Monday, September 18, 2017

Summer Come and Gone

Dear George,
Here is another summer winding itself down.  Sometimes I delude myself into thinking it doesn’t matter because we get endless summers.  Of course, that’s not true.  Even if one lives to a ripe old age, they might get only 90 in their entire lifetime.  The older one gets, the more precious each one becomes.  My 2017 summer started off terribly because I’d pulled my Achilles tendon and was limping around for two months. This eliminated many of the enjoyable activities in my life: hiking at Miami Whitewater Forest, camping, neighborhood walks with friends, flea markets, working out and doing exercise classes, even routine activities like walking to the library or the grocery store. Thanks to stretching, ice, Ibuprofen, and rest, I finally did recover by early July and was happy to regain my lost life.

Things perked up a lot with a visit from NOLA by our son J and grandkids V and L.  We had planned to meet them initially at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, but I wasn’t ready for the walking and so they did it themselves on their drive up.  In Cincinnati we went to the zoo, took in the Star Wars costume exhibition at the Museum Center, had three-ways at Skyline Chili, and topped it off with ice cream at Graeter’s.  We celebrated the last day at the world’s largest swimming pool at Coney Island.  V tried to persuade me to come with her down the 100-foot high water slide but I claimed my spinal cord wouldn’t survive the plunge.   

Katja bought a new Smart TV, and, with some help, we  hooked up our Netflix subscription to it.  We are still trying to figure out how to use this sanely.  We started watching a murder mystery called “The Killing” and got so taken in by the suspense that we binge-watched 26 episodes in less than a week, sometimes staying up till 2 a.m.  Then I wanted to watch a football game, and Katja couldn’t stand it so she watched the entire next season by herself.  I think one day the coroner will find us there with the TV still running.

We did take in some higher culture this summer, attending La Boheme, Frida, and The Magic Flute at the Cincinnati Opera.  The Opera program listed us among the fans who had subscribed for forty years or more.  We started in the late 1960’s when the opera was held at the Zoo and the arias were frequently interrupted by animal hoots and howls.  We also enjoyed the folk art exhibition at the Art Museum and British Paintings at the Taft.  We watched a lot of tennis on TV:  the French Open, Wimbledon, and recently the US Open.  We were saddened by Roger Federer’s early quarterfinals departure.  Thanks to friends Paula and Frank, we went to two sessions of the Western & Southern Open at nearby Mason.  We watched most of the NBA finals, rooting 50% for our in-state Cleveland Cavaliers and the other 50% for the Golden State Warriors, the darlings of our California siblings, Vicki and David W.  We were happy for their team’s victory.  Friday nights we frequently went to the movies with friends Donna and Marika.  My summer favorites were Lost in Paris and The Big Sick.

I had my eightieth birthday in late July, and it required some psychological juggling.  I associate age eighty mostly with my grandparents, to a slight degree with my parents, and not at all with myself.  I go to the cardiologist once a year because of having had an angioplasty a couple of decades ago, and he said my heart was doing fine.  My primary care physician checked my feet because of elevated blood sugar, and he said he wished he had feet as excellent as mine.  Then the insurance company sent a visiting nurse who checked me for dementia by seeing if I could recall the words “boy-red-house”.  I passed the test (and have recalled “boy-red-house” every day since).  All in all, I conclude that what one mainly needs to survive at age 80 is a good heart, good feet, and the ability to remember three words. 

Katja and I went to the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, and we had a fun time.  It’s absolutely gigantic, probably a mile long.  I particularly liked the art exhibits, crafts, quilts, woodworking, etc.  I’ve been annoyed about living in Ohio ever since the presidential election, having decided that the state is populated largely by deplorables and idiots.  The arts and crafts displays at the Fair, however, altered my impression.  Now I see Ohio as full of highly talented people (none of whom voted for Trump).  Inspired by the state fair, we also took in the Boone County Fair across the river in Northern Kentucky.  This was a lot more like the fairs of my youth.  Katja and I rode on the big ferris wheel, which allowed us to see the entire world at its peak.  Then we recklessly went on the “Silver Streak” which hadn’t looked that bad until we got on it.  Katja had recently been to the doctor to check out lower back pains.  She screamed, “Stop, I want to get off” multiple times during our ride, and we worried whether she would walk again.

