Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Great Ride

The other day, I took a ride down to Tuscaroras County, which is about 70 miles south of here. There's a place I like to go every few years, mainly in the spring or fall. It's called the Moravian Trail. Back in the late 18th century, a group of religious Moravians established settlements in that area: Goshen, Gnadenhuttan and Schoenbrun. They converted the Indians and set up peaceful agrarian villages. The Moravians and their Indian converts were massacred by the British and the villages they founded have been restored and are part of the state's historical sites.
None of these settlements is on the Moravian Trail, so I have no idea why it bears that name, except that it may have been a path they used for some purpose. The whole area around the trail is now part of the Muskingham Conservancy District, a series of lakes formed as a result of flood control dams built in the '30s. The trail itself runs along a wooded ridge and encompasses 55 miles of absolutely gorgeous territory., The views are breathtaking, especially now, when the trees are a glory of color.

The section I drove is about 25 miles long and runs from a little town called Dennison, up hill and down and around many curves and ends up at Tappan Lake down at the bottom of the ridge. Abut halfway to the lake is a little town called Deersville, in which is a general store which has just about anything you might need in the hills or on the lake. There's a touch of "Deliverance" about it, at least in the folks who hang out there, big bellied men. I like to stop there for an ice cream cone or a package of chips. One of the men was talking about a big buck he had seen in a field that morning. He didn't want to say where the field was because he was going hunting and had his eye on it.

There are some beautiful old houses in the village, some of which have been fixed up by outsiders who come down to enjoy the peace and quiet. I know a couple of folks who have cabins down there which they escape to occasionally; in one case a literal log cabin, of which there are a number scattered about. I don't' know those people well enough to have been invited, but I'd love to see it. So far as I know they've never been tied to a tree with their pants around their ankles, but it seems to be the sort of place that could happen.

It's a lovely place this time of year, especially without dueling banjos and I'm glad I got to see it before the trees turned bare. In the spring it's also lovely, since thee are a lot of flowering trees and wild flowers. When I stopped to take this picture of the lake, the water was absolutely still, like a mirror, which was why I wanted to take a picture of the tree reflected in the lake. Suddenly there was some sort of disturbance under the water by the far shore and these ripples starting fanning out toward the shore where I was. I didn't see anything, but whatever it was made quite a strong current across the lake. It was a tad creepy.
But then it's almost Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Generation Techno-gap

I have been hearing all these commercials for HD radio, including the local NPR station, which is boasting of their three channels, each carrying different programming: one all classical music, one folk music and one news. All this with better reception as well. I thought this sounded like a good idea, especially since WCLV, the great classical music station which used to be on the east side of Cleveland but moved a few years ago to the far west side (to Lorain, in fact, and is now only accessible to me on my computer) has been HD for quite a while. That's the only radio station around here which still broadcasts the Met on Saturday afternoons. Now I don't know for sure if I could even get WCLV with an HD radio, but I decided that I'd check it out.

Since Best Buy has been running commercials for this product, it seemed the logical place to go. My past experience with Best Buy has not led me to be too optimistic for reasons that will become obvious as I relate my tale of woe and frustration. I headed for the electronics department where I managed to flag down an "associate," as they are called these days.

"I'd like to see your HD radios," I said to a 12 year old associate.
"A Walkman?" she queried.
"No, a radio," I responded.
"Oh, a boom-box," she replied.
"No, just a radio," I rejoined.
Consternation played over her chubby little baby face.
"The boom-boxes are over there," she pointed out.
"I don't need a tape deck and a CD player, just a radio," I snapped.
"A radio?" Doubt cast a shadow over her innocent visage.
"Yes," I said, " the kind you just plug into the wall and turn on and sound comes out, like music, or people talking. You put it on a table or some kind of flat surface and listen to it."
"A boom box." Her little face brightened.
I decided to go back to my original question.
"I've heard your ads for HD radios. Does anyone here know where they might be?"
She tagged a passing 14 year old male.
"Do we have any HD radios?"
He was moving pretty fast, but he managed to say, "Yeah, but just for cars."
So much for communication between the advertising department and the actual store. Never had said anything on TV about HD being just for cars. In fact, in the recent NPR begging fest, an HD radio was one of the premiums if you sent them a couple hundred bucks. Cars were not mentioned.

