It’s All In Your Perspective

I’m guessing that most of us have loved The Wizard Of Oz since we were kids. Like the Cowardly Lion, we might have been scared by the flying monkeys and the evil Wicked Witch of the West or the loud Wizard of Oz face and flames and smoke and sound effects, but we enjoyed the innocent story of Dorothy and her faithful dog who were transported by a cyclone to a magical land — and then brought back home just because she wished it.

But what if you took an alternative perspective of the story, as the writer did above? Suddenly The Wizard Of Oz goes from being a delightful children’s film to a dark movie in the film noir genre. And the best thing about the alternative description posted above is that it is factually accurate in every detail. It just goes to show you that perspective is everything — and if you look at things from a different perspective you might see a different side, even of something as familiar as The Wizard Of Oz.

I’m late to the game on this; the description of The Wizard Of Oz above was written for the TCM channel by a writer named Rick Polito in 1998, was noted by people at that time, and then “went viral” again in 2012 or so. Being out of it, I missed it both times, but I got a good laugh out of it when I saw it recently — and a good laugh in 2020 is definitely something to share.

Thank You, Mr. Phillips

The toolbox at our house has a motley collection of tools — some inherited, some abandoned, and some picked up here and there. We’ve got a lot of screwdrivers, but almost all of them are flat head screwdrivers. We’ve only got one Phillips head screwdriver — the short, orange and black tool shown above — which is too bad because most of the screws that are used these days are Phillips screws.

I had to use the Phillips screwdriver the other day, and once again gave inner thanks to Mr. Phillips for his invention. The screws I was trying to remove were really in tight, and anyone who remembers trying to remove flat head screws and stripping out the slot (which apparently is technically called “camming”) — thereby ensuring that the screw cannot be removed by any normal human effort — should always be grateful for the Phillips head design. Sure enough, in this instance the screws were successfully removed with only modest effort and without a single swear word being uttered. I’d guess that Mr. Phillips single-handedly has materially reduced the amount of angry, explosive cussing that would have otherwise occurred but for his salutary invention.

In case you’re interested, here’s an article about the history of the screw and screwdriver — which, surprisingly, didn’t really become common until the 1800s — the tale of Mr. Phillips, and a curious backstory about why Canadians use a different type of screw and screwdriver that some believe is an even better design. As is the case with so many stories about early industrial developments, Henry Ford figures prominently, and helped to bring about the fact that Americans use the Phillips head rather than the Robertson head used in Canada.

I don’t know whether the Robertson screw is better than the Phillips — but I do know that the Phillips is a huge improvement over the simple slotted screw that is so easy to strip. I’ll always be grateful to Mr. Phillips for minimizing my blood pressure and my contributions to the swear jar.

Between The Lines

They’ve started a new campaign in German Village. The aspirational goal: to bring order and regularity in on-street parking.

Since we’ve been here, parking has been — to put it mildly — chaotic. Most houses don’t have driveways or garages, so street parking is a necessity. To complicate things, there are a few zones where stickers are required and non-stickered cars can get ticketed, but other areas are open for parking by anyone. The result is that people park where they can, which often means precious street parking space is wasted by yawning gaps between cars that nevertheless aren’t quite big enough to accommodate a car. When you’re hunting for a nearby parking space late at night, the not-quite-big-enough gaps and wasted spaces can be frustrating.

The new approach seeks to conserve and fully employ the precious street parking space. The city has painted corners like the one shown above to define specific parking spaces, and has also posted signs like the one below explaining the program and noting that people who flout the spaces can be cited with a $47 ticket. I can’t speak to whether people are reading the signs — I did, at least— but they do seem to be honoring the new spaces and parking between the lines. That will mean more parking spaces for us all.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that painting indicated spots on streets would spur parking compliance and end the Wild West parking atmosphere. If the price of achieving more parking spaces is simply the cost of a few cans of white paint and the wages of whoever painted the corners, German Village residents can reasonably wonder why this simple solution wasn’t tried before. But let’s not be grudging, shall we? A delayed solution is still a solution, and the new program shows the city is paying attention to the unique needs of our community. That’s good to see.

Back To School

The building at the end of our block is completing a full circuit in the circle of life. It began as a school, then later was turned into the Golden Hobby shop that sold craft items made by seniors — and now it is being refitted to serve as a school again, as part of the St. Mary’s school complex in our neighborhood.

The Golden Hobby shop people were nice folks, and we certainly appreciated the parking lot there when street parking got tight, but I’m glad the building is going back to its original purpose. We’ll miss the overflow parking, to be sure, but having a school at the end of the block is bound to ramp up the hustle and bustle and make our neighborhood even more interesting. And an expanded St. Mary’s school will undoubtedly be appreciated as an available option by the many young couples with strollers you see around German Village.

