Talkin’ Corn

The other day at lunch we were talking about food — it was lunch, after all — and the topic turned to sweet corn.  Why not?  It’s one of the foods that make summer in America the best season of the year, and any drive through rural Ohio will take you past a sweet corn stand in front of a family farmhouse.

IMG_2543The Jersey Girl mentioned that she’s intentionally failed to advise her kids that most people eat sweet corn liberally smeared with butter.  She prefers it plain, and now her kids do, too.  At some point, they’ll go to a cookout on a bright summer day where burgers and sweet corn are being served and they’ll slowly realize that everybody else is eating their ears slathered style and decide they have to try to butter option.  Until then, they’ll enjoy the natural sweetness, unaided.  Me, I like my corn buttered, but hold the salt.

The Red Sox Fan chimed in that he eats his ears of corn rotationally — that is, putting teeth into the kernels and then rolling the cod around as he chomps, rather than moving side to side.  The rest of us were, of course, aghast.  The only proper way to eat sweet corn is to move left to right, like the cob is the cylinder on a typewriter.  That way, when you reach the right end of the ear, you’ve got a mouth full of mushy goodness and lips glistening with butter, ready to be licked.  The Red Sox Fan’s curious admission frankly caused us to question whether he was a bona fide member of the Sweet Corn Club.

Up in Vermilion last Sunday we had a family cookout, and Cousin Jeff arrived with a passel of sweet corn purchased in Amish country that we boiled up in a big cast iron pot and ate with Lake Erie perch and grilled chicken.  I happily consumed my share of the ears, and realized at some point in the process that I probably could eat sweet corn until I exploded.  It wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

Grandma’s Photo

When Mom died I inherited an old photograph of Grandma Neal.  It’s become a favorite of mine, and I’ve put it in a prominent place just above our desk upstairs.

IMG_2499I’m usually not much for family photos.  They always seem static and posed and somehow phony, with everyone standing stiffly and grinning like maniacs for the camera.  But some photos are special.  For me, this is one of them, because there’s a certain air of mystery about it.

I don’t know where, or when, the photo was taken.  I know it’s old, because it’s black and white and has been placed in a battered tin frame.  I’m guessing it was taken in the ’20s.  It doesn’t look like it was taken by a professional, from the pose and the shading.  And it’s small enough to carry in the palm of your hand or a pocket.  I find myself wondering if it’s a picture that Grandpa Neal took and carried within him.

Whether taken by an amateur or a professional, it’s a wonderful picture of Grandma Neal.  She was a handsome woman with strong features, and her face is unlined by age.  In the photo she has a slight, enigmatic smile, like the Mona Lisa of Akron, Ohio, but her eyes make it look like she’s ready to burst into a delighted grin and perhaps even a laugh.  And laughing is how I remember her.

Talking About Trump (Or Conversing About Clinton)

After this week, we’ll begin the final stretch of the presidential campaign between two candidates who have actually been nominated by their respective parties.  I’m glad that the calendar pages are turning, because I just want this election to be over.  I don’t think we can withstand much more of the level of vitriol that’s being hurled back and forth.

I’m not talking about the two campaigns, either.  I’m talking about what we’re seeing from the masses, from our friends and colleagues, from Facebook pages and emails.  You can’t even talk about politics without seeing, and hearing, evidence of it.  Many people obviously find it impossible to talk about the candidates without lapsing into flaming, superheated language — the kind that people don’t easily forget.

hqdefaultThe anti-Trump group loathe The Donald and honestly seem to believe that only utterly ignorant racists and fascists could possibly consider voting for the guy.  The anti-Clinton folks are revolted by Hillary’s duplicity and corruption; they think the media is in the tank for her and the elites are trying to fix the election for her.  It’s coarse and visceral stuff, and a lot of bitterness on both sides is leaking out into our daily discourse.

I don’t care about the two candidates.  They are both egregiously flawed and deserve the strident criticism they’re getting.  No, I’m more concerned about the average people out there who are choosing sides, and doing so in a way that seems to leave no room for quarter or disagreement.  I wonder how many long-time friendships will be ruined and how many families will be splintered by the harsh language and even more harsh judgments.  If you are to the point that you think Trump will be the next Hitler, are you going to want to hang out with a guy who wants to vote him into office — even if it’s a guy you’ve known and worked with for 20 years?

