Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Brush With Murder

Attentive readers might recall the brush with murder that I had earlier this month and wrote about here.

What I didn't mention was that the very same section of the next day's edition of the Columbus Dispatch that reported on that unfortunate incident also contained a story about yet another murder I was much closer to than I realized at the time.

This other murder occurred nearly 44 years ago. It's been in the news again recently because the guy they think did it has finally been brought to trial.

As was the case with the serial killers who were eventually determined to be responsible for the 10 or so murders that were committed in my part of Toledo during the 1970s and early 1980s, DNA evidence has once again played a crucial role in solving old mysteries.

The basic facts go like this:

On December 18, 1967, Eileen Adams, a 14-year-old freshman at Central Catholic High School, boarded a Cherry St. bus and headed north towards her sister's house as she usually did at the end of the school day.

Six weeks later a hunter found her terribly abused body in a Michigan field some 10 miles to the north.

An extended list of other facts make this case pertinent to my own life.

Here are some of them:

Central Catholic was within easy walking distance of all three of my childhood homes (including the one I was living in at the time this murder occurred).

The Cherry St. bus was my main means of transportation for the first 17 years of my life.

For the first three years I was in high school, my school day would begin and end with a ride on the same bus route Eileen took to get to and from her high school.

It seems almost certain that at one time or another I was on the same bus that provided her with her last ride.

On the day she disappeared - a Monday - I would have been 8 years old and walking home from one of the third grade classrooms of a public elementary school also on Cherry St. just about a mile north of Central Catholic.

It's quite possible that I was walking south on Cherry as the north-bound bus carrying Eileen went by....

Of course I wouldn't have known that at the time if it did happen. A bus came along every ten minutes or so back then, so I may have seen as many as four (two north-bound and two south-bound) during any one walk to or from school. If her bus did go by within a few feet of me, there would have been nothing unusual about it to draw my attention or permanently stamp its image upon my memory.

Here's what a typical Toledo bus looked like back then:

And here's a shot of the Toledo bus barn after the buses had had their distinctive red coloring painted over for reasons I can't fathom:

For all I know, Eileen's last bus ride may have been on one of the vehicles in this photo.

Oddly, I can remember as a child hearing about the high school girl who got on "our" bus and disappeared but I can't remember ever hearing about the discovery of her body. In my mind, she seems to have vanished into thin air. I suppose I thought that maybe aliens had snatched her and whisked her back to their home planet. I can't recall ever linking her disappearance with an act of violence until the last few years.

I recently asked my sister (who would have been 18 in 1967) what she remembered about this case. Turns out that she can recall absolutely nothing at all. That's a bit hard for me to understand, but I suppose there's tons of stuff that she remembers that I can't even begin to imagine.

No two people ever experience the world exactly alike - not even identical twins.

There are times I wonder if the members of my family even inhabit the same solar system....

Despite finding Eileen's body and various bits of evidence along with it in late January, 1968, the police were unable to identify any likely suspects.

It wasn't until 1981 that they got a break when Margaret, the ex-wife of Robert Bowman, told them the story about how she went down into the basement of their home on Sylvania Avenue one day and heard strange noises coming from behind a closed door. Opening that door allegedly led to the discovery of a naked girl with tape over her mouth and "hanging like Jesus" from ropes. When Margaret hurried back upstairs in a panic Bowman allegedly declared that now he'd have to kill the girl - and would kill Margaret and their baby, too, if she ever told anybody.

The girl may have been hanging in that basement for as long as two weeks by that point.

After helping him dispose of the body, Bowman's ex-wife allegedly discovered Eileen's school books in the kitchen.

Apparently Eileen had gotten off at her usual bus stop on Dec 18 and Bowman had somehow managed to whisk her away to his nearby home without making a scene....

Margaret's tardy and uncorroborated testimony wasn't enough for the police to make an arrest, but it was enough to prompt them to track Bowman down.

