Issue 3

Hello, friends.

It has been a pretty amazing three months. In the last ninety days, my family and I have dealt with everything from a major plumbing breakage (raining in the kitchen) to an emergency room visit to my landing a new job. It’s all been very exciting, but alas, for a long while I didn’t get any traveling in. And when I don’t travel, it is hard for me to write The Bindlesack.

However.

It looks as though the major things are behind us now, and I’m pleased to say that my wife and I did get some road under our tires a few weeks ago. We went to Cardinal, Ontario to visit a friend’s farm, and along the way got to hang out in Rochester and Buffalo New York. Additionally, I made it up to Detroit and my best friend and I took a day trip to Youngstown. My tank is full(er) again, and when that happens, the words flow.

Welcome back. It’s good to see you.

Notes

Border crossings are nerve wracking.

Forty-eight hours before leaving for Canada, my wife pointed out that maybe we needed to do something special with our prescriptions. Like take them all in their bottles.

Now, this seemed a little absurd to me for a simple overnight trip. We were barely going to be in Canada for 24 hours, but this triggered my “obey the rules and don’t draw negative attention to yourself” anxiety that I get when dealing with law enforcement. So we researched. And made phone calls, looking for a way around this.

(I’m on a lot of medication. And this was a pain in the ass. So, research.)

All the answers came back: you need to have everything in their original bottles, with just enough for your visit (or they might think you are smuggling drugs).

WIth a deep sigh of frustration, I spent the time to sort everything back into bottles, filling little ziploc bags to leave at home. (Ziploc bags of prescription drugs? Me, a dealer, officer?) After a time everything was sorted and labeled, and we were ready to go.

And when we got to the border, they never asked. Not going out. Not coming in.

Dammit all.

Selah: On Distraction and Transition

I left my job of nine years to move to a new company and a new position. I took some time off between the positions to process the change and to make some decisions of how I wanted my life to be going forward.

There is an old Hebrew word for this: Selah. Pause and consider.

A lot has happened to me in the last nine years. Divorce, single parenthood, a second marriage, one daughter moving out, a second on the way. Money issues, money windfalls, and a new lease on life after paying off many of my debts. Wrestling with the place of the internet and social media in my life. During this time between jobs, I wanted to take time to digest all of this, to make some sense of it, and to mindfully decide how I wanted to move forward.

In my life, I find that the single greatest detriment to feeling good about what I am accomplishing is distraction. This has manifested in a number of ways over the years, but the most common pattern was to feel like I was doing nothing “for me” or “with my life,” getting involved with groups or projects both online and off, time passes and I start feeling overwhelmed, then I shut everything down an cocoon for a while. And then, a few month to a year later, I would repeat the cycle.

I decided I wanted to stop that. What was it going to take? What was I missing?

For a very long time now, I’ve had the desire to shut down all pinging. All the messaging systems, all the social media, all the distractions that I felt kept me from finding my focus. The problem isn’t the internet or social media itself; it’s me. I’m easily distracted. So to find focus, I shut everything down. I removed everything social from my phone except text messaging. I turned off alerts except for phone calls. I only checked my email twice a day, and even then, never on my phone: only on a computer.

Let me tell you, it was lovely. And truth is, I’m not planning on going back.

Quotes

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. -Aristotle

Politicians are addicted to spending and revenue extraction. As with an addict, there’s little pause for moral or legal contemplation. -David Malpass

Woe to the man who is always busy – hurried in a turmoil of engagements, from occupation to occupation, and with no seasons interposed of recollection, contemplation and repose! Such a man must inevitably be gross and vulgar, and hard and indelicate – the sort of man with whom no generous spirit would desire to hold intercourse. -William Godwin

Marlow, Sort Of

I did a fair bit of traveling between jobs, but Marlow wasn’t one of the place I went. So, for your Marlow news, I bring you the Interesting Items from the Police Blotter from the last couple months.

