Excursion 8, Part 2 (The Beach is Back)

In which our intrepid hero slakes his lake thirst…

When I was a kid, my dad had hunting friends who owned a gas station and convenience store (with a rare New Mexico liquor license) at Caballo Lake, a reservoir in southern New Mexico formed by damming the Rio Grande.  We would occasionally go up there (a two hour drive) and spend the day there.  However, the place was still a bit of a distance from the lake—too much for a kid—and so we didn’t really see the lake except as a distance.  I think I may have only been out on the lake itself once, on a small boat.  So I truly was “underexposed” to large bodies of water as a kid.  I remember when I was 17 or so and had to fly from El Paso to Pennsylvania.  The plane changed in Chicago and I was able to see Lake Michigan (from the air) for the first time.  It was remarkable—like an ocean to me (who had not yet seen one).

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Excursion 8, Part 1 (Lake Effect)

In which our intrepid hero encounters a reasonably great lake…

I grew up in the desert and as a result have always been fascinated by large bodies of water.  As a kid, I had never seen any body of water larger than the Caballo or Elephant Butte reservoirs in New Mexico.  When I was a freshman in college in San Antonio, I drove one night with friends to the Gulf of Mexico, but it was pitch black and I didn’t see a thing!  I don’t know how old I was before I ever saw an ocean.  So bodies of water—large rivers (the Rio Grande doesn’t cut it!), large lakes, oceans, bays, all of that stuff—is sort of like a fascinating foreign country to me.

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Excursion 7, Part 5 (Springfield in Spring)

In which our intrepid hero takes some time to soak in some Springfieldian sights…

On my way back home, I passed through Springfield, a town about 30 minutes west of Columbus.  The light was already fading, but Springfield is such an interesting town that I decided to take at least a few pictures anyway, though I will certainly come back for a more extended sojourn (in better light).  Of course, the same things that make Springfield interesting to me may seem undesirable for others.

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Excursion 7, Part 4 (The Tin Trojans)

In which our intrepid hero encounters Trojan horses of a most unusual kind…

Let me declare flat out that unexpected pleasures are the best pleasures.  A gift is better if you don’t know what it is, better still if unanticipated.  Case in point:  twenty years ago, a local movie theater held a week-long series of Hong Kong films.  This was long before Americans knew who Jackie Chan was and Hong Kong cinema was known primarily to cinephiles.  I myself had never seen a Hong Kong film at that point, so I decided to go see one of the movies.  This was the 1993 film The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk.  I knew absolutely nothing about this film—and this was before the World Wide Web—so I found myself in a situation that I pretty much never am in, going to see a movie completely blind about it.  I didn’t know the cast, the plot, the concept, nothing.   To my delight and surprise, the movie, an action-comedy, turned out to be extremely entertaining.  Because I had no expectations for the film at all (I didn’t even know it would be a comedy), the fact that it turned out to be pretty decent made it even better, because it was so unexpected.  Even the smallest pleasures get magnified when they come unannounced.

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Excursion 7, Part 3 (Cafes on the Left, Left, Left Bank)

In which our intrepid hero discovers a saintly town…

One thing I discovered very soon after moving to Ohio was that Ohio is a state that steals place names.  This is true of many areas of the country, no doubt, but it wasn’t true where I grew up.  Place names near me included El Paso, Las Cruces, Canutillo, Anthony, Fabens, Alamagordo, Truth or Consequences (well, that was stolen from something, but not a place), and so forth.  But in Ohio?  We have Toledo and Moscow and Athens and Brooklyn and Cambridge and London and Dublin and Geneva and Macedonia and Ontario and Oxford and Toronto and many others—none of them even modest enough to throw a “New” in front of their theft.  The one that gets me the most, though, is Rio Grande, Ohio, because locals don’t pronounce it the right way, they pronounce it “Rye-Oh.”  As someone who used to ride a horse along the actual Rio Grande, that grabs my goat by the balls and twists.

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Excursion 7, Part 2 (Urban Urbana)

In which our intrepid hero encounters a county seat…

What makes you love a place?  I grew up in El Paso, Texas, and though I have not lived there in over a quarter century, I am still possessive and protective of the place.  When I left Texas in 1988 to move to Ohio to go to graduate school, I really did not know what to expect.  Having grown up in the west, I had a number of prejudices against the eastern United States.  To the extent I knew anything about Ohio, I knew that it got very cold there in the winter and humid in the summer and that the state was part of the “rust belt.”  I also knew that it had none of the grandeur of western geography.  It had no mountains, no gorges, no big waterfalls.   When I arrived in Columbus, Ohio, I was pleasantly surprised (except about the humidity, which is indeed nasty).  But between then and now I somehow moved from being pleasantly surprised to loving the state.  I can’t say how exactly Ohio started to grow on me, but I know it started early on and I was soon defending my adopted state from the disapproving remarks of some of my stuck-up fellow graduate students.  I came to love the diversity of Ohio, the quiet beauty of the Midwest, the little places.  Over the years, more and more, it just seemed like home.

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Excursion 7, Part 1 (The Anchorhead of Ohio)

In which our intrepid hero embarks upon a journey to the mythical land of Troy…

Everybody who has ever seen the movie Star Wars knows the city of Mos Eisley, even if the name is not familiar.  That’s the city on Tattooine that Luke and Ben and the droids go to that has the funky bar with all the aliens.  It’s where they meet Han and Chewie and from whence they lit out on the Millennium Falcon.   But you know what?  It’s not the only place on Tattooine.  Brief references in the movie tell the viewer about another place, a much less exotic place, called Anchorhead.  It’s the place where all the moisture farmers go to buy a new clutch.  It’s a farm town.  Nothing happens there; it is only a place from which people depart.  “I can take you as far as Anchorhead,” Luke tells Obi-Wan.  “You can get a transport there to Mos Eisley or wherever you’re going.”  It’s a Greyhound Bus stop.  Well, Ohio has its Anchorheads, too.

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