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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Excursion 6, Part 5 (A Barn Doomed to Disappointment)

In which our intrepid hero is reminded that the world is always changing…

It’s amazing how very different we can feel depending on whether or not we are going somewhere or returning from somewhere.  The leaving is filled with expectation—hopefully a happy, excited sort of expectation, but we all know we sometimes leave towards destinations we dread.  The return, though, is usually completely different.  Sometimes we are simply anxious to get home and it doesn’t even matter what is around us—we have only that one thought in mind:  GET HOME.  Sometimes we are more relaxed about it and can enjoy the journey, understanding that at its end is the comfort and familiarity of home.  I remember once, when I was in high school, returning home in the darkness from some interminable bus ride from somewhere in west Texas.  I had a Walkman with me and was playing Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park.  When the song “Homeward Bound” played, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  As I’ve grown older (and am now pretty close to the half century mark), the song has only become more powerful to me and if I ever hear it while I am coming back from a long trip I get quite melancholic.

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Excursion 6, Part 4 (The Return of the Urn)

In which our intrepid hero re-encounters a persistent mystery…

An interesting thing happened to me the other day.  I was going on another excursion and had to pass through the town of Coshocton, Ohio, which happens to be a town in which I spent some time on this excursion as well (see Excursion 6, Part 3 as well as this post).  I passed through Coshocton from a different direction and for a different purpose, and yet somehow the choices that I made in terms of streets to turn on managed to take me past the same old industrial buildings I had seen on my first trip and past the same urns (see below) I had passed by on my first trip.  Although completely unintentionally, my brain had decided to take me on the same turns and I ended up in the same places.  It occurs to me that this is a useful analogy to our own lives:  all too frequently we think we are starting anew, but we end up back in the same old spots, despite all intentions.

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Excursion 5, Part 3 (We are time’s subjects, and time bids be gone)

In which our intrepid hero literally discovers the Theory of Everything…

One of the odd things about dilapidated or ruined buildings is how they juxtapose with the seasons.  If you look at a ruined building in the winter, the landscape surrounding it is as grey and colorless as the building itself; lifelessness upon lifelessness.  However, if you come across the same building in the summer (in Ohio), you will instead see a picture of contrasts:  a gray, lifeless shambles of a building surrounded by vibrant greenery.  Indeed, it may not even be surrounded but invaded by such greenery.  In this case, lifelessness confronts life itself.

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Excursion 4, Part 6 (Bridges? We don’t need no stinking bridges!)

In which our intrepid hero discovers a perilous way to check the mail…

There’s a sort of development that I call “strip” development.  I am not referring to a strip mall but rather to an artifact of terrain.  There are many places across the country where there is only a small area of relatively flat land, backed up against a hill or mountain.  On the other side is perhaps a river or maybe another hill.  Along this terrain meanders a road, with a continuous train of buildings and houses constructed in that narrow strip of land between the road and the hill.  You can’t develop to the back, so you just keep on building to the side in a long, thin strip.  In regions dominated by hilly or mountainous terrain this sort of development is extremely common.

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Excursion 4, Part 4 (Mo’ Tels, Mo’ Problems)

In which our intrepid hero discovers the Island of Misfit Motels…

Once past Zanesville, continuing eastward on U.S. 40, I immediately began coming across old motels again, relics of the beautiful nostalgic time between the 1920s, when travelling by car became common in America, and the 1950s, when the Interstate Highway System began to suck up all of the nation’s cross-country traffic, leaving the old motor hotels as dry as a farm after the river shifted course.

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Excursion 4, Part 2 (…But You Can Never Leave)

In which our intrepid hero, his hour come round at last, slouches towards Zanesville…

A number of subjects in this blog will no doubt interest only me.  One subject that fascinates me but may leave others wondering is the small standalone ice cream shack.  They interest me for several reasons, including the fact that no such thing seemed to exist where I grew up.  I never saw one until I was in college—there was a “Dairy King” in one of the small towns that lined the 550 mile-long stretch of nothing between El Paso and San Antonio.  They also interest me because they seem to me sometimes to be one of the last types of truly independent small businesses.  That’s kind of funny, because they are all imitators of Dairy Queen, which actually invented soft-serve ice cream.  Dairy Queen went on to be a huge chain, but these ice cream shacks still look a lot like Dairy Queen looked in the 1940s.

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