I’m enthralled with my Wednesday evening Zumba class.  I’m the worst dancer in the mostly-woman class, but I’m happy that I can get through sixty aerobic minutes and pleased that I’m not as self-conscious as I used to be.  Katja and I celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary with dinner out at the Bonefish Grill.  We’ve also made multiple visits to the Cincinnati Zoo to see six-month-old hippo Fiona and her parents, Bibi and Henry.  We enjoy shopping for groceries at our new Clifton Market which struggled during its initial months but seems to be doing better.  Each evening before I go to sleep I read episodes from Batman and Superman comics from the 1940’s.  I can’t remember why I ever moved on to books without pictures. 

We had thought about a West Coast trip during the summer but scheduling didn’t work out.  Then we decided on a seashore vacation in South Carolina, but Hurricanes Harvey and Irma forced us to cancel those plans.  Happily J came to visit last weekend for his 30th high school reunion, and we had a wonderful time.    Our autumn OLLI classes at the university begin tomorrow.  Katja and I signed up together for Israeli folk dancing.  I was too immature to do folk dancing in my youth, but now I’ve gotten my priorities in better order.  We’re looking forward to the fall.  

Friday, September 1, 2017

The View Through Fiona and Dom's Glasses

Dear George,
Recently we saw “Lost in Paris” at the Esquire Theatre.  It’s a French/Belgian comedy, written by, directed by, and starring Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel.  They do a lot of physical comedy and slapstick, reminiscent of Jacques Tati, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, among others.  Both are tall, thin, and gawky, and their physical movements are a wonder to behold.  Fiona encounters numerous crises, and Dom, a homeless Parisian wanderer, comes to her aid.  Needless to say, the pair fall in love, and their unlikely romance survives despite many ups and downs.  (If you do a YouTube search on “Fiona Gordon”, you’ll get trailers, interviews, and other short films.). 

We were so taken with Fiona and Dom that we got their three earlier movies on DVD from the library (L’Iceberg, Rumba, and The Fairy).  All have the same quirky, occasionally tragic, but largely bemused view of life.  Every minor thing they do is spell-binding —running down the street, pouring a cup of coffee, talking on the phone.   I find myself thinking regularly about the Fiona and Dom movies.  They’ve definitely made me more aware of the oddities and delights of the world around us.  The main characters are typically lost, befuddled, or derailed by unanticipated happenings.  Though life is filled with perplexities, Fiona and Dom always discover ways to muddle through.  Once you adopt their perspective, everyday events take on a quaint, mildly bizarre flavor.  Here are a few Fiona/Dom-like examples that we’ve personally experienced in recent weeks.

At the Boone County Fair Katja and I decided to ride on a ferris wheel for the first time in years.  The gondolas were arranged in pairs, each facing the other, about six feet apart.  We sat down in one gondola, and a sixtyish man and a teenage girl, probably his granddaughter, sat down in the gondola directly in front of us.  Up we went, around and around, enjoying the view with the grandfather and granddaughter.  After a few minutes the ferris wheel came to a stop, then proceeded backwards in the opposite direction.  Much to our astonishment, our two neighbors suddenly vanished.  The gondola facing us was completely empty.  We looked all in all directions — our companions were nowhere to be seen.  Then the ferris wheel reversed course again, and our two fellow riders instantaneously reappeared.  I still can’t figure it out.  I can only think it was some kind of mystical ferris wheel which took riders away to alternate universes.  

