It’s a windy, rainy Beggars’ Night tonight — which makes it very difficult to keep our jack o’ lanterns lit. Although the weather isn’t ideal, we’ve had a decent number of trick or treaters this year — but out of an abundance of caution and a fear that we’re going to be stuck with gobs of leftover candy, we’ve also moved to the “take a handful” approach earlier than normal this year.
It was the summer of 1976. I had just finished my freshman year of college and was working at the Alpine Village resort in Lake George, New York with a bunch of other high school and college kids — along with one 30-something guy named Jerry, a Vietnam War vet who captained the Alpine Village boat and who was focused with laser-like intensity on achieving meaningful dalliances with every unescorted mother bringing her two kids up for a week-long stay at the resort.
Jerry’s family owned a house that was located nearby. It was the old family homestead, a sprawling, century-old house back in the woods that was still fully furnished, although no one lived there. It was a convenient place for Jerry to take those lonely young mothers.
One night Jerry invited the lot of us to the house for a clambake and sleepover. The house was like a scene from Arsenic and Old Lace or a Vincent Price movie, complete with creaky floorboards, odd family memorabilia, portraits of long-dead relatives whose eyes seemed to follow you when you moved, dusty drapery, and unexpected alcoves where you might be startled by your reflection in a mirror as you passed by or the sight of a stuffed raccoon. It was a creepy place, and Jerry told us without much elaboration that family lore had it that the place was haunted by at least two ghosts — a weeping woman who had died during childbirth in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and a boy who had been killed by a fall into a well out back.
We chuckled at the story, gobbled our clams and burgers, and drank more beer than a responsible person should.
That night, I awoke after I thought I heard an odd noise. It was black as pitch, and the wind was blowing. I stuck my out of the bedroom door and out of the corner of my eye noticed some movement down at the end of the upstairs hallway. I didn’t have my glasses on, but something seemed to be moving down there. The floorboards creaked, I suddenly felt cold, and the hairs on my arms stood on end — then I retreated to the room, shut the door, and got back into bed, soon to fall into alcohol-assisted slumber without further incident.
The next morning I explored the other end of the hallway. There was a mirror and window, and a table with some old framed photographs. Perhaps I saw myself in the mirror, or curtains blowing in the early morning breeze? I’m not sure.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Quoth the raven: “Nevermore!”
Today NBC’s Today show reported on the Beggars’ Night plans of a Fargo, North Dakota woman who sounds like a hopeless jerk. Rather than handing out candy to every trick-or-treater, this officious busybody will judge whether the kids showing up at her door are “moderately obese.” If she concludes that they are, she’ll decline to give them candy and instead will give them a note that reads:
“Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays Neighbor!
“You’re probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo.
“You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and sweets to the extent of some children this Halloween season.
“My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits
This sounds like a fake story, but there are so many judgmental tools in the world it is completely plausible that it is, in fact, the unfortunate truth. It’s hard to imagine what kind of supercilious dolt would tell a costumed child that they are too fat to get candy, but maybe that’s just the logical end of our increasingly patronizing, nanny-state approach to parenting and nutrition. Setting aside the misspelling, poor grammar, and bad punctuation, which reveal the author of the note to be a poorly educated pretender, what kind of paragon of physical and ethical perfection does this woman think she is? Can you imagine living next to such a person?
There’s only one response to this kind of behavior — and it’s why the “trick” is in “trick or treat.” If I were a kid who got this kind of a note, it would be time to break out the soap, the toilet paper, and maybe the eggs, too. And if I were the parent of a kid who got such a note, I might “step up” to toss a roll of toilet paper myself.
In a memorable episode of the classic TV sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sally the alien and Officer Don are discussing becoming intimate for the first time. The straightforward Sally asks: “Well, Don, are you ready to rock my world?’ And the nervous Officer Don gulps and responds: “Well, perhaps jostle it a little bit.”