  • Officers detained a male, 21, outside The Reckoning tavern, after watching him urinate on a parking meter, parked car, and a passing stray cat. When approached, the man reported that he had been kicked out of the bar before having time to use the restroom.
  • Officers were dispatched to the Delta Gamma house at 2:13 am to break of a spontaneous outbreak of doo-wop singing outside the window of one of the sorority’s members. The five gentlemen were given a warning about the nature of consent and noise laws and remanded to the custody of the university’s security team.
  • A resident of Fireside Lane reported that a raccoon was trapped inside one of her metal trash cans and requested that the beast be removed. Said animal was not a raccoon. Officer Peckinpah will be back on duty after removing the skunk smell from himself and his vehicle.

I’m going to try to get down to Marlow in May. More news after that trip. If there is someplace you want me to visit, drop me a line.

Books

Deep Work by Cal Newport

i’ve read this book four times now, and I keep getting new things out of it.

The core premise of Newport’s work si that one requires focus to do their best work. In order to attain that focus, one must eliminate as much distraction as possible. In this book, he targets many of the sacred items in our offices: email, social media, chat, and even cellphones themselves. He counsels the read to question the value of every distraction, asking that we place a value on our work, and on our relationships with others. He teaches the reader a frame of mind which is a breath of fresh air: what you want achieve is important, and it is okay to act like you value it.

Highly recommended, especially if you struggle with tech distraction, as I do.

Recipe: Sausage and Cabbage

This is one that my wife and I like to make as comfort food. It’s pretty simple. We use the instant pot version below, but we’ve done the oven version as well, and both are delicious.

Ingredients :
– 1 pound of mild/sweet Italian sausage
– 1 stick of butter
– Several cups of shredded cabbage (we buy the bags of shredded cole slaw in the produce section)

Oven version:
In a 9×9 pan, layer a cabbage base, then cut up half a stick of butter into small pats and place them in a grid on the cabbage. Take half a pound of the sausage and flatten it a best you can, place on the butter/cabbage layer. Repeat cabbage and butter layer on top, then the rest of the sausage, then one more layer of cabbage (no butter on the top). Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Instant Pot Version:
Layer in the instant pot as stated in the oven recipe. Cook on the meat/stew setting for 30 minutes. Vent for 15 minutes, then eat.

List of Nine: Names Of My New Bands

  • Guinea Pig Hot Tub – 8-bit punk rock band
  • The Mannikins of Distinction – Jazz
  • Free Beer No Cover – Alt Country
  • Filthymonkeydonkeykong – Avant Garde Mandolin Trio
  • The Beatles – 1960’s Blues Fusion
  • Drizzle the Dutch – Clog dancing accordion quartet
  • Raventhong – Nordic Death Metal
  • Huffing Hedgehogs – Trip-hop
  • Signora Giovanelli’s Traveling Menagerie – Industrial/Italian Folk Fusion

Influences

  • Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • The City of Olmstead Falls, OH
  • Lunch with Sarah at Pete’s Place in Taylor MI
  • NOT listening to the news

Endnotes

  • Thanks for your patience. It’s been a rough couple of months. It feels good to be back.

See you next time. Let’s be careful out there.

-Chris

Issue 2

Welcome back. I hope you’ve been well. If the road hasn’t been smooth, at least I hope you’ve learned something along the way. I know I have.

Where I live, we are starting to turn the corner from winter into spring, and as such, it’s possible to get outside with one or two fewer layers than before, and that makes walking and hiking much more enjoyable.

When the weather turns like this, I seek out my favorite neighborhoods around Ohio and spend some time hiking them, looking to see what’s new, what’s changed, and what I still enjoy. This month has been a good one; I took trips to Mansfield, Amherst, Oberlin, Marlow, Ashland, Little Italy on the east side of Cleveland, the Brewery/Market district on the west side, and a little quality time in Akron as well. Everywhere while snow is decomposing into grey slush and the hardier city plants are starting to poke up through the sidewalks. The coffee shops still run, and along with a cleared sidewalk, that’s all I need to get the thoughts and words flowing.