Turns out this one-time successful businessman was by then a homeless drifter who had taken refuge in an abandoned Florida restaurant.

A homeless drifter who had at least one doll tied up and mutilated in much the same way Eileen had been.

Despite that, and despite Bowman's odd statements and curious non-denial, no arrest was made. Apparently they didn't think they had enough to get a conviction.

It wasn't until 2006 that the case was reopened. DNA analysis of the evidence along with publicity generated by America's Most Wanted eventually led to Bowman's being arrested in 2008 in California. He had allegedly been living under a tarp in the desert.

This month, Bowman - now 75 - was finally put on trial.

Last week that trial ended when the jury deadlocked (apparently voting 10-2 for conviction).

A new trial is scheduled to begin in October.

You can read much more about all this here and here (among many other places) if you have the stomach for it....

An unrelated story in today's Columbus Dispatch tells me that murder is becoming less common in the US.

Despite what you might have heard from those who say we're living in an age of accelerating immorality that is sure to usher in The End Times, killings here seem to have peaked at 24,000 in 1991. They declined to 15,000 last year despite a 20% increase in total population.

I would take greater comfort from those figures if single murder cases like this one didn't continue to haunt me.

No matter how hard I try to process them, such cases frustrate my attempts to make sense of the world and erode my sense of security.

They also prompt me to revise my understanding of the past in less than reassuring ways and reduce my confidence in our ability to shape the future for the better.

I got my first pair of glasses from an optician on Sylvania Avenue when I was 12.

The bus route that carried me to improved eyesight was the very same bus route that just as efficiently carried Eileen to her sadistic killer a few years earlier.

Had things been a bit different, she could have been the one getting new glasses in 1971 and I could have been the one found dead in an indifferent field.

Odds are that *someone* is going to end up dead in a similarly indifferent field somewhere sometime soon - and there's very little any of us can do to change that....

If you ever feel like you need to get me a gift for Christmas or my birthday or anything else and you're not sure what I might want or need, please get me a better world.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The Hitlers Of Ohio

Among the odd facts I've learned in recent days are these:

----- The Panama Canal can handle only 35 ships a day

----- It costs about $65 now to put a QR code on a tombstone

----- Octavian (the future Roman Emperor Augustus) paid for a huge public festival in celebration of his first shave - an event that more or less coincided with his 24th birthday

The very oddest fact I've learned lately, however - far odder than the fact that Ohio has 630 species of spider - is that Ohio has a Huber-Hitler Road.

It was mentioned during a story on the local news last night.

The name of the road was so startling that I'm afraid I can't recall anything else about the story.

A quick web search confirmed that I hadn't misheard the reporter and that there really is a Huber-Hitler Road just about 30 miles to my south.

Hitler Road 2 runs into it.

Which is of course an extension of Hitler Road 1.

Perhaps you've heard of Hitler Road 1? It's the one you took if you've ever visited Hitler Ludwig Cemetery.

It turns out that among the 270 people buried there you can find no fewer than 9 Hitlers.

None were named Adolf - but I have it on good authority that one was Gay.

And another was known as George W.

You can learn more about this illustrious Ohio family in an Associated Press story from about 6 years ago.

As you might have guessed, the Ohio Hitlers were well-established in central Ohio long before Adolf permanently tarnished the name.

According to them, they're the only true family of Hitlers in the world. Adolf, you see, was the bastard child of a woman who ended up marrying a man named Hiedler. The misspelled version of the name eventually stuck.

Which probably annoyed George Hitler to no end.

George was an executive with Firestone in Akron. At some point the company president asked him to change his name. George refused.

I probably would have already changed my name to something much less controversial, like Torquemada or Dracula, but maybe that's just me.

In any case, as far as I can determine, Ohio is the only place in the world where you can drive down a Hitler Road.