A few days after the fair we were driving east on MLK Jr. Drive in Cincinnati to take the brand new entrance onto I-71 North.  We stopped at a traffic light at the I-71 entrance with six cars in front of us, all waiting to make a lefthand turn onto the ramp.  The light changed, the first car turned onto the ramp, the second car, etc., and finally us.  As I travelled down the short roadway toward the expressway, I noticed that all the painted arrows on the road were pointing back at me.  I wondered, “How could they make such a stupid mistake?”  Then it dawned that we weren’t on the entrance to the interstate — we were headed the wrong way down the interstate’s exit ramp.  Of course that meant that exiting cars could come directly at us any moment at 60 miles per hour.  Two cars behind me stopped to turn around, I turned around too, and so did the cars in front of me.   While I’ve made occasional mistakes about one-way streets over the years, I’ve never done so as part of a whole convoy of vehicles.  I could only think of lemmings following the leader and leaping off the cliff.

All in all, there’s a lot more confusion in the world than I remember from younger days.  I was the first person at my Zumba class a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed out of the corner of my eye a tall person entering behind me with fluorescent pink, purple, and orange hair, wearing capri pants with a colorful floral design.  I took it to be the tall woman that I’d seen at the last class.  I nodded, mumbled “hello”,  and stepped back into the hallway to wait for the instructor’s arrival.  A few more people arrived, and then the music started.  I looked in the doorway, and the instructor had already begun leading the class.  He had fluorescent pink, purple, and orange hair and was wearing Capri pants. 

It’s easy to get mixed up about people’s identities.   I woke at 2:30 a.m. the other night, got up and took half an Ambien, and sat down at the computer to while away the time before the pill took effect.  I thought I heard a soft clinking sound from downstairs, perhaps someone were opening a drawer.  I stopped and listened, but everything was silent.  Then, a couple of minutes later, I heard what could  have been a footstep.  I thought back to years ago when we had a night-time burglar who actually came upstairs and was right outside our bedroom door.   The police detective came to our house and recommended that we buy a gun, but that struck me as an over-reaction.  Now I sort of wished I’d listened to him.  Totally nervous, I turned on some music on the computer to scare the intruder away.  Then I started clapping my hands loudly in time with the music.  After a few seconds I heard someone call my name.  It was Katja.  She was downstairs making a tuna fish salad sandwich.

Katja and I went to see the hippos at the zoo.  Baby Fiona wasn’t out, but her parents Bibi and Henry were, and they were very playful.  As we were leaving, I heard Katja ask a zoo staff member when Fiona would next be out with her parents, and the person said it would be five days.  As we were driving out, I said, “Five days is a long time to wait.”  Katja didn’t know what I was talking about.  When I repeated what I’d heard, Katja explained that she had asked the staffer when Fiona would be as big as her parents, and the zoo person had said five years.  Katja suggested that in the future  I might want to double-check what it is that I think that I hear.  

While we’ve both had a healthy summer, Katja got a prescription for Zovirex from her doctor for a cold sore on her lip.  I’d used Zovirex for many years because of stress symptoms I’d get from my first day of Autumn teaching.   I was astonished to discover that Katja had paid $98 for a 5-ounce tube, about ten times more than I’d ever paid.  And then I was more flabbergasted to learn that the insurance company had contributed an additional $2000.  $2,098 to treat a cold sore?  What is the doctor thinking, not to mention the insurance company and the consumer?  I investigated on the Internet and found that a tube of Zovirex ointment costs about $20 in Canada and $20 in Great Britain, but up to $2500 in the U.S.  I turns out that the other countries, unlike the U.S., have laws regulating exorbitant drug prices.  Katja later observed that, for all its cost, the ointment didn’t work.  A friend suggested holding an ice cube to one’s lip instead.  We’ll definitely try that next time.

When it came time to pick a restaurant for our 57th wedding anniversary, Katja suggested 
“Knotty Pine on the Bayou” in Cold Springs, Kentucky.  That sounded very folksy to me, but unfortunately they were closed on Mondays.  So then Katja suggested Longhorn Steakhouse because they have Bloomin’ Onions on their menu.  Bloomin’ Onions would make for an excellent anniversary celebration.  Katja used to pick five-star restaurants like the Maisonette for our anniversaries, but her criteria have changed in mysterious ways.     