Enjoy this issue. It was a lot of fun to put together. As always, you can reach me at chris@bindlesack.club if you have any comments, questions, or good coffee you want to share.

Notes: All Hail the Vodka God

About a month ago, the world’s most expensive bottle of vodka was stolen.

It was on display at Cafe 33 in Copenhagen. The bottle of vodka was valued at 1.3 million dollars. The bottle was made of 6.6 pounds of gold, 6.6 pounds of silver, and capped with a diamond encrusted stopper shaped like an imperial eagle. It was created by the Russo-Baltique luxury car company to celebrate one-hundred years in business.

For you House of Cards fans…yes. It was THAT bottle. It was, tragically, uninsured and was on loan from a prominent Russian businessman.

It vanished from Cafe 33 on a Tuesday. It was found the following Friday, empty, at a construction site within the city.

Brian Ingberg, the owner of the bar, was ecstatic and relieved to get the empty bottle back. “I feel fantastic. The vodka god saved us,” said the bar owner, who vowed to sleep with the bottle under his pillow from now on.

All is vanity, my friends. All is vanity.

With a View Of The Neighborhood

My father took me to downtown Cleveland when I was a little boy. He’d grown up a couple miles away on Trowbridge Avenue, a neighborhood which has now seen better days, likely his. He took me to Cleveland’s municipal stadium long before it was torn down to make room for the Rock Hall and Science center. We visited Terminal Tower when it was still just a terminal, not a shopping mall. I was amazed by the city. I told my parents I wanted to live there when I grew up.

Over the years, that desire has come and gone, but this weekend I am indulging it again. My wife and I are staying in Little Italy on Cleveland’s east side. No driving. I vowed to park my car in the lot and not move it until we check out on Sunday.

I love walkable neighborhoods. Small shops, bars, old churches, and art galleries placed I the corpses of old factories and schools. Watching a neighborhood sprout these places is like watching the trees bud in late winter, a sign of good things to come when the ice thaws. I always wanted to be one of those people who could walk the streets of a city and find a little place to hole up in to get some writing done. I am an early morning person, not a late night person, so it was always more likely the be a coffee shop or diner than a bar. I would rise early and hike the empty streets after the bars closed but before the sun was up, surrounded by old houses, brick tenements, and most of all, history.

Much ink has been spilled about the evils of gentrification, and perhaps I am one of the people making that possible, the stereotypical white suburban middle-aged man dwelling in these places, spending too much for a cup of coffee and helping drive lower income folks out as rents rise. Frankly, I think that’s a lot of pressure and responsibility for a cup of coffee to bear, but I don’t feel a lot of guilt. It’s too big. There is a tendency these days to need to connect all of one’s actions to some great movement or wrong, to see ourselves as part of the solutions or part of the problem. But that’s not really how the world works: it is larger and more complex than our monkey brains can track, the vectors of causality more varied than even our best software can predict. Our stories are too broad, and we lose our perspective in the generalities. The details matter, but are best viewed through our own eyes because we don’t live anyone’s story but our own.

And so this morning I rose early and walked across the street from the bed and breakfast to the Rising Star coffee shop. I walked through a sleeping city neighborhood, brick streets quiet, the bars closed. I am the first in the door for my drug of choice, and I find a comfortable seat near the window to watch the world go by while I indulge. I reflect on the character of these old places, all the while aware of my own hypocrisy; that I chose to move back to white middle-class suburbs to raise my own children, because of racism, or maybe classism, or because everyone wants their children to be like them but better; the old fears disguised as a concern for The Right Schools and the Safe Neighborhoods. And in the same sip, I find myself considering leasing an apartment here when my last child is grown and I no longer need to live in white suburbia.

