When I do get around, I write about it. If you want to read exclusively about my visits to United States presidential sites, you can do that over here.

Travel: Ohio

If we're being honest, about 90 percent of the stuff to see in Ohio has to do with the U.S. presidents, as most of them seem to come from Ohio. So you can read a ton about the Harrisons, Grant, McKinley, Harding, Taft, Hayes and Garflield over at the Dead Presidents page. I also have some stuff written up on the Nerdcation 2013 recap.

If we're being even more honest, I visited a lot of other places in Ohio before I started writing things down. You can also have a great time visiting places in Cincinnati (Great American Ballpark, Temple Hill sculpture garden, Loveland Castle, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center) and Dayton (the Wright Brothers historic site). Cleveland, you're kind of on your own.

The Cleveland Indians

June 21, 2007

The Chris White Somewhat Bombed-Out Industrial Cities of the Great Lakes Region Tour 2007 is now underway! Last night I rolled into Cleveland around 5:30 to take in the Phillies/Indians game at Jacobs Field. If you don't understand why it's important to visit different baseball stadiums whenever possible, please stop reading and go back to Russia. We cannot be friends anymore.

Location: B. The Jake is smack dab is right off all 48 of the Interstates that meet in Cleveland, so getting there is easy. It's surrounded by a lot of fun-looking bars all within a block or two, and the downtown skyline is practically on top of the outfield. It doesn't top Pittsburgh, which has a funkier skyline AND a bridge and a river in the outfield. But it's nice. It would be an A, but the stadium still happens to be in Cleveland.

Food: C. There's nothing bad about the food, but nothing really screamed "Cleveland." A guy in the team store recommended the hot dogs, but calling the hot dog your specialty food is like having "My Girl" as the first dance at your wedding. You're better than that. Prices were reasonable. Please note I deducted a full letter grade because the sodas do not have lids. This is a disturbing trend in stadium concessions -- why can we not have lids and straws? I'm guessing the answer involves a teenager with a mullet trying to stab someone with a straw, or playing frisbee with a lid near a railing, and then suing based on the results. Liability: the answer to all of life's dumb questions.

History: C plus. There's a nice miniature team hall of fame (a few plaques in a circle), but it doesn't really compare to the Reds Hall of Fame or the hellacious displays at Comerica in Detroit. The Indians have been around for more than a century, so it was a little disappointing. There was a Bob Feller statue, but where was the Willie Mays Hayes shrine? Fun Indians history fact: in the early 20th century, to honor player/manager Nap Lajole, the team was called the Naps. This would never happen today, but if it did, I would like to see the Diamondbacks honor All-Star pitcher Randy Johnson. Arizona Johnsons jerseys would sell HUGE.

Seating: A plus. Good sightlines from everywhere. It reminded me a lot of Camden Yards in this way.

Scoreboard: C. Nothing spectacular. The presence of Chief Wahoo on the scoreboard would improve this to an automatic A triple plus.

Fans: B. This grade is earned almost entirely by one guy in the bleachers with a drum (like the guy in "Major League" but without a costume). He did more to get the crowd clapping than any music cues or scoreboard videos, which by the way are huge factors in the death of sports fandom in America, but let's not go down that road right now. Drum guy played the whole game. I salute you, sir. The other fans at the game were pretty decent (and not abusive to Philly fans), but there were only 22,000 or so. Yes, it was a Wednesday, but the weather was PERFECT, the Indians are in first place, the Phillies are a pretty intriguing team to watch, and basketball ended last week. The place should have been packed. The Indians once sold out 455 consecutive home games, and now they can't get half capacity? IT'S CLEVELAND. What else do you have to do, people? Drink booze and eat fried food until you die young? If that's your thing, you can actually do it while watching baseball. Multitask.

Overall: It's a little bit plain when you stack it against the newish stadiums in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philly or Baltimore, but the point of stadiums is to watch baseball, and this is an excellent spot to see a game. However, the Phillies lost 10-6, so I am forced to give Jacobs Field an F minus minus. It should be burned to the ground and the ashes dumped in the Cuyahoga River. Then the Cuyahoga should be set on fire, AGAIN, to destroy the ashes. All this can be done while Lenny Kravitz's "Rock and Roll is Dead" blares from speakers on my private helicopter.