Officer Don clearly understood the perils of overpromising. It’s a lesson that President Obama and his administration are learning the hard way these days.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been receiving cancellation notices from health insurers that are discontinuing existing coverage because it doesn’t satisfy all of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” It’s not clear how many people ultimately will receive cancellation notices, but experts predict that a significant percentage of those who currently buy individual coverage — between 7 and 12 million people — will be affected. Under the Act’s “individual mandate,” all of those people will need to find new insurance that complies with the requirements of the Act, either through the dysfunctional Healthcare.gov website or some other process. News sites are filled with stories about people who have found that they will need to pay much more each month for coverage, often with higher deductibles.
These people are upset because they remember President Obama’s repeated promise that, under the Affordable Care Act, if you like your insurance, you can keep it. But the statute and its regulations were written to prevent that pledge from being honored, by requiring that all insurance plans include certain forms of coverage, such as maternity care, mental health benefits, and prescription drug benefits, that were not offered by many stripped down, inexpensive plans. The inevitable result was that those plans would end and the new options, all of which include the mandatory coverage, would be more expensive for many people. Of course, when you hit people who are trying to live within their means with monthly insurance costs that are significantly higher than what they had budgeted, you’re bound to make those people angry and bitter.
It’s a predicament that the humble Officer Don would have avoided. Of course, few politicians seem to truly appreciate the perils of overpromising.
On our visit to downtown Detroit over the weekend, Russell made sure that we stopped by the Guardian Building, which has to be one of the coolest buildings you’d find anywhere. It is a fantastic palace of a building that combines Incan themes, Art Deco motifs, and the kind of architectural flourishes that you’d expect from a wealthy Bavarian prince. Walking through the building is a feast for the senses — as I hope the photos in this post demonstrate.
Of course, Detroit being Detroit, reality had to intrude into the dream. Some time ago, somebody thought it would be wise to connect this fabulous structure to the boring high-rise across the street through what looks like a cheap aluminum tube. It’s hideous, and it tells you a lot about the kind of judgment Detroiters were using during the city’s long downhill slide. Fortunately, nobody messed with the lobby area of the building, where these photos were taken.
Next week the 2013-2014 Ohio State basketball team will play an exhibition game, and then the new season will begin. It will be a bittersweet occasion for fans. We’ll be happy that college basketball has returned to Columbus, but we’ll also feel a certain wistfulness because Aaron Craft — and his reliable back court mate, Lenzelle Smith, Jr. — will be playing their last seasons for the Buckeyes.
Aaron Craft is one of those college basketball players who come along once in a generation. In an era where many players spend only one, two, or three seasons in the college game, Craft will play four full years as a Buckeye. He made an impact as a ball-hawking freshman, and his legendary defensive skills have only grown and sharpened with experience. He’s the kind of player that drives fans of opposing teams crazy, because it seems like he’s been here forever, wreaking havoc with Big Ten offenses and shutting down talented players. His tenure on the Buckeyes also has been marked with tremendous success — Big Ten championships, Sweet Sixteen appearances, and clutch performances.
This year, we’ll hear about how Craft has worked on his offense during the off-season. Those of us in Buckeye Nation, however, know that the core value of Aaron Craft will never be a silky jump shot even if he develops the greatest shooting stroke this side of Michael Jordan. No, the essence of Aaron Craft is grit and teamwork, toughness and drive, determination and doggedness. He’s the apple-cheeked assassin who is willing to play one-on-one defense with the opposing team’s best player and do whatever is necessary to take that player out of his game. He’s the little guard who will fearlessly attack the basket, driving between the tall timber for a crucial lay-up. He’s the guy who will slap the floor with his hands, sacrifice his body to take a charge from a big man, and hurl himself out of bounds trying to keep a loose ball in play. His hustle will be mentioned by every coach and every Dad watching the game with his kids. And, through it all, he’s been a highly successful student, an academic all-American, a good citizen, and a valued member of the Ohio State University community.
Yes, we’ll miss Aaron Craft.
The latest surprising American surveillance story has to do with the amount of spying the National Security Agency is doing overseas — and who is the target of the spying. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of a number of foreign leaders whose phones were wiretapped by the NSA.
