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    by William Least Heat-Moon

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Entries in Ohio (6)


Blue Highways: Cincinnati, Ohio

Unfolding the Map

We are rapidly reaching the end of Blue Highways.  As William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) skirts Cincinnati in Ghost Dancing, I recall my first girlfriend who moved to Cincinnati to get a PhD after we broke up and after we graduated from college.  If you want to know where Cincinnati is located and see just how close we are to finishing this journey, please see the map.

Book Quote

"At Cincinnati, I looped the city fast on the interstate and came to Indiana 56, where corn, tobacco, and blue-sailor grew to the knee, and also wild carrot, fleabane, golden Alexander.  Apples were coming into a high green, butterflies stiched across the road, and all the way the whip of mowers filled Ghost Dancing sweetly with the waft of cut grass.  Each town had its feed and grain store, each farm its grain bin and corncrib.  Rolling, rolling, the land, the road, the truck."

Blue Highways: Part 10, Chapter 4

Cincinnati Night Skyline, by Kabir Bakie. Photo hosted at Wikimedia Commons. Click on photo to go to host site.

Cincinnati, Ohio

I associate Cincinnati with my first girlfriend.  I would have had no other reason to pay attention to Cincinnati as a place except for the fact that she went into a graduate program in psychology at the University of Cincinnati.  She moved to Cincinnati about a year and a half after we broke up, and I think I still had hopes that we might get back together sometime.  However, I had my own destiny to fulfill, and I moved to Milwaukee around the same time to do volunteer work.

Our relationship had been one that developed over time.  When I look back at my time in college, I realize just how troubled I was.  I came out of a terribly dysfunctional family, and I had a horrible self-esteem problem.  I had never had a girlfriend, and desperately wanted one, but as you may imagine my personal issues kept me from connecting with women on a deeper level.  I was everyone's friend but that was it.  I blamed the world because I didn't understand how I was limiting myself.  I didn't realize how desperate I must have seemed, and how leery that might make people.

Into that world she stepped.  We got know each other slowly.  I actually had a major crush on her roommate (who was unattainable for a variety of reasons) but that developed a lot of time that we were together.  Eventually, by my third year in college, we were in a relationship.  I had a girlfriend!  She was warm and kind, one of the nicest and most caring people I ever met.  We had good times together.  But my demons stepped in again.  I was somewhat possessive, and I made the worst mistake that one can make in a relationship - I put her on a pedestal and convinced myself that I couldn't be happy without her.  When, as in the course of most college relationships, she felt the urge to move on I was crushed.  Unfortunately, this experience didn't teach me much - I would make the same mistake again and again before I started to learn to be less needy.

We kept in touch - she in graduate school in Cincinnati and I in my Milwaukee volunteer work.  We both talked about the connection we still had with each other.  I think that I was convinced that sometime we would get back together.  It was not too long later that she told me of her engagement and invited me to her wedding.

I think I was depressed for a day or so, and then resolved to get on with my life.  Life in Milwaukee as a full-time volunteer was stressful in itself.  I threw myself into my work.  But I couldn't bring myself to commit to attending her wedding.  I went back and forth.  I didn't want to admit that she was getting married.  Finally, in a bit of irony, the woman who eventually became my wife told me to go because otherwise I would always question myself.

That was two days before I was supposed to be there.  I had no car, so I bought a Greyhound bus ticket to Cincinnati.  My wife-to-be-though-we-didn't-know-it borrowed a car to drive me to the bus station.  I knew the name of the hotel where the wedding party was staying and I hoped I'd be able to find it.  I arrived in Cincinnati, took a taxi to the hotel, and was able to contact my ex-girlfriend's parents who very nicely offered me a sofa in their suite.  My ex-girlfriend came back from an errand a little while later and was very suprised to see me.  She seemed gratified that I came, even amidst my excuses.  It was strange staying in the bridal suite, but I made it work.  I think it was important for me to have been there, because I was able to put behind me most of my pretentions.  As I saw her at the front of the chapel in her bridal dress alongside her new husband, I realized that the past was the past and that I could move forward into the rest of my life.

