I WENT BACK TO OHIO
BUT MY CITY WAS GONE
THERE WAS NO TRAIN STATION
THERE WAS NO DOWNTOWN
SOUTH HOWARD HAD DISAPPEARED
ALL MY FAVORITE PLACES
MY CITY HAD BEEN PULLED DOWN
REDUCED TO PARKING SPACES
A, O, WAY TO GO OHIO
—The Pretenders “My City Was Gone”
It was a long drive back, but it was overdue. The trip took 14 hours by car or 2 hours by plane, the difference being time and 900 dollars. We choose the cheaper way, which meant giving up our time, but saving our cash. It had been over 20 years since I left Ohio for Florida, tired of the weather, tired of the lack of entertainment, tired of the job, tired of A, O, Ohio….
Originally it had been a calculated move to try to break into TV. At the time, Florida was on the rise for TV production. Hollywood was over priced and a lot of TV companies were filming in Florida. Before he was a racist, Hulk Hogan had a show, Nickelodeon had a studio, Disney built an animation studio, and many movies were being shot in the sunshine state. My roommates and me had the answer to the American version of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The writing was sharp. It was good. It was unique. It was damn funny.
It died, never to see production.
Then guess what only lasted a couple of years and then moved back to Los Angeles?
That’s right, what was suppose to be affordable answer to Hollywood, went right back to Hollywood.
Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.
But that’s OK, I liked the weather, the beach, the attractions, and had a decent paying job. Not a fulfilling job, just a decent paying job…that lasted way longer than I ever wanted it too. People came to Florida to visit me, because of the weather, the beach, and the attractions…so all was good(ish).
But now the long sleeve of time had drifted by, and it was time to show the kids where Daddy grew up, where Grandma and Uncle Jack lived, and why I left.
The drive wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, except for South Carolina. In South Carolina we had to drive through the thick of the state and cross from east to west through the middle of it to get on the right yellow brick road that lead us to our destination. Once through the borders of several States and a couple of mountain tunnels we where able to stretch our legs in the West Side of Columbus, Ohio. Rows and rows of corn and soybean fields ready to be harvested soon lined the drive and set the tone for the Midwestern look and feel. The weather was awesome. The scorching heat of the Orlando sun was replaced by cool breezes and white cloud filled skies. Even the grass was different, strong, vibrant green, unlike the stringy, breezy Bahia turf of Florida.
Time is constant though and things change.
Especially after twenty years, and I expected some of that…but the things that were there for my entire twenty years of living in Ohio, didn’t make it through my twenty years of absence.
Meijers is what Super Walmart is, but before Super Walmart started it’s domination march across the USA.
Through the power of friends on Facebook, I learned that Meijer’s was still around, just not in the place where I remembered it. The place area where I remembered it was now a UHaul self storage place. Moore’s was one of those little hole in the wall ice cream shops. It had been around since my birth, I figured it would be around until my death. But a new subdivision of cookie cutter homes over took Moore’s and the farm that was across the street from it. When I was a kid, I once trekked the mile to Moore’s with my own money to buy a double dipped ice cream cone. It wasn’t the walk that was bad, but the fact that the road was busy, full of semi trucks, and sidewalks were not important to the city planners of that day. I could have easily ended up just like poor Gage in Steven King’s Pet Semetery. Unfortunately there was no scared Micmac burial grounds to bring me half back from the dead if I was to be flattened by 18 Wheeler.
One thing that didn’t change was the legend of John Galbreath and his miles and miles of white fence. Galbreath is famous in Ohio for owning a massive farm surrounded by pristine white fence. The locals say the fence isn’t as well kept as it used to be when you could be employed to paint it a new coat of white as your summer job. When I lived there I never saw anyone paint the fence, nor did I ever see an advertisement for Galbreath fence painter in the local paper. Ever.
The fence looked like it always has…maintained as much as you can maintain 40 gazillion miles of white fence.
One thing nice that Ohio has that Florida doesn’t is nature parks. Now Florida does have theme parks, and parking lots, but not a lot of wooded picnic areas, walking paths, and creeks to skip stones across. This is probably due to the fact that most of Florida’s wildlife will kill you. Even the caterpillars will send you to the hospital if you touch them.
The trails and caverns were still all there, and even improved with bike paths and bison. Yes, one nature park stocked bison.
The four restaurants I worked for closed or moved. Chi-Chis, Cantina de Rio, Red Lobster, and Wendy’s. The Wendy’s is now a Popeye’s Fried Chicken. The Children’s Palace that was behind it and turned into a FYE, is now a Salvation Army Store. The field of grass behind that is a concrete dump pit.
The mall only contained one store.. It’s a big mall. It could probably house 30 to 50 stores, but the only open one was a Sears. Westland Mall was the place to hang in the 80’s…Aladdin’s Castle arcade, the restaurant in Lazarus, Walden Books with it’s great selection of comic books…
Now it’s only a Sears, some of those mall trees that mall developers put in every couple of feet to make you think you’re in an exotic and far away mall jungle, and a bum wearing no pants.
It’s expected for things to change, especially when you stay away for so long. Evolution and deterioration both had hands in the shaping of what my hometown’s current condition has become. Some things like the Big Bear grocery store being replaced by the Giant Eagle grocery store are small livable losses, other things like your high school work place now an abandoned building, next to the old Ground Round, which is also an abandoned building, seems like missing pages torn out of your high school journal.
But that’s life right? It doesn’t stay in one place, it’s constantly spinning on the invisible axis of our Earth globe. I just need Superman to rotate the Earth in the opposite direction in order to turn back time briefly to allow my younger self to take more pictures of the things I thought would last forever.
It was good to back among family though, the house filled with the cousins running up and down the stairs, laughing and screaming in delight, all of us around the table, eating, playing cards, talking…
It basically boiled down to that it didn’t matter what State we lived in as long as we all lived in that same State together. So, in the near future I maybe trading in palm trees for snow boots, but my family will help keep me warm in heart regardless.
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