If you've actively been looking for one to drive down, thanks ahead of time for keeping it to yourself.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good Time Edna's Home

I might be wrong (and I rather hope I am) but I think that reads as follows:

Jan 1945
Dear Florence and Lewis.
I received your letter was
glad hear from you. I want
know how was Lewis getting
along? I was stay 2 week my
friend Mrs Timple live in
Sandusky. before my birthday
on Jan 10 hit I have good time
let you know that I was
sick my birthday but I
little better now. I think
you have good time Edna's
home - on Christmas & New Year
I send best regard to Lewe and
kiss to all. from Goya Laws

All of which raises a number of questions in my mind.

If I could have just one of those questions answered I think it would be this one: Did Goya forget what year it was or did she really wait two years to take this to a mailbox?

Do you know? Please share!

Have a question of your own? Please feel free to post it. Maybe Goya will see it and give us an answer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Derailing The Gravy Train

I didn't want to do it, but... I finally realized that things weren't going to get better on their own.

Which is to say, skunks will be skunks.

And even though they never, ever sprayed at me, their increasingly raucous nightly competition for food was nonetheless filling my house up with their stench more and more often.

If only they could play nice and learn to share, but nooooooooo.

So now everyone has to pay the price.

Sorry, guys. Maybe we can try again next summer after you've had a year to think about your actions.

In the meantime, I've cleaned up the area under my bird feeders, put down fresh dirt, and seasoned it with black pepper.

You don't like that very much, do you?

Ah, well... life is full of disappointments.

Some of which we bring upon ourselves.

Sorry, sorry, sorry....

But not *too* sorry.

Scenes From Happier Days
(specifically, August 13)

SPECIAL BONUS: Wanna hear what things sounded like in my back yard last night? Go here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So, Did YOU Feel The Earth Move?

I did.

I was sitting on my living room couch, trying to read the newspaper when the paper started shaking.

Then I realized my arms were shaking, too.

At first I thought it was my heart pounding oddly and that its thumping was being felt throughout my body like some weak version of Poe's tell-tale heart.

Then I saw that the completely innocent pedestal fan on the other side of the room was throbbing and bobbing too.

That allowed me to dismiss the thought that I might be starting to have another dizzy spell.

The garbage truck had just picked up our trash and was at the neighbor's but it didn't seem to be doing anything other than sitting there gently idling while the trash guy slowly collected the trash.

Immediately suspecting an earthquake, I went into the kitchen, put some water in a glass, and set it on the counter.

The water rippled a bit instead of immediately settling down as it usual does.

Then it was over.

I noted the time: 1:52pm. Or maybe 1:54pm. We had a brief power outrage this morning and so the clocks on the stove and the microwave and the clock radio were all a bit out of synch with the battery clocks on the walls.

The old saying is true: If you have one clock, you'll always know what time it is. If you have two clocks, you'll *never* know.

I suppose the whole episode lasted 15-20 seconds.

I checked the Internet to see what others might have experienced.

I rather quickly learned that the quake was centered in Virginia but was being felt as far away as Detroit and Toronto.

I had thought it was probably a much more local event. Ohio has been known to shake a bit in the past - especially around Anna in the west central part of the state - so I thought what I had felt was probably one of those extremely minor events.

Or that a bomb had gone off in Columbus or Cleveland, but that seemed not only unlikely but also superfluous. Given the way economic trends have been rapidly devastating the state, why would anyone feel the need to speed things up with a bomb?

So: An earthquake.

And it took the flat-footed Columbus Dispatch more than 20 minutes to confirm the fact on its website. (Honestly, a newspaper is just about the last place these days one should go looking for details about breaking news.)

It's only the second earthquake I've felt in my life.

The first was almost exactly 30 years ago.

In Toledo.

I at first thought that one was caused by a truck, too.

As I sat in my living room.


Apparently, the more things change, the more I don't.

At least this time around I didn't feel that naive, wide-eyed surprise of the young that seems so humorous in retrospect.

