The Homeless Guy At The Window

I was in Brooklyn Sunday night and went to a Mexican restaurant near my hotel for dinner.  Because I was a single diner, the hostess asked if I’d like to sit at the bar.  I had a book to read and the lighting at the bar was a bit brighter than the table area, so I agreed.

I sat down at one end of the bar, ordered my food, and sipped at my glass of wine.  When I glanced up to look out a nearby window, a street person was there, staring in at me.  He was right up against the window, only a few inches from the glass, radiating that kind of aggressive, wild-eyed look that you see from some members of the homeless brigade — the kind that makes you give them a wide berth.  That’s weird, I thought.

IMG_6983_2I went back to reading my book, was served some chips and salsa and began munching away, looked over at the window again . . . and the guy was still there, giving me the hard-eyed once-over.  From then on, I became acutely aware of his glare.  And as my meal progressed, from time to time I would try to surreptitiously look over to see if he was still there — and he was.  And he saw me looking over, every time.

Why was he doing it?  Was he trying to guilt-trip me into going outside of the restaurant to give him some money so I could eat my meal without being eyeballed?  Was he just bored, and decided to pass the time by playing mind games with a random stranger?  For that matter, was he even aware of where he was, and what he was doing?  I didn’t know, of course, but I was sure that directly interacting with him, or acknowledging his presence any more than I already had, was not a good idea.

I began to wonder what would happen when I finished my food and had to walk past the guy to get back to my hotel.  I didn’t exactly relish the prospect of an unwanted encounter with an apparently angry man in a strange city on a Sunday night.  But finally, as I was finishing my food, I took one last glance over — and the man was gone.  I quickly got my check, paid it, grabbed my book, and hit the road.

It was one of those unsettling experiences that stick with you and make you wonder about the arbitrary elements of life.  I didn’t sleep very well that night.  Of course, he probably didn’t sleep very well, either — that night, or any night.

Everyday Everywhere Gambling

On the C concourse of Port Columbus, at the end of a row of vending machines, sits this colorful Ohio Lottery device.  It apparently allows you to play virtually every game the Ohio Lottery offers — from the scratch-off instant games to the full lottery drawing decided by the rattling ping pong balls.  I guess there must be some bored travelers who might want to pass the time waiting at gate C52 by getting a mini gambling fix, and if so, the Ohio Lottery is happy to help them feed the beast.

Turn on a football game, and you’ll see incessant ads for Draft Kings and Fan Duel.  The little fantasy football group at the office has morphed into a big business with commercials with footage of exuberantly celebrating winners and testimonials where players talk about their winnings and the thrill of competing for cash.

And, of course, Ohio is now home to three casinos and a number of “racinos” that combine horse racing with hundreds of slot machines.  No matter where you live in the Buckeye State, you don’t have to drive far to plop yourself in front of a one-armed bandit with a cup of quarters.  And if you go to a bar after your racino visit, odds are there may be a Keno game available for your enjoyment as you sip your beer.

We live in an era where it’s easier to gamble than it ever has been before.  Does anyone think that’s a good thing?

Plant Alley

IMG_6543Kish has made a lot of really good decisions about decorating our house, but one of my favorites is what she has done with the brick walkway leading to our back yard.  It used to have a flimsy wire fence, but Kish decided to replace it with a wrought iron fence and then hang some planters along the fence line.  Because the walkway is between two houses it rarely gets sunlight, so the planters are filled with plants that thrive in the shade.

The result looks very cool in my view, and reminds me of of what you might see in the Garden District of New Orleans.


It’s obvious that ad revenue on some free websites is tied to “clicks” — how many times people tap their mouse to access a story.  It’s one way for the website to account for its traffic and provide data to advertisers who want to know how many people are seeing their banners and pop-up ads.  Not surprisingly, many websites are set up to maximize clicks.  That’s why you often need to click “next page” to read an entire article, for example.