Even writing does not help me untangle the complexity of these desires. Thanks for listening. I’ll figure it out someday. But for now, I pull out my iPad, itself a powerful symbol of something, and start writing this essay. Because I am almost never happier than I am when I am sipping coffee and a place with history and putting words to the page.

I’m pretty happy right now.

Quotes

“These things you insist are hard-and-fast rules are mostly just opinions. And as such, can be ignored.” -Michael Lawson

“It was true that the city could still throw shadows filled with mystifying figures from its past, whose grip on the present could be felt on certain strange days when the streets were dark with rain and harmful ideas.” – Christopher Fowler

“I walk the line.” – Johnny Cash

A Brief Oral History Of Marlow, Ohio

“The history?” she asks. “Of Marlow?” MUR-leh. Naturally.

“Yes. I was curious.” I state, settling in at the bar.

I am at The Reckoning, the tavern/restaurant on the main drag in Marlow. It is a Monday night, and the place is dead. I am one of four patrons, and the only chatty one, so the barkeep has no problem spending a little extra time on me.

She tells me her name is Nettie Anderson. She’s related to one of the folks that founded the town lo these many years ago. “Coming up on the bicentennial,” she reflects absently, wiping down the bar. If I had to guess, and I do…because I’m not going to ask, I’d put Nettie in her late twenties. Out of school but not yet sure what to do with her life. At that stage when a young person can be a bartender as a stop gap, not as a life choice.

“My great-grandfather was John Marlowe. He was the older brother that founded the town. His younger brother, Benjamin, started the university a few years after they settled here with their families. They bought the land from Elijah Boardman and within a few years, they were selling off plots to other farmers and merchants as they moved into town.”

“Marlowe with an E?” I ask.

“The family name is always Marlowe with an E. The town, well, there’s a story behind that. One sec,” she says, and heads down to check on the other patrons at the bar.

I sip my beer and make some notes. She’s back in about ninety seconds. “The feud,” she says, “is about the University.”

“How so?”

“Well…Ben got greedy. Ben is B.F. Marlowe, the face on the seal of the college. John’s little brother. He started the University and built the first building on John’s property. If you talk to the other side of the family, they’ll say that it was Ben’s, but they’re wrong.” She says it with a tone of finality that tells me this is well-trodden ground.

“Ok. So the brothers fought over that?”

“Sure. This started a few years in. While John was filing the paperwork to incorporate as a village. When he sent in the paperwork, everything seemed fine, but when the charter came back, the name of the town was missing the final E.”

“I bet that was unpopular.”

“Both families were mighty pissed. At first.”

“At first?” I prompt.

“At first. Ben, it turns out, was apoplectic about it. Batshit. Frothing at the mouth. Thinks it’s going to hurt the University. Well…John starts thinking about that. And he quietly allows the deadline for corrections to pass. And thus, we live in the city of Marlow.”

“The next year, Ben had that big marble block that sits in front of the Big Hall shipped in. “MARLOWE UNIVERSITY” big as life. The joke on campus is that the call that Ben’s Final Word. But it wasn’t.”

“What was?”

“No idea. Not my side of the family.” She refills my glass.

“So…how does this play out now? Are there many family members from either side in town?”

“Many left. Some of Ben’s side are still involved with the college. They still bear the name. John had two sons and five daughters, so there’s family around but the names have changed.

“It’s not bad, really. We don’t do a big family reunion if that’s what you think. Not since granddad tried to stage one in the seventies. That was a goddamn mess. The only time a shot was fired in this whole thing.”

I fight to stop a spit-take. “A shot?”

“It was a BB gun. My uncle, who was in his teens, lost control of it and accidentally shot a member of the other side in the ass. It was little more than a scratch, or so I was told, but the other side made a big fuss. There hasn’t been a lot of speaking since.”

“Ok,” I recapped. “So I get the spelling difference now. But what about the weird pronunciation?”