Who knows? Maybe when I feel my next earthquake 30 years from now, I'll actually be able to write about it in a semi-insightful way.

After I finish using a straw to suck up my lunch of creamed corn and apple sauce, of course.

Bug Relocation Project

I'm having my barn repainted this week.

So I spent some time last night cutting down the things I had growing up around it.

In the process of cutting down the out-of-control lemon thyme I planted a few years ago, I found this guy:

I carefully cut the lemon thyme he was perched on and relocated him to the decorative ribbon grass we have closer to the house.

Here's a post-transfer shot:

He was a remarkably calm and patient bug during the 40 foot move - much calmer and more patient than I ever am when I'M being moved.

He was still there this morning - well, in the same general area, anyway.

He had abandoned the dying stalks of lemon thyme and had found himself what looked to be a nice upside-down position in the ribbon grass.

I couldn't find him tonight, though, so who knows.

Maybe he got homesick.

Maybe he decided to relocate to a yard owned by someone who leaves the bugs the hell alone.

Maybe he had his head bitten off while mating with the female of his species.

You just never know what those bugs might be up to at any given time.

If I were you, I'd stop reading this right NOW and go check up on 'em.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Party Like It's 1939

Here's a quick reminder of how to do that:

Thanks for writing, Chet! I'm glad you had a good time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Very Good Year For The Elephant Ears

Well, for *my* elephant ears, anyway.

And that's quite a surprise considering that I've never had any before - and I started off by mistreating them.

That is to say, I planted the small coconut-size bulbs in the shade instead of the full sun demanded by the tag.

Here's how things looked as of August 13:

Not bad for something planted as recently as May 9, eh?

How much bigger might they have grown had they gotten ALL the sunshine they allegedly crave??

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bug Of The Day

And by "day" I mean last night:

I just never know what I'm going to find when I stepped outside.

When I stepped out this evening I nonetheless expected to find a baby praying mantis that I've been watching for the last few weeks (and haven't been able to photograph because he blends in so well with the ornamental grass he's been hanging out in), but... he was nowhere to be found.

I hope the half inch of rain we got this afternoon didn't wash him away.

And I really hope that the pea-size hail that came down for a few minutes didn't do him any harm.

It's not easy being a bug in Ohio.

Just in case you were wondering....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Freshly Shelled Cicada

In my last entry I mentioned how cicadas crawl up out of the ground, shed their skins, let their wings dry, then fly away.

Some spend years underground sucking fluids from tree roots and such before they work up the energy to emerge. I'm told that after they emerge, they never eat again. After attracting a mate with their singing, they die.

Well, the females make the time to lay their eggs first, but you'll probably never know the difference unless they happen to lay those eggs in your coffee, you unsuspectingly drink them in with your coffee, they hatch in your stomach, grow big and strong off your fluids, then crawl out one of your orifices, perch on your head, and start attracting mates to your hair with their singing.

If that happens, let me know. I'm always looking for a good reason to smile.

What I really want to focus on now, though, is that part about them shedding their skins.

Those skins that get left behind are quite the sight. Apparently the typical cicada manages to emerge from a tiny slit that leaves the skin virtually unscathed. These skins can often be found firmly gripping a surface a yard or two above the hole in the ground that the cicada crawled up out of. They can easily be mistaken for whole insects themselves even though they're paper thin and hollow.

I first discovered this in a friend's yard near Lima (Ohio) some 25 or more years ago when I found an irregular line of three or four of these skin shells on the trunk of a small tree. I've since discovered a few more of these shells on one of my own trees. I think I even carefully detached one of them from the bark and saved it for awhile but it's not exactly the sort of thing dinner guests find endearing, so I think I ended up dropping it in a Goodwill donation box.

On July 31, 2009 I was lucky enough to spot a cicada to the side of my garage door just a few minutes after it had emerged from its shell.

Here's what I saw:

Cool, huh?

Or gross.

