Guardian Of The Coastline

Today we checked out the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  It’s one of dozens of lighthouses that are found along the rockbound Maine coastline — each of which has it distinctive combination of light color and lighting sequence, so experienced mariners who are at sea at night can both steer clear of the rocks and determine exactly where they are, even in the darkest hours.

At the lighthouse, you can follow a path and a steep set of wooden stairs that take you down to sea level, where intrepid tourists (like me) can climb out onto the rocky coastline to position themselves for the best photographic vantage point that will allow them to snap a seaside shot of the iconic white lighthouse.  It’s comical to see people of all ages scrambling out onto the rocks — with no guard rails or identified path — and of course many of the visitors were taking selfies, apparently oblivious to the risk they might slip as they were positioning themselves and go plunging into the ocean below.  Fortunately, no one was injured while we were there.

I appreciate the fact that the Coast Guard, which operates the lighthouse and its grounds, has left the coastline in its natural state and trusts visitors to fend for themselves.  It was fun to let the inner mountain goat out for a rocky adventure.

Dockworthy

It’s a picture-perfect day in Maine, with cool temperatures, bright blue skies and sunshine, and just enough breeze to send Old Glory flapping on the flagpole.  I took a morning walk along the rim of the harbor, where there are working wharves and docks aplenty.  For a landlubber like me, docks extending far out into the water, over the rocky shoreline and seaweed, are a source of beauty and fascination.

You don’t see docks like this in Columbus.

Dawn At The Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal

It’s a beautiful, clear morning at the Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal on Mount Desert Island.  Photographs are nice, but they can’t fully capture the totally sensory feel of this place — the cries of the gulls and other birds skimming low across the water, the salty tang of the air and its coolness against your skin, and the feel of wet grass underfoot.  It’s a good place to sit on a front porch and read on a calm Sunday morning.

Hotel LeVeque 

There’s a new hotel in downtown Columbus that’s actually pretty old.  If that sounds confusing, it’s because the LeVeque Building — since the 1920s, the most iconic building in the downtown area — has been rehabbed and converted, in part, into a hotel.  

I went to meetings at the hotel yesterday and today, and they’ve turned this Art Deco masterpiece into a pretty cool hotel.  The fixtures have been cleaned and brightened — allowing nifty Art Deco touches, like elevators with names like “health” and “prosperity,” to shine through.  The lobby area (shown below) is open and airy, and there’s a nice second-floor bar, too.  I spoke to someone who was staying at the hotel, and he said the guest rooms are great.

This is another nice step forward for downtown Columbus.  Every town needs cool hotels in the core area.

Another Potential Cultural Shift

The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that a greater percentage of Americans are renting than at any time in the last 50 years.  According to the Bureau, in 2016 36.6 percent of the heads of households rented their place of residence — the most since 1965.  43.3 million heads of household are renters, and the percentage of renters among heads of household has increased from 31.2 percent in 2006 to 36.6 percent.

120301_24b_forrent-crop-rectangle3-largeWhy are we seeing these shifts?  The authors of the Census Bureau study attribute the movement toward renting to lingering concerns about owning a home stemming from the Great Recession, rising house prices, and young people who are so burdened by student loan debt that they simply can’t afford to purchase a home.  Millennials are the most likely to rent their place of residence:  in 2016, 65 percent of heads of household under age 35 are renters.  And there may be other factors at play, like the potential difficulties of selling a home in an economy where you might need to pick up stakes and move to another city in order to advance in your career.  Who wants to be saddled with a house, and fretting about whether you can sell it, under those circumstances?

I’ve got no doubt that these factors, and others, are contributing to the movement toward renting.  In my experience, young people these days are a lot more thoughtful and analytical about their housing decisions than was the case with people of my generation.  We were raised on concepts of the American Dream in which owning your own home was a fundamental part of the puzzle, and as a result the decision to buy a house was almost a reflexive, automatic act.  Now it seems that people generally, and young people specifically, are more carefully weighing their options and concluding that, for many, renting makes a lot more sense — whether it is because of a desire to be flexible, or because renting often allows them to live closer to their workplaces and areas that offer lots of social activities, or because living in an apartment building can provide a kind of ready-built community, or because of concerns about getting stuck with an overpriced house, or something else.  It’s one of the reasons why, in Columbus, the rental market is exceptionally hot and people are building new rental units left and right.

We may be seeing a shift in cultural norms, away from defining success as owning a tidy home in the suburbs and mowing your lawn every Saturday during the summer.  If, like me, you’re not a fan of suburban sprawl and would like to see our existing city areas revitalized, the movement toward renting is not a bad thing.

 

Letting The Old Obsessions Go

Yesterday a Nevada parole board voted unanimously to grant parole to O.J. Simpson.  Simpson, who is now 70, has served nine years for robbery and kidnapping offenses stemming from a bizarre incident in Las Vegas.  He could be released from prison by October 1.

170720-oj-simpson-parole-lovelock-ew-311p_fea89e6c6b7d1f50e0397eabec2defd9-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000Simpson told the parole board that he’s changed.  Whether that is true or not, only he knows . . . but I wonder if the world in which O.J. Simpson became the focus of seemingly unending national attention has nevertheless stayed the same.  Simpson’s parole hearing — normally a proceeding that happens without being noticed by anyone except the convicts, their attorneys and families, the parole board, and perhaps the victims of the crime — drew worldwide attention, and as soon as the decision to grant parole was announced it was immediately the lead item on all of the news websites.  It was an uncomfortable reminder of the American obsession with his murder trial — not exactly a sterling moment for the news media, the police, the legal system, the weird Hollywood world in which O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson lived, or anything or anybody else that was involved in that whole sordid spectacle.

At his parole hearing, Simpson said he just wants to reconnect with his family and has no interest in being in the limelight.  Of course, our crass culture being what it is, Simpson is reportedly being besieged by TV producers who want to pitch him as the star of a reality TV show, and no doubt he’ll have plenty of other opportunities to get back on TV in some fashion if he wants to do so.  I sincerely hope he resists the temptation and sticks to his stated intention to just live out the rest of his life in as private a way as possible.

In America, we accept the verdict of juries and parole boards and other elements of the criminal justice system — whether we agree with them or not — because that’s how the law works.  Part of that process means moving beyond the old controversies and, finally, letting old obsessions go.  I don’t want to read anything more about O.J. Simpson, nor do I want to think, ever again, about a time when our whole country seemed slightly off its rocker.  But, will Simpson, the news media, and the Hollywood hype machine cooperate in achieving that goal?

No Crawl On My Walk

I regret to report to everyone that, for the last few days, there has been no crawl on my walk into work.

I’m referring to the news crawl on the front of the Dispatch building, of course.  I’ve come to rely on it for my news blurbs in the morning, so I can feel that I’m at least somewhat informed when I arrive at the office.  And I’ve come to to look forward to the bullet-point format and phrasing of the crawl, too.  

ANOTHER SHOOTING ON NEAR EAST SIDE . . . . TRUMP ANTICS MYSTIFY EUROPE . . . . THREE-LEGGED FROG DAZZLES FAIRGOERS . . . . 17 RECIPES FOR SUMMER PORK . . . . FLYING CARS MAY BE JUST AROUND CORNER . . . .

The crawl always seems to feature incredibly provocative stuff, presented in the most cryptic style.  You’re never really sure what the news is, but it sure sounds interesting.

But now the crawl has gone dark, and with it, my morning mood.  Come back, crawl!