Since that time, we have pursued our own lives.  We remained friends, and she returned the favor by attending my wedding in 1995.  She moved to Connecticut and took a job as a professor of psychology.  For awhile I saw her somewhat regularly because my work took me to the East Coast a few times a year.  However, our contact grew less and less.  Her marriage ended a few years after her wedding, and she eventually remarried.  She became a respected and much-loved professor at her university, where she introduces young women to gender issues and, from what I can tell, really has a talent for empowering them.  I last saw her about ten years ago, when she traveled to New Orleans for a conference when I was living there.  I don't think I've spoken to her since then, although we do the Facebook thing every so often and, like so many people do, say we'll get in touch with each other by phone.  It never happens.

If we do happen to speak to each other again, I'd tell her how thankful I am to have known her.  I would thank her for sharing a relationship with a deeply troubled young adult.  I would apologize for any hurts or misunderstanding that might still linger, and how happy it makes me to see how much of an impact on people's lives she has had.  I would tell her that I don't think that our lives have been too dissimilar in general, though maybe somewhat different in the specifics and details.  I'd tell her I miss talking to her, and that I enjoy the snippets of her life I see on Facebook.  I'd tell her that I believe I'm finally becoming happy after learning a lot of lessons and taking some wrong turns.  And I'd tell her, if she wanted to know, that for the first time in my life I think I'm becoming the person that I'd like to believe that she saw in me so long ago when she let me be a brief part of her life.

Musical Interlude

Here's a song about Cincinnati by Connie Smith called Cincinnati, Ohio.

And another one - Lights of Cincinnati by Scott Walker.

If you want to know more about Cincinnati

Campbell's Scoop (food blog) (news site)
Cincinnati Blog
Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau
Cincinnati Herald (newspaper)
Cincinnati Magazine
Cincinnati USA
City of Cincinnati
CityBeat (alternative newsweekly)
Livin' in the Cin (blog)
Make Cincinnati Weird (blog)
University of Cincinnati
Wikipedia: Cincinnati
Wine Me, Dine Me (food blog)
Xavier University

Next up: New Harmony, Indiana


Blue Highways: Ohio River Towns

Unfolding the Map

As we pass by the river towns of Ohio, it is pretty clear that William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) is ready to get home.  His pace of travel leads me to think about the stages of our journeys and put together an admittedly non-scientific, not really well-thought-out framework of journey stages.  It'll have to serve as a starting point for something more developed later.  At right is the state seal of Ohio from Wikimedia Commons.

Book Quote

"The old riverbank towns - Franklin Furnace, New Boston, Portsmouth, Friendship, Manchester, Utopia - now found the Ohio more a menace than a means of livelihood, and they had shifted northward to string out along the highway like kinks in a hawser.  I had no mind for stopping.  God's speed, people once wished the traveler."

Blue Highways: Part 10, Chapter 4

Marker for Utopia, Ohio. Photo by GBauer8946 and hosted at Wikimedia Commons. Click on photo to go to host page.Ohio River Towns

There are times on a journey when one is caught up in the travel.  One looks forward to each new stop along the way, and even seeing the places in between where one doesn't stop.  There is a natural rhythm and flow in journeys at that time.

In fact, I see journeys as having definite stages.

1.  Pre-journey:  This stage involves the preparation and planning.  It is filled with much anticipation, some worry, and some guesswork.  Or, perhaps not.  A very organized person might look forward to the journey while perhaps worrying a little about the details and trying to troubleshoot any possible problems.  Will I forget anything, will I hit some obstacles or roadblocks along the way, will I see everything I want to see?  Of course, there are those who don't plan much - they have a destination and otherwise let some element of chance determine what will happen.  For me, I like a combination.  I like to be relatively prepared but I want to be able to have some flexibility to deviate from the course.  LHM doesn't really allow us into his preparation for his journey.  We know that he was having some life troubles and doubts, and suddenly he is on the road.  I'm certain that he did some planning, but he also seems to have given himself some latitude to improvise on his way.

