Just Call Him Tex

Richard’s last day at the Florida Times-Union was Friday.  He’s left Jacksonville and, as we speak, is driving across the southern rim of the United States, skirting the Gulf of Mexico.  After a stop in New Orleans to visit a friend he’ll make his way to San Antonio, Texas, where he will be starting a job with the San Antonio Express-News.

Richard enjoyed his job at the Times-Union and gained some great experience there — but the opportunity presented at the Express-News was just too good to pass up.  The career of a young journalist tends to be an itinerant one, where moves from one paper to another are common.  Already Richard has worked for four dailies, in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and San Antonio.  And his move back to San Antonio is a return trip, because he worked there several years ago as an intern.  Richard’s experience shows the value of internships, because the Express-News staff remembered him from his intern days and sought him out for this new position.

So it’s so long to Jacksonville, and hello again to hot and bustling San Antonio, where Richard will be doing special business reporting and investigative reporting.

The Long, Hot Summer

There was rioting in Baltimore Saturday night.  Demonstrators protesting the death of Freddie Gray broke windows, smashed storefronts, threw rocks, and vandalized cars.  Gray died from spinal injuries a week after being arrested by police, and his funeral is today.  The Baltimore protests follow protests last year in Ferguson, Missouri.

Gray’s death, the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police, and other recent incidents involving African-Americans and police have raised tensions in our urban communities.  One incident follows on the heels of another, and the barrage seems to be having a cascading effect.  Many African-Americans feel that they are being racially targeted and, at times, brutally mistreated by the police, and the police in turn feel that they are under siege and unfairly maligned for a handful of incidents out of thousands of uneventful apprehensions and arrests.

Those of us who lived during the ’60s remember summers where rioting and violent clashes with police seemed to be routine and block after block of inner cities in America were looted, vandalized, and left gutted and smoking by arson.  Many neighborhoods that were destroyed never recovered and are still haunted ruins even now, decades later.  The ’60s were an especially turbulent time for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean what happened then could never happen now.  Simple protests can turn into riots when people feel sufficiently desperate and hopeless.

At this point, many of us are holding our breath and hoping that we can avoid another high-profile incident that might prove to be the tipping point.  Having lived through the ’60s, I have no desire to see another long, hot summer.

Cranbrook Open Studios And House-Warming Party

This weekend it was back up to Cranbrook for the Open Studios event, where all of the artists open their studios to the public.  It’s a great chance to see what the students are working on — and it’s also a reason for them to straighten up their cluttered spaces, too.

IMG_5229This is a very busy time for the Cranbrook kids, and particularly so for Russell and some of his fellow graduating students.  They not only are showing their work at the Open Studios and in the Cranbrook Art Museum, but they’ve also decided to stage a group exhibition of their artwork in downtown Detroit.  Called House-Warming Party, the exhibition features pieces from Russell and 11 other Cranbrook artists.  The show, located at 2170 Mack Avenue in Detroit, is open on Saturday and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. and by appointment between now and May 10.

I know Russell has been burning the candle at both ends on this last big push before graduation, and I hope he gets a chance to rest a bit.  But his artwork at Open Studios looked great and seemed to attract a very interested crowd.  And I think the notion of Russell and some of his classmates venturing off the picturesque Cranbrook campus to stage an exhibition and engage with the artistic community in the city is very cool, indeed.  The grit and grime and spunk and comeback spirit of Detroit clearly has  influenced Russell’s art, and having a show is a good way to make a payback of sorts to the Motor City.

Kish and I will be seeing House-Warming Party when we go up for graduation.  If you are in Detroit between now and May 10, I encourage you to visit the Cranbrook Museum and the House-Warming Party to see what some up-and-coming artists are doing.  You can get more information about the latter at housewarmingshow@gmail.com.

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The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

IMG_5208Today I am very thirsty.  These days, I am very thirsty every day.  My mouth feels dry, dry, dry, all the time, and when I drink I drink a lot.  I bet I drink more water now than I ever did before.  Each day, I seem to set a new record!  Some days, I even want water more than I want food.

The Leader knows this.  It is why she is the Leader.  So there are water bowls everywhere.  There is a bowl by where I sleep.  There is a bowl where the packs stays in the morning.  There is a bowl in the hallway, where I like to sleep on the rug.  And, of course, there is a water bowl next to my food bowl, too.

Thanks to the Leader, I never have to go far to drink my fill.

Sometimes the old boring guy will not see a bowl and will knock into it and the water will slosh over the side.  Ha ha!  But the old boring guy doesn’t seem to get mad any more.  He just shakes his head.  And when he hears me drinking, he walks over and pets me and scratches behind my ear and asks how I am doing.  I bet he feels thirsty some times, himself.

Speaking of water, where is that bowl?  I am thirsty!

The Final Table

Last night Kish and I and the Unkempt Guy and his lovely wife caught The Final Table at the Studio Theater 2 at the Riffe Center.  In the interests of full and fair disclosure, I should note at the outset that I know and like Herb Brown, the author of the play, so you can take my comments with an appropriate grain of salt — but we had a great evening and I’d recommend the play to anybody who likes politics and is willing to see 20th century American historical figures presented from a unique, unvarnished perspective.