Or maybe both....

If you're ever in the neighborhood and are tempted to knock on my door, please look first and make sure you're not about to knock on a cicada emerging from its shell, ok?


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Pleasant Encounter

As I think I mentioned before, we have cicadas here in Ohio.

We hear them a lot more often than we see them.

That's probably because they tend to sit way up high in the trees and we don't.

Did I mention that I heard my first cicada of the year on July 3? And that they're called 90-day locusts because we allegedly get our first frost 90 days after they start singing? I'm pretty sure I did, but I'm too lazy to check.

I mean I'm too busy to check.

And my intern is on break.

Anyway, even though cicadas are pretty reclusive most of the time and pretty evasive the rest, I usually do manage to see one up close on at least one day each summer.

Today just happens to have been one of those days.

I was watering my south-facing hostas when I saw it, sitting pretty on a leaf stalk.

Cicadas are pretty docile when they want to be. The one on my leaf stalk was apparently in the mood to be very docile. In fact, I thought he might be dying, so I continued my watering so he could die in peace (if that's what he was intent on doing).

Another possibility is that he had just emerged from a long sleep underground and was waiting for his wings to dry and harden after shedding his protective skin. I didn't see anything nearby that looked like a shedded skin, though, and this seems to be pretty late in the year for such carrying-ons, but... you never know with cicadas. I suspect they sometimes do things just to toy with our minds.

When I was done with the rest of my watering I came back to see how matters were progressing. The cicada seemed stronger somehow - and more alert. Or at least higher and straighter on the leaf stalk.

Did I mention that I bent over and pet him a little bit the first time I saw him? Well, I did. He didn't seem to mind. Nonetheless, I soon stopped. This being Ohio, there's probably a law against cicada petting. Or at least public cicada petting. (I think it's only in Utah that they care what you do with a cicada in the privacy of your own home.)

Our second face-to-face meeting of the day turned out to be much briefer than the first. While I stood there contemplating his big eyes and pondering whether or not to go get my camera, he flew off. Cicada take-offs are always dramatic and quick - not unlike hasty flying saucer take-offs in some old 1950s movies. They're ungainly, but incredibly fast. And they make a weird, otherworldly sound halfway between a buzzing and a clicking.

As usual, that otherworldly sound faded off into the distance all too rapidly.

Despite the lack of photographic evidence, I really *did* experience this encounter.


And with any luck at all, I'll enjoy a similar experience next summer.

In the meantime, here's a dramatic re-creation of what I saw when I first laid eyes on my hosta today.

As with most dramatic re-creations, some things might have been smaller in real life than they are made to seem in the retelling.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eye On The Sky

So last Thursday evening I was out in my yard, watering my flowers and watching the planes go over.

When I was growing up in Toledo I'd watch the planes, too, but they were pretty high up. Toledo Express Airport is so far away from the city that many residents just drive to Detroit's airport instead. I suppose planes landed at Toledo Express in the 1960s, but you couldn't have proved it by me.

The Columbus airport, in contrast, is only about 10 minutes from downtown and a good chunk of the rest of the metropolitan area. Columbus also has many more people. These two facts mean Columbus not only has more planes coming and going than Toledo ever did (or can ever hope to), the planes that come and go fly at rather low altitudes over densely populated areas.

This means, of course, that they're much easier to see.

Here's a shot I took of one plane that was coming in Thursday evening:

Columbus also seems to have a lot of small planes buzzing around.

Here's a picture I took of one of those Thursday evening:

As you might have guessed, Columbus also has a relatively high number of helicopters. The choppers of law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and TV newsrooms are well represented in central Ohio's skies. (I suppose it's only a matter of time until the Columbus Zoo decides it needs a helicopter of its own in order to more safely and efficiently feed its polar bears.)

When one of these choppers popped into view Thursday night, I didn't think much of it.

When it came closer and my S.O. took charge of the camera, it almost seemed as if it was posing for us. Guess it was our lucky day!