Fort Ancient

July 6, 2007

I stopped at Fort Ancient yesterday, because I've seen almost everything else in Cincinnati, and anything with a name like "Fort Ancient" probably looks like an Iron Maiden album cover, right?

It was therefore somewhat disappointing to discover that Fort Ancient a) had no giant flame cannons; and b) is a series of Hopewell Indian dirt mounds. It's a LOT of dirt mounds, but they're only about 6 feet high, and I was expecting 50-foot obsidian walls polished in a way as to reflect your attacker's greatest fears back at them.

The dirt was dug up through the use of clam-shell hoes and deer shoulder blades, not by silent men using the bloody skulls of their fallen enemies as scoops. The whole thing is only 1,400-2,000 years old, instead of standing athwart the eons, as old as man's will to fight. The inside of the fort is now a picnic area with a Dr. Pepper machine, not a 24/7 animatronic laserlight metal show on a constantly revolving stage.

There are some nice woodland trails, but for the $7 admission fee, I was really hoping to rediscover the primal essence of manhood, i.e. kill something with a broadsword.


The Ground Mound

The Fort Ancient on-site museum says it's not even a fort: the mounds have about 60 different openings, so they wouldn't have been much good for keeping people out. Also, unless your attackers are all in wheelchairs, they won't have much trouble with a six-foot dirt hill. Archaeologists now think the mounds might have religious significance, or maybe that the openings in the walls were aligned to various astronomical events (solstice sunrise, etc.).

The whole thing is perplexing -- the structure took centuries to finish and it involved moving dirt through the woods. I know they didn't have TV back then, but how bored would you have to be to get dragged into this project?

"Hey, we're making a giant calendar, do you want to help?"

Uh, don't we already know how to calculate the solstice? I mean, is this necessary?

"C'mon! It'll be fun! Grab a clam-shell hoe and join us in some backbreaking labor!

Shouldn't we be farming, or hunting, or developing an immunity to smallpox?

"It's not like you have any plans for the next 4 centuries!"

You got me! OK, I'm in!

I still say it was a fort. If there are no people around to say exactly what purpose the earthworks served, "crappy fort building" might be a good explanation as to why.

Toledo Museum

September 28, 2008

It seems strange that Toledo, a minor league baseball town, has a major league art museum. But they have glass money! Apparently in the 1890s, Toledo was the glass capital of the world, and so a glass baron built a pretty nice museum.

I checked it out Friday, because I like art, but mostly because it is free. Like most museums, they have a pretty good sampler of the European styles, but I thought the best stuff was American. There was a dynamite Thomas Cole painting called "The Architect's Dream"; he painted it for the guy who designed the U.S. Patent Office (now the Smithsonian portrait gallery) and Federal Hall in New York. It shows a miniature architect, reclining on top of a pillar, and a dreamscape featuring a sample of all kinds of classically awesome buildings. Neat, right? Well, the architect apparently hated it and refused to pay. Thank god for glass money. I also got prints of an Andrew Wyeth and a Georgia O'Keefe, which will proudly go into my collection of Posters I Have Not Bothered to Frame Yet.

The nice "Toledo" touch to the museum is the glass annex; it's across the street, and it's made of ... well, glass. It houses a nice collection of art glass, from the fancy modern stuff all the way back to the old decorative church stuff. The coolest thing in there was probably a woman's gown, with a train, made entirely out of glass -- minus the woman. Like an invisible lady was wearing it. Neat.

Back in the Day

As noted above, Toledo was the glass capital of world for a few shining decades. Many cities in the east have such distinctions:

  • Syracuse, New York: the number one producer of salt in the 19th century, earning the nickname "Salt City."
  • Columbia, South Carolina: For the 1910s and 20s, the world's leading producer of men with beards in white suits wearing monocles
  • Springfield, Massachusetts: From 1900-1936, Springfield was known as the "Rust Center of the North"
  • Norfolk, Virginia: the Western hemisphere's number one exporter of chlamydia, 1835 to 1874, before the tragic collapse of the chlamydia market
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: "Home of the Race Riot," 1915-1945
  • Altoona, Pennsylvania: from 1963-1973, the I Heart Altoona T-Shirt Capital of the Universe

One man's quest to be the humblest person alive
Copyright 2014, Chris White