I’m Not Moving Like I Used To
— Places I’ve Lived (Part 1)

“Of course not,” I can almost hear you say. “You’re a creaking old codger on the verge of decrepitude. You’re lucky you can move at all.” While that’s certainly true, it isn’t what the title refers to. The sort of moving this article is concerned with is the changing of residences and I recently realized that I’ve occupied my current domicile longer than any other. I moved in over the Memorial Day weekend of 1997 which means I’ve been here twenty years. That’s two decades, a full score, a fifth of a century. The times for second and third places are just thirteen and twelve years.

The photo at the top is of the first place I called home. It’s a house Mom bought in 1945 while Dad was overseas. I don’t know when it was built but it was old enough to need new siding when Mom bought it. She personally covered it with that fake brick tar paper that used to be fairly common. That covering remained through my high school years when a classmate lived there. Since then it has obviously had the siding replaced and it has been painted at least a couple of times. I recall it being blue for several years. The porch and garage were added long after I lived there and I’m sure there have been other upgrades as well. The house was never high class but it apparently is of pretty high quality. It looks better now, seventy-two years after Mom tacked on her tar paper, than at any other time in my memory. It’s in Woodington, Ohio, which is the birthplace of Lowell Thomas. Lowell’s former home has been moved to the grounds of the museum in the county seat. Plans to preserve and relocate my former home have yet to materialize.

While I was living in Woodington, my maternal grandparents were living on a farm just around the corner. Sometime before my third birthday, the generations swapped places. I doubt it was a real trade but some sort of family arrangement resulted in my grandparents and about five of my aunts and uncles taking our place in the village while we three moved into the house pictured at left. My sister arrived not too long after the move. The house is certainly no younger than the one I started out in and could be considerably older. The barn and other out buildings are gone and a large garage has been added. Like the house in Woodington, this one is looking better than it ever has.

We weren’t long at the farm. I recall Dad once reminiscing about the move with the comment “I guess I thought I wanted to be a farmer.” My sister was born in March and by winter we had moved to the house at right in the nearby village of Hill Grove. We were there for the “Blizzard of 1950”. The northeast corner of the state was hit the hardest but all of Ohio got lots of snow and frigid temperatures. In Columbus, Michigan won a trip to the Rose Bowl by beating Ohio State 9-3 in a game with 5° temperature, 40 MPH wind, and not a single first down by either team. During the worst of the cold snap, our whole family slept in the living room with my baby sister wrapped up in a dresser drawer. The Facebook “on the road” profile picture I use for wintertime trips was clipped from this photo taken in front of this house. A little more of the house — and sled — can be seen in this photo. It’s been well treated by subsequent owners and falls into line with the others by looking better now than then.

I think we only spent the one winter in Hillgrove before moving into the village of Ansonia. I’ve referred to both Woodington and Hill Grove as villages but they are technically “unincorporated communities”. Ansonia was a real official incorporated village. with a population of 877 in the 1950 census. Our house was directly across the street from the American Legion and the school athletic fields were at the end of the street. In high school I would march past this house on the way to and from every home football game. It was newer than my previous abodes and, while I don’t know that it looks better than when we lived there, it looks at least as good and has clearly had some caring owners including someone who added the garage and connector.

This is the place that’s currently in third on my length of residence list. It occupies a two acre plot in the midst of large farms about three miles west of Ansonia. We moved here in the summer of 1953 and Dad remarried (Mom died in 1959) and moved in the summer of 1965. Those dates exactly bracket my school years. Initially my sister and I shared one of the two bedrooms but that was quickly seen as a problem. Dad was both clever and handy and first divided the room with a wall that included storage with my bed on top. Step two was enclosing a porch area on the back of the house and moving me into it. It’s visible in this photo of the other end of the house. The third and final step was finishing the attic and squeezing in a stairway. I spent about seven years sleeping on the other side of that window near the peak of the roof.

2015 article on Dabney Hall talks about the faded bricks and old AC units hanging in the windows. It is now the oldest residence hall on the University of Cincinnati campus. When I lived there in 1965 it was, at five years old, one of the newest and there were no signs of air conditioning anywhere. Shortly after my 1974 divorce I dated a girl a few years younger than me who had a friend a few years younger than her who lived in Dabney and we attended a party there. By then what had been an all male dorm was co-ed with refrigerators and microwaves in every room. I marveled at the changes but it’s hard to say whether the presence of girls and fridges would have kept me in school longer or led to me dropping out sooner.