2.  The start:  Not much to say about this stage.  One gets in the car, or gets to the airport. Of course, with my wife and I, there is usually a trip around the block and then we realize that we left the back door unlocked or forgot something essential.  When it's a car trip, we have had a myriad of reasons why we have started anywhere from a half hour to two hours behind schedule.  Once, just as we were preparing to leave on-time for a driving to trip to California, a large stray dog fleeing a hot air balloon ran into our driveway and vomited in fear, and then took a dump in our parking place.  We corraled the dog and then waited for Animal Control until we could start our trip. But once the trip is started, and you're finally on the road or in the air, you can sit back and breathe a sigh of some relief.

3.  Settling into the journey:  The first few hours are usually a mix of cautious relief and anticipation.  Traveling alone, I find that I'm taking in my surroundings, happy to be where I am, but at the same time I'm somewhat hyper-aware of things.  For instance, in a car I'm getting used to the car and road noise and what it might mean.  In a plane, I'm looking out the window or at my fellow passengers.  I'm basically adjusting to the new environment that I find myself in.  I also get used to the routines and the demands of traveling on my body.  When will I get hungry and need to stop for food and drink?  How long can I sit in a position before I need to get up and move around?  Eventually, these questions will resolve themselves into a set pattern that I can get used to.  A subset of this stage might be a sort of resistance to the process.  In wanting to get a few more miles, I might push the gas gauge a little farther toward empty than I should, or get a bit tired but still drive to the next town.  When I'm traveling by car with my wife, we usually go through a routine of listening to NPR until we lose reception, and then we settle into a mix of reading to each other and watching the scenery.

4.  Journey zen: After the settling in comes acceptance that one is on the journey.  It is a stage that some will not reach, but which I strive to.  It is only when one reaches this stage that one is able to accept what the journey will give them, and recognize opportunity even in the face of adversity.  To be able to reach this stage usually takes a combination of travel experience and a willingness to cede control to the universe.  I remember once talking at a conference with a Baptist pastor who had traveled extensively, and arrived at the conference a day late because of air travel difficulties.  I asked him if he was annoyed.  "Not really," he replied.  "I can't do anything to change it so it doesn't pay to get angry.  I just caught up on reading that I hadn't been able to get to, and met some interesting people who were in the same situation as me."  I think that LHM truly reached journey zen  after a rainy day in Corvallis, Oregon when he truly seemed to leave his troubles at home behind.  I can only really count a handful of times, on all my journeys, where I've achieved this kind of state.

5.  The return: At this point, we are in this stage with LHM.  At some point on the journey, one knows it is time for the journey to end, as all must.  Notice in LHM's quote that this is the first time that he has reeled off such a long string of towns with little to say about them, and that he had" no mind for stopping."  This is a man who wants to get home.  Of course, sometimes journeys end too soon.  But on most, we just know that the journey has played itself out and that we're ready to end it.

6.  The post-journey: This point of the journey is often an adjustment and acceptance in itself.  I often feel like a journey has been an effort, and that upon returning I could use a vacation to recover.  It is about settling back into routines, work, and home life.  It is about reflection on the journey just ended, what we've taken away from it, and what we have learned.  The interesting thing about Blue Highways is that even though LHM doesn't appear to allow us to share in this stage with him, he actually does.  He wrote Blue Highways after his return, which allows his thoughts and reflections in the aftermath of his journey to influence his writing.

I have one more thing to write about these stages.  They are not static, and there is no boundary line between them.  We slip back and forth, in and out of them.  Like many things in life, they are unpredictable, and we may not even experience some of them.  They happen when and if they should.

Musical Interlude

I hadn't planned to use Johnny Cash again so soon, but I liked his version of this song, Banks of the Ohio.  It's one of those nice gory murder ballads.  If you'd like another version, try Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, Joan Baez, or even Olivia Newton-John.  My favorite version, by Mason Brown and Chipper Thompson, is not on YouTube.

