Friday, June 9, 2017

Going Back to Ohio

Memories have been stirred by the song Carissa by Sun Kil Moon or Mark Kozelek.

Mention the state Ohio and today one might be greeted by several responses. Rust-belt. Went for Trump big time. Ground zero for pill mills. Overdose country. Craigslist serial killers. (That last one is not made up.)

It has become a place of desperation, where residents felt left behind, misunderstood. Also the pill mills. They were rip[e and ready to be taken advantage of by shyster doctors and lawyers, using them for SSI money. Many have been left behind by an economy not built on manufacturing or mining. The population of the small towns has been decimated—the overdoeses don’t help.

But that isn’t the Ohio I remember.

Because many of my memories are colored by bike riding (see even back then I rode way too many miles. Often too far to get home. More than once I had to call my dad from a pay phone to come get me because I was too tired or it was too dark for me to get home.) I remember riding through small towns where there was a liberal arts college. In the autumn trees burst into reds, yellow/orange, a bruised purple, drifting to the pavement, clogging the curbs. Home-town parades with baby carriages adorned with crepe paper and silly hats on dogs. Slow, meandering creeks that glistened in the sun. The occasional Friday night wreck where high school kids were injured/killed/crippled. Rumors: girls pregnant, a gay athlete, couples coming together or breaking up. This was my world.

Nothing like the dire descriptions now filling newspaper headlines. It was frankly conservative, Republican in a Nixonian kind of way. Not Trump. Forty years ago they would not have been taken in by a huckster. By a New York City slicker with a bad comb over and a fake tan. But back then folks had jobs. They farmed, taught school, worked the mines, worked at Mead Paper Company, or any number of appliance manufacturers or parts maker for the car industry.

I don’t recognize the Ohio I hear about today. When I last visited Athens a young teacher who taught in the county told me when she left for work on the a.m. the roads were empty. Almost all of her neighbors were on disability and didn’t work. They all had HUD housing. She had to have extra security for the house she rents because people break in all the time. It sounded dystopian, walking dead-ish.

Ohio, home of aviation. Birth place of astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. Where have you gone? I have flown far from the state I once knew.


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