Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Leaf Peeping in Lisbon

We recently took a Fall jaunt down to one of my favorite Ohio towns, Lisbon. Originally settled in the early 19th century,  there are still old red brick townhouses along some of the streets. There is a magnificent Victorian stone courthouse and a fed brick business district., which has, like most of these formerly busy town centers, been pre-emptied by outlying strip malls. The town library is large and impressive, and the local historical society is housed in a 200 year old stone house.
There used to be two diners, one on either end of the central area. Both were famous for their pies, but only one still remains. It is the ultimate shiny steel diner from the 40s, serving diner eats and great pies, one of which is oatmeal pie, better than you would think.
What makes Lusbon more interesting to me are a couple of local eccentrics, the almost cliche characters of small towns. One was Clement Vallandigham, the leader of the Ohio Copperhead  group, those who sympathized with the Confedeacy during the Civil War. He had plans to overthrow the government, but obviously failed in that endeavor.  President Lincoln pretty much ignored him as any kind of threat. He had been a U.S. Congressman before the war. His large red brick home on the upscale west end of town has a sign, so maybe the town still likes its infamous but obscure claim to fame.
Another notorious resident was a Jacob Beihart, founder of the Spirit Fuit Sociery, one of those late 19th century intentional communities. It was based on the idea that the human soul was but a bud, not yet grown into the full fruit of spirituality,  or something like that. Beilhart  was a seeker, influenced by men like Kellog, founder of the Battle Creek Sanatorium, where proper nutrition was the path to physical and mental health, and  system.C.W. Post, inventor of Postum, a healthy alternative to coffee. Post also, Mr. Bielhart later discovered, had fathered Beihart's two children. The Fruit Society seems to have been a kind of humanistic belief system, and to the townfolk that smacked of things like "free love,"among other things. The members did believe in human responsibility for behavior,  .and there were several scandals involving young women who came from other places to join the group. Eventually the group moved to Illinois and faded out in a few years. I don't know where in Lisbon the commune settlement was located, but the farmland around the area is idyllic enough for any Eden in which to develop a fruitful soul.
We  ended our Lisbon adventure with hamburgers and oatmeal pie at the diner.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The View

This is what I see from my living room window. The Fall colors are brilliant this year, in spite of a rather drought-y September. The trees are keeping the leaves on, even though we've had a few heavy rains in early October.  I think this will be the last week for color, though.
Last week I introduced a friend to the golden tunnel on Lake Rockwell Road. I love showing that to people. Since I was a rambler when I drove, I had a number of very fine places to admire in the different seasons. Northeast Ohio has the kinds of seasons which make for variety, which mark the passage of time. There are unpleasant periods- February, July -  which make one pathetically grateful for those lovely days in May and October.
My friend Frances is moving to the San Francisco area, and I notice that she has been posting colorful
photos of autumn trees on her FB page, perhaps to remember us Easterners when she leaves here in a few weeks. We'll think of her this winter, and send her photos of gray skies and snow to keep her from being too homesick.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bouquet Killer

Years ago there was a sappy song, "You Don't Send Me Flowers," very popular with moony-eyed wannabe lovers. Barbra and Neil moaned in harmony, while listeners shed a tear or two over the negligent suitor, who found, no doubt,that liquor was quicker than flowers, to paraphrase Ogden Nash. (The first line of his poem was, "Candy is dandy." He didn't mention flowers.)
I like flowers and flower gardens, the scents and colors are lovely to see and smell. I used to grow a nice little garden, and looked forward to enjoying whatever showed up in warm weather. I have friends who are terrific growers of all sorts of beautiful blooms. They are kind enough to share these with me.
Unfortunately, once these pretty things are put into a vase and set out to be seen, I have a tendency to forget about them, even if they are in front of me on the table where I eat. After a few days of neglect,  or, actually, many days of my ignoring their existence, it suddenly occurs to me that they are quite dead, deceased, no longer vibrant, no longer pleasantly aromatic, and have morphed into garbage. They do notdeserve such a humiliating demise.
Of course I feel bad about this. They were meant to enhance my environment and give me pleasure, and I have turned them into the setting for Miss Miss Havesham's moldering wedding table.
On the rare occasions when I have received an ornate arrangement from a florist shop, the same thing happens. It is one thing to neglect posies shoved into a random vase, but quite unseemly to do the same to a bouquet  accompanied by ribbons and a fancy container. The same dead floral fate ensues.
I am simply unworthy.
Please don't send me flowers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Notes on a Pleasant Weekend