If you want to know more about the Ohio River towns

City of Portsmouth
Forgotten Ohio: Utopia
Ohio History Central: Manchester
Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce
Portsmouth Convention and Visitors Bureau
Portsmouth Daily Times (newspaper)
Roadside America: Utopia
Shawnee State University
Village of New Boston
Wikipedia: Franklin Furnace
Wikipedia: Friendship
Wikipedia: Manchester
Wikipedia: New Boston
Wikipedia: Portsmouth
Wikipedia: Utopia

Next up: Cincinnati, Ohio


Blue Highways: Ironton, Ohio

Unfolding the Map

We have traveled far, and are now in the last chapter of Blue Highways.  We pass through Gallia County, which provides some nice contrasts of nature and progress, and then through Ironton, which once served as an engine of progress for the United States in its production of pig iron.  To see where Ironton sits, please see the map.

Book Quote

"'Inquire Locally,' the road should have been marked.  Of the thirteen thousand miles of highway I'd driven in the last months, Ohio 218 through Gallia County set a standard to measure bad road by with pavement so rough I looked forward to sections where the blacktop was gone completely.  Along the shoulders lay stripped cars, presumably from drivers who had given up.  Yet the sunny county was a fine piece of washed grasses, gleams in hounds' eyes, constructions of spiders, rocks broken and rounded - all those things and fully more.

"At Ironton I took the river road down a stretch of power lines, rail lines, water lines, and telephone lines (the birds sleep across the water on the wooded Kentucky bluffs, they say)...."

Blue Highways: Part 10, Chapter 4

Aerial photo of downtown Ironton, Ohio. Photo hosted at City Data. Click on photo to go to host page.

Ironton, Ohio

The interesting thing about Blue Highways, as we head into this last chapter of the book, are the contrasts that LHM writes about that you might miss if you don't pay attention.  I know that as I read the book, I sometimes get too caught up in where he's going, and I miss a few interesting things that are whizzing by the van in my anticipation of what town is next, or what person he might begin talking to.

It's those moments where I really get into the text that I realize that these juxtapositions are all over the place in the book for us to compare with each other.  In the text above, it is easy to just glance past a theme that permeates many parts of the book.  LHM makes a subtle contrast between broken down and intrusive human-made features of the landscape - the rough road, the abandoned vehicles, power lines, rail lines, water lines and telephone lines - and the sunny county, the fine and washed grasses, gleams in hounds eyes, spider webs, and rocks.  The human made stuff is presented as obstacles.  The road is horrible, the cars have an air of futility.

Signs of progress, such as the lines that provide power, transportation, water and telephone, are intrusive.  I love how LHM writes that the birds don't even use the power lines, preferring the natural trees and bluffs across the river.

I probably come across sometimes as anti-modern in these posts as I decry some of the harmful effects of technology and progress.  I'm not.  I'm as fascinated by progress as anyone.  I'm sitting here typing this on a four year old laptop that is woefully out of date.  It was the height of progress when I bought it, but now it is too bulky, a dinosaur compared to the sleek MacBook Pro that my wife is cursing at right beside me (she's attempting to figure out WordPress and having a devil of a time).  I'd love a new computer.  I have a smart phone in my pocket and am waiting to get the newest Samsung Galaxy III.  We have a Sony 19 inch TV that we got probably 10 years ago from a friend, and I dream of getting an LED or LCD flat panel screen TV sometime.  I regularly surf the web on an iPad provided by my job.

I read with gusto the latest scientific accomplishments, from the micro to the macro, from the human body to the depths of the universe.  I watch science fiction avidly, and am never happier than when immersing myself into Star Trek, Firefly or Battlestar Galactica.  I dream of what the world might be 50, 100, 1000 or even 10,000 years in the future.

Yet I'm no Pollyanna.  I see serious problems with progress.  It has made life better for billions of people, but it has also created just as many hazards as benefits.  Because of progress, the world is becoming seriously overpopulated.  The world is beginning to feel the adverse effects of climate change brought on by industrialization and modernization and I understand that the effects will only get worse.  Millions of deaths and casualties are possible at the touch of a button.  Groups that fear progress, or feel left out of the benefits, have grown terrorism from a global nuisance to a global problem.  Antibiotics have cured untold millions, but have also helped evolve "super bugs" which are harder to cure.

