Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Getting railroaded into prison in Ohio (Project 88 report)

This is a busy week, with the Russia State Fair, aka the Russia Homecoming Festival, this weekend. Truth is, I don't have to do so much; but there's a lot of coming and going.

So let me squeeze in a report from my latest jaunt as part of "Project 88," my plan to visit all 88 Ohio counties. This last Sunday and Monday, I ticked off eleven! Here's how it went.

Sunday afternoon, after a couple of baptisms, I headed off for Port Clinton, in Ottawa County. This is Commodore Perry territory; if you take the ferry over to Put-In Bay, you can see the monument commemorating one of the U.S.'s few victories in the War of 1812. I didn't take the ferry, but I did look around Port Clinton. Here's the Veterans Park. It was pretty elaborate, including an eternal flame (picture didn't turn out, sorry).

In case our British friends, or Canada, gets rambunctious, Port Clinton has a tank:

A lighthouse, looking out on Lake Erie:

From here I headed east along State Route 2, then turned south in Loraine County, passing through Brownhelm, where I pulled over to get this pic:

In case it's not clear, this isn't an active gas station. A sign made me think the local preservation society was responsible for this. Anyway, nicer than the decay I've seen so often. Heading down S.R. 58, I saw signs for "New Russia"! Didn't get a picture, however. I was headed to Oberlin, home of Oberlin College and the Gibson family bakery. Don't know the story? You can read it here, but the gist is this: some college kids got arrested for shoplifting at the Gibson bakery in Oberlin -- a town dominated by the college of the same name -- and the "woke" contingent of students went crazy. Some of the administrators appear to have egged the students on, resulting in the Gibson bakery family -- having suffered severe economic damages -- filed a lawsuit. Which they won, to the tune of $44 million, later reduced to $32 million. The whole thing is pretty outrageous, and I'm glad the Gibsons fought back and won. So I made a special trek to the Gibson bakery, here:

Looking around inside, I was impressed by the wine and cheese selection. While the bakery does have baked goods, it more a small grocery, and I was tempted by the cheeses and sweets, I bought a bottle of wine and a water. While checking out, I told the clerk I'd come all the way the across the state, and made a special visit here just to show support (I explained a little about my Project 88, as well). She let me take her picture:

Here are some sights around Oberlin, which despite being infected with far left ideology, is a pretty nice looking town. Here's the oldest church in town, which helped with the Underground Railroad back in the day:

Here's an explanation of the church: it was built for the legendary Presbyterian preacher Charles G. Finney, who was part of the Second Great Awakening (oh how we need a third, or a fourth, if the late Tom Wolfe was right?), and later pastored by a woman preacher.

Here's the Allen Art Gallery. Isn't that lovely?

Then look what the Philistines did! They glommed some ugly building right onto it. So dumb.

And then this, right in the center of town:

You know what was perfect here? The UN flag -- that's the rightward most one. While the U.S., Ohio and Rainbow flags were in great shape, the poor UN banner was completely faded and looked pretty ragged. Unintended irony?

From there I headed west into Huron County, passing through Wakeman. I looked over and saw this and shuddered. That's a church?

But soon I saw this, and calmed down:

Saint Mary Church, Wakeman, Ohio
When I was researching for this trip, I discovered the amazing Thomas Edison was from near here: Milan, Ohio, in Erie County. Even though I've been to Erie, I'd never visited Edison's birthplace. Growing up, Mr. Edison was one of my heroes. So it was worth a short detour, even though the museum was going to be closed. Here are some sights. First, a really cool statue in front of the town hall, which matches one on display in the U.S. Capitol:

In case you can't tell, Edison is holding both the light bulb and the phonograph. Here's where he grew up:

Here is more information about the great Edison:

By now it's past six, and I have a few more stops. Here's the Zion Episcopal Church in Monroeville, done in an unusual style:

The church is no longer in operation; it's just waiting for someone to fix it up, or else to fall down.

Next stop was dinner. I chose the Freight House in Norwalk. It turned out to be an interesting place, all done up in a railroad theme. There was a model train running around the perimeter of the restaurant, overhead; I got a photo, but only later discovered an off-color license plate was in the shot! I enjoyed a nice plate of ribs and some tasty beer. Here's the place:

From there I headed down the road a mile to my hotel. Cheap but not scary, if you know what I mean. Under $40 a night! I'd normally not give that a second look, but it had high reviews. It was run by a nice family with two young children. It was clean and quiet, but the a/c acted strangely during the night. Thankfully it was pretty cool outside. The mother told me I didn't work it right (duh!).