This is the house Dad moved to after remarrying when I was about to leave for college. I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore years there and it is where my stepmother still lives. Not visible in the picture is an attached brick workshop, added in the 1970s, where Dad spent a lot of time re-caning and refinishing furniture.

This is the location but not the building where I began my second year at UC. The aging apartment where my friend Dale and I lived has the distinction of being the only one of the sixteen places I’ve lived that is no longer standing. This seems particularly astonishing in light of the fact that the three earliest of my homes were all pretty old when I lived there. The pictured building is a nursing home so it’s at least possible I could return there someday.

Because of its length, I’m spreading this subject over two posts. As mentioned in the first paragraph, I’ve called just one place home during the most recent twenty years of my life. The eight residences covered in this post filled the first twenty for an average of roughly two and a half years each. I’ll get to the second eight next week.

Trip Peek #56
Trip #17
Phoenix III

This picture is from my 2003 Phoenix III trip. This was the third of three business trips I made to Phoenix, Arizona, between September and November 2003. I extended each with a few days on my own. It was a technique I used whenever I could to get a little vacation far from home with the only costs being meals, motel, and car rental for the days I wasn’t working. I headed to Tombstone via Tuscon and checked out Biosphere 2 on the way. I was in Tombstone for the annual Clanton Rendezvous. On my return, serious traffic congestion prompted me to turn onto AZ-77 which led to AZ-79. In 1940, Tom Mix died in an accident on this road and the picture is of a nearby monument to the popular actor.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Happy Easter Island

This post first appeared last year. I’ve brought it back, with date appropriate updates, due to its uncommon concentration of useful historic facts.

 
eiflagTwo years ago I noted with surprise that Easter and my birthday have coincided only twice in my lifetime. But it has happened several times outside of my lifetime and that includes 1722 when Dutch sailor Jacob Roggeveen came upon a tiny South Pacific island which the residents may have called Rapa. Whether they did or didn’t mattered not a bit to Roggeveen who decided to call the island Paaseiland. Dutch Paaseiland translates to the English Easter Island. The island is now part of Spanish speaking Chili where it is known as Isla de Pascua. Its modern Polynesian name is Rapa Nui.

hcafeiheadThe opening image is the Isla de Pascua flag. The red figure represents a reimiro, an ornament worn by the native islanders. At left is an image more commonly associated with Easter Island. The island contains nearly 900 statues similar to the one in the picture. I’ve never been to Easter Island and have no pictures of my own although there are plenty to be found around the internet. This photo is one I took of an imitation at the Hill County Arts Foundation near Ingram, Texas.

The true significance of the statues, called moai, is not known but we do know that they once outnumbered inhabitants by roughly 8 to 1. The island is believed to have once held about 15,000 people. A number of factors reduced that to maybe 3,000 by the time Roggeveen came along. Contributing causes were deforestation, erosion, and the extinction of several bird species. The population probably remained around 3,000 until 1862 when Peruvian slavers began a series of raids that resulted in about half of that population being hauled away. The raiders were somehow forced to return many or perhaps most of those they had captured but they brought smallpox to the island when they did. Tuberculosis arrived just a few years later and disease, violent confrontations, and a major evacuation reduced the human population to just 111 by the late 1870s. There are currently 887 moai on the island. In the past there may have been more.

Today is the 296th Easter Sunday that Easter Island has been known by that name. The population has grown considerably and is now around 6000 which must make for a much happier island than when barely a hundred hung on. Of course the actual calendar date of the naming (and my birthday) passed more than a week ago. I hope everyone remembered to wish their friends and family a Happy Easter Island Anniversary.

Trip Peek #55
Trip #10
A Few Indiana Towns

This picture is from my 2003 A Few Indiana Towns day trip. The picture is from Columbus, Indiana, which was the trip’s destination. The town is known for its architecture and painting these vents to look like a pipe organ is the kind of thing that makes the place interesting. Other Indiana towns visited along the way include New Trenton, Cedar Grove, Brookville, Metamora, Oldenburg, and Versailles.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Trip Peek #52
Trip #43
The National Road at 200