And some progress just hasn't happened like we were promised.  Cars do not run on water, they are still running modified versions of the original internal combustion engine, a concept essentially unchanged since its inception over 100 years ago.  Nor are there any feasible flying cars.  We haven't colonized the moon, or Mars, and in fact haven't sent any person beyond earth orbit since the last Apollo mission in the 1970s.  We could be snuffed out in an instant by a well-aimed asteroid.  And for all our signals to the cosmos, there has been nary a peep back - not even a hiccough. 

We are still at the mercy of floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural phenomena.  People still pick up guns and kill each other in shopping malls, theaters, schools and battlefields.  We are just as likely to go to war as we ever were.  Poverty still exists, even in the richest nations on earth.  People still die of starvation.  In the midst of health care crises, we still argue over whether the government should provide basic health care to everyone.  We still expect much, and are yet unwilling to pay for it.  We are still willing to take and exploit, but not willing to give back much.

To me progress is all it promises, and it is nothing of what it promises.  Which is why I probably identify so much with what LHM writes on a deep level.  I can appreciate the seemingly simple, intuitively complex beauty of nature just as he does.  Despite my love and appreciation of progress, I can still get lost in the beauty of trees, grass, the gleam in my dog's eye, and birds in the branches.  If I get caught up in the modern world, it flashes by like scenery in the windows of LHM's van.  But when I take time to notice, and take in the world as it is, without the flash of progress, I often find peace.

Musical Interlude

The topic of progress dovetails nicely with Ironton, which at one time supplied the pig iron used to build industrial America.  That seamlessly fits with Johnny Cash and The Legend of John Henry's Hammer.  Below is the live recording from his famous Folsom Prison concert.

If you want to know more about Ironton

City of Ironton
Ironton Rally on the River
Ironton Tribune (newspaper)
Ohio University Southern
Wikipedia: Ironton

Next up:  The Ohio River Towns (Franklin Furnace, New Boston, Portsmouth, Friendship, Manchester, Utopia)


Blue Highways: Gallipolis, Ohio

Unfolding the Map

As we cross the Ohio River, and into Ohio, William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) talks a little about the origins of Gallipolis where he stays on what I think is the last night of his Blue Highways journey.  He relates a little of the history of Gallipolis, but as I looked further into it, it seems that the origin of the town came about because of a bit of fraud committed by an unscrupulous French company on some French emigres.  To see where Gallipolis came to be, despite the bad beginning, look at the map.  I wouldn't con you!

Book Quote

"With what was left of day, I crossed the Ohio River into old Gallipolis, a town of a dozen pronunciations, a gazebo-on-the-square town settled by eighteenth-century Frenchmen.  Although a priest once placed a curse on Gallipolis - I don't know why - residents today claim it's the loveliest French village on the Ohio."

Blue Highways: Part 10, Chapter 3

 Downtown Gallipolis, Ohio. Photo by Youngmerican and hosted at Wikimedia Commons. Click on photo to go to host page.

Gallipolis, Ohio

It seems that Gallipolis was founded because of that centuries-old American pastime - the swindle.

How many times have you laughed when someone says something like "...and if you believe that, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you!"  How about the age-old jokes about selling some rube the Brooklyn Bridge.  Those figures of speech came into our consciousness for a reason.  It appears that there was a lot of swindling going on back in young days of our country.  The reason swampland in Florida became synonymous with swindle is because a Florida land boom in early 20th century led to many people buying land unsuitable for habitation.

Because it was literally a swamp.

Land swindles in the United States are even older than that.  In the 1790s, wealthy financiers convinced lawmakers in Georgia to allow them and their cronies to buy 35 million acres of land for a paltry sum.  The sale was eventually nullified, but not after people got very angry and, I imagine, some Georgia politicians were thrown out.