If the building could talk, I bet it also would express its happiness about returning to service as a school and being filled with the voices of kids again. Carved over the main entrance is a quote attributed to Socrates: “Learning adorns riches and softens poverty.” With noble and lofty aspirations like that, no building is going to be content to live out its life as a sleepy senior citizens’ hobby shop.

Suits And Ties

When we got back to Columbus for the first time in months, I went through the house, checking to make sure everything was OK. When I got to the closet where my suits and ties are kept, it was kind of weird to see them. They weren’t quite dust-covered, fortunately, but they looked kind of strange after four and a half months of cold turkey suit-and-tielessness.

I’d be surprised if anyone who has been working remotely over the last four months has donned a suit or other form of pre-COVID professional business attire. On the video conferences I’ve participated in, it’s been business casual, tops — and in some instances a cut or two below business casual, all the way down into the casual skirting grungy category. Nobody seems to care about it, either. There clearly are events where a suit and tie will still be required — some of my colleagues have been in trial recently, and for court appearances of course suits, ties, and other professional garb are a lawyer’s standard issue uniform — but so long as working remotely via videoconference and computer is the norm, I think business casual is going to be as high-level as the clothing expectations will get.

What I think is more interesting is whether anyone will go back to regular workday wearing of suits and ties when — some blessed day — the COVID-19 pandemic is over. There was a strong trend away from suits and ties before the coronavirus hit, and that may well continue and accelerate. But among some people I sense a strong yearning to get back to “the way things were” before the world turned upside down. Wearing a suit and tie and other professional attire would be one tangible way of signalling that we’ve returned to business as usual. For some people, at least, you’d have the weird scenario of putting on a suit and tie — a pretty uncomfortable combination — as a way of achieving comfort that things are “back to normal.”

I’ll be putting on a suit and tie for the first time in months in the near future when I’ve got a presentation, but I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll go back to regular suit-wearing when, at some point in the future, our office opens up at full capacity again. One thing is for sure — my suits are going to last a lot longer than their original life span.

For Court Of Appeals Judge: Lisa Forbes

Early voting has started in Ohio, and today I am going to break my vow not to write about the election for a second, and last, time. If you live in Cuyahoga County, I urge you to vote for Lisa Forbes for the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which is the Ohio appellate court covering Cuyahoga County. You can find Lisa’s campaign web page and information about her background and involvement in the community here.

First, the appropriate disclosures: I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with Lisa Forbes at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, LLP for decades. Lisa and I have worked together on matters for clients and have served together on firm committees. She is a valued colleague and friend. I like and respect her, and I think she’s got all of the qualities that would make her a terrific court of appeals judge. Living in Columbus, I can’t vote for her — unfortunately! — but I have contributed to her campaign because I think supporting smart, qualified, hard-working people to serve on our courts is good for our judicial system and good for the Buckeye State.

For those of you who aren’t lawyers and therefore aren’t intimately familiar with the Ohio state court system, appellate courts are the courts that review trial court decisions and jury verdicts. If you’re a civil case litigant, or a criminal case defendant, and you think your trial court made a mistake, you go to the court of appeals for a second look and second opinion. After the court of appeals has had its say, you have the opportunity to ask the Ohio Supreme Court to take your case — but the Supreme Court accepts and considers only a small fraction of the cases that go through the Ohio court system. The vast majority of Ohio state-court cases end at the court of appeals level, and the decisions made by the courts of appeals are viewed as important legal precedent by other courts throughout Ohio.

That’s why it is so important to have really good judges on our courts of appeals. Because the Ohio courts of appeals review all cases that are properly submitted to them from the trial courts in their districts, they’ve got a significant workload of both civil and criminal cases. It is essential to have hard-working appellate judges who can review the briefs, thoughtfully analyze the legal issues, question lawyers for the parties at oral arguments, and then reach a decision with the other court of appeals judges assigned to the case and write an opinion explaining the court’s reasoning. If court of appeals judges don’t work hard, the system becomes clogged and appeals can drag on for months or even years, which can be frustrating for everyone involved.

Lisa Forbes has all of the capabilities you would ideally want in a court of appeals judge. She’s one of the most conscientious, hard-working people I know, someone who has deftly juggled family responsibilities and work obligations for years. She won’t drop the ball or disappoint litigants and lawyers who are looking for prompt decisions. She has a keen legal mind, she has lots of experience in wrestling with difficult and novel issues presented in challenging cases and finding the precedent and authorities that are relevant, and she is a gifted writer. Based on her years of experience, no case that might come to the Eighth District Court of Appeals would be beyond the ability of Lisa Forbes to thoughtfully and fairly evaluate and decide, and she would then explain her reasoning in an opinion that would be clear and understandable to everyone who read it — lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

The last point is a crucial one, because an important part of our judicial system is showing even losing parties that they have been heard, their arguments have been respected and fairly considered, and there are solid reasons why those arguments haven’t prevailed. We want our courts to be regarded by all as even-handed bastions of justice and fairness, and it is important to have judges who will always focus on and strive toward that goal.