We are scheduled to go on a Caribbean cruise with J and K and our grandkids in November, and I learned that I would need a passport to go onshore in Mexico.  According to the Internet, I could either get a passport card or a passport book.  The passport card costs $55, is a convenient wallet size, and is good for land or sea travel to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada (but not for international air flights).  The passport book is $110, larger and less convenient (not wallet size), but good for all international travel around the world.  I told Katja about the distinction and said I’d decided to get a passport card.  She replied I should get the passport book.  When I insisted on the card, Katja was hurt and angry.  Neither of us chose to verbalize the real issue at hand.  Namely, Katja is extremely eager to do some European traveling together, and I don’t want to do it.  In the interests of a pleasant Caribbean trip, I applied for a passport book for $110.   

Even though it’s been two years, we are still suffering the loss of our sheepdogs.  One byproduct of dog ownership is that I spent a lot of time out on the street and had more frequent social contact with people from the neighborhood.   One of those regulars was a sixtysomething man who regularly walked his three Weimaraners on Ludlow Ave.  Because we both had big and somewhat unreliable dogs, we always stayed on opposite sides of the street, although I did develop a sense of kinship with him as a fellow dog-guy over the years.   Needless to say, I was surprised to see his picture in the newspaper last week as having been arrested for possessing child pornography.  I can’t imagine a loving Weimaraner owner also being a pedophile.  I guess dog owners have their secrets like everybody else. 

My overall conclusion is that life is pretty much like a Fiona/Dom movie — filled with mishaps, incongruities, and mysteries of various sorts.  Their films simply exaggerate the absurdities to bring them to our attention, but we connect with them so readily because of their basic truth value.  Our task, as I see it, is to take it all in, go with the flow, and be as amused as we’re can.  That’s what I’m working on.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Muddling Through the Decades

Dear George,
It’s still a shock to have had my eightieth birthday.  I find myself reflecting on my life as a whole.  Here is my poetic version.

     The Decades of My Life 

One of the main perks of aging
One’s experienced so much of their life
Each of these decades has its own unique flavor
Some mixture of pleasures and strife

As a grade school kid I loved comic books
Captain Marvel, I’d say, was the best
And the matinee films had Roy Rogers
Plus Dale and Gabby and the rest 

My teen years turned into a struggle 
I was quiet and shy with my peers 
We thought of our group as the “good kids”
While the “bad kids” had sex and drank beers 

My twenties found new sorts of pressures
First marriage, then doing grad school
Writing a dissertation — so gruesome 
My worst fear, they’d know I’m a fool 
I launched my career in my thirties
A social psychologist no less
I was always on edge in the classroom
And publish or perish, huge stress 

A tennis dad in my forties
Our son became ranked near the top 
We traveled to tournaments in the Tri-State
My blood pressure rose as a pop 

In my fifties our house was an empty nest 
Our kid had departed for college
I got sort of queasy in my field
Espousing such old-fashioned knowledge 

My career wound down in my sixties
Even though I became department head
My true love belonged to our sheepdogs 
More sweet than my job when all’s said 

In my seventies I worked on retirement
My first step — to join at the gym 
I did line dancing on Tuesday nights
A quest to find vigor and vim

So this year I’ve started my eighties 
I never even thought of this age 
I feel pretty much like I’m fifty

But perhaps this will be the best stage

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

U.P. Cryptids: Stranger Than Fiction

Dear George,
One benefit of growing older is that one becomes more attuned to strange, inexplicable happenings in the world.  I think this is especially true for people who have grown up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The U.P., of course, is a vast wilderness and hence a place of great mystery.  About 80 percent of the land is uninhabited forest, home to many remarkable animals: bear, wolves, moose, cougars, beavers, weasels, and a variety of other creatures.  Less well-known is that the deep interior of the U.P. is believed to be home to strange beings that most people have never seen.  These are termed “cryptids”, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “an animal whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated.”  The Loch Ness Monster is the best-known example of a cryptid.  Despite numerous eyewitness accounts, photographs, videos, and sonar readings, the existence of the Loch Ness monster remains disputed by most scientists.  In similar fashion, the wilds of the U.P. are home to a number of cryptids.  While I’ve never seen any of them personally, many Yoopers and visitors have confirmed their existence.  Here are some of the Upper Peninsula cryptids that we should watch for in our travels.     