By this time, my eye had caught sight of a tiny little flat screen LCD TV on a nearby shelf. Giving up on HD radio, I wandered over to have a look.
When TV went HD, I had to give up my little black and white desk model analog TV, which I kept on my drawing table. I missed it. I turned to the 12 year old associate.
"Hey, does that thing work without having to be connected to cable or a converter box?"
She picked up the box and pretended to read what was written on it.
"It doesn't say, but it looks like it just works with this antenna that comes with it. Maybe."

My God, I thought don't thee people have any clues about what they're supposedly associated with? I examined it. It would fit just fine on my drawing table. It didn't seem to have any connections beyond the outlet it was plugged into. I didn't see any other cables.The 14 year old male associate drifted back into view and wanted to discuss the HD radio thing again, but I told him to just forget it and did he know anything about this little TV. He didn't.

I decided to take a chance on it. I could always bring it back . When I got to the check-out, I mentioned that the associates back in Electronics seemed a bit poorly informed and could she find someone who could give me information about this little TV. She sent a 16 year old back to ask, and when that person returned she said that I would need a converter box with it. I didn't believe her, since there had not been any sort of thing connected to it in the store. She surmised that it could have been hitched up in some way invisible to the casual observer (well, she didn't put it exactly that way) but that it probably was hitched up to something like a cable. Since I had not seen anything other than the usual cord, I said I'd take my chances with it, and bring it back if it didn't work on its own.

And then I paid and got the hell out of there. Sure enough, when I brought it home, I plugged it in and it worked just fine - no converter box needed.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leaves and Amish Laundry

Right now it's raining, but last Monday I took my friend Harriet, who can no longer drive, up to Geauga County, where the trees color up earlier than here in Portage County. It was a cloudy day, but the colors were still brilliant.

We drove through a rather isolated Amish area, where even on a cloudy day, clotheslines were loaded with washing - Monday is still wash day there. I don't envy the life of an Amish housewife. Depending on the sect, there is no electricity and laundry is done on a wash board. They do have manual wringers. There weren't many buggies out that day, only a few carts driven by farmers.

I have heard that the Amish in Geauga County are more conservative than those down in Holmes County, which is overrun with tourists this time of year.
That's where my friend and I had the enormous sandwich a while back. We had gone to the community of Berlin to see "Behalt" at the Mennonite and Amish Historical Center. It's a huge cyclorama, painted by a German artist who was fascinated by the Anabaptist's. He came to this country and offered his services to portray their story. It is a history of them from the very beginning, telling how they split from the established church over infant baptism. There were two leaders who arose, one named Mennon and one named Ammon. They went through draconian persecution and ended here in land that resembled their home countries (Germany and Switzerland) with lots of arable land and rolling hills. Ohio has the largest population in the country. The woman who narrated the cyclorama for us had a slight German accent. She told us she didn't speak English until she was 6. She's no longer Amish, and had contributed some of her clothing to the costume exhibit at the center. Cool!

But I digress. On this trip, we stopped at a little diner in Burton, which is a maple sugar center. And, and we each had a real sandwich in this little place, one that was the right size, the kind I would make at home, the kind a person could hold in one hand and eat. And it was delicious. It was a very nice afternoon, even though cloudy (which Harriet kept complaining about as she is wont to do.)

I shall have to miss the next couple of farmers'markets because I am taking a class in pastel paining which started out on Wednesdays but had to be changed to Saturdays on account of the iunstructor got a real job. It's a great class and I am learning a lot. But I hate to miss the market. And pastels are messy.

The picture above is the maple tree in my front yard and is from last year. Hasn''t turned yet, but when it does it makes my whole living room glow golden.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Farmers' Market Saturday Mornings

We only have a few more weeks left. When this market started a number of years ago, there were maybe 5 or 6 stalls and only a hew shoppers showed up. Now it is packed with vendors and buyers. It's the place to be on Saturday mornings and I love it. It's what this town was like years ago, when our downtown was full of shops, the sidewalks were crowded, and you could hardly walk a few feet whiteout running into people you knew. Ohioans love malls, so many were built and that's where people went and our local shops went out of business.