“Oh,” she said. “Ohio, man. Ohio. The people who moved here started mispronouncing it not long after the town was founded. The family on both sides gave up on that in 1900.”

We chit-chat a bit more before my beer is empty and I need to start the trek back home. The time I spend in this place, the more interesting I find it.

“Why are you asking about all this?” she finally asks.

I shrug. “Curious. You have a nice town here. Reminds me of where I live now, but the history is new to me. Seems like you have some good stories.”

“Where’s that? Where you live?”

“Medina.”

She chuckles. “Ohio, man. You know you’re saying it wrong.”

“Not for living in Ohio, I’m not. You live in MUR-leh. I Live in Meh-DIE-na. It’s a strange old world.” I close out my tab and leave a tip on the bar. “See you next time.”

“Not if I see you first.”

I chuckle and head out into the Midwestern night.

Books

  • Furnishing Eternity: A Father, A Son, a coffin, and a Measure of Life by David Giffels *

David Giffels is little something of a hometown hero in the Akron area. His book The Hard Way On Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt was a big hit in certain circles and his devotion to a city that can be hard to love sparked an increase in civic pride. Akron’s been coming back for a long time now, from when the rubber plants shut down, from when the downtown nearly died. Giffels grew up through that, wrote about it, and made many people remember what a great place Akron can be.

His new book, Furnishing Eternity is about how he decided to build his own coffin.

During the project, he would enlist the help of his eighty-something-year-old father, a retired civil engineer who is known to be restless tinkered and expert woodworker. Together, they would work on this project, through turning seasons, through the death of Giffels’ mother, through the untimely death of his best friend.

Despite the weighty subject matter, the book is far from maudlin. Giffels’ good humor and self-deprecating style lifts the prose into a meditation on growing older, facing mortality, and trying to find the sense and story in a million little moments, each too precious to forget, and sometimes too big to be fully grasped. I laughed out loud several times while reading it, especially when he and his wife discuss the logistics and storage of said casket.

This is a book about husbands and wives facing the next big event after the kids grow up, about a son trying to grow into his father’s shoes and realizing they don’t fit. It’s about what friends leave behind when they go, and how we keep them with us. It’s about a person facing the only other thing we will all experience in time, and coming to something like peace with it.

Recipe

Irish Soda Bread is one of my comfort foods, and it is best shared. Bake this, take it to a friend’s house. They’ll thank you unless they are all low-carb-keto-Ima-change-ma-life-dieting. Which I am. Dammit.

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk (for use in brushing on the bread, not for mixing in)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness after 30 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

What if

What if you acted like yourself? What would you do? What change would you make?

What if money wasn’t free speech?

What if people weren’t resources to be exploited?

What If a train left New York at 300 miles per hour, and accelerated speed 15 miles per hour, and traveled a distance of 683 miles, tell me sir: what time would that train reach Chicago?!

Influences

Endnotes

Thanks to Elyria for the coffee and the place to sit.

Thanks to Cat for understanding that sometimes I need to be alone to write.

Thanks to Thomas and Pamela for the love and encouragement.

Thanks to you all, for taking the time to read.

See you next month. Let’s be careful out there.

Issue 1

Most of the time, the first episode of a thing will introduce the thing. It will tell you about the creator. It will tell you what to expect.

Forget that. I can’t tell you what to expect.

This is a journey, and we are travelers together. You’ll learn about me along the way, and maybe I’ll learn something about you as well. Maybe I’ll learn something about me, and by reading along, you’ll learn something about you. It’s a big world…anything is possible.

Don’t worry about the destination. No goal, no ETA, no clear path. We’re going to go exploring the possible things together, you and I.

Welcome aboard.

What Is A Bindle Sack, Anyway?

Look at some old pictures of people traveling about this time last century. See the ones with a small bag tied to the end of a stick, slung over their shoulder?