On Saturday, the Stevenses from near Philadelphia were in Kent for a visit with old friends. Nancy and Joe treated me to dinner at the Pufferbelly, which before its conversion into a restaurant thirty years ago had been the old Erie depot. It was great to see them and spend time catching up. I realized I had known them half my life. Nancy and I met  through paraprofessional training for the crisis line which was then on the KSU campus. We were about the only non-students in the group. She was much younger than I, but very much a grown- up. I think we were a bit bemused by the younger folks, for whom some of the drug culture was not so foreign. Her husband was finishing his architecture degree and she was working as a secretary for a couple of hippie lawyers. She is very smart and funny, two qualities I enjoy very much in friends.
Unbeknownst to me, who had been asked to make a reservation for the event, the Pufferbelly was celebrating their version of Oktoberfest, with appropriate German cuisine, like bratwurst and wienerschnitzel. The food was good, but there was also a brass band about eight feet from our table, playing such German favorites as the "Beer Barrel Polka" and " New York, New York." Yes.
There was a lot to talk about, since they had recently returned from a very interesting trip to Scandinavia. Somehow we managed and celebrated further by going to the popcorn shop up in Acorn Alley for their homemade ice cream. All in all it was a fine visit with two fine people.
Sunday was a beautiful day, and John drove me up through Geauga County and points north to check out the state of autumn foliage. It's not quite at its best, but  the blue sky and pastoral scenery was quite satisfying. We explored side roads, rambling here and there and finding more color the farther north we went.
Suddenly, we were in an area with Amish buggies and pedestrians out for a Sunday walk along the narrow roads.  Next came a white painted cross-hatch fence, a large white building that had an air of some kind of meeting place. John followed the fence around a corner, where it stretched out ahead beside the road as far as one could see. There were a lot of statues, which turned out to be not stone, but concrete, statues of indeterminate creatures. Then there was a small hills , topped by a flagpole from which an enormous American flag was flapping, topped by an equally enormous crown. Then an open gate, through which you could see mounted cameras, and a large sign: THE KINGS. John got it right away: it was the estate of Don King, the infamous fight promoter, mentor and exploiter of famous boxers, like Mike Tyson. Interestingly, Tyson's now vacant mansion/
compound is not far away, but both are basically in the middle of nowhere.
I doubt that Mr. King was in residence. There are many buildings visible within that white fence, some well kept residences, the grounds studded with concrete  images of whatever Mr. King fancies as art. I wonder what the Amish neighbors make of this display. I wonder what they make of his hair, if they have caught sight of him, perhaps a sort of upside-down beard?
All in all an enjoyable weekend involving a welcome visit with dear friends and an unexpected obscure encounter with fame.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Things People Say