Then things got a little weird....

Apparently it wasn't posing for us - it was checking us out!

Had our camera looked like a gun??

If so, the confusion was soon cleared up and the pilot quickly moved on to other things.

It wasn't until later that we learned that those other things involved looking for a man on the run after killing his girlfriend.

That man was killed later that night in a shoot-out with the police.

Had I known all this ahead of time, I think I would have waited until Friday to do my watering....

Monday, August 15, 2011

She Forgot To Bring Him Back

Despite what you might conclude from my last few entries, I didn't blow *all* my money last week on old postcards.

Truth be told, I also blew some of it on a "new" cylinder for our 1903 Edison home phonograph.

That cylinder features Ada Jones's rendition of "She Forgot To Bring Him Back."

According to Wikipedia, "Ada Jones (June 1, 1873 – May 2, 1922) was a popular mezzo-soprano who recorded from 1905 to the early 1920s. She was born in Lancashire, England but moved with her family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of six in 1879. She started performing on stage, including juvenile roles in the 1880s. In 1893 or 1894, she recorded some musical performances for the North American Phonograph Co., most popularly known, 'Sweet Marie'. But the demise of this company ended this recording career and it was not until 1905 that she returned to recording, after a few years doing performances at such locations as Huber's 14th Street Museum in New York City. She recorded several duets with Billy Murray and Len Spencer. She sang in a range of accents and dialects."

Thanks to YouTube and pghcoyote, you can hear what I hear when I slip this cylinder on our machine if you want to:

FYI: Our machine doesn't look much like pghcoyote's.

If you want to know what it *does* look like, watch this video that was posted by desoto1961:

NOTE: If you watch desoto1961's video with the sound on, you'll also have the pleasure of hearing another selection from Ms. Jones.

ANOTHER NOTE: If you're interested in learning how to work an old Edison home photograph, see the excellent demonstration video that desoto1961 has posted here.

YET ANOTHER NOTE: Old Edison home phonographs aren't as rare as you might think.

Ours happens to be the 200,187th one that was made.

Please let me know if you happen to have #200,186. I'm kinda curious as to where it ended up.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back To The Future

Here are the other 4 postcards I picked up at the antiques store on Monday:

It's been a long time since the US has hosted a world's fair.

The last one I can recall was Knoxville's way back in 1982. It didn't seem like much at the time and it's almost vanished entirely from my consciousness now.

Wikipedia tells me that there was another one in New Orleans in 1984 but I can't recall ever hearing a thing about it.

Wikipedia also tells me that one was going to be held in Chicago in 1992 but it ended up being cancelled.

If we were to host one now, what sort of exhibits would best represent our country? An obese ostrich sticking its head in the sand in a fruitless effort to ignore global warming? The space shuttle Atlantis turned into a homeless shelter? A complex system of pipelines filled with cement representing political gridlock?

How much do you think attendees would be willing to pay for a souvenir rust belt?

All I know for sure is that we certainly have all the room we may need for whatever exhibits we do decide to build (or ask India to build for us).

Today's newspaper tells me that Cleveland alone now has 20,000 vacant lots.

Not enough? Well, Philadelphia is said to have another 40,000.

And Flint and Buffalo allegedly have tens of thousands more....

Of course some Americans might think world fairs are a waste of money - relics of the past that long ago outlived their usefulness in the age of the Internet, American Idol, and meth labs.

Those Americans might be right, but if so why was the most recent world's fair such a record-setter?

Did you even hear about it?

It was held in Shanghai in 2010.

According to Wikipedia, "It was a major World Expo in the tradition of international fairs and expositions, the first since 1992. The theme of the exposition was 'Better City – Better Life' and signifies Shanghai's new status in the 21st century as the 'next great world city'.... It had the largest number of countries participating and was the most expensive Expo in the history of the world's fairs. The Shanghai World Expo was also the largest World's Fair site ever at 5.28 square km. By the end of the expo, over 73 million people had visited - a record attendance - and 250 countries and international organizations had participated. On October 16, 2010, the expo set a single-day record of having over 1.03 million visitors enter the exhibition that day."