Of course, the US government swindled many American Indian tribes out of land, as well as their resources.  The Walking Purchase was a land deal in the 1730s, possibly based on forged or non-existent documents, that gave William Penn, and later Pennsylvania, 1.2 million acres at the expense of the Lenape (Delaware) Indians.  In 2003, the Delaware asked for the right to get back 314 acres of that land, and were rebuffed by Pennsylvania.  The case was brought in federal court, and then appeals court, but the Lenape lost each time even though the court agreed that there was probable fraud in the original agreement.  The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The New York Times reported in 2003 that a class action suit brought about by 300,000 American Indians claimed the US government cheated them out of $137 billion over 115 years.  The money was made by the government through exploitation of natural resources, grazing rights and timber leases but somehow did not get into the trust fund set up for Natives and administered by the Department of the Interior.  That trust fund, established in the late 1800s, itself may have been the cause of many swindles.  According to the Times, in 1887 individual Indians owned a combined 138 million acres of land, and today only own a combined 10 million acres, with another 45 million acres owned by tribes.

And columnist Jack Anderson, in 1984, outlined a government attempt to push two Shoshone sisters off of their land by arguing in court that their offer to buy the land, even though refused, gave them title to it.  Such an argument, if legal, would certainly make my efforts to buy a house much easier and a hell of a lot less stressful!

In New Mexico, near where I live in Albuquerque, one of the biggest land swindles ever was perpetrated.  Rio Rancho Estates promised a great financial investment for retirement, financial security, and education of children.  The lots were nothing more than barren desert land, with no infrastructure, which the sellers had purchased for $180 per lot and sold for over $11,000 for "residential" lots and $25,000 for "commercial" lots.  The swindle was the basis for David Mamet's play Glengarry Glen Ross.  Surprisingly, today Rio Rancho is the third largest city in New Mexico, and poised to become the second largest in the near future.

American history is littered with swindles, from the claims of snake-oil salespeople to Enron.  It was in the United States that Charles Ponzi found a gullible public to set up an investment scheme that couldn't help but collapse under its own weight.  That we haven't gotten any less gullible is proved by the success that Bernie Madoff had in maintaining his own Ponzi scheme before it collapsed and ruined the lives of many people.  P.T. Barnum supposedly stated that "there's a sucker born every minute," and even though his contribution of this phrase is under doubt, the fact remains that we all are suckers at some time or another.  We give money to street con-artists who prey on our good natures by saying that they need a couple of dollars for gas to get home to their babies, and take our money given in good faith to buy alcohol or drugs.  We allow unscrupulous mechanics to do subpar jobs on our cars, keeping us coming back, before we finally catch on to the scheme.  We allow people into our lives whose sole purpose is to get things for themselves without a thought or care about who it hurts or how it hurts.  I like to think that it's because at heart, we are a good people who care about others well-being.  Sometimes, we unwittingly let a few sociopaths occasionally yank us around, though on bad days I wonder if the sociopaths are the ones who laugh at us as they make millions and accumulate.

And Gallipolis?  How does it fit into this story?  A group of French aristocrats, frightened by events in France (which would eventually lead to the French revolution), emigrated to the United States.  A company called the Scioto Company sold lands in Ohio to French investors.  They were promised a wonderful place, akin to the Garden of Eden.  In 1790, the former artistocracy showed up to claim their investments, only to find that the Scioto Company had never owned the land.  They had nothing.  Fortunately for them, they were able to petition President George Washington, and as a result the Ohio Company sent some people and they built a log cabin settlement for the disillusioned French.  Gallipolis grew out of this initial settlement, founded on a swindle but turned into "the loveliest French village on the Ohio."

The curse on Gallipolis, referenced by LHM in his quote, had nothing to do with the swindle.  A French priest allegedly cursed the town because it refused to turn away from sin.

Musical Interlude

I'm shocked, but I had trouble finding songs about land swindles.  There are songs about con men, however.  Here's an oldie from Golden Earring called Con Man.