Sometimes it is not easy to maintain a non-judgmental attitude. Sometimes one must keep the jaw from dropping after hearing utter nonsense from an adult a human being. No civilized response is available. Back in olden days one could snort or fiercely  flutter one's fan, or otherwise indicate displeasure. Alas, those days have passed. There is much uncivil behavior now, of course, masses of it, but I am trying to avoid that sort of thing. It is hard. One must stifle oneself.
The first dumb comment came from a very nice woman in my exercise class. This came in the dressing room. I was in one of the booths, trying to peel my wet suit off.  She was discussing her prayer group from her church. They meet once week and pray like bastards for all sorts of worthy causes and people and all. Sometimes they invite others to attend, individuals or social groups. Then she said, "We invited  the Girl Scout troop, but then we thought about that new law, and had to uninvited them." The new law? Not exactly a law, but the recent Supreme Court decision concerning gay marriage. And perhaps the fact that the  scouting organizations now accept gay leaders and scouts. No one said anything to her. This nice woman is the type who wishes everyone a blessed day. Last year she asked if we minded if she  would say prayer for someone's sick relative. Well, who's going to refuse? Almost everyone bowed her head. So she did that thing that evangelicals on TV do so well, an ad lib ramble that went on quite a while. That was one thing. But refusing to have a bunch of little girls at her prayer meeting was, I am sure, not pleasing to God, if one exists.
Then a couple of weeks ago, when I went to get my hair cut, I had to wait. When I sat down a woman  couple of seats over smiled and said, " Oh, I'm so glad you're here, so I'll have someone to talk with while I wait." That was fine with me. Then she pointed to her book on the seat between us. "You've got to read this book!" I looked down and it was a book by Dr. Ben Carson, the favorite of the Tea Party intelligentsia. I smiled and said that he was not my kind of candidate, very politely. She told me what a brilliant man he was and that his wife had played violin in a symphony orchestra and also had
a beautiful singing voice. Well, we went on to chat. She had worked at the university and was pleased that her children had their education there tuition free. They had all done well and had good jobs. Her oldest son had had his own printing business. That is, she stated further, until Obama ruined it and caused him to lose it. "oh," I said, "How did that happen?" "well," she replied, " you know, all that new technology, so people could do their own printing."
Now in either of these situations I could have just said, "What the HELL are you talking  about."
But I didn't. To the salon lady, I did say that I wasn't sure that president Obama had  anything to do with computer technology, but decided that whatever convoluted reasoning had led her to that belief
would not yield to rationality.
And them I was told by another person that when that time comes, that time when only true believers will be swept up into heaven, exactly 144,000 Jews will get to join them, and that information is in the bible. I was given chapter and verse, but I just don't want to look it up. We Catholics  were
discouraged from reading the bible, lest we fall victim to misinterpretation. For once, the Church was
right. 144',000?  Isn't that, like, 12 gross or something? And who's counting them?
As for the Girl Scout disinviter, I still like her, but not so much anymore. I am, of course, judgmental as all get-out, but I do stifle.
And if anyone reading this is offended, you're on the wrong page here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blue and Gold

The title does not refer to my alma mater's colors, the ones worn by the sports teams and the logo of Kent State University.  It refers to the kind of glorious weather that September is having. We'll probably pay for it in January, but one must live in the present and just enjoy these beautiful days on sunshine and blue skies.
We do need rain. We went up to Gordon Square a couple of weeks ago to see "Nashville," Robert Altman's grim tribute to the Bicentennial of the U.S of A., a cheery, music filled film that ends in bloodshed, featuring cameos by Jeff Goldblum, Julie Chistie and a few others who apparently wandered onto the set. Fine movie, viewed in a great Art Deco theater on the near west side of Cleveland which is being restored. We met DCB, our NPR  friend who knows Cleveland well.
Thanks to him, we ended up at a very fine restaurant housed in a former bank. It was packed with the Bright young Things who are inhabiting the city and making things happen.  I had a braised  Romaine salad. Interesting. Anyway, I bring this up because it rained buckets, cascades, drenches. The drive back to Kent was downright scary, even though I was not the one who was driving. The heavy rain was welcomed by all of us with tan lawns.
Unfortunately, this week I have not been enjoying this lovely weather. A year ago, my dentist recommended having a molar removed, since it had a deep decay spot on one root. At the time I just was not in the mood to go through that sort of thing, especially since I would need a permanent bridge, which costs more than my 1968 VW square back cost brand new. So I put it off. Nothing hurt, so wothehell, as Archie the cockroach used to say.so I had to go back to my dentist a month or so ago on account of having taken advantage of the Monday five bucks admissions and free popcorn deal at our local theater. Old gums, even when a person flosses and brushes diligently cannot always avoid being  infiltrated by the odd hull. So I was again told to take care of that bad tooth. So I did, on
Monday last.
I would rather have gone to the five buck Monday flick, sans popcorn. However, the tooth needed to be removed. It was quite an ordeal. The endodontist is very good, highly qualified and all. It took over an hour and both he and I were exhausted by the time he dug it out. It didn't help that he kept saying it would have been a LOT  easier if I had come in last year.  I finally I said, "I am an old person and I just didn't want to do this." That seemed to work and he didn't say I should have come in last year again.
I'd rather have hip replacement surgery again than go through dental surgery. I wasn't "a little
uncomfortable." I was and still am in pain, but healing. I have been living on yogurt, applesauce and cottage cheese. No hot coffee either. I'll live. However, whenever I have to spend thousands on dentistry, I always think of the waste of money if I should be hit by a truck soon afterwards.
And I am enjoying the beautiful late September days, at least looking at it through the window, while cuddling an ice pack against my face.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Go Set This