I know that Lisa Forbes will do that. If you live in Cuyahoga County, in this election I encourage you to vote for Lisa Forbes for the Eighth District Court of Appeals.

Back To Ohio

We completed our trip back to Ohio yesterday, returning to the Buckeye State after an absence of four and a half months. As we rolled under the curious new Ohio border sign — offering its curt and cryptic instruction to “find it here,” without even a friendly “welcome” or “how do you do?” or the exclamation points and promises of excitement you see in other state border signs — the chords of The Pretenders’ Back to Ohio echoed in my head.

This last four months has easily been the longest continuous Ohio-free period I’ve experienced in at least 35 years, and maybe for my entire lifetime. As we rolled toward German Village, Kish and I wondered if we had been gone from Ohio for four months straight during the years we lived in Washington, D.C. — when we often came back to Ohio for holidays, family gatherings, or birthday, graduation, or anniversary celebrations. If we didn’t hit the four-month mark during our D.C. years, then we’ve just set personal records.

And, it being 2020, the four months we’ve been gone from Columbus has been a pretty momentous period, too. We missed a downtown riot and periods of unrest, the closure of favorite restaurants, the sale of the Golden Hobby building down the block, and continuing struggles to deal with the coronavirus. Stonington, Maine is pretty removed from all of that — that’s kind of the goal when you go to Maine — and I wondered what, exactly, we would find when we got back to Columbus.

When we reached German Village, we found that our normal entrance way was torn up due to the ongoing construction projects at Children’s Hospital, and our street was partially closed thanks to a Columbia Gas rerouting effort. I had to parallel park for the first time in a long while, but we were glad to find our place still standing and were also pleased to see that, pandemic or not, our neighbors in the Village have made some improvements. After we unpacked, made the beds, wiped the dust off the counters, and settled in to watch some TV, I realized that Ohio still felt very much like home to me. Maybe that’s the “it” the sign was telling me to find.

The Scenic Route

We decided to take two days to make our way from Stonington back to Columbus. Since we weren’t trying to make great time on the roads, we avoided the I-95 raceway and took the two-lane roads through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont instead, including lots of time on U.S. 202. My grandmother would have called it the “scenic route.”

It was a lot of fun, and gave us a glimpse of small town America, New England-style, and lots of pretty fall scenery. The towns were charming, and a drive on the “blue highways” shows you how many Americans work at their own businesses from their homes — doing hairdressing, nails, child care, dog grooming, carpentry, and other self-employed work. There were lots of political signs out, and a few roadside demonstrations where the participants were soliciting honks for their candidates. And the fall foliage was beautiful.

We ended up with a drive up the Taconic Parkway and this room at the Beekman Arms Inn in Rhinebeck, New York, which is supposed to be the oldest continuously operated hotel in America, dating back to colonial times. It’s one of those places that says “George Washington slept here.” We had a great meal at the Beekman, donned our masks for a twilight walk around downtown Rhinebeck, and enjoyed a fine end to a day that showed that taking your time is a good way to go.

A Signature Item

I bought my lobster coffee cup from a local shop in Stonington a few years ago. I got it because it screams “Maine!” — with a noticeable Maine accent, I might add — and I thought it would be a fun, kitschy way to enjoy my coffee in the morning.

Of course, that was before anyone dreamed of global pandemics, months of working remotely, and routine video conferences with people in faraway places. But it turned out that the lobster coffee cup served a useful purpose in the crazy world of 2020. It became a kind of signature item that was the subject of pre-video conference comment as we waited for other people to join calls, and later it reminded people that I was still up in Maine. Some people have a carefully curated bookshelf or wall of kid art, others have their menu of fake backdrops, and I’ve had my lobster coffee cup.

But now that we’re heading back to the Midwest, I must bid farewell to the lobster cup. it would be jarring to insert such a Maine-specific item into the German Village video conference setting. So I must say so long, lobster cup! You’ve served me well, and I’ll look forward to taking hearty, hopefully post-pandemic gulps from you next year.

A Great Day For A Hike

The weather gods looked kindly upon us today, giving us one last beautiful day in Stonington before we head back to Columbus. The skies were clear, the sunlight sparkled on the waters of the Penobscot Bay, and the temperature hovered around 60. It was a perfect day to hike the trails of the Settlement Quarry and take in a breathtaking view — and we weren’t the only ones who thought so.

A day like this makes you sad to leave, but eager to return.

The Deer Get The Last Laugh

Thursday night the Montauk daisy buds were out in force and on the cusp of blooming —finally!—and the only question in my mind was whether we would see the plant in its full-flowered glory before we returned to Columbus.