The most irritating aspect of the click-counting emphasis, however, are the articles that clearly are “clickbait.”  You’ve seen them featured on the websites you visit, cluttering things up like unsightly litter on the side of a highway:  where are members of the cast of an old TV show now, what “jaw-dropping” dresses got worn to a recent awards show, which celebrities have killed a person (number 8 will shock you!), what “weird trick” will allow you to immediately lose 20 pounds or secure your retirement, and on and on.  You’ve probably gotten to the point that you don’t even notice them anymore on the websites you visit.

What’s discouraging about the “clickbait” phenomenon, however, is that even more high-end internet content providers seem to be unable to resist publishing their own form of clickbait.  Those are articles that clearly are designed to stoke controversy and provoke criticism, in hopes that the articles will be linked and discussed on other websites.  They’ll gladly accept harsh bashings if a few more clicks come their way.

Even as august a publication as the New York Times isn’t immune from the lure of clickbait.  Recently the Times published an article called “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man” that can only be viewed as high-end clickbait.  It’s a silly piece that lists grossly implausible attributes of “modern men” — such as that they not only buy shoes for their wives, but will know their wife’s shoe size and which women’s shoe brands run large or small — and it’s gotten creamed all over the internet.  But I’m guessing that it’s been one of the biggest click-producers that the Times has published recently, and that will make the Times, and its advertisers, happy.  (I’m not going to link to it because the last thing I want to do is reward the publication of any more clickbait.)

It’s sad, really, to see publications like the Times stoop to the level of clickbait.  It makes me wonder what kind of long-term impact the internet is going to have on the quality of journalism in America.

5-0, 1-0

Ohio State (other than Ezekiel Elliott) didn’t exactly knock my socks off yesterday in their close win over a very game Indiana Hoosiers squad, but the statistics above are the ones that count:  Ohio State is 1-0 in the Big Ten and 5-0 overall.

IMG_1835Members of Buckeye Nation who bought into the team’s preseason hype are freaking out that Ohio State not only hasn’t crushed Indiana and its other opponents, but has struggled and doesn’t really resemble the team that rolled over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon at the end of last year.  And they’re right in the sense that this team has a lot to work on.  Way too many turnovers, stupid penalties, muffed center snaps, lack of timing between quarterback and receivers, some bad in-play decisions, and a general out-of-sync feel have kept the offense from showing its true potential.  The defense has been better, but it has had its breakdowns, too — and yesterday the offense did it no favors by failing to put together any sustained drives.  When you leave the defense on the field and let the other team run 30 more plays than you do, there are bound to be breakdowns.

I’m not going to join the chorus of Ohio State fans who are second-guessing the coaches.  This team obviously hasn’t gelled yet, and it will be on the coaches to make that happen.  Eventually, turnovers and penalties will bite you if they aren’t stopped.  But nevertheless, Ohio State has managed to find a way to win — and yesterday they did it against a fired-up team that looks to be on the upswing, on the road, in sloppy conditions.  Some good teams that weren’t having their best day would have lost yesterday’s game.  It says something positive about this team and its coaches that Ohio State didn’t let that happen.

Four teams ranked in the top ten lost yesterday, and two of them got crushed.  Other teams — like Michigan State — also struggled.  That’s the way college football works.  Ohio State fans should stop fretting about style points and start appreciating the Ws.

Cold Snap

Could the changes of season in Columbus get any more abrupt?

We went from the 80s earlier this week to the 40s today — and it was a blustery, windy, rainy 40s, besides.

When the weather changes so dramatically, it’s always a bit disconcerting, and it takes a while to adapt.  When I walked to work yesterday, I was looking forward to not getting overheated by my purposeful strides toward the office.  By the time I was halfway there, I was blowing on my hands to keep them warm.

Columbus is known to its residents for its unpredictable weather, especially during the winter-to-spring and summer-to-fall transitions.  According to my weather app, the temperature is supposed to bounce back into highs in the 60s in the next few days, which would be much appreciated.  We’re not ready to plunge into winter quite yet.