That sack is called a bindle. No one is sure why; it could be a corruption of bundle or a portmanteau of bundle and spindle. Bindle. Most famously hobos used bindles. In the art of the time, you often saw pictures of kids imitating those hobos when striking off for ADVENTURE. They’d sling their bindles over their shoulders and light out for parts unknown.

That’s what this is. A bindle sack of words and ideas for you to carry with you on the road. Take it with you on your adventures. We are all on an adventure, after all. We should be prepared.

Notes: On The Naming Of Cities

Naming a city seems like a mighty big deal, fraught with purpose and significance. Learned folk would take time to contemplate a name with meaning.

According to most accounts, the city of Medina, Ohio was named by the proprietor of the land, Elijah Boardman. He considered this small town to be the end of the road for many of the settlers from Connecticut, and as a learned man chose a name that would connote such a gathering place.

He named the city Mecca.

Unfortunately, reality would rain on his parade. The Postmaster informed the city that there was already a Mecca, Ohio. There couldn’t be a second.

Since this was to be the county seat, they chose the name Medina (meh-DEE-nah, now mispronounced as meh-DIE-nah) as it was the capital of Arabia.

See there’s a story there. That’s good stuff.

However, in the case of Brunswick, Ohio, the town located three miles to the north…

“In order to select a name, the early settlers put a number of names in a hat and simply drew out “Brunswick.”

Sure. Like you do.

Source: Ohio Town Names by William Daniel Overman

Outside The Walls

The dead of winter is a might be a strange time to get out into Nature, but that’s something I do when the temperatures drop below freezing. I go for long drives in the snow and the wind, watching the drifts crawl across the road. I get out into the local park to walk and hike. I watch the birds pick the last seeds from the herb garden and I watch the deer forage in the brush at the back of my yard.

I consider the contrast between the world as it evolved and the world we create within walls and windows. That contrast is interesting to me. It’s a small example of how mankind seeks to separate itself from Nature.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time outdoors. My backyard as bordered by the woods. In the summers I would spend whole days hiking back there, following the stream as far as could, learning how to read where I was and growing familiar with the natural world that surrounded me.

When I got a little older, I started riding my bike places; to work at the library, with my golf clubs on my back to the golf league. My house was out in a more rural part of the suburb (no sidewalks, dammit), and as a result, nature’ along the roads were less manicured and more barely contained wilderness. The was an amazing variety of plants and trees to look at, many animals to observe.

In the early years of college, I was involved with a medieval reenactment group. We spent time in the local parks, chasing one another around and beating each other with padded sticks. If it was cold, we built a fire in permanent grills the park system had planted near the picnic shelters. If it was hot, we’d bring water bottles to drink from and occasionally dump over our heads.

My childhood and early adult life was filled with nature. We live in it, it is at our borders. We see to tame it in out gardens and housing developments, but wait a season it is will start to revert to its natural state. The world without humans would function just fine, thank you very much.

I often wonder if our tools make us weaker when they make us more comfortable. These days, we move from one climate-controlled box to another, complaining about the small amount of nature we come into contact with, usually the weather.

Our natural world is a closed system. We have an effect on it, and conversely, it had an effect on us. Instead of hiding from it, maybe we should meet it where it lives, instead of trying to wipe it out.

A lot of damage has been done to the planet by those who believe we are put here to dominate and subdue Nature. There is a disregard of the interdependence of all things on the earth, and therefore, a disregard for the consequences. That seems childish and unwise to me. How can a person exist in this closed system and not know that pouring poison into the air will make anyone breathing that air sick?

We cannot subdue or dominate nature. We can embrace it or take shelter from it, but we cannot block it out or ignore. We are a part of it.

We should make a practice of meeting Nature on her terms, even in the times when it is inhospitable. The world we have created is very comfortable, but we are not animals built for comfort. We only improve ourselves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually by testing ourselves against an uncomfortable circumstance. We only grow when challenged.