The most famous cryptid found in the U.P. is Bigfoot.  Bigfoot (or Sasquatch) sightings have been reported throughout much of North America, especially in the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast as well as the Great Lakes region.  Bigfoot is typically described as a tall (7 to 9 foot), hairy, muscular, ape-like creature that walks on two legs.  Suspected Bigfoot footprints have been as large as 24 inches long and 8 inches wide. 

Over the years there have been many hundreds of Bigfoot sighting and thousands of tracks.  Bigfoot encounters have been reported in every county in Michigan.  In one well-publicized incident a mother and daughter were driving in a rural area of Monroe County when they saw a tall, hairy, man-like creature run in front of their car.  The creature punched the teenage girl and slammed the mother’s head into the dashboard, then ran off and disappeared in the woods.  There have been lots of sightings of an 8-foot tall hairy beast by hikers and hunters in the Huron National Forest near Oscoda.  On one occasion two hunters shot a deer, but Bigfoot got there first and hauled it away. 

A recent Bigfoot case occurred just two miles from my parents’ Birch Creek home outside of Menominee.  A local resident set up game cameras on his property and discovered  images of a tall, hairy creature in the forest — not a bear, not any known animal.  Animal Planet sent in a tema and did did a TV show on the Menominee Bigfoot.  Menominee County is home to the Upper Peninsula Bigfoot/Sasquatch Research Organization, located at Hermansville.  Researchers there have documented Bigfoot sightings near Escanaba, Gladstone, Rapid River, Gwinn, Iron Mountain, Germfask, and other U.P. sites.  While skeptics remain wary of the existence of Bigfoot, primatologist Jane Goodall said in a 2002 NPR interview, “I’m sure they exist.”  (3, 4, 8). 

The Michigan Dogman 

The U.P. has also been home to many sightings of another prominent cryptid, the Michigan Dogman.  The Dogman was first seen in Wexford County in 1887 by two lumberjacks.  They described it as seven feet tall with a man’s torso and the head of a dog.  The Dogman is known for his frightening howl that sounds like a human scream.  It is believed to have been stalking the area around the Manistee River since the 1700s.   Sightings were reported in Allegan County in the 1950s and in Manistee and Cross Village in 1967.  In 1973 a man in Paris, Michigan, was attacked by five wild dogs, and he reported that one of them walked on two legs.   Horses in the Upper Peninsula are known to have died of fright, surrounded by dog tracks.  Evidence for the Dogman’s existence remained anecdotal until the discovery in 2004 of an 8mm. family film purchased at an estate sale which provides the only filmed image of the Dogman.  When a Traverse City D.J. broadcast a song about the Dogman, he received over one hundred reports confirming the creature’s existence.  (9) 


The Waheela is a large, wolf-like creature that prefers cold, inhospitable environments and is believed to inhabit the U.P., Canada, and Alaska.  Larger and more heavily built than normal wolves, Waheela are solitary creatures who are rarely found in packs.  An American mechanic who witnessed a Waheela some years ago described it as looking like a wolf on steroids.  Centuries ago Native American legends referred to the Waheela as an evil spirt with supernatural powers that kills people and removes their heads.   Some speculate that modern Waheela are descendants of prehistoric bear-dogs.  (5) 


While the Hodag is primarily associated with Wisconsin, it is also reported to inhabit the lumber woods of the Upper Peninsula.  The name “Hodag” is a combination of “horse” and “dog”.  The Hodag is seven feet long and resembles a bull-horned rhinoceros with a spiny back and horns growing from its forehead.  It has been described as “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth.”  The Hodag was first discovered in 1893 by Eugene Shepherd, a Rhinelander lumberman who reportedly killed the beast with dynamite and exhibited it at the Oneida County Fair.  When accused of manufacturing a hoax, Shepherd explained that he had kept the real Hodag body hidden so that it wouldn’t be stolen.  Today the Hodag is the official mascot of Rhinelander High School.  (7)   