The next morning I was up early, and after hitting the McDonalds for breakfast, I figured out my plan. I realized I had some extra time, so I decided to drive east and take in two counties not on my original plan, Medina and Wayne. I'd still get back to Mansfield, for the main highlight, on schedule. I'd planned for fuller visits here later, but I can still do that; but for now, it was a single stop in each county. My first stop was the Crittenden Farm, which was actually someone's house, and didn't look open for visitors. My phone ate the photo however. This brought me into Ashland County. From there I drove east along U.S. 224, through several nice towns, stopping in Homerville. Not much there, but I did get this picture:

I saw the fellow driving the horse and buggy for awhile, but sometimes the Amish don't like their picture taken, so I figured this was more polite. Then south on 301 to West Salem, taking me into Wayne. This caught my eye. It looked like a church...


Only it wasn't:

By the way: anyone who travels around the country can't help be struck by how frequently you find Masonic temples, either active, or else their old buildings, used for other purposes. There's a story there, but I'm not the one to tell it. Anyway, I've got to keep moving!

From West Salem I hopped on U.S. 42 to take me to Ashland. If I stayed on 42, it would eventually become Reading Road in Cincinnati. For some reason, it fascinates me to drive on a new part of a road I've been on, many, many miles away. In Ashland, I still had some time to kill, before my main appointment of the day, so I found this coffee shop, Downtown Perk. The fellow in the kilt (at the counter) is a bonus.

After this, I headed over to Mansfield, to visit the Ohio State Reformatory, first tour at 11. My best friend Brad will be disappointed; he suggested we go together, but I didn't think it would work with me zigzagging through eleven counties. I'll make it up to him. Anyway, I didn't want to miss the first tour, so I hurried over -- only to be stuck in a line of cars waiting for the gate to open, which it did, right at 11. Of course it's no longer a prison, but whoever runs it offers several tours, one about the movies made there (including Shawshank Redemption and Air Force One); but what intrigued me was the "Inmate tour":

Real-Life behind bars may be difficult to understand unless you have lived it. Such is the case for the tour guide, Michael Humphrey, who spent 14 months here in the late 1960s. Walk through the prison as Michael leads you through a normal day for an inmate and hear stories that stick with Michael all these years later. 

Alas, I found out it's only available on weekends; and the Hollywood tour didn't start till noon. So, I opted for the self-guided.

Here's the outside; you can see people lining up for the later tour:

Here's a fellow answering questions in one of the first rooms you visit; these are the areas that were public in the old days, and they've been fixed up nicely. He was a friendly fellow. In another room, there was equipment used for executions. When I realized that people had actually been executed with the things I was looking at, I decided no pictures, and I moved on. Yes, they most likely deserved it; but we'll be better off if we don't kill people we don't have to.

Here is a room seen in Shawshank:

Here's one of the cell blocks, five levels high. Even with fresh paint, this must have been a terrible place.

One of the cells. It is actually smaller than it looks.

 There weren't a lot of people at the prison with me, and almost all of them were waiting for the Hollywood tour. I had this whole place seemingly to myself. Creepy.

After this, it was time to head west toward Crawford County. My next stop was Galion, where I wanted to see the Big Four Railroad Station -- the same railroad that used to run through Russia (now CSX). Here it is:

It's all fixed up, and tours are offered -- but not today. A lot of Galion looked beat up, but this caught my eye:

From there I turned south toward Mount Gilead, bringing me to Morrow County. Here's the center square. There was a lot of traffic, it wasn't easy getting to this safely, but I did.

Here's a closeup:

Oh, by the way -- back on U.S. 42!

From here I turned east again toward Chesterville. This is one side of downtown; across the street looked a little better:

Continuing along S.R. 95, I passed into Knox County, heading for Mount Vernon. My great-great-great-grandfather, Adam Fox, who served briefly in the Maryland Militia during the Revolution, lived here for a short time, before making his way to Cincinnati and then dying in Indiana. Anyway, here's a monument to those who suppressed the "Great Rebellion":

Nearby are some markers telling a lesser-known story from the War Between the States, of a private citizen who opposed the war, and was arrested for no other reason than that:

Think what you like about Abraham Lincoln, but there are dark sides to his legacy.