But when I awoke on Friday morning I found that the marauding band of deer had paid us an overnight visit, come right up to the stairs, and chewed off dozens of the buds, leaving only one or two sad and shaken reminders of what the daisy could have been. And so two of the principal gardening storylines of the summer — the Great Deer Battle of 2020 and the Waiting for Godot-like delay in the blooming of the Montauk daisy — have coalesced, weeks of anticipation have been dashed, and the thuggish deer herd of the Greenhead peninsula has had the last laugh. May those white tailed reprobates be consigned to some flowerless hell!

But one battle does not determine a war, and the deer’s triumph in 2020 just means I will have to redouble my deer resistance efforts in 2021. I guess you should plan on that when you decide to try gardening in a place called Deer Isle. In the meantime, I’ll be rooting for the hunters of Deer Isle to shoot straight and true when deer season rolls around in a few weeks. In this clash, I could use some allies.

The Random Restaurant Tour — XL

This summer we have been trying to support all of the local businesses around Stonington — especially restaurants, which really need the traffic to stay in business and which face unique challenges in achieving appropriate social distancing and sanitation in the coronavirus era. Every week, we’ve tried to go to at least one local-area restaurant for a hearty meal and a very generous tip for our server. This week, as our stay in Stonington is coming to a close, we’re looking to complete a final circuit of all of our summer options.

Last night we went to the Fin & Fern, which has become a mainstay this summer. It’s located next to the mailboat dock and features a really good and diverse menu. It also made the decision to open when a lot of restaurants were still debating their options and resolutely stayed the course all summer, offering fine, and safely served, meals. I’ve become very fond indeed of the F&F short rib and mashed potatoes, and Kish swears they have an amazing Caesar salad. (I wouldn’t know, because when it comes to salads, I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him.)

Last night, though, I went for the lobster stew, shown above, and a bacon cheeseburger with fries. The lobster stew was a creamy treat, served piping hot with lots of big chunks of lobster and accompanied (of course!) by oyster crackers. And the cheeseburger was a grilled-to-perfection medium rare, with thick pieces of smoked bacon and just the right amount of fries. It was a fine way to bid the Fin & Fern adieu until next year.

We’re all going to try to forget 2020, and for good reason. But there are some parts of the year that I will remember, and the restaurants that opened up and offered patrons a dash of normalcy amidst the craziness will be one of them. Thanks to the Fin & Fern for some great food and a friendly atmosphere when we really needed it the most.

The 2020 Garage And Yard Sale Report

2020 has been a bad year in more ways than we can count, but it’s been a pretty productive year for us in terms of garage and yard sale acquisitions.  After an early slack period in deference to the coronavirus, the ads for sales started to appear in the local paper, and by the end of the summer the Stonington-Deer Isle area was back to its normal complement of Saturday sales.

I’m not the big garage sale expert in our household — Kish and Russell are the true aficionados — but in my limited experience there are two types of people who put on garage or yard sales.  In the first category are people who are really hoping to make a lot of money on their unwanted items.  The people in this category tend to overprice their stuff, not fully realizing that it is, after all, unwanted stuff of dubious provenance that doesn’t carry any special memories or value for the potential buyer who is just looking for a bargain on a used item.  The people in this category tend to be kind of stiff and rigid.  The other category features people who just want to get rid of stuff, have put an ad in the paper in hopes that people will stop by and take stuff away, and have priced everything to sell.  I like garage sales put on by people in the second category better.  Last weekend, we went to a sale put on by some people who were leaving to move to a different state, and after chatting with them for a while they were basically trying to give us stuff just so they could get rid of it and not have to cart it to their new house.  

Garage and yard sales are interesting for a lot of reasons.  One reason is that they show you, in tangible form, just how much stuff people tend to accumulate over the years — stuff that, at some point, has moved from useful to unwanted, from prized possession to clutter, from key parts of a new hobby to nagging reminders of past failures, from potential treasured heirloom to junk.  Another reason is that garage sales tend not to be organized in any meaningful way.  Normally, when I am going to buy something, I know exactly what I want, go directly to get it, and then end the shopping excursion.  That doesn’t work with garage sales.  Even if you go to one with a specific thing in mind, it might not be there, and even if it is what you’re looking for is going to be mixed in with a bunch of stuff that is totally unrelated.  And, of course, in looking over tables of household debris you might just find something that you hadn’t thought of but really could use.  Once in a while, the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” really turns out to be true.

This year we’ve used yard sales to buy a nifty circular painting of a ship that is now hanging in our main room, acquire a sturdy used wheebarrow and some useful yard and gardening tools, get the cream pitcher and sugar bowl pictured above, and fill in some of the gaps in the household.  It’s all stuff we like and can use–for now, at least.

Of course, at some point in the future it all could end up in a yard sale of our own, on a table filled with other bric-a-brac.