Excursion 55 (The Town That Moved)

I was born in Pennsylvania but moved to west Texas when I was four years old. I remember nothing of it except a hazy memory of the plane ride with my mother and my sister (my father drove).  I did not move again until I went to college at Trinity University in San Antonio, to live in a dorm. During the summer the university sent me a letter with information about my dorm and my assigned roommate.  My roommate had one of those ambiguous names that could be male or female, which is relevant, because the dorm assigned to me was the Camille Lightner Women’s Honor Dormitory.  Together, these two pieces of information had me a little nervous. However, it turns out the dorm had recently been converted to co-ed and they merely hadn’t gotten around to changing its formal name.

In 1988, I made the biggest move of my life, to Columbus, Ohio, to go to grad school.  With the exception of my books and my wargames, every possession I owned was crammed into my 1985 Chevy Chevette.  It was so loaded down I almost had to pull it the 1,550 miles to Ohio. The only way I could afford to move my (thousands of) books and wargames was to ship it via freight as scrap paper—meaning if something went wrong, I could kiss them goodbye. That was a nervous waiting period until they arrived at the small apartment I had rented, which would turn out to be miserable and rat-infested. I stayed there two years, then moved into a townhouse apartment in a nicer part of town. I would live in that place for 14 years until I finally bought a house and made my last move, to date. By then I could afford to pay people to move all the stuff—and not as scrap paper, either, so it was in many ways the least painless.  After I moved in, I discovered the air conditioning was broken and I had to pay nearly a thousand dollars on my first day in the house to fix it. Even after the house cooled down, I had a hard time sleeping that night, in a strange place that I had just bought, consumed by second-guessing my own decision in the largest purchase of my life to date. But it generally turned out okay.  I’m still living in it, 12 years later—though still not fully unpacked.

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Excursion 53, Part 1 (Septic Thanks)

We don’t always take the time to appreciate the little things in life.  For example, at the moment of this writing, I have a gnat/fruit fly infestation in my house. I don’t know where the little buggers are reproducing yet and I am probably going to have to tear my house upside down.  I normally don’t take the time to appreciate a gnat-free house.   I do appreciate the relaxation of going on my little excursions across Ohio, but often not until I am actually on the road.  What I dread, to be honest, is having to wake up so early. I am such a night person, that getting up early enough to catch even the trailing rays of the morning’s “golden hour” is certainly a chore. One saving grace of excursions in the winter is that the sun, at least, rises a bit later.  I need those minutes.

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Excursion 50, Part 2 (East to East Liverpool)

My 50th excursion, quite a milestone, took me northeast from Columbus to Coshocton (because all roads lead to Coshocton), and well beyond.  But let’s pick up a bit northeast of Coshocton, where I was driving northward through what was essentially the southern reach of traditional “Amish country” in Ohio (though Amish communities can be found throughout the state). Continue reading

Excursion 49, Part Two (They Came from the Sky)

I saw a UFO once.  I mean that literally, as in an “unidentified flying object.”  It was back when I was a kid and my family was getting up very early in the morning to go on some long trip.  I went outside, to put something in the car or get something from my father’s truck, and somehow I noticed something extremely tiny and odd up in the sky—it is rather amazing I noticed it at all, so small and far away it was.  It looked like the tiniest of circles hovering in the stratosphere.  I went and got my dad, who came out and looked at it, and then went back inside and got his spotting scope—the closest thing we had to a telescope.   Even through the spotting scope, we could make out very little, just a few appurtenances or gewgaws coming out of the thing.  Eventually we decided that it had to be some sort of weather balloon, high up in the atmosphere.  Sorry if you were expecting tentacles.

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Excursion 49, Part 1 (Swing around the Circle)

In September 2015, I took a page from infamous presidential accident Andrew Johnson, who in 1866 conducted what has come down in history as his “swing around the circle,” a series of campaign stops designed to influence the upcoming Congressional elections in his favor.  It started off okay but, God love him, President Johnson came to Ohio; Ohioans were vocally none too happy to see him, and it went downhill from there. His trip was widely considered a disaster.  Luckily, my own “swing around the circle” was not at all a disaster.  Rather, I embarked upon a pleasant, meandering circle around the area of Ohio between Columbus and Cleveland, a region rather devoted to agriculture.

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Excursion 45, Part 2 (Castles of the Countryside)

A couple of years ago, I was inspired to see if I could find a house listing for my childhood home in El Paso. To my surprise, I found it on newspapers.com, a 1970 listing for a tiny (probably around 1,100 sq. ft.) 3-bedroom, 1-bath house listed at $13,750.  That year, 1970, was the year my parents moved from Pennsylvania to El Paso, Texas, and bought the house. I was four years old.   About 34 years later, after many years of rental living, I bought my own home.  Just a few days ago, I mused at the fact, because it hardly seems I have been living in my home for a dozen or so years now.

I mention these facts because this excursion—actually the second half of a long excursion that took place on March 21, 2015, features a lot of houses, of many different kinds, and they were all homes to one or in some cases perhaps many families. Many of these houses now lie abandoned and ruined—at some point they ceased being homes and reverted to being mere structures again. For some reason, that makes me sad.

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Excursion 40, Part 2 (Palettes of Past and Present)

Photography is, I am learning in my own novice way, in many ways the study of light.  But it is more than that, too.  It is also the study of color and of texture.  I can’t help but think that this is somehow a metaphor for living life.  Light is the world we live in, the ocean in which we swim.  Color represents those things around us, the things we see, the things we notice, the things we react to.  Sometimes these colors of life are bright and superficial, sometimes darker and more soulful.  But perhaps most important of all is texture.  Texture is richer, deeper.  No matter what the color, it is the texture that reveals the truth of something.  Texture is not so much life as how you live your life—the choices you make, the way the world wears on you—etching grooves deep into your surface.  Colors can change, but texture abides.  And as we live our life, the texture of that life defines us more and more.

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