of old iron, and thus become an integral part of the Gloomberg Mountains. It seems that rusty tunnel walls have an unwholesome effect on overtaxed brains. I would never had entertained such an idea under normal circumstances, but anyone who has brooded for hours will feel, in a truly physical sense, what it’s like to rust away. It’s a strange but far from unpleasant sensation. You surrender to the forces of nature, utterly serene, then slowly turn metallic. Your body becomes coated by degrees with fine, rust-red fur and starts to crumble. The rust eats into you, ever deeper. Layer after layer flakes off, and before long you’re just a little mound of red dust to be blown away by a captive puff of wind and scattered along the endless tunnels of the Gloomberg Mountains. That was as far as my dire imaginings had progressed when my shoulder was nudged by something soft and slimy but not unfamiliar. It was Qwerty Uiop.

‘What are you doing here?’ he inquired anxiously.

‘Rusting away,’ I replied. (175-176)

Rusting away, I replied. Rusting away. But his school-friend Qwerty, from the 2364th dimension, comes along, sort of glop-bumps into him, and mentions that he has found a dimensional hiatus–a portal he knows by smell will, when he plunges into it (if he can summon the courage), jump him to another dimension. But Qwerty hesitates to jump, afraid of the unknown.

I won’t spoil it. It’s enough to take a quick snapshot of this rich bedtime reading, of Bluebear’s post-Nocturnal Academy disorienteering, his will to dematerialize, to rust, and his friend, Qwerty’s, rescue-interruption, motivated by his own crisis about risking a known dimension for an unknown dimension.

Reason enough to continue reading.