This picture is from my 2006 The National Road at 200 trip. In 1806 Thomas Jefferson signed legislation authorizing the first piece of what became known as the National Road. My personal celebration of the 200th anniversary of that event consisted of driving the Historic National Road Byway from Baltimore to Saint Louis. Preceding that was a two day drive from home to Washington, DC, and the celebration of the USA’s 230th birthday in the nation’s capital. The Historic National Road Byway is something of an expanded version of the National Road as was, in some sense, the National Old Trails Road. When named auto trails were replaced by numbered highways, the NOTR was commemorated with a Madonna of the Trail statue in each of the twelve states it passed through. Maryland’s Madonna was erected in Bethesda on a spur of the NOTR. When I stopped to visit it on the way to DC, I was shocked to find it absent. A water line break had undermined the statue and threatened to topple it. It had been moved for safety and to allow repairs. After continuing on to DC, I learned where the Madonna was stored and drove to see her early on the Fourth of July. The statue and base had been disassembled and the Madonna was standing directly on the ground so that I could get a photo standing next to her. It’s a picture that will forever be one of my favorites.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Book Review
Vigilante Days and Ways
Nathaniel P. Langford

This book was first published in 1890. The link at the end of this article points to a version published barely a month ago. Despite it being well over a century old, some think it worth reading and someone considers it worth republishing. Why others consider the 127 year old writing worth reading I cannot say but I know why I enjoyed it. It’s filled with stories I’ve watched unfold on TV or in a movie theater or read as fiction. Those tales of frightened town folk, evil bullies, crooked sheriffs, and cowardly henchmen that thrilled me in my younger days were all legitimate. The basis of many plots played out in the numerous TV westerns of the 1950s and ’60s can be recognized in the real world events that Langford documents. This book is filled with characters very much like the assorted outlaws encountered by the horse riding heroes of my youth. Men similar to some of those heroes are also present although they don’t stand out quite as clearly. Few real world heroes wear a pair of pearl handled revolvers and a white hat.

The edition I read was published in 1996 by American & World Geographic Publishing. The front cover is pictured above. On the back in an excerpt from the introduction that Dave Walter wrote. He speaks of the “flowery, often melodramatic Victorian prose”. He calls for it to “be relished rather than disdained”. I agree but I have seen reviews that call it distracting so it’s clear that the “relish” is in the eye of the beholder. To me it adds yet another layer of authenticity to the first person accounts. I guess I just plain enjoy reading about villains who “vociferated” in a land that “swelled gradually into a circumference of heaven-kissing mountains”.

By definition a vigilante is without legal authority. Today, in most of the world and certainly in the USA, that is universally and entirely a bad thing. That was not quite the case in the Montana Territory of the 1860s and 1870s. Yes, US laws technically applied but enforcement was at best sparse and often non-existent. This was especially true in the instant “cities” that sprang up around gold and silver discoveries and those “cities” attracted plenty of men ready to do their prospecting with a gun rather than a pick and shovel. So, even if you want to call all vigilantism a bad thing, there can be no argument about it being the lesser of two evils when the other is rampant robbery and murder. Langford was a vigilante and is undoubtedly a key participant in many of the events he documents although he never identifies himself. He doesn’t, in fact, identify many of the vigilantes and it seems likely that the only names mentioned belonged to men no longer living at the time of writing.

Yes, it’s an old book filled with archaic Victorian prose and characters that you might think of as stereotypes. But its stories were recent history when written and those characters weren’t stereotypes but prototypes. If names like Alan Ladd, Randolf Scott, and Glenn Ford bring back pleasant memories, you just might like this book.

Vigilante Days and Ways, Nathaniel P. Langford, Independently published (January 20, 2017), 9 x 6 inches, 411 pages, ISBN 978-1520424460

Trip Peek #51
Trip #18
Big E, DC, and the Cardinal

This picture is from my 2004 Big E, DC, and the Cardinal trip. The trip appears in my top ten “Decent” list and it certainly deserves to be there. The Big E in the title is the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. My youngest son was serving aboard the huge carrier at the time and I was privileged to be part of a three day Tiger Cruise as she moved from Florida to her home port at Newport News, Virginia. With no military experience of my own, those few days sleeping and eating with my son’s crew mates was quite educational even though it was a spruced-up danger-free family-style version of life at sea. All airplanes were removed from the carrier before we civilians came on board but a few returned to provide landing and take-off demonstrations. The photo shows a S-3B Viking being launched.