And for a perspective on the cons and swindles perpetrated on Native Americans, here's a live performance of Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines doing Jim Thorpe's Blues.

If you want to know more about Gallipolis

City of Gallipolis
Gallia County Chamber of Commerce
Gallipolis Daily Tribune (newspaper)
Wikipedia: Gallipolis

Next up: Ironton, Ohio


On the Road: Columbus, Ohio

Click on Thumbnail for MapUnfolding the Map

Sal and a situational girlfriend (i.e. bus traveling companion) make it to Columbus, where they part ways and he continues his journey back home.  While her path diverges into the unknown, we'll keep following Sal to the conclusion of his.  Click on the map to get your bearings.

Book Quote

"She was coming from Washington State, where she had spent the summer picking apples. Her home was on an upstate New York farm. She invited me to come there. We made a date to meet at a New York hotel anyway. She got off at Columbus, Ohio..."

On the Road, Chapter 14

 1940s or 50s aerial view of Columbus as it looked when Jack Kerouac came through

Columbus, Ohio

In 1995, my fiancee, who was studying journalism at Marquette University, went to Columbus for a summer for an internship at the Columbus Dispatch.  She spent her time copy editing, usually getting home late at night to her apartment in Columbus' German Village.  We were due to be married that September, but she wasn't getting back to Milwaukee until August, so a large share of the wedding responsibilities were going to fall to me.  As most women understand, men aren't usually known for their involvement in planning weddings, and for me it seemed like a daunting task.  I got her settled in the German Village, and after a weekend helping her get situated, I drove away feeling quite lost and lonely and aware of the responsibilities that I would have to shoulder.  I hoped I wouldn't screw them up.

A year before that, she had gone to Topeka, Kansas as a summer intern for the Topeka Capital-Journal.  It was her first internship, and really, her first summer away from me since we had started dating.  I wasn't feeling as lost or lonely at that time, but she certainly was.  She got settled in an apartment with someone she didn't know, and I spent a couple of nights with her before driving back.  She was very nervous, couldn't sleep, and actually made herself nauseated with worry over her internship and my leaving.  She cried when I headed back to Milwaukee in the small van we rented to take her bed and other things down to Kansas, but she soldiered on and had a successful summer.

I mention these partings simply because human contact in a time of change seems so very important.  The emotional support is often needed and wanted by people undergoing change or facing uncertainty.  I can think of other times when my wife and I parted, such as when I made a four week journey to Bangladesh as part of my Masters program, or when she went to India for five weeks as part of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange, or when I most recently in 2008 spent five weeks in El Salvador at a language school.  The support she gave me, and the encouragement, was invaluable, and especially before my foreign trips where I was very nervous about heading into the unknown of a developing country alone.

Yet I often wonder if I would have felt so much apprehension, loneliness and even regret if I hadn't had that support.  Would I have just plunged in, devil-may-care, because there was nobody holding my attention, nobody I had to worry about, nobody who would worry about me?  I wouldn't trade my wife's worry for me for anything because it makes me feel special and loved.  But, how would my attitude have been different were I unattached?

I ask because clearly, Jack writes Sal's character at times as that same damn-the-torpedoes type of adventurer who has no attachments or worries, who takes off at the drop of a hat when he feels like it.  But at other times, he shows Sal to be a man of attachments; a man who pursues Dean Moriarty all over America, who shows the very human emotions of regret and wistfulness as he leaves Terry, and who seeks out female companionship on a bus ride across America back home.  I suppose we all have these two aspects of character as we travel to new places and search the unknown.  Mark Twain once had Huck Finn state his desire to "light out for the territories," and I often have that urge to just get myself up, out and on to exploration.  But as I grow older, and my attachments deeper, I have a better sense of what I leave behind when I go, and that makes it harder.

If you want to know more about Columbus

the 270-a Columbus blog
CMH Gourmand
Columbus' Best Blog
Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau
Columbus Dispatch (Newspaper)
Columbus Foodie
The Other Paper
Wikipedia: Columbus
Wikipedia: German Village

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