This restaurant caught my eye. I resisted temptation to get a malt:

It was after 2, and I had a bit of a drive home, so I opted to only go as far south as Utica, bringing me to Licking County, and then turn west, skipping Fredonia, where I hope they have some commemoration of Groucho Marx. Here's a mural in Utica, telling a story:

Did you realize window glass used to be hand-made? When it was, Utica was king.

And that's the last of my photos! Sorry, it was starting to rain, and I had a 2+ hour drive home. From there I headed down U.S. 62, through Johnstown, the home of the late, great state conservative congressman, John Ashbrook. A little further south I took the Columbus, 270 beltway around to U.S. 33, thence to Bellefontaine and then home.

Next trip? I'm not sure. Maybe back east, to check out the Amish in Holmes County, our national park, Cuyahoga Valley, in Summit, and the NFL Hall of Fame in Stark? Or maybe Hocking Hills in Hocking, and knock out a few down that way? Only 18 to go!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Ask the right question: not how many, but how (Sunday homily)

Perhaps you have noticed that there are times when 
someone asks Jesus a question, 
but his response doesn’t really answer the question!

What Jesus is doing is answering the question 
that should have been asked.

So, today, “Someone asked him, Lord, will only a few be saved?”

But what does Jesus say? 
First, he refers to a narrow gate—so that sounds like “few,” right?

But, later, he refers to people coming from east and west, 
north and south—that sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?

So the question Jesus actually answered was, 
not “how many” are saved; but simply, how to be saved.

So, how are we saved? By striving to enter the “narrow gate.”

In the Gospel of John, 
Jesus says, “I am the gate, 
and whoever enters through Me will be saved.”

Someone might wonder why the gate is “narrow.”
That sounds bad.
But remember why cities, in his time, had gates:
Because they also had walls.
And walls are for safety-to keep out threats.
In our day, those walls and gates are at the border.
In our Lord’s time, they were around cities.

And narrow gates mean you can see clearly who comes and goes.
And that seems perfectly apt for Judgment Day:
No one will slip by into the Kingdom. 
One by one, you and I will meet the gaze of Jesus our King, 
and either he knows us, or not.

A narrow gate doesn’t mean only few enter; 
it means you have to be patient and wait your turn.
It also means that while you might squeeze in,
Nothing you bring along will.

A lot of folks carry a heavy load of unforgiveness and bitter memory.
Did you ever consider that one of the first people 
you meet in heaven might be that person who you say you can’t forgive?

What will you do then?

Notice what our Lord said:
“Many will attempt to enter, but won’t be strong enough.”
In fact, none of us is “strong enough”! No one!

You and I have got to drive out of our minds  
every last trace of the idea that any of us 
gets to heaven because we’re good enough!

No one walks into heaven on her own!
Remember what Jesus said about the lost sheep?
How does it get home? 
The Lord puts it on his shoulders.

Because Jesus is “strong enough”—and he will carry us through!
But he probably will say, 
“I’m not carrying all that other junk. Just you!”
Till now, there’s a word I haven’t uttered: hell.
Is hell real? Jesus thinks so. He talks about it a LOT.

In the Gospel, Jesus says that people will be cast out, 
because he never knew them.
What that means is that there was never a true friendship.
Sure, they ate and drank with him—but they didn’t know Jesus, 
which is to say, they didn’t want to know him, not as he actually is.

We all love it when he says stuff we like;
And we shift around uncomfortably when he says things we don’t:
Whether it’s about money, or sex, or forgiveness, or suffering or ego.

I asked, a moment ago, 
what if you find in heaven a person you can’t forgive?
What are our choices at that point?
Entering heaven means letting go of that.
And if you can’t? What’s left?

The conclusion I reach is this:
No one is “sent to hell” as much as people refuse heaven.
We “refuse” heaven by refusing the graces God gives us.

Many times I’ve had someone come to confession, 
with deep remorse, and very fearful about God’s judgment 
because their sins weigh heavily, and they fail so frequently.

I told them, and I tell you: that no matter what sins you battle,
No matter how many times you fall down, 
If you keep coming to confession, you will go to heaven!

And circling back to the difficulty of forgiving other people:
one way we grow in the power to give forgiveness
is to experience forgiveness the more powerfully.

That is to say:
The deeper the gratitude you and I feel for what we’ve been forgiven,
The easier we will find it go give forgiveness to others.
So again: go to confession.

Jesus was telling that person he met that day,
it’s not about how many are saved, but HOW to be saved.