But now, starting in late June, like Brigadoon a little mini-town appears and stays until the end of October. There are still vegetables to be had: squash, kale, radishes and potatoes. Starting last week, there are lots of pumpkins and mums. There was a new food vendor this week selling hot soup, just in time for nippy weather. I bought potato garlic and it was terrific. One of my favorites is Gaelic Imports, which sells pasties, sausage rolls and little cottage pies. A favorite of everyone there is Rafael, the Spanish baker. He makes wonderful breads. He said he even used to grow and mill his own wheat, but while it was an adventure, it was just too time consuming. There's a young man who bakes and sells cookies which are quite varied and good. One woman makes organic dog treats, but nothing for cats, so I can't buy any of her wares. I haven't checked to see if there is any catnip seller, but I bet there is.

We have a couple of goat farmers with all sorts of gourmet cheeses and feta. I buy my face soap from a young woman who makes the best herbal soaps that feel like cram on my face. I don't think it has had any effect on the wrinkles, but it certainly feels good and it smells heavenly. Everyone loves the garlic man and his two dogs, who sit in the bed of his truck and smile at people. He said it was not a good garlic year, but he also had shallots and fancy onions this time.

Music is provided from some of Kent's best folk musicians. This week I happened to run into a fine folk singer I know as she was talking to the musician on duty and I said. "You should be singing here." They conferred briefly (they've worked with each other before) and did a rousing number together, so I threw some money into his guitar case. (The folk festival happens next month and they'll both be performing.) World renowned composer Halim El Dabh was strolling about looking like an Old Testament prophet, wearing one of his African robes and using a long walking stick like Moses. He has performed there in the past. He and Rafael, the baker, are two of the most charming men in Kent and have quite a good time flirting with women of all ages.

Last year, some of the vendors had an indoor Christmas market in a big unused business garage and I hope they do it again this year. Our family has decided that we all have too much "stuff" and are planning this Christmas to give only things that can be consumed rather than objects which take up space,, so this is the kind of place to find those things.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fit For A Boa Constrictor

I realize should be contemplating the meaning of life or the state of the world, but I am not. My mind focuses on trivia, only some trivia looms large in life at times. My current concern is the size of sandwiches. For most of my life, a sandwich was something between two slices of bread: peanut butter and jelly, or a piece of baloney, ham. or roast beef, with maybe a bit of lettuce. These sandwiches were held in one's hands, stuck together without the aid of toothpicks and easily eaten by the normally jawed. One would occasionally get a triple-decker BLT at a nice tea room sort of place, delicately divided into fourths and skewered with cellophane tasseled toothpicks. It could be a job to keep it together long enough to convey to the mouth, but it was not impossible without dislocating the jaw .For the past decade or so, however, sandwiches have become towers compiled of layers and layers of meat, cheeses, and lettuce. Unless one has jaws hinged like unto a boa constrictor's, it is almost impossible to bit into one of these things.

Recently, for instance, a friend and I, having rambled around in Amish country, stopped for lunch at a nice hilltop eatery. (It was not Amish, although there were a few young Amish women amongst the wait-staff. ) There was an interesting looking sandwich on the menu and we were able to persuade the server to let us halve it, knowing we would be unable, as geezers, to eat a whole one. When it was brought to the table, each half on its own plate, we were confronted with this 5 inch high creation, stuffed with lots of lettuce, thick bacon, tomato and turkey. It looked delicious, bur we were forced to use out knives and forks to cut it into manageable size. It took forever. We really didn't need that much food. I could not imagine anyone eating the whole thing without developing some terrible jaw condition. (And along with the sandwich and a cup of soup, the waitress brought little biscuits with cheese baked into them. At least they were the right size to bite into. )

I am not sure why sandwiches have gotten so huge. But then Americans have also gotten huge, so there must be a connection, no? There's enough stuff in the average restaurant sandwich to feed a village in Upper Volta, or whatever it's called these days. So I guess I am thinking of the state of the world after all.