Pressie, the Lake Superior Serpent

The U.P.’s borders include shorelines of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.  Each of these Great Lakes has been the reported home of astonishing water cryptids.  The most famous is Pressie, the Lake Superior Serpent.  Many credible witnesses have spotted Pressie over the years. She is named after the Presque Isle River where one of the best sightings occurred.  Observers have described a serpent-like creature up to 75 feet long, green and black in color, with a horse-like head on a longish neck and a whale-type tale.  In 1897 a Detroit man fell overboard from his yacht near Duluth and was attacked by a huge serpent which tried to strangle him like a boa constrictor.  His three shipmates saw the serpent as well.  On Memorial Day weekend in 1977 an Ironwood hiker named Randy Braun snapped a photo of what he believed to be a giant serpent swimming in the lake.  The photo suggest a serpent-like creature with a hornlike head on a long neck and an undefined tail.  In the mid-1990’s near Point Iroquois two fishermen watched in horror as a large aquatic animal pulled a wading buck deer under the water and left only it’s severed head.  No carcasses of the Lake Superior serpent have ever been found, and investigators have suggested that a gigantic sturgeon may account for at least some of the sightings.  (2) 

The Lake Michigan Monster

While sightings of huge water serpents have been most common in Lake Superior, Lake Michigan has had its own enormous prehistoric creatures.  Sightings along the Lake Michigan coast near Cross Village, Harbor Springs, and Northport date back as far as 1817 and describe a 60-foot serpent.  Local Native Americans referred to it as a “sea panther” because of its catlike head and lizard body.  Similar sightings have occurred in other northern lakes, including Lake Erie and Lake Champlain.  Some cryptozoologists speculate that the Great Lake serpents may be landlocked prehistoric plesiosaurs.  (6) 

Sea Monster of the Straits

Another account of the Great Lakes sea monsters was reported by the Grand Rapids Press on June 25, 1976.  The owner of a resort on the Lake Huron shorefront reported seeing two 45-foot sea creatures frolicking in the Mackinac Straits in front of his property.  The Cheboygan County Sheriff stopped by the next day and, much to his surprise, observed one of the creatures.  “I went down to the beach, and sure enough, I’m looking at something 20, maybe 30 feet long, swimming just below the surface.  I was amazed.  I didn’t know what it was, but it sure wasn’t a publicity stunt.”  The sheriff arranged for a couple of deputies to search the area in a canoe but they weren’t successful.  Experts theorized that it might have been a giant eel or carp, but no eels or carp have ever been known to approach that size.  (1) 

Three Centaurs in the Forest

It’s hard to say which of the various U.P. cryptids actually exist.  Some, of course, might be mythical or products of over-active imaginations.  I personally prefer to believe that there are many types of prehistoric creatures that have survived over the eons in the depths of the U.P. wilderness and remain hidden from civilization.  I do find that I’m much more alert to the possibility of cryptids.  Just last weekend I was hiking at Miami Whitewater Forest near Cincinnati with a friend when we saw what appeared to be three horseback riders passing by in the woods.  It was very strange.  Neither of us had ever seen a horse in Miami Whitewater Forest before, much less in the thickest part of the forest.   I went home, did some cryptozoological research, and suddenly realized that these had’t been riders on horseback at all.   Instead we had been fortunate enough to see a trio of centaurs — creatures with the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse.  So amazing!  Now that I have definite proof that crypts exist, I’m eager to return to Menominee and conduct a search on our family property for signs of Bigfoot.  I’ll enlist Katja and our grandchildren to help me.  I’m certain that we’ll be successful.