And he, Jesus, is the “how.”

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ohio old and sad (Project 88 report)*

Day two for my exploration of Ohio's northeastern corner.

From Geneva-on-the-lake (in Ashtabula County) I headed south. My first stop was going to be Clarence Darrow's Octagon House in Kinsman, and into Trumbull County, by the way. But first I came through Gustavus, home of the "federated" church. That sounded interesting. Here it is:

Apparently, it is a combined United Methodist and United Church of Christ congregation; the website mentions something about a Presbyterian church as well. I'm glad everyone gets along so well in Gustavus! Anyway, here's the town hall:

Here's Clarence Darrow's house:

Just as I arrived, the guy who lives here showed up; "no problem!" came his response to my request for pictures. He explained his landlord was planning to fix it up.

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a lawyer; and Clarence Darrow was the sort of attorney I imagined being.

Next stop? Niles, Ohio, home of the 25th president, the fifth from Ohio, and the third president to be assassinated. Here's his monument:

All around were several other busts; a woman from the library told me they were either cabinet members or advisors. For example, Mark Hanna, who masterminded McKinley's campaign:

And here's the sixth Ohio president -- the only man who served both as president and chief justice:

Several more busts were inside the library -- which turned out merely to be a local public library, across the way was a presidential library, which was closed of course! -- and these were benefactors who helped build this memorial. For example, Andrew Carnegie:

Niles is where McKinley was born and grew up; a few steps down Main Street is the spot, occupied by a replica of that house. 

What became of the original? This kind lady explained it to me:

The original house was divided into two; then each part was moved elsewhere; then when McKinley became famous, someone obtained the two parts and put them back together, locating them somewhere else in town (she told me but I didn't remember that detail); then that person fell on hard times, vagrants took over the house, and it was burnt down. Only a few things in the house actually belonged to the McKinley family.

Here are some views of the house. William was number seven of nine children; with four bedrooms, so the children would have slept three or more to a room:

Here's a view of the kitchen and part of the dining room.

Here's some of McKinley's political memorabilia:

After Niles, I planned a visit to Hiram (in Portage County) -- this was my last chance for anything Garfield, as there was a house there he lived in, probably when he attended college there. But first I passed through Warren, Ohio, which was one of the earliest settled areas of the state. Alas, lots of decay there:

 I snapped this as I drove by. The sign is still there, although nearly overgrown; the cafe, with all it's wonderful coffee, is long gone. Finally, GPS led me to Hiram, home of Hiram College, and to this location:

Presumably, James A. Garfield lived here; but there was no indication that it was open for the public, so strike three on Garfield, and I moved on.

My last stop of the trip was going to be Kent State University, where on May 4, 1970, four students were killed when Ohio National Guard soldiers fired into a large mass of students and others protesting the Vietnam War. Before I got there, I passed through Freedom and Ravenna:

I've passed LOTS of Mail Pouch barns, but this was the first I got a picture of. It looked in good shape!

Like so many college campuses, it wasn't easy finding the right way to get onto Kent State campus, or to find legal parking. Someone from the university waved away my concern about a ticket: they'll just figure you're a parent helping your kid move in.

Here's some information about the events of May 4, which is commemorated on campus with a center providing more information and background. Without going into all of it: it was a difficult time.

 Here's a view of the area where the demonstrations happened. I might add, for clarity, that one of the buildings on campus was burned down and there had been rioting in town. It was tense, not peaceful, as here:

The four students who died were killed in a parking lot, and so it remains today. The places where they were shot are marked off with pillars thusly:

Here are closeups:

The four who died: Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; Allison B. Krause; age 19;  William Knox Schroeder; Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20. Nine others were wounded.

You may be wondering, why the stones on the pillars? I'm guessing, but this may be reflective of Jewish custom of leaving a stone when visiting a grave, so that the family knows someone visited. Two of the deceased students, according to Wikipedia, were Jewish.

After this, I headed home. I made a small detour through Summit county, before getting back on I-71 and U.S. 30, then home.

Progress to this point? This trip brought me to five new counties, leaving 13 I've only driven through, and 16 I've never visited in any way, for a total of 29 I'm still planning to visit in coming months. If it works out, I'll make another outing this coming weekend, taking me back to the lake, and then down through the center-north part of Ohio; if all goes according to plan, I'll tick off nine more counties, four of which I've never visited at all.

* After some thought, I changed the headline, "new" to "sad," to reflect the content.