I listened on BBC Radio to a reading of the best selling "Go Set A Watchman," supposedly written by Harper Lee. She is now in a nursing home, prohibited from speaking publicly about herself or her work. This "new" book was written before "To Kill a Mockingbird," everyone's favorite book, made into everyone's favorite movie.
I love both. The book is so reminiscent of my own childhood in Georgia, l lived at the same time as the period in the book, the thirties. When they made the movie, the houses and the street looked like the neighborhood I'd lived in. I knew what everything felt like, smelled like and sounded like. When my own children were young and saw the movie, they identified Atticus Finch with their own father, who had died so young, and they were right. John Burnell was tall and slender and wore dark-rimmed glasses. He was a gentle, kind and honest person. He also was a staunch civil rights oriented person, a sociology professor who was denied tenure at a small liberal arts college for leading a student protest against discrimination at a local skating rink, a protest which made the front page of the twin paper, thus angering the college president, a Southerner who was not happy about the burgeoning civil rights activities going on at that time. ( The college was in the North.) john continued his actions for justice here at Kent State, which also caused  some administrators to chastise him and other young professors over housing discrimination. He was far from a rabble rouser, but a quiet man who used logic and persuasive techniques. For this reason, his children, a couple of whom did not get to know him, found Atticus the  personification, or the essence of their father.  I suspect that there are many others even those who grew up with their fathers, who see Atticus Finch as a significant figure.
This leads me to "Watchman."  The first word out was the somewhat hysterical news that in this book, Atticus is a racist!  Good grief! The man who bravely defended Tom Robinson?
Well, let me tell you how I see this book. My friend Annie called it preachy, and it is. What it preaches, as Atticus and Jean Louise's uncle are preaching is the tiresome whine in the 50s by the entitled, genteel whites of the South is this: " our way of life, the rules we have lived by for generations, are not ready for the changes being forced upon us. The Negro is  not ready for what they are demanding. Surely you can see that, Jean Louise? Changes will come, but we must move slowly."
Now that's the kind of thing one heard over and over from that class of white Southern men. Lee ( or whoever wrote this thing)' does throw in a non-elite lawyer who grew up a Cracker, but he has also bought into white supremacy, and cautions Jean Louise, who has been white hot with anger after finding out that Atticus had attended a White Citizen's Council meeting, which he explains he did to know what people's concerns were. Atticus also claims that the Klan started out as some kind of civic organization. Really?!!  Where'd that come from?  These three men all carefully explain to the former Scout that they are just going to make sure that everyone is "ready."
It doesn't seem to occur to them there are Southerners who have been waiting for over a hundred years or more for full citizenship of a country they've helped to build, have worked in servitude, have helped to shape the culture of the South. No, the white folks are just not ready. At the time this attitude infuriated many of us, and now here comes this book which the publishers wisely rejected, with the advice to Lee that she focus on the earlier story of Atticus and the children and his heroic action in a small Alabama town in the 30s. It's a good thing they did, or Harper Lee would have been blasted as an apologist for segregation and racial inequality and we would not have the magic of "To Kil a Mockingbird."
So was Atticus a racist? You bet, but not the kind you identify with lynching and burning Black churches. Even worse, he and his kind were the very ones who could have changed things much earlier, but didn't, and then decried the efforts that rose from the Black activists.
Sorry, Harper Lee.