In which our intrepid hero gets to dwell on dwellings…
Are you a home orphan? By that, I don’t mean homeless, but do you no longer have ties to the home in which you grew up? Some of us can easily go back to the home of our youths, because other relatives, typically parents, may still live there. You can revisit your old room, for example. But not me. My parents sold my childhood home in 1988 or so, the year I graduated from college and moved to Ohio.
I grew up in a house on 2624 Hawick, El Paso, Texas. This was a subdivision with streets named on Irish themes built in the late 1950s. My house was built in 1959. It was a tiny house, three bedrooms but only around 1,000 square feet or so. My mother was from El Paso, my father from Pennsylvania. They lived in Pennsylvania after getting married but in 1970 they moved back to El Paso. I was four years old. We stayed at my grandparents’ house until my parents bought the home on Hawick.
In which our intrepid hero looks at the past and the passed…
Death comes to us all in the end, but you never know how news of the deaths of others will affect you. Although I mourned their passing, the actual deaths of neither of my maternal grandparents caused me true sorrow, because in both cases, the circumstances of their passing meant that death, when it came, was something of a blessing. The relief of their suffering outweighed the sorrow of their absence.
The circumstances of death thus play a large role in how deaths affects us.
In which our intrepid hero hopes that oil’s well that ends well…
Fracking concerns me, I admit it. I should hasten to point out that I do not, as many do, oppose fracking, no more than I oppose genetically modified crops. But I believe both technologies should be treated prudently, with an eye towards identifying and preventing problems. I am concerned about groundwater contamination, I am concerned about earthquakes. I can only hope that Ohio is wise enough to create a good regulatory and oversight foundation and will be proactive enough to try to deal with potential problems before they become actual ones.
Beyond that, though, I am concerned about something that it may not be within the power of the state of Ohio to regulate, and that is that Ohioans themselves will not benefit enough from fracking. One would think that it is a rare blessing that Ohio’s deposits are located in the economically blighted Ohio Appalachia; those areas certainly deserve a break, right? Yet it is those same areas that have Ohio’s traditional oil deposits as well, as can be seen by the hundreds and hundreds of wells dotting the countryside. And that traditional oil wealth seems not to have benefited eastern Ohioans much at all—so will fracking do so, or will the gains simply be siphoned out of the state, much like Ohio’s gambling money largely is? I hope the people who need the money the most get some of it.
In which our intrepid hero contemplates nature and navels…
One of the things I love about my driving excursions in Ohio is the feeling of freedom that they give me. I can drive anywhere, do anything; I have no deadlines or schedules or things I must do. The only pressure at all in that regard is the pressure to wake up early enough in the morning to catch some good light. Sometimes it seems to me that this sort of freedom is disappearing in modern society. I don’t mean this in any sort of Glenn Beck/right-wing/libertarian way at all. I am not talking about politics but personal freedoms.
Let me illustrate what I mean. I think far fewer children simply play than when I was a child. These days, it seems that all too many parents channel their children’s “playtime” into organized activities, like team sports and day camps and so forth. I have to say that when I was a kid, if you wanted to play, you walked down the block and knocked on the door of some other house and got the kid who lived in that house to come out and play. We played “cops and robbers,” or “pirates” or “cowboys and Indians,” and we played games like hide and seek, and we played sports, like baseball or basketball. We rode our bikes all over the neighborhood. I never once was on an organized soccer team or anything like that. We didn’t need those things to have fun. These days, however, it seems like organized activities are all parents think about—this is certainly true for the parents I know. And those few parents who do seem to allow their children the chance to simply play do so like they were East German border guards. One set of parents I know would never let their children play outside—on their own block!—unless one of the parents was outside watching them.
I confess that I get very crotchety about this. My parents would set limits, which varied as I got older, typically making sure I knew when to be back, what geographical limits I had, and so forth. But then they would simply let us play. To me that seems to superior to choosing an organized activity for your kids and making them engaged in that supervised, constrained activity.
Where has that freedom gone? The freedom to simply be a kid?
In which our intrepid hero coasts along a coast…
Lakes, great or not so great, are hard to come by in West Texas, smack in the middle of the Chihuahua Desert. The first lake I ever saw was Caballo Lake in New Mexico, about a two hour’s drive up the Rio Grande from El Paso. Caballo is a reservoir lake, created during the Great Depression, and is the smaller cousin to Elephant Butte Reservoir. The first time I saw the lake, I did not even know that I had seen the lake. In the 70s, my dad was hunting buddies with a family who owned a convenience store/gas station near the reservoir (and also owned a valuable New Mexico liquor license!). The first time my family went up there, I craned my neck as we got close, so that I could see the lake, but to my disgust the lake was totally blocked from view by a high light-blue wall that someone had put up. It was a long time—an embarrassingly long time—before I realized that the “wall” was actually the lake itself.
In which our intrepid hero has an eerie feeling…
Every year the swallows come to Capistrano and the geeks come to Cleveland, because Cleveland is the mecca for a very geeky hobby, a World War II strategy boardgame called Advanced Squad Leader. Never heard of it? Do not fear, you are not alone. Imagine the boardgame Risk. Got it? Not imagine someone with a pocket protector yelling at you at the top of his lungs: “IT’S NOT RISK, ASSHOLE. IT’S A MILLION TIMES MORE COMPLEX AND IT IS ABOUT WORLD WAR II!” The first week of October is ASL Oktoberfest, the world’s largest tournament for ASL and ASL players from around the world come to Cleveland to spend a week in a hotel playing a game.
In which our intrepid hero misses an important clue…
When I was a kid, like a lot of kids who read a ton of books, I had a reading vocabulary that was much bigger than my speaking vocabulary. One word that I knew the meaning of was French in origin: hors d’oeuvres. In my mind, I pronounced this word something like “whores davores.” I knew the word meant something like appetizers. There was another word that meant basically the same thing: “orderves.” I don’t even know how many years passed before I finally realized that “orderves” and “hors d’oeuvres” were actually not synonyms but the same damn word.
In which our intrepid hero encounters aged agrarian advertising…
I learned a new (to me) word the other day: earworm. You and I and everybody we know have experienced them; an earworm occurs when a piece of a song or melody gets stuck in your head and you can’t get it out. It seems to me that there is a linguistic equivalent, of sorts, to an earworm, and that is when a particular phrase gets into your head. It may not repeat itself but it is there and will come to mind, unbidden, with the right trigger. Let’s call them eyeworms, just for the sake of convenience. Earworms and eyeworms alike must be gold to advertisers. Surely that is something they seek: a commercial jingle or an advertising pitch line that lodge in people’s brains like G.I.s on Omaha Beach. Think for a moment—do you remember any commercial jingles or advertising slogans from your childhood? God knows I can. “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” “I can’t believe I ate that whole thing.” “You’ve come a long way, baby.”