What was going on in the US on October 16, 2010?

Well, according to The New York Times, the former chief executive of Countrywide Financial, Angelo Mozilo, agreed to pay $67.5 million to settle a civil fraud case against him; Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was promising to do more to fight unemployment; and Attorney General Eric Holder was promising to fight efforts to legalize marijuana.

I wish I could walk into a store today and buy a flashy new postcard promoting the wonders of American know-how and technology, but... I can't.

I've tried.

As far as I can tell, I can't even buy anything here that even acknowledges the recent Shanghai World's Fair. I may as well try to find a condom dispenser in the rest room of a Catholic cathedral.

So I settled for buying these artifacts from a time when our future actually looked brighter than our past.

It's not that I prefer living in the past - it's just that the future I was promised as a child seems to have been foreclosed on and is no longer available.

At least here in Ohio.

Maybe I would have better luck finding that future if I tried Googling it using Mandarin?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Will It Go Round In Circles

Here's another postcard that I picked up at the antiques store on Monday:

It shows the Cedar Point midway as it looked circa 1963.

That's about the time of my first visit.

I can distinctly recall going on The Rotor ride that can be seen just to the right of center in this photo. It was basically a big round barrel of a room that required riders to stand up against the inside wall of. The wall seems to have had the brown color and slightly rough texture of the back of a pegboard. Once everyone was in place the door was closed and the room began to spin clockwise (as seen from above). Once it got up to speed (maybe one complete revolution every 5 seconds) the floor dropped a foot or so and you were left stuck in place thanks to centrifugal force. Soon the floor came back up, the ride slowed, and you were free to go.

It was one of the few rides I looked forward to riding as a young child and I seem to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Part of the fun involved climbing up a set of stairs to an observation balcony and watching others being spun around while you waited your turn. The stairs and balcony had a distinct back stage feel - shadowy and abandoned. I can remember stopping midway along, looking around at the dull blue/gray walls and floor, and wondering if we were really where we were supposed to be. It was an odd space to find in the middle of a sunny amusement park. (Apparently the ride had exterior side walls that are absent in this photo.) I guess we must have taken another set of stairs down to the entrance door but I can't remember those.

What I do clearly recall is that a giggly young farmgirl-type with a straw hat was on the ride directly opposite me and once the ride got up to speed her hat went flying to the center of the spinning room. She seems to have gone out and retrieved it before the room stopped spinning. I wondered if she would be punished for this obvious violation of the rules. Of course she wasn't (and probably went on to a life of increasingly reckless activities as a result).

As the antique dealer sold me this postcard he shared the story of how he'd been on The Rotor years ago and gotten violently ill as a result. According to him, they got rid of the ride soon after this.

This prompted me to tell my story of how I'd gone back to ride it in 1973 expecting to relive the great time I had as a child and ended up with a terrible headache instead.

It turns out that our bad experiences may have occurred on a different version of the ride than existed during my initial visit. I'm told that the first version lasted from 1961 to 1964 and a second version lasted from 1967 to 1984.

According to David W. Francis's history of Cedar Point, The Rotor was created in 1948 by a German inventor by the name of Ernst Hoffmeister. I shudder to think what Ernst might have been inventing instead had the Germans not lost World War II by then.

Is it possible that Hoffmeister and his Rotor are responsible for my damaged inner ear and the extreme bouts of vertigo that I've been experiencing in recent years (and described in some detail in an entry I posted last October 29th)?

I don't know.

I doubt it.

But the thought did cross my mind yesterday after I suffered my first drop attack of the year.

Was there really a time when I thought that the sensation of being spun around was entertaining?