After a couple of days in Newport News with my son and his family, I took a train to Washington, DC, and checked out a few museums and monuments. The Amtrak train that runs between Chicago and New York City is named the Cardinal. It provides Cincinnati’s only passenger rail connection and it carried me home at the end of the trip.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

French Toast and Battle Ax Plug

Carl Graham Fisher, the primary mover and shaker behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and both the Lincoln and Dixie Highways, had lots of stories. One in particular is popular among road fans and was originally told by Fisher to partially explain his interest in improving roads and their marking. I’ve heard and read multiple versions of the story and am totally unequipped to distinguish embellishments from additional accurate details. So here’s a version of the story which I believe to be true at its core and possibly in some of the details, too.

Fisher and some friends had taken a day trip from Indianapolis and were returning in the dark and rain. They came to a point where three roads joined together but none of them could remember which they used earlier in the day. After some inconclusive discussion, they noticed a sign which they thought might indicate which road led back home. It was mounted high on a pole and unreadable in the dark and wet. It was somehow determined that Fisher would climb the pole to read the sign. Some say he climbed the pole once and had to return to the ground for matches. Some say that the first few matches sputtered or were doused by the rain. Some say that it was his very last match that provided a glimpse of the sign’s message. All versions agree on what that message was. Hoping for the name of a town or other landmark, all he saw was “Chew Battle Ax Plug”.

Prior to Tuesday, that funny and revealing story supplied 100% of my knowledge of Battle Ax Plug. On Tuesday I was on my way to Greenville, Ohio, and had left home with enough time in the schedule to try out a new restaurant on the way. I jogged off of my normal path to reach the town of Arcanum. It is a small town in the county I grew up in but I don’t remember much about it and doubt I ever knew all that much. I’d heard good things about the restaurant’s food but knew almost nothing about it beyond that. It was quite a happy surprise to see the big Battle Ax sign that heads this article on the side of the building housing the restaurant. I’ve since learned a little more about the brand.

Battle Ax Plug was the very definition of a “loss leader”. Between 1895 and 1898, US tobacco companies were embroiled in the “Plug Wars”. Another aptly named combatant was the Scalp Knife brand from Liggett  and Meyers. The American Tobacco Company lost about a million dollars a year with their Battle Ax brand but emerged from the wars with approximately 90% market share. The fading slogan on the sign’s ax head is “A GREAT BIG PIECE FOR 10 CTS.” Those were, back in the day, fighting words.

The building behind the sign has its own story and it’s a great one. Built by John Smith in 1851, it housed the family store until 1985. At its closing it was the longest operating family owned business in Ohio. It began as a typical general store offering an assortment of dry goods but eventually meat, produce, and other grocery items were added as were men’s and women’s clothing.

Yes, I certainly got distracted but I did eventually make it to breakfast. One of the places where I’d heard good things about Old Arcana was Ohio Magazine which named their French Toast the best in the state. The magazine quotes co-owner Leslie Handshoe-Suter calling the toast “decadent” and it certainly is. The full name is Bourbon Praline French Toast. Following the meal — and some really good coffee — I chatted with chef and co-owner Jeff Besecker about the menu, the business, and the building. Jeff pointed out the building’s owner, Angie, sitting at one on the tables and I also chatted with her and a table mate who had worked in the store that once filled the entire building. Angie operates Smith’s Merchants which shares the building with the restaurant.

When I first saw the round windows in the Smith Building, they made me think of the round openings I had seen in electric train power stations. When I later learned that the electric powered Dayton & Union interurban once occupied the gravel path in the left half of this picture I’d have almost certainly grasped the power station theory even tighter if I didn’t already know that it wasn’t at all possible. Before I even spoke with Jeff, I’d learned from my waitress that the windows were original from the 1850s and from Jeff and Angie I learned that the building was in constant use as a store during the interurban’s coming and going in the early twentieth century. Headquarters for the Arcanum Historical Society is just out of frame to the left of that last picture. It’s open on some Saturday mornings so I think I’ll come back, learn some more about this town I grew up near, and try another item from that inviting breakfast menu.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend

After a couple of aborted attempts, I finally made it to the Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. A multi-year rehabilitation of Union Terminal, the Museum Center’s home, has begun and has closed all museum areas except for the Children’s Museum, the space used for traveling exhibits such as this, and the ticket and information counter seen at right. The counter is actually the front part of the large ticket and information facility in the center of the terminal’s large rotunda. A portion of the rotunda has been enclosed to provide the pictured entrance area. That impressive rotunda with its huge murals is just on the other side of those walls. The Children’s Museum and the traveling exhibit space are both on the lower level which is what allows them to remain open. A window has been installed along the path to the lower level which allows visitors to peek into some of the emptied and stripped museum space awaiting attention.

