Ohio is a state with four seasons and, arguably, three of them suck. But even the grumpiest Buckeye would admit that Ohio is wonderful in the fall. This is the Ohio of the Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strips. Cool, comfortable weather; the exciting smell of that first true fall day; the leaves, oh, those glorious leaves. Couple all that with the human excitement of back to school, football season, Halloween and Thanksgiving, and you just have a swell old time.
Each October I spend a lot of time in the Cleveland area, on my other money-wasting hobby. These past few years I have not driven straight back to Columbus, but rather used the fact of being in Cleveland to launch an excursion into some area of northeast Ohio. That is what I did in October 2014 as I began my 40th formal photographic excursion across my beloved home state.
This is the continuation of my recounting of my 38th excursion across Ohio in September 2014. The first half of my trip consisted primarily of an exploration of the southern Ohio town of Chillicothe. After I had my fill of the Chill, I headed southeast out of town into the rural Appalachian woods of Ohio, always a treat for me.
Once upon a time, before thumb drives and smart phones, people actually had to remember things. Do you remember that? No? Look it up on your smart phone; I’ll wait. The ancient Greeks and Romans sometimes used a technique called the Method of Loci (i.e., places). It’s more commonly called a memory palace. The idea behind a memory palace—an idea stolen by the movie Inception—is that you create in your mind some sort of reality, like a house or museum or row of shops—or a palace. When you want to remember something, you “store” it in a particular place in this mindscape. For example, you may remember your locker combination by “storing” it inside the disgustingly pink vase on the mantel over the fireplace in the living room of your mind mansion. It is the combination of the item and its virtual surroundings that create a memory connection for you. It’s kind of like a mnemonic only in space rather than via words or sounds.
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 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.”
In which our intrepid hero uncovers a little Lost City…
My opinions about mobile homes and travel trailers is decidedly mixed. While I like the idea of being a hermit crab, going around with your house on your back, taking all of your conveniences with you, I find that the practical reality is less than the ideal. Because of little things like plumbing and electricity, you aren’t really free but still tethered to campgrounds, and having to deal with things like hooking up sewage, etc., does not appeal to my lazy nature. Although I admit that they seem to be great for cooking meth in.
In which our intrepid hero finds himself homeward bound as a long day winds down…
This blog is all about journeys and explorations. Most visibly, it is about me exploring different parts of Ohio and recording what I see. It is also about me exploring photography itself and trying to become a better photographer, despite my inherent limitations (such as considerable impatience). I have been trying to educate myself on cameras, on photography, and, more recently, on post-processing and HDR. From the vantage point of this writing, in early February 2014, some six months after these photographs were taken, I have seen improvement on my part and I hope there will be more.
Landscape photographers like to refer to the early morning or the time around sunset as “golden hours,” because the light is a soft, warm light that lends itself to attractive photographs, and because the dynamic range of light at those hours is close to what cameras can naturally reproduce. An alien anthropologist who studied Earth only through its landscape photography might be forgiven for thinking that Earth was a planet of perpetual sunset.
In which our intrepid hero visits one of his frequent crossroads…
I have a long history with the television show “I Love Lucy.” In fact, when I was three or four years old, “I Love Lucy” taught me a valuable lesson. Sometime in 1969 or 1970 I was watching an episode of “I Love Lucy” and my mother walked into the room and announced that the family was going somewhere. She turned off the television and we got into the car and left (I have no idea what the destination was). When we returned, some time later, I turned the television on so that I could finish watching “I Love Lucy.” But it wasn’t on! That was when I discovered that when you turned the television off, the shows on TV did not stop playing but continued while you were not around!
In which our intrepid hero learns that there is at least one way to skin a barn…
When I was a kid, there was a popular t-shirt that depicted a mouse in the grasp of an eagle’s talon. Even as the eagle was lifting him off the ground to be lunch, the mouse gave the eagle the finger. I tried to find such a shirt on the web, or the original artwork, but failed. However, you can find a cruder, less dynamic version if you do a Google image search on “the last great act of defiance.” Why do I mention this 1970s t-shirt?
In which our intrepid hero discovers people making hay while the sun shines…
Southeast Ohio has always appealed to me. Geographically, it is one of the most interesting and diverse parts of Ohio. It is also of cultural interest: Southeast Ohio in many ways is the heart of Appalachian Ohio (though strictly speaking, it is only one of three regions in the state that are technically considered Appalachian Ohio). Appalachian Ohio is sparsely populated (the largest city in all three regions is Youngstown, Ohio, and the next largest city has fewer than 50,000 inhabitants) and economically depressed (especially Southeast Ohio; most of its counties are considered economically “at-risk” or even “distressed”). Appalachian Ohio was originally settled by the same demographic groups of people who settled western Virginia and eastern Kentucky and as a result shares most of the elements of Appalachian culture with the Appalachians of other states.