The old saying about the wisdom of not talking about politics or religion has never been truer.  It used to be that people of good will at different points on the political spectrum could have a good-natured discussion about who they were voting for, and why.  I’m not sure that is even possible this year.

In our personal lives, we need to declare a truce, and take politics off the table.  Talk about your kids, talk about your travels, talk about sports — talk about just about anything other than the awful choice that we must make come November.  Hold your fire, folks!  That way, at the ground level of our everyday existence, maybe we’ll be able to make it through this flaming car wreck of an election.

Lying To Your Kids

Should you ever lie to your kids?  And if you do, how will it affect them?

Parent Herald has an article that presents both sides of the issue.  Some parents contend that lying — they use the softer term “fibbing” — is an effective, crucial tool in the parental toolbox.  If your kids won’t quiet down or eat their vegetables at dinner, it’s OK to tell them a “white lie” in furtherance of achieving what the parent knows to be the greater good.  The “fibs” come out after other parental tools, like trying to make your kids feel guilty because “there are starving children in Africa” or “your father works hard all day and deserves some peace and quiet,” are found to be unsuccessful.

UnsincereThe other position argues that lying is a bad thing, period, and if kids understand that their parents are lying to them, the kids will be encouraged to lie as well.  This isn’t a good thing, because kids are natural, unapologetic liars.  In fact, they are unskilled, inveterate liars, who aren’t even bounded by concepts of remote plausibility, who lie even when visible evidence exposes their duplicity, and who wither under only the mildest cross-examination.  Parents really shouldn’t be doing anything to promote that dishonest tendency.  If your kids conclude, from your example, that lying is OK, imagine the effect it might have on them during the teenage years, when the temptation to lie, and the stakes involved, are so much greater.

I tend toward the latter position.  The only lie I remember telling the kids was about the existence of Santa Claus, which can be rationalized as an effort to promote and maintain the sense of childish wonder in how the world works.  I don’t remember using lies as a regular parental technique to get our kids to do what we wanted.  We recognized that they were naturally stubborn, as many kids are, and I’m not sure lies would have done much good — and I always thought our kids were smart enough to be able to sniff out a lie, anyway.  I also hate being lied to, because it’s insulting and demeaning, so why do something to your kids that you wouldn’t want someone to do to you?

A Cowtown No Longer

Columbus has been getting some very good press these days.  The latest is an article in National Geographic entitled “Why All the Cool Kids Love Columbus, Ohio.”  And that article even gives a shout-out to Gay Street, where I’ve worked for more than 30 years.

The National Geographic article points out what others have noted:  Columbus is a young city with an interesting mix of people from lots of different places, the arts scene is vibrant, it has some great neighborhoods, it’s open to new business ideas . . . and it has good craft beers.  You’ll also hear people talk about how downtown Columbus is starting to take off, and how the Columbus restaurant scene is improving — all of which is true.

sept_kahiki-life-sml-300dpiThe kudos that are coming Columbus’ way are a far cry from the 1970s, when Columbus was called a “cowtown” . . . and the name seemed apt.  In those days, it was hard to find any ethnic food in Columbus — except for the ersatz Polynesian cuisine, often served with a Flaming Volcano drink, at the fabled Kahiki — and the city was really a pretty boring place.  Back then, the Short North was almost a skid row neighborhood, German Village was dodgy at best, and people sipped fire-brewed Stroh’s beer rather than those tasty craft options.  When Kish and I graduated from Ohio State at the end of the ’70s, we decided to shake off the dust of Columbus and hit the road, and we really weren’t thinking about coming back.

A few years later we changed our minds, and come back we did.  And since our return in the mid-80s we’ve seen a tremendous change in CBus in many ways.  Some of it is due to solid governmental administration, some of it is due to enlightened leading citizens, but a lot of it is due to the fact that Columbus is home to lots of friendly, interesting people who aren’t afraid to do some different things and take some risks now and then.

For those of us who knew Columbus during the “cowtown” days, the transformation of our city has been a pretty amazing thing.  I’m glad to see Columbus is getting some buzz.

Colossal Keychain


I carry my house key in my right front pants pocket.  Hence, I want a functional key chain that is as small and unobtrusive as possible.

Kish carries her keys in a gigundous purse filled with assorted bric-a-brac.  Hence, she wants a key chain that will stand out as she sifts through shifting mountains of purse debris.

Guess whose keys these are?