The exhibit of more than 500 artifacts opened in November and will remain through April. It is the largest collection of Viking artifacts to ever visit North America and Cincinnati is its first stop. It also has the distinction of being the largest exhibit, in terms of physical size, to appear at the Cincinnati Museum Center. For most, the word Viking conjures up an image of a large rough looking fellow with a huge ax or sword who is constantly pillaging and burning with a little time off to guzzle mead. As the subtitle “Beyond the Legend” implies, the exhibit is intended to give attendees a somewhat more rounded view. That intention is reinforced with the advertising slogan “The horns are fake. The beards are real.”

Vikings were not a race or even a nation. In fact, they didn’t use the word to identify themselves but to identify something they did. To go viking meant to go on an adventure. Sometimes they did go viking in order to pillage and burn but often it was to trade or explore. The exhibit includes plenty of items from their peaceful farms and villages and there are many examples of fine craftsmanship and artistry. Of course not all of items found in the Viking’s Scandinavian homelands were made there. Many were obtained through trading or raiding.

Apparently raiding still forms a major portion of my personal Viking image. I looked over reproductions of clothing and was actually quite impressed by the many examples of artistic metal work but when I got home and looked at the pictures I’d taken, I found mostly weapons or heavy tools. It’s possible that they were just the most photogenic but it seems at least as likely that they simply fit my preconceived notion of the Viking world.

But perhaps even more than the beards and swords, my concept of Vikings is fueled by the visual of a sleek longship floating gracefully through a fjord. The Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit includes four ships. A glimpse of the 21 foot long Karl, a reconstruction, can be seen at the left side of the dim photo marking this article’s second paragraph. The first picture here is of part of a ghost ship defined by metal rivets suspended where they would have held the long ago rotted planks of a hull in place. The second is of the 26 foot Krampmacken. In the 1980s, this reconstructed merchant ship sailed from the island of Gotland to Istanbul. The last picture shows the reason this is physically the largest exhibit mounted by the Cincinnati Museum Center. At 122 feet long, the Roskilde 6 is the longest Viking ship ever discovered. The ship is outlined by a modern skeleton that holds approximately 25% of the thousand year old hull in place. This is the first time it has been displayed outside of Europe.

These are reproductions of three of the more than 3,200 rune stones have been found throughout Scandnavia. Scholars consider the Viking Age to be bounded by their destruction of the abbey at Lindisfarne in 783 CE and their defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. During that time Christianity made major progress in replacing the worship of a collection of gods headed by Odin. While the rune stones were typically erected to commemorate some significant event, many include Christian components and some think they may have at least partially been advertisements for the newer religion.

Fear Is Very Scary

sputniknamOn the day following this year’s elections I arrived in Los Angeles to attend a Route 66 conference. Los Angeles was one of the cities where people, predominantly college aged, took to the street to express their displeasure with the results. They were nowhere near where I was staying and at first I thought them just silly. As reports of scattered violence and destruction came in I begin the see them as counter productive or worse. On Thursday I was in the back seat of a car rerouted by police because protesters were blocking our original path. Protests continued through the weekend and I saw some of the participants on a couple of occasions. It was seeing a group of them arrive downtown on Saturday that planted the seed for this article. To be accurate, it wasn’t the sight of the protesters that planted the seed, it was something one of “my people”, the Route 66 enthusiasts, said that did it.

Two conference related events, a breakfast and a tour, were planned for Saturday morning. They were not conflicting but both had limited capacity. Some had signed on early enough to be included in both. Others had not. I was part of the breakfast only group. Following breakfast, as we headed for the train to return to our motel, the train carrying the tour only group arrived. A fairly large number of protesters were on the same train. The two groups of 66ers exchanged greetings and the tour only folks made a couple of comments about riding the train with the protesters. “They’re just really scared,” someone said.

cumissmapA few days later I was in San Diego touring a collection of ships maintained there by the Maritime Museum. One was a Soviet submarine of the type that came quite close to North America during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Audio and video recordings are used to give some sense of what things were like during that crisis. I have strong memories of my own. I was a high school sophomore and remember being seriously scared during those tense days in October 1962. It wasn’t a horror movie scared or a sudden loud noise scared or a that car’s coming at me scared. It was so much bigger and longer lasting and simultaneously unimaginable and imagination driving. Maybe it was the kind of scared that some of those kids with the signs were feeling.

