Digital Existence, Bane of


I’m still using an iBook G4 laptop I bought six years ago. I’ll knock on wood and note also that it’s not as impressive as it seems. I had a hard drive die when the computer was in its third year, and I’m running on a refurbished one that Apple installed “free”–I had bought the long-term service plan. Although I got a functional computer out of the deal, I hadn’t backed up the big library of pictures on the original drive. That included a bunch of nice shots from a trip down to Southern Illinois my dad and I took in 2004.

Being a bottom-of-the-line machine from ancient times, the iBook doesn’t have a huge hard drive. It’s got about 25 gigabytes of total storage. I now back things up on a 200-gigabyte drive I bought after the Mac died. But here’s the thing about the pictures I download: I always want to sort through them and post some online and maybe someday do something ambitious such as actually make photo albums for relatives or friends. So I tend to keep them on the laptop than dump them on to the external drive (from which I have to transfer them to edit them). Of course, those projects, big and small, tend to get put off. So my laptop drive still gets eaten up, and I have accumulated a big pile of pictures I think about but do nothing with. Such as the ones here.

They’re nearly a year old. I took them during a drive Kate, my dad, and my brother John made to Lake Pymatuning, on the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line during our visit to Lake Erie last August. More specifically, these are pictures of carp that congregate at a spillway between the eastern and western sections of the lake. Why do they congregate there. Because the nice people who stop to see the sights throw them food; a nearby concession stand sells loaves of bread for tourists to throw, slice by slice, into the roiling mass of eager fish. I have about 20 pictures of the scene I took and another couple of dozen from my brother. I would say we documented the scene well. The question remains, do the carp go on to a less hellish-looking existence after the people leave for the day

Maybe now, having posted this, I can store the pictures on some other drive and move on to the next scene from last summer’s travels. After that, I might get to the pile of images still left to sort through from our 2008 trip to Japan. It could happen.


‘Yes, This Is a Restaurant’


We drove from Geneva on the Lake, Ohio, to West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, today. Nearly 400 miles, and the first 300 on two-lane roads–state highways and U.S. routes out of Ashtabula County, the northeasternmost in Ohio, across northern Pennsylvania to Mansfield. Eastbound on U.S. 6, we hit U.S. 15 there and took it south to Interstate 180, which makes a semicircle to the east and south of Williamsport and leads you to I-80. From there we drove until very heavy rain hit, just after sunset. After about 10 miles during which a lot of traffic simply pulled over to the shoulder, we and some other kept going with our hazard flashers on until we got to the Pennsylvania 93 exit and drove south until we found a motel.

We got a late-ish start out of Geneva OLT, about 11:30, but I was inclined to stop when I saw stuff that interested me anyway. Well, most stuff. I did skip a picturesquely seedy old resort called "Ralph's" on the outskirts of town. But not too far down the road, I stopped at the little box of a public hall in Denmark Township. And just east of there was a little crossroads (Ohio 7 and 167) called Pierpont, near the Pennsylvania line in Ashtabula County. The place is as closed as it says it is. It looks like a mess, outside and in. But if one local's review is to be believed, it would be a pretty unusual dining experience. (The text of the sign in the window: "Temporarily Closed. If you live out of town, leave your phone number if you want me to call when I reopen. Thanks.")


Corn Hole: The Game


I took about 300 pictures last week on my trip to Chicago and northeastern Ohio. I have a fantasy of editing that down to a couple dozen for a little travelogue. I have the same idea for piles of pictures taken last August and for various trips and events going back three or four years.

While waiting for the dream to become reality, here’s just one from Geneva on the Lake, Ohio. It’s a little resort town on Lake Erie, about 50 miles east of Cleveland (and just west of Ashtabula). The place is a mix. There is the faintest undercurrent of something sort of upscale trying to happen there–some fancier housing, some motels cleaning up their act, even a half-decent coffee shop with free WiFi. But the bread-and-butter going back to the 1920s, judging from the dates on some of the businesses, including one (vintage 1924) that claims to be the oldest continuously operating miniature golf course in the world, is catering to middle class and working class families escaping Cleveland and Pittsburgh and other old industrial towns. One form that focus takes today is the welcome extended to bikers, by which I mean Harley-riding hordes. My brother and his family were in town the Saturday night before last, and they said the town was absolutely packed with bikers and folks cruising up and down the main drag. And yes, there were lots of families with kids at the sidewalk burger and barbecue stands and arcades, too.

We got into town on the Sunday after the crowd descended. The town was already winding down for what everyone told me was the typical quiet period between weekends. John had pointed out the coffee shop, Gail’s Coffee Cafe, and early Monday I strolled up the deserted strip from the cottage my sister Ann rented to get caffeine for the two of us. Then I encountered the sign above.

“Play Corn Hole Game Here.”

OK, wait a minute. Where I come from, cornhole has a distinctively pejorative connotation to it. And it’s not just me: Here’s what the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary has to say about it:

cornhole: to perform anal intercourse with : BUGGER — usually considered vulgar.

That, however, is not how bean bag tossers in northeaster Ohio (and elsewhere: check out the search results for “cornhole” on Google. There’s even an American Cornhole Organization, “the governing body for the sport of cornhole.” The ACO site includes a link to a Wall Street Journal story from last summer (“More People Give This Game a Toss, Corny as It May Be“) which both mentions the delicate matter of the name and notes that the game is spreading (like a mysterious rash?) across the nation’s midsection. (Oh, yes: Chicago’s on the cornhole map, too).

So I’m late to the cornhole game. That doesn’t mean I’m above learning about it, though. Later Monday, someone had set up a cornhole game–which consists of two boards, each with one 8-inch hole, placed at the ends of a roughly 25-foot long court; the object is to pitch your four corn-filled bags and get them in the hole–in the driveway at our cottage. Ann, my niece Ingrid and I tried it out. We were so good at it that soon we found it more amusing to throw the bags at each other (Ann and Ingrid were actually pretty good; me–too much force and impatience). Later, I saw the family staying in the next cottage over playing the game. Mom, dad, and a son (maybe 14) and daughter (10). It was a cut-throat game, and it turned out the mom was the ace of the group. As my sister said, they were probably appalled at the way we cheapened their game.


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Ohio Sighting of the Day


Ohio sighting of the day: a bald eagle, flying near the railroad museum in Conneaut (KAHN-nee-utt), Ohio. I asked the women staffing the museum desk whether eagle sightings were common in the area. Yes and no. They’re often seen around the harbor on Lake Erie, and some are thought to nest near a highway bridge over a nearby creek. Still, they hadn’t seen any over *that* part of Conneaut. I was with my brother John and my dad; John said it was the first time he had ever seen a bald eagle “in the wild.” Wild enough, I guess.

No picture of it, though. The above is a view of the museum (the old New York Central station).