The NSA now says that President Obama wasn’t aware of the wiretapping of Merkel’s phone or those of other foreign leaders and stopped the practice this past summer when NSA surveillance programs were reviewed after Edward Snowden’s leaks. The NSA says the President doesn’t sign off on such programs — basically because there are so many spying programs the NSA doesn’t even advise the President of all of them.
There are reports to the contrary, which assert that President Obama in fact was aware of the wiretapping programs and didn’t stop them. But let’s assume for the moment that the denials of President Obama’s knowledge of the programs are true. Doesn’t that tell us something even more damning about our spy programs? It’s fair to assume that foreign leaders would be upset about America tapping their phones if they ever learned of the practice — to the point where it might imperil our relationships with our allies. Given that risk, wouldn’t it be prudent to get clearance for such programs at the very highest levels? If President Obama wasn’t regularly advised of such programs and making the decisions about whether to continue them, who was?
We’ve got a surveillance community in this country that has an insatiable appetite for more information and that appears to be accountable to no one. Congress and the President need to address this issue and bring our intelligence community back under meaningful civilian control. Otherwise, we are going to be in for more leaks, more embarrassment, more difficult conversations with angry foreign leaders, and more credibility problems for the American government.
Kish and I had a beautiful afternoon in which to walk around downtown Pittsburgh yesterday. We crossed one bridge to get to the Point, where the Ohio River begins, and then strolled around downtown before crossing the colorful Sixth Street bridge to return to the other side.
You can’t draw too many deep conclusions from one short walk, but in one area, at least, Pittsburgh clearly has succeeded where other cities have failed. Here, the riverfront is fully integrated into the city. It’s easy to get to the waterfront on both sides of the river, and once you’re there you find beautiful and wide walking paths and biking areas. There are great walkways on the bridges, too.
In many cities, it’s almost impossible to get down to the water. That’s just bad planning. Many people are drawn to the water and consider it an asset. Pittsburgh has capitalized on that asset, and yesterday there were lots of bikers, joggers, dog walkers, and visitors like us that were happy about that.
Kish and I drove across northern Ohio today, moving from Detroit to Pittsburgh, where I’ve got meetings tomorrow. After we arrived we decided we need to stretch our legs, so we walked across one of the many bridges in the ‘burgh and ended up at the Point, where the Allegheny and the Monongahela meet and form the river that gives the Buckeye State its name.
It’s a pretty spot, and it affords a pretty good look at downtown Pittsburgh, too.
I’m happy to report that our nephew Andrew Kishman and his church, the Miller Avenue United Church of Christ, have made the news — and in a good way, too.
Andrew is all about community outreach, and his passion and approach to his ministry were featured in the pages of the Akron Beacon Journal. I hope Andrew’s zeal help to reenergize his church and help its neighbors.
Way to go, Andrew!
It’s a wonderful sculpture, with the fist and the outstretched arm conveying an awesome sense of power. Curiously, the Detroit city fathers have placed it on a traffic island in the middle of an intersection, where it’s not easy to get to and see up close. I took a close look, anyway.
What’s the point of having a cool bit of sculpture in your downtown area if you put it in an inaccessible location? Detroit should move “The Fist” to a better place, where everyone can enjoy it.
Here’s another little example of how the internet has made the world a better place.
We wanted to find a bar where we could watch the Buckeyes play Penn State last night. But we were in Michigan, of course, and therefore were like pilgrims in an unholy land. Walking into any randomly selected bar and openly rooting for Ohio State seemed like a bad, and potentially reckless, idea.
So we used our iPhones to google “Ohio State bar in Detroit,” and found Hi-Tops Ten & One Half, just down Woodward Avenue in Royal Oaks. It’s where some diehard Buckeyes meet to drink a few beers and watch Ohio State games on one of the dozens of TVs found around the room.
So, instead of worrying about drawing evil looks from Michigan fans drinking at nearby tables, we were able to watch Ohio State demolish Penn State in comfort, with friendly fellow citizens of Buckeye Nation who shared our interest in seeing the Buckeyes triumph. High fives were exchanged, OH-IO chants were had, the beer was cold, and the burgers and wings were tasty. When the game was over, we were happy, well-fed, and well-lubricated pilgrims, girded and ready to reemerge into unholy territory.