It’s certainly a challenge to get out in the winter. It’s cold. The parks are snow-covered and icy. Yet, time in nature recharges our brains, allows us to get away from our manufactured lives and see something that we didn’t create. Recent studies have shown that as little as thirty minutes a week outdoors helps reduce stress, improve vision, and results in sharper thinking and creativity.

I think this is especially important given the time we spend at work, toiling away for someone else’s profit. In the words of John Muir, “I am degenerating into a machine for making money.” That doesn’t seem healthy. You are not what you produce for someone else, and you are not a resource to be mined until you are used up. Taking time away from the office during the day and getting outside is a quiet rebellion against our productivity-obsessed culture.

I never appreciate my warm house or my comfortable chair as much as after a walk in the woods on a cold day. The world is a place of sharp contrasts, and the reminder of those contrasts sharpens our senses makes us aware of ourselves and our condition like nothing else.

Be Yourself

“I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I must be myself. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and if we follow the truth it will bring us out safe at last.—But so may you give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me and do the same thing.
The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides.”
— Raldo Waldo Emerson

“I gotta be me.” – Frank Sinatra

Books

The Akron Anthology

Belt Publishing, edited by Jason Segedy

A couple of years ago, Belt publishing made their mark locally by publishing a book then titled Rust Belt Chic. It was a collection of stories about living in Cleveland, Ohio. I really enjoyed reading long-form essays about the area my extended family called Home, even though I grew up in the suburbs. Hearing about the ways the neighborhoods had grown and changed was good for my soul; I still enjoy walking throw those old neighborhoods when I can make the time to do so. To read about people loving a place in spite of (and often because of) the challenges of living there warms my heart and inspires me.

Since then, Belt has put out a number of volumes where local authors share essays and stories about their cities. Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Youngstown, and now, Akron.

The Akron Anthology carries on the tradition of being one part celebration, one part commiseration, and part nostalgia that is the hallmark of the other volumes in the set. It’s a worthy member of the team. Having spent some of my formative years (college) in Akron, I can see the places the authors are talking about. The remind of things I’ve forgotten. Or introduce me to places I’ve never been, and they do it with humor, compassion, and the characteristic bluntness common to citizens of the rust belt.

Even if you’ve never been, these pieces give you a taste of how Akron was, is, and is becoming. It’s not ruin porn, that peculiar fetishization for decaying urban landscapes that are drafted by people not from around here. Instead, it’s a loving look at a place in transition by the people who live there.

The twenty-three essays in this volume covered everything from being a doorman at a concert venue to watching a refugee community grow and thrive to a frank look at a now-defunct Hobbit-themes watering hole. You get history and sentiment with a good dash of wry humor.

I enjoyed it. I recommend it. You can pick up a copy at Belt Publishing’s website.

Warm, Hearty Fare

Martinez-Barnes Beef Stew

(I created this stew on the fly when some friends were coming to visit. It’s held up over the years. Perfect for a cold winter day.)

  • 1 lb stew meat
  • 2 tbsp Worchester Sauce (these days, I often use Mushroom Ketchup)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce (or, you know, that leftover spaghetti sauce in the fridge)
  • 3 cups of water or beer broth
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1 tsp red pepper seeds
  • 3 peeled potatoes, cubed
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil and add the onion, celery, garlic, and carrots. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the meat and the Worchester sauce, cook until the meat is browned. Add everything else and simmer until the potatoes are done. Serves 4.

It’s Pronounced MUR-leh

My wife is a kind soul. She understands that every week or so, I need to get away from things for a few hours. We call it my Off The Grid time. I shut down my phone and go spend a little time alone.

My usual M.O. is to pick a place I’ve never been and drive there without using highways. I like the feel of the road under me, listening to music or podcasts, not speak, not needing to interact. I’m able to take in the sights along the way and contemplate whatever I’ve got on my mind.