It wasn’t the first time I’d felt that kind of scared. The first was in 1957 when Sputnik I was launched. I was ten and personally thought it one of the coolest things ever. But I began to sense real concern in my parents. Barely a decade had passed since World War II ended plus many were far from certain that the fighting in Korea was really over. Now our nation’s greatest enemy had an object crossing our borders and passing over our heads on a regular basis. The two huge oceans on our coasts simply weren’t big enough to protect us anymore. At the time I didn’t completely understand their fear but I was very aware of it and shared it just a little. The picture at the top of this article is one I took a few years ago at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. A full size replica of Sputnik I hangs from the ceiling. When the real one flew overhead, I looked a lot like the young Neil Armstrong in the framed photo at lower right and the TV I saw the news on looked almost identical to the one he’s standing next to.

I still thought of Sputnik more as a human accomplishment than a Soviet threat but my innocence was chipped. By the time missiles were discovered in Cuba just five years later, phrases like “Soviet threat”, “nuclear war,” and “mutual assured destruction” were all too familiar and the fear I felt as Kennedy and Khrushchev bluffed and bartered was my own and it was real. Thirteen months later, Kennedy was dead.

nytkaI’ve sometimes said that the Cuban Missile Crisis was the scariest time of my life and that’s true in the sense that there was a very real possibility that the world would be completely destroyed before Walter Cronkite even had time to announce it. But in other ways, the fear that followed Kennedy’s assassination was probably worse. Until it was proven otherwise, it was natural to assume that it was the work of our Cold War adversaries. Flying a silver ball over our cornfields was intimidating and pointing loaded rockets our way was a clear threat but eliminating our leader was the real thing. If the USSR had a hand in the assassination then the Cold War wasn’t very cold anymore. What would be our response? What would be their next step?

In hindsight I think that what happened after the president was killed was actually reaffirming. There were bumps and missteps and unanswerable questions and even today the word conspiracy is usually lurking nearby when the words Kennedy assassination are used but the rules basically worked and the United States of America survived and continued on it’s often lurching but generally hopeful path.

wdem681968 was the first election I was old enough to participate in and there are indeed some similarities between it and the one just past. Then many wanted McCarthy or McGovern but got Humphrey. This year many wanted Sanders but got Clinton. Humphrey and Clinton both lost and maybe for some of the same reasons. I suspect it’s a much older joke but I first heard it applied to the 1968 victor. “If Nixon ran unopposed he’d have lost.” It’s possible the same thing could be said this year regardless of whether it was Trump of Clinton who came out on top. I believe I heard just as many people proclaim who they were voting against as who they were voting for, The convention that nominated Humphrey was preceded by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and accompanied by police violence directed at protesters. The latter was, to me, the most frightening occurrence of a very frightening year. Things aren’t the same today but they’re not entirely different either.

Although our perspectives can’t possibly be the same, some of those LA protesters and I share memories of the incredibly frightening events of September 11, 2001. I know I had many of the same fears and questions then as I had back in 1963 when President Kennedy was shot. Maybe they, at least the oldest among them, did too. But I doubt their 2016 fears have the same relationship to their 2001 fears as my 1968 fears had to my fears of 1963. I doubt even more that their fears are very much like mine. I cannot, in fact, claim to even understand or appreciate all of their fears.

I may have started writing this because of those sign carrying California kids but I did not write it for them. The chances of any of them even seeing this article are pretty much nil. No, I wrote it for me. There is a certain amount of John Barth scriptotherapy involved where the mere act of writing is therapeutic and there is no question that putting words into a structure makes your thoughts a little more structured as well. But I think the main reason was to remind myself that I’ve seen the world survive some pretty deep piles of doo doo in the past. Today’s doo doo is different and may even be deeper in spots but history suggests that there’s a pretty good chance that the world will survive it too.


As would any Cincinnatian around my age constructing a title with the word “fear” in it, I seriously considered simply stealing the title of the Raisins’ 1983 regional hit song. Even though I ultimately decided it wasn’t entirely appropriate, revisiting the song convinced me that anyone who hasn’t heard it needs to and anyone who has wants to. Here you go:
Fear Is Never Boring