I guess being able to stop the spinning after a minute or two makes all the difference in the world....

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Unsent Mail

Here's a little something that I picked up at an antique store yesterday:

FYI: Postage for US postcards was 4 cents between January 7, 1963 and January 7, 1968.

I don't know why Bill never ended up actually mailing this after putting a stamp on it but maybe he realized too late that he didn't know Stuart's address.

I hope it wasn't because he had second thoughts about boasting about what he had learned. If I ever learn as much, you can bet that I'll have no qualms whatsoever about boasting about it here, on postcards, and every other way I can think of.

You don't suppose Bill went out and drowned while trying to learn how to bike in the water and his parents later found this tucked away in his suitcase, do you?

Whatever the case may be, at least Stuart now knows Bill was thinking of him at least once in his life.

Well, provided Stuart reads this blog.

If he doesn't, well... I for one will sleep good tonight knowing I've done all I could to enlighten him.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Another Unexpected Lunch Guest

It seems that most of my recent unexpected guests have been of the skunk and raccoon variety that prefer to show up in the evening when it's too dark to record their impressive munching skills.

Today, however, a guest showed up just an hour ago in broad daylight.

I think it was someone new - but I suppose it might have been the same guest I posted a video of back on July 21 if that guest has been enrolled in a rigorous weight loss program for the last few weeks.

What do you think?

Seems pretty determined to get in, doesn't he?

If any of my stuff turns up missing in the next few weeks, you can count on me forwarding these images to the police.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Five More Reasons To Love American Women

Just in case you need five more reasons....

----- Church attendance among women sank by 11 percentage points since 1991, declining to 44%. A majority of women no longer attend church services during a typical week.

----- Bible reading has plummeted by 10 percentage points, declining from half of all women reading the Bible during a typical week (excluding that done during church events) to just four out of ten doing so today (40%).

----- Sunday school involvement is less common among women these days, down seven points from the 24% mark noted in 1991.

----- Women have traditionally been the backbone of volunteer activity in churches. However, there has been a nine point slide in the percentage of women helping out at a church during any given week. That drop reflects a 31% reduction in the non-paid female work force at churches.

----- The only religious behavior that increased among women in the last 20 years was becoming unchurched. That rose a startling 17 percentage points – among the largest drops in church attachment identified in the research.

Those are some of the key findings of the Barna Group's latest examination of religious trends among Americans.

You can find more details at Barna's website but why would you want to spend another moment online when you could be out there in the real world rewarding these rapidly evolving women with your hugs and kisses?

Or at least a handshake and a pat on the back.

Or chocolate. I hear chocolate is good, too.

Go on - you know you want to!

(If you need a written permission slip in order to be excused from work or school, just let me know. I'll even be happy to write you TWO if you happen to be a woman yourself.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Different Kind Of Dream...

I've had many different kinds of dreams over the years but none quite like the one I woke up from this morning.

Perhaps the closest thing to today's dream are those in which I had no idea where I was or what time of day it was and it took me a minute or so to successfully reorient myself.

Those rare dreams I've had in which I'm not sure if I'm alive or dead aren't quite as similar but perhaps generate the same sort of existential unease.

Those dreams in which I think I'm awake but can't keep my eyes open and keep wondering why things are no clearer than they are in a dream remain in a class all their own.

Anyway, in today's dream, I couldn't recall how old I was.

Somehow my sleeping mind came to the conclusion that I was older than 18... but not yet 21.

When I woke up shortly thereafter and realized I was more than 30 years off, I felt... surprised... disgusted... and robbed.

For a good part of the morning it was difficult to escape the feeling that I'd gone to bed nearing the prime of life, only to wake up long past it....

If I dare to fall asleep again tonight, will I wake up tomorrow another 30 years older?

Will the next entry to be posted here be written by an octogenarian?

Probably not.

But dare I take that chance?

Would you?

*Wondering if I could hire someone to do all my sleeping for me*