IMG_5204First, a quick nod to the theater.  Last night was the first time I’ve  been to a show at Studio Theater 2, and it is a wonderful, intimate venue.  The theater is in the round and seats less than 200 people.  We sat in the very last row and still we were close enough to see the actors and their facial expressions and hear the dialogue clearly.  It’s a perfect setting for a play like this, where the ultimate goal is get the audience thinking about the characters and the humanity behind their historical reputations.

The plot is that five American presidents — in order of appearance, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Warren Harding, and Richard Nixon — arrive from their own individual purgatorial settings to a room furnished only with a poker table and a dealer/protaganist who happens to be the Muse of History.  They are there to play poker for their immortal souls, at the whim of God and the Angel Gabriel, with the loser to be cast into the fiery pits of hell.  Obviously, it is a tantalizing and thought-provoking premise.

If you like history, as I do, you can’t help but be drawn in by the concept of the play, and Herb Brown does a good job of drawing out the issues based on the historical record.  Why would Dwight Eisenhower be put into a purgatorial cell that has a racial element?  How would Harry Truman interact with the man who defeated him?  Who would ultimately take a leadership role in this cast of Presidents and position them for an ultimate resolution?  And — perhaps most tantalizing at all — how would Richard Nixon play poker?

I won’t spoil the show, but suffice it to say that the play is funny, interesting, and far more vulgar than you would expect if your notion of American presidents is limited to the sanitized and marbleized versions you get in American history class.  The acting is quite good across the board, but I must give special kudos to Jon Putnam, who made Nixon a funny and curiously sympathetic and pathetic figure — not an easy assignment by any measure — and Ralph Scott, who was a titanic and appalling Lyndon Johnson.

The Final Table has drawn such good crowds that it’s run has been extended though May 2.  Catch it if you can!

The Ghost Bike

IMG_5197At the corner of Broad and State Street in downtown Columbus, a bright white bicycle stands.  And it’s not just the frame that is white.  The spokes of the wheels, the tires, the seat, the handlebars and grips, and even the kickstand are painted the same brilliant white.  The result is a bicycle that is so white it stands out sharply against the asphalt pavement and stone sidewalks and immediately attracts the eye of the passerby.

That is the whole idea. The bike is called a ghost bicycle, and it was put at the location by Ride of Silence, a group that exists to call attention to the number of cyclists who are killed or injured while riding their bicycles on public roadways.  This year the ride of silence will occur in Columbus and at other locations in North America on May 20.  There is no charge for riding.  Organizers ask participants simply to ride at no more than 12 miles per hour, wear helmets, follow the rules of the road, and maintain silence during the ride.

Interesting, isn’t it, that people whose first vehicle operated on a road probably is the bicycle they had as a kid can grow up to be motorists who seemingly are oblivious to the right of cyclists to share the street.  A nice person I knew was killed recently while cycling, and my friend the Biking Brewer has often mentioned that riding your bicycle on a public street can be a dangerous proposition.  If the Ride of Silence and its ghost bicycles can raise awareness of the need to be mindful of bicycles on our road, it’s doing a good thing.

Voting For The Mayor

I’ve worked in Columbus for 30 years, but I’ve never had a chance to vote for the Mayor of Columbus — until now.

Columbus is one of those communities where the central city is ringed by suburbs.  Our houses have been in the ‘burbs, rather than the city of Columbus itself, and when it comes to local government in central Ohio you vote where you sleep.  As a result, although for three decades I’ve spent most of my waking workday hours toiling away in downtown Columbus, paid Columbus income taxes, and enjoyed city activities and contributed to city coffers in countless ways, I’ve never cast a ballot for the Mayor and City Council members whose decisions have directly affected my daily activities.  Our move to German Village, which is in the city of Columbus, changed all that.

As I’ve noted before, Columbus is a reflexively non-partisan place, so it’s not surprising Columbus would have a non-partisan approach to electing a mayor.  The four candidates, from both political parties, have had four debates and will face off in a non-partisan primary on May 5, and the two top vote-getters will advance to the general election.  The candidates include current City Council president Andrew Ginther, who is seen as the favorite, Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, Terry Boyd, former President of the Columbus School Board and the only Republican in the race, and James Ragland, the development director at the Cristo Rey high school.

As a voter and now a Columbus resident, what do I care about?  Mostly, it’s continuing the culture and trajectory set by current Mayor Michael Coleman and his predecessors.  I want the city to stay a low-key, friendly, collaborative place that welcomes everyone regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.  I want more downtown development, and I’d like to see the wave spread to other neighborhoods, like Franklinton and the near east side.  I support tax policies, increasing school quality, and approaches to policing and physical security designed to reverse suburban sprawl and encourage businesses and people to locate in the city and its neighborhoods.  And I want to maintain the focus on spurring the things that are causing Columbus to be recognized nationally as a cool place to live — things like more and improved parks, community events and cultural activities, lots of good restaurants and places to spend an evening, and interesting and affordable neighborhoods where people are rehabbing and restoring old buildings rather than tearing them down.  Whether the mayoral candidates support legalized marijuana, which was a topic at one of the recent debates, is very far down my list of issues of importance.

In the period between now and the May 5 election I’ll be studying the candidates and their positions on issues of importance to me.  I’m excited about my first opportunity to vote for the mayor of Columbus, and I want my decision to be an educated one.