This past week, I took off from work and drove southwest. I took the state routes through tracts of farmland and hills for about an hour or two.

Eventually, I found a good size town I’d never been to before. Marlow, Ohio.

Marlow’s the home to Marlowe University, a small college. I noted the misspelling of the town name…I figure there must be a story there somewhere. I’ll probably head to the library in town sometime to learn about it.

Marlow has one of my favorite features in a small town: a town square. The college takes up one-and-a-half sides of it, the rest of the square is small businesses and government buildings. I park my car in an open spot on the square and start exploring.

The signs vary between new and colorful and ancient and faded. I walk along, past an Indian restaurant called Krishna’s Blessing, a candle store, a bar called The Reckoning, a used bookstore whose sign is just BOOKS, a law office, a nail salon, and Louis Di’s Pizza and Music. At the end of the block, there’s a coffee shop, The Prince of Cups. Coffee is always my first stop of choice when I come to places like this: I head inside.

I swear I’m the oldest person inside by twenty years. College kids, man. There are small clusters of college students at the tables, some seated at four-tops chatting away, others basking in the glow of their laptops, alone with their headphones in their ears. There’s something about seeing books cracked open that makes me feel good…the world isn’t 100% digital yet. Some things, you’ve got to do the old way.

I approach the counter, put in my order (medium coffee, black) and start chatting with the dude behind the counter. He’s tall, lanky, clean-shaven. I’m pleasantly surprised at the lack of hipster vibe.

“Nice place,” I say. “I’ve never been to Marlow before. Nice to find a good coffee shop here.”

“It’s pronounced MUR-leh,” he corrects, setting my mug of hot coffee in front of me. He’s kind about it, but it sounds like he’s said it before.

“Ah,” I say. I get it. Ohio is a weird place as far as city names go. I live in Medina. Meh-DIe-nah, not meh-DEE-neh. Berlin, Ohio is BER-lin, not ber-LIN. And Mantua? That’s MAN-a-way. I kid you not.

Like I said, Ohio’s a little weird sometimes.

“And the college…?” I ask

“MAR-lowe, like the writer.” He shrugs. “It’s a little weird.”

“Any idea why?”

He shakes his head. I guess I’m going to have to go to the library after all.

I take my coffee and find a two-top where I can sit, sip, and read my book for a bit. I’m not there long. It doesn’t take a long time for me to either kill a cup of coffee or make a good dent in a book. Still, it comes as a little bit of a shock when the barista is standing over my table. I guess I got more involved than I thought.

“We’re closing in fifteen. You done with that mug?” he asks. I nod. He takes it away, and I pack up my things.

It’s a Monday night…I’m surprised the place closes down so early, but I suppose 8pm is about the time most of these kids (shut up, old man) start wandering back to their dorms or out to hit a late dinner or drinks. I envy them, a little. I’d be lying if I denied missing my college days a bit. Everything is rosy in hindsight.

I walk slowly back to my car. The night is cold, but not so bad that I need to hurry. I think I’m done for tonight. Time to head home…it’s about an hour drive. Time enough to listen to my audiobook and get lost in my thoughts for a bit.

Nice town, though. I’ll be back.

What If

  • What if the sun was red? What color would the sky be?
  • What if you could be somewhere else right now? Why would you be there?
  • What if you were a jello cup? What flavor jello would you be?
  • What if the bandersnatch was the opposite of frumious? What does that make it?

Influences On This Issue

Messages to Certain Readers Without Context

  • @Julia – Yes, it can be a brindle bindlesack.

Endnotes

I’d like to thank Tina Bell Vance for her assistance while I was trying to remember how CSS worked. You should visit her gallery. It’s quite good.

I would also like to thank the denizens of The Secret Lair. You know who you are.

I want to hear where you are on the road. Drop me a line at chris@bindlesack.club. If you allow it, I’ll share your letters in future issues.

Thanks for your time and attention. See you next month.