(1), “Weird Wednesday: Michigan Sea Monsters” 
(2), “Pressie, the Lake Superior Monster” 
(3), “Bigfoot sighting in area” 
(4),  “The Dogman and other Michigan mysteries” 
(5), “The Cryptid Zoo: Bear-dogs”
(6), “America’s Most Mysterious Places” 
(7), “In search of the Hodag” 
(8), “Bigfoot” 
(9), “Michigan Dogman” 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Off to the Ohio State Fair

Dear George,
Katja’s recollection is that we last went to the Ohio State Fair in Columbus sometime before our son J’s birth in 1969.  I vaguely thought we might have gone there when J was about 10 or 12, but I was unsure.  Whatever the case, forty or fifty years is much too long to wait between state fair outings.  I myself love county and state fairs.  Some of my most exciting  childhood memories are going to the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba with my family.  Katja, J, and I went to the Hamilton County Fair in Carthage for many years, and we always were excited to be frightened by Zambora the Gorilla Girl.  Columbus is further away from Cincinnati — a hundred miles — but definitely worth the trip.  

The Ohio State Fair is one of the nation’s largest.  It lasts for twelve days in late July and early August and attracts close to a million visitors each year.  The first Ohio State Fair was held in Camp Washington outside Cincinnati in 1850 and had about 25,000 attendees in its two-day run.  Then it changed locations every year (e.g., Sandusky, Zanesville, Toledo, Cleveland) until it moved permanently to Columbus in 1874.  It’s been at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds since 1886.  

We arrived about 3 p.m. on Tuesday and were pleasantly surprised that tickets were only $4 on Senior Day.  We stopped first at Cardinal Hall with all of its arts and crafts.  The youth art exhibition by elementary, middle school, and high school students was inspiring.  There were wonderful fantasy creations by first graders, and the high school students’ works were near-professional quality.  In addition, there were quilts, leather-working and woodworking, model railroad trains, knitting and sewing, fudge brownies, and even a competition for the world’s ugliest cake.  

We made our way down Food Highway where Katja got a squeezed lemonade.  I will guess that there were at least a hundred food vendors, all of them competing to see who could be the most harmful to Ohioans’ health.  Katja and I decided that there wasn’t a single place that catered to good nutrition.  It didn’t matter since they all seemed to be doing a good business.

We briefly watched a magician, a comic, a knife-juggler, and a rock band.  Some of the events were of particular interest to Katja, and I would wander off to take a few photos.  She always likes the cooking demonstrations, and, along with several hundred other audience members, she enjoyed the 4-H fashion review with 8- to 12-year-olds modeling outfits that they’d sewn.  Katja visited the ring-cleaning booth, had her ring cleaned, and invested $20 in a bottle of their magic formula.  We also had free lunch (salad with nuts) at the “Cooking with Peanuts” show.      

There were, of course, several animal buildings.  We stopped by to see the cows and petted a couple of week-old Holsteins.  The Pork building featured Marvelous, the Big Boar, who weighs 1140 pounds and struck me as nearly as large as a cow.  While the photo doesn’t do him justice, I think Marvelous must be the largest pig in the world.  

We looked forward to the rabbits the most, but were disappointed that it was “Changeover Day” and so there were only a dozen or so rabbits to be admired.  Nonetheless, they were all show winners.   

The Fine Arts Building, with adult art, photography, and sculpture, offered a massive exhibition with lots of museum-quality work.  I was most moved by the Wounded Warriors exhibit which consisted of seven eye-catching wood sculptures of wounded military dogs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 

We were hungry by 6 p.m. and had a Bloomin’ Onion as an appetizer.  By the time we finished it we were filled up and decided that it had been our evening meal.  

After walking back and forth a couple of times I finally decided to test the guy who guesses ages and weights.  I paid him three dollars and was happy when he guessed me to be 8 years younger than my actual age.  I thought I was going to get $6 back, but instead I won a small stuffed monkey head which would might be sold at the 99 Cents Store.  It was worth it.  

On the way out we asked a couple to take our photo, and then we headed for home on I-71, stopping for Dairy Queen sundaes in Wilmington.   I’m glad we went to the fair.  Despite all these years, I never think much about living in Ohio.  It always seems rather bland compared to more exotic places we visit.  However, there were so many wonderful and amazing things produced by Ohioans that I found myself experiencing a unfamiliar touch of Buckeye pride.  There are a lot of gifted people out there in the hinterlands.   I think we’ll come back to the State Fair again next year.