We so seldom have the leisure or opportunity to stop on a dime and do something else. We are prisoners to schedules, deadlines, destinations and expectations. We may dawdle from time to time but then the urgency grows and we are compelled to travel once more our appointed route. One of the most liberating things about the photographic excursions that I take is the fact that none of that applies. I can go where I want, do what I want, and if I want to change that, on the spur of the moment, there is nothing to stop me. If a whim takes me, I can tell that whim, “You go right ahead, pardner.” And that is how I ended up exploring Springfield, Ohio.
I never worked at a factory. I did, for a few months, between my graduation from college and when I went off across the country to graduate school, work at an oil refinery, which at least is another industrial setting. That was the summer of 1988, which not coincidentally was the last time I was shaven; the refinery prohibited beards for safety reasons. I did a variety of things there; some clerical work, some gopher work, some light manual labor, so I was not bored. I find it difficult to imagine myself in something like an assembly-line job, doing the same thing all day long; I think my personality is not suited for that and it would be very hard on me. Other types of factory work are much more varied.
American royalty is an odd lot. We have “Camelot” and the court of JFK, and we’ve seen the Flivver King (Henry Ford), the Mattress King (from the TV series “Friends”) and the King of the Road (courtesy of Roger Miller). We’ve also had Queen Latifah and Prince. Americans seem to have an odd need for royalty—just witness the lavish attention so many Americans pay to British royalty—but in our own country our de facto royalty seem to be celebrities and the incredibly wealthy. “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt was American royalty and so is Kanye West. Sometimes our American royalty leave odd legacies. One descendent of Vanderbilt is news anchor Anderson Cooper. And we’ll get to meet another American royal and his still-enduring legacy.
My fiftieth excursion had been a long, nice day and I was ready to go home. But though I was already heading south for home, there was one stopping point left, as long as the light held out: Steubenville, Ohio. Steubenville is south of East Liverpool, also on the Ohio River, and also a struggling Rust Belt town.
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
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 sees horses and horseless carriages…
When I was a kid, my father bought a horse. He liked to hunt and his hunting buddies liked to go deer hunting up in the Gila Wilderness. They used horses to get back up in the mountains where there were no roads, so my dad decided he needed a horse, too. He found a quarterhorse with the dubious name of Maude, a former barrel racer whose career in rodeo ended with an injured leg. I don’t know how much Maude cost him, nor how much it cost to keep Maude at a time when not much money was coming in. Horses are expensive. My father did save on the stabling. He convinced an uncle-in-law, who owned a small farm that grew cotton and alfalfa, to let him build a corral on the uncle’s property (probably paying him some form of rent). This began for me a long relationship with Maude and an even closer relationship with Maude’s manure.