June 25, 2015

24 Hours in Hocking County, Ohio


FRIDAY:

Whoda thunk I'd be sun-starved in mid-June? Whoda thunk that every day last week no nice one-season-room patio time?  Call it a "half-of-one-season" room?

Even in Cloudumbus that's pretty rare in June. But we've had just a remarkable string of gray, cloudy days. Temperature-wise it's warm, but man doesn't live by temperature alone. It certainly brings home why I visit Florida and Hilton Head.

June weather rebounded with a giddy-up briefly on the 23 and 24th, just in time for my going back to work, naturally if uncannily. But it's pinch-me time, the solstice, which literally means “sun stands still” and it was nice to further that aim by taking my birthday off and spending time relaxing, making time stand still, to some extent. "The best day of the year is the longest, June 22," wrote poet Donald Hall.

Forewarned is forearmed they say, but despite being forewarned that the time between my birthday and July 4th and then the end of July is whip-fast, there's not much I seem to be able to do to slow it down. It is what it is as the great modern philosophers say.

*

Quick-pack on Friday afternoon and by 5pm we were on the road, arriving in the hock of hills (aka Hocking Hills) by 6:30. We're staying at a modest place (no wi/fi and no phone coverage) about 9-10 miles beyond Laurelville, which is about 20 miles beyond Circleville. In other words, out in the boondocks.

There's nothing quite like exploring a new place and this one has a killer gravel hill driveway requiring 4-wheel drive when it rains. It's a cement block structure with cement floors, so that's good for our dog since she'll be tracking mud all over sooner rather than later. The place with a postage-stamp cleared backyard surrounded by deep and enthusiastic woods. I tried a bit of the trail with Maris (for "Stella Maris", but aka “Mare-bare”, aka “Nightmare bare”).

We crated her briefly while we headed to the fabulous next-door biker burger joint. I got a black and blue burger to go, and Steph a black bean burger. Yummy. And homemade chocolate cookies for dessert. The mom & pop diner had a decent craft beer selection, including the oddest beer I've ever had. It's called “Not Your Father's Root Beer” and it tastes, I swear, exactly like root beer. And yet it's like 5.8% alcohol. Crazy how you can have that amount of alcohol with no bitterness, no hops, no beer aftertaste. A novelty drink for me, since I obviously prefer the taste of beer to root beer, but quite an ingenious concoction.



I'm reading the new encyclical down here because it jibes so well with the beauty of this natural environment. “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, God's art…” he writes.

Francis argues that the best way to ensure man doesn't harm creation is to speak of an all-powerful Father who alone owns the earth. This reminds me of how the only way to ensure the rights of the unborn any American for that matter is to insist that our rights do not come from government but from God, as stated (but sadly ignored) in the Declaration of Independence.

That rhetorical device of the Holy Father's seems pretty brilliant evangelistically, to ask nonbelievers to take a more positive view of religion because it's the best way to stop people from damaging the earth.

I marvel at some of the trees here, how straight they stand! Their trunks as freakishly and unwaveringly vertical as telephone poles.  It seems four black bear sightings were confirmed last year in this county. There's a picture of one in cabin, in what looks like area woods, not far from a wall-mounted 22 rifle.

SATURDAY:

Mega-rain this morning, from light to heavy. No worries though with a nice porch - sipped coffee and played tunes previously downloaded via amazon prime. 'Round 10am breakfast of peanut butter on toasted English muffins with milk.

Went on a noontime three-mile hike with Maris down the main drag, right through beautiful downtown South Bloomingville, ha. The rain was omnipresent, to varying degrees, but I didn't care. In fact I took off my hat and let the rain descend on my head, a primal childhood feeling that I experience every twenty years or so in adulthood.  Another benefit of the rain is how deep in green and shiny all the leaves look. (To make lemonade out of lemons.)

The “town”, using the term loosely, seemed a collection of perhaps a couple dozen houses slung along the avenue. One looked like the Walton's homestead but for the confederate flag. It's a place rich in local color and I saw two young boys in a small greensward between house and outbuilding with a bat and ball. They looked so “Appalachian-y” that I felt like I was in a Walker Evans photograph. Mulleted, unabashedly country, pale-white as if they'd never seen the sun (as well they might not have living in this canopied forest), high cheekbones and narrow chinned like Jefferson Davis. They praised my dog and asked the name and I told them, and they told me the name of theirs.



P.C. it ain't. 
Unfortunately as good and as relaxed as my time has been so far, (with miles to go and books yet to read) my wife has been killer bored. I see hottub, burger joint, beers, music and reading on the horizon, but she sees home. I suspect the boredom is due not only to the poor weather but the lack of internet connection.

Speaking of boredom, I read recently in the New York Times that the huge heroin problem in Vermont is due to teenagers feeling bored. Which is sort of counterintuitive given how ubiquitous entertainment is now. Maybe we're made for work, and when it's missing we get bored. Maybe we've evolved to work.

SUNDAY:

An amazing sight was beheld this morning: the sun. Whoever wrote that song from the musical Annie, about the sun coming out tomorrow, was obviously unacquainted with Cloudumbus. But today magic happened.

Sailed our yard from 4 till 6pm, by which I mean walked from corner-to-corner, enjoying even the shady parts given how hot the sun was. Savored the breezy if mosquito-laden spot in far right corner, then spent some time in the center of the tree line. Got bit multiple times despite putting repellent on. I'm a mosquito magnet. They are said to be attracted to those who eat bananas and drink beer and I do a lot of both, though never at the same time.

Even Columbus can occasionally produce an azure sky and the surreal clarity of a sterling day: temperature in the mid-80s, sun just beaming down beamily. I love the feel of heat-soaked pavers on my soles, the sheerness of summer. I hit the block for a walk in the golden, our dog Maris accompanying me and drawing significant (too much?) attention. Her fan club awaits: went a half-mile and three people greeted her.

*

Later, mid-week, tripped to the minor league park. One of my favorite days of the year if partially due to the novelty of having a summer afternoon mid-week workday off. It's rare as snow in Jamaica. Let's play two!

Arrived at ball orchard pleasantly early: 11:40 for the 12:05pm start. I relish the pre-game atmosphere, the lack of crowds, the ministrations of the grounds crew (watering the infield to keep the dust down) and eating a hotdog and Crackerjacks ala the song of yore. And there was the sweetness of expectation. So soon came the National Anthem followed by the rather anticlimactic first pitch.

The uber-handy MILB app allowed me to study the pitchers, and I expected a duel given these were two sharpies, especially the Norfolk Tides hurler (Tyler Wilson). He's pitched in the majors and is expected back up. Ours was Nick Maronde, a respectable prospect. But Maronde gave up three runs in less than 5 innings, and Wilson pitched a shutout through 7.

There's something poignant about a minor league game. They try harder, the stakes feel higher. In the majors, you've made it already. It's sort of like March Madness college bball compared to the NBA.

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