Excursion 23, Part 3 (The Ghosts of Lake Erie)

In which our intrepid hero visits a ruined castle of glass…

Let me pick up where I left off, and show the final part of my excursion in late November 2013 north to Lake Erie and east to the environs of Cleveland.  As I drove east along the shores of Lake Erie—or as close as I could get to the shores—I came an amazing site, east of Sandusky and Huron:  a huge, overgrown ruin of a greenhouse complex.

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Excursion 23, Part 2 (Meccas and Maples)

In which our intrepid hero passes motorcars and motor hotels to reach the shores of Lake Erie…

One day, when my sister and I were little, we were playing in the backyard of my grandparents’ house in El Paso.  We got a little bored and were wondering what to do when I had a brainstorm.  I went inside and brought out a spiral notebook—I almost always had one with me, because I loved to draw, even at that early age—and on a page of that notebook, I drew a treasure map, snaking around the outside of my grandparents’ house.  It had a dotted line for the adventurer to follow and even a big X at the place where the treasure would be.  When I was done, my sister and I started following the map, tracing that dotted line until finally we came to the place on the map marked by the X.

And you know what?  There was no treasure there!  Despite the fact that it was clearly marked on the map, there was no treasure in the actual spot.  And I learned a valuable lesson that day:  you make your own treasure.

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Excursion 20, Part 2 (Everybody Hates Kevin)

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.

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Excursion 20, Part 1 (The One Percent Shore)

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.

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Excursion 8, Part 6 (Justice for Jake and Ella)

In which our intrepid hero discovers a mysterious death…

There was a poll conducted not long before I write this (in late August 2013, three months after this excursion), in which the pollsters gleefully revealed that a substantial percentage of Louisiana Republicans blamed Obama for the failure of the federal government in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.  The point, of course, is that Obama was not even president at the time, but rather a freshman senator from Illinois who had nothing to do with Katrina, good or bad.  What I think this speaks to more generally is how flexible people can be—flexible in terms of things ranging from memory to burdens of proof—when something they want to be true (or not true) is on the line.  Think of conspiracy theorists, for example.  Pick a conspiracy theory:  UFOs, the Kennedy assassination, the New World Order, 9/11, you name it.  Conspiracy theorists generally impose an impossible burden of proof to accept contentions by non-conspiracists while simultaneously lowing all barriers of critical thinking when it comes to accepting contentions or evidence from like-minded people.  This is true for more than simply conspiracy theories or political beliefs; it actually happens quite a bit in ordinary life as well.

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Excursion 8, Part 5 (Camp Perry)

In which our intrepid hero ventures onto a military base (more or less)…

I grew up in a military town (El Paso, with massive Fort Bliss, as well as the nearby White Sands Missile Range).  I went to college at another military town—San Antonio, Texas.  It wasn’t until I moved to Columbus, Ohio, with no military presence at all, that I realized how many differences there were.  I grew up with military jets and helicopters overhead so often that it was unremarkable.  Fort Bliss itself is so large that it materially affects the geography of the city, limiting its sprawl to certain directions.  Of course, soldiers were everywhere and, since El Paso is a major location for retired military personnel to settle, former soldiers were also everywhere.   But then Texas as a whole is much more of a military state than Ohio, which really only has one major military base in the whole state (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base).  Ohio’s “non-militariness” is actually exemplified in one of its “bases,” Camp Perry.

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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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