Whitmer Graduation

(Toledo, OH) Several thousand people packed the Seagate Center for the graduation of the seniors of Whitmer High School this afternoon. I was intrigued by the wide variety of people I saw there today, and I found especially interesting the spectrum of clothing worn by those in attendance.

I grew up in a different generation, where a high school graduation was an event that a person was expected to dress up for. It is always, then, a surprise to me when I see people dressed in baggy shorts or mini skirts for a somewhat formal occasion, but I readily admit that I was in the minority today, wearing a suit and tie.

One thing never changes at graduation, though, and that is the market for effective acne treatments. Nothing inspires teenaged drama in its most severe manifestations than an untimely pimple on graduation day.


Chipmunk, Startled

(Toledo, OH) I have never been able to get the chipmunks who live near my house to view me with anything but alarm, and this small rodent is typical of the skittishness with which local chipmunks exhibit in my presence.

Yet a few local squirrels scurry right up to me when I walk outside, trained as they are that I am a soft touch for peanuts.

Go figure.


Collapsed Building

(Winameg, OH) I don't know the story of this building, which I passed while zipping along in Fulton County yesterday. One might posit that this was once a barn, but there are no other buildings nearby.

As it stands (or doesn't stand, as the case may be), what was once a building is now a gray-black pile of wood, long overgrown with wildflowers and grasses. Springing from the rubble are a pair of younger trees, creating some sort of old-versus-new visual metaphor that I am too tired to put into words, or even by using Primera labels.


Toledo Gas Prices: Rising, Rising, Rising

(Toledo, OH) Yes, I suppose that I knew this day would arrive, but the sticker shock of breaking the $4.00-per-gallon mark for gasoline is still unsettling. I took my gas can to a nearby Speedway station to buy gas for my lawn mower, and found that prices jumped over $.25 per gallon in the past few days (I filled up my car on Tuesday).

At this rate, we might even see $5.00-per-gallon gas before the summer ends, and THAT is a scary thought.

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Late Spring Sunset in the Country

(Genoa, OH) I caught some amazing sunsets this evening while driving along the back roads in Northwest Ohio. Unfortunately, I did not have my tripod, so I was unable to get more than a dozen decent shots out of over 100 with my Canon SLR, but most of the enjoyment in sunset-watching is being there to experience the beauty, right?

That is, unless you prefer to spend your time indoors, trying to find the perfect coffee tables for your living room.

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Gull in Flight

(Toledo, OH) I wish that I had a compelling narrative for the gulls I saw floating in the afternoon sky the other day, but at the time I was sitting in a grocery store parking lot, trying to rest after a trip to the store while beaten down with the flu.

Perhaps I could say that the soaring gulls gave me inspiration to turn the key in the ignition and drive home, and that they gave me the strength to crawl in the house and collapse on the couch.

Still sounds kind of lame, but I did enjoy watching these birds, even when they picked through the store dumpster for food.



Blue Jay

(Toledo, OH) Sure, they squawk and harass other birds near my feeders, but I always appreciate the aggressive and gregarious blue jays who populate my neighborhood.

The other day I was feeding squirrels some peanuts, and a jay swooped down and snatched a peanut milliseconds before one of the squirrels could pick it up. The bird had to be watching the human-squirrel interactions for a few moments before deciding to dive-bomb the rodents.

You have to admire the pluck of blue jays, one of whom now exist forever on this blog and on my laptop.


Storm Clouds Reaching Down

(Ida, MI) My picture does not quite capture what I saw, but the dark clouds in the sky seemed to float just a few dozen yards above the treetops the other day. This was not a strong storm, so these were not indicative of tornado activity, but rather they appeared to waft above the trees like the products of a magician's dry ice machine.


Carpet of Moss

(Toledo, OH) Walking through this section of Wildwood Metropark was momentarily like strolling through some Lewis Carroll dreamscape, with the velvety-green moss serving as a spongy carpet in this section of forest. The path upon which I sauntered was far removed from the sound of traffic, and the tree-lined promenade was surrounded by singing birds.

Though the effect wore off as the woods gave way to a meadow, for a moment I could have been standing anywhere but in the middle of the Rust Belt.



St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church

(Bay City, MI) I recently stood up in a wedding at the magnificent St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church in Bay City, MI. the church is one of the most beautiful religious buildings I have ever seen, and it is both an architectural and aesthetic marvel.

The cornerstone of the current building for the church was blessed on June 24, 1890, and the church was dedicated on July 17, 1892. Polish immigrants from eastern Prussia were instrumental in the creation of this parish, and this neo-Gothic church was originally built at a cost of $60,000.



Hungry Mob Lines Up Outside Papa John's

(Toledo, OH) By 3:45 pm, there were almost 150 people lined up on Dorr Street to take advantage of the $.23 pizza special at Papa John's. Ohio units of the pizza chain are offering large, one-topping pies for 23 cents today as an apology to fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The chain announced the deal after a Washington, D.C., franchisee distributed T-shirts describing Cavs star LeBron James as a "crybaby" during a recent playoff game.

Horns honked as motorists tried to cut through traffic to find a parking place within a few blocks of the store. Personally, as an ex-franchisee of Little Caesars who put on similar low-dollar promotions over the years, the last place I would want to be is in a long line like that.

Still, 23 cents is an awfully inexpensive meal, and perhaps the long line at this pizza franchise is a commentary on the tough economic times.

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Foot-Long Earthworm

(Toledo, OH) The spring rains that soaked the area brought quite a few earthworms out from their subterranean homes today. Among the numerous worms on my driveway and walkways was this large specimen.

The worm motored along the wet paving stones at quite a clip; while snakes would still out-wriggle this creature, the worm nonetheless covered ten feet in about two minutes.

Yet the size of this impressive earthworm loses something once it is captured on a digital format and shelved on the computer memory of a remote server. Better to experience it firsthand.



Red Tulips in the Evening Sun

(Toledo, OH) We are nearing the end of the run for this spring's tulips, as the early-blooming varieties have begun to lose their petals, while the late-bloomers are all opening. The past few days, though, have been awash with color in the tulip-growing yards near my house.

This group of red tulips grows in my next-door neighbor's yard, and the late evening sunlight brought out a depth of color not seen at midday. I am looking forward to a few black (actually dark, dark purple) tulips that are about to bloom in my own yard, tulips that almost exactly match my exterior shutters.



Freeway Vehicular Accident

(Flint, MI) The heavy rain that ripped through mid-Michigan on Friday afternoon made driving conditions quite slick, and these unfortunate motorists could not avoid a high-speed collision. We missed the accident by a minute or two, luckily for us, though it appeared that there were no serious injuries.

My experience has been that too many drivers want to keep zipping along at high rates of speed during rain showers, and that this reckless behavior is just as dangerous as morons who drive 70 mph during blizzards.

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Tornado Siren

(Ida, MI) I am sure that there are parts of the United States - as well as the rest of the world - where the idea of a tornado siren seems bizarre. Here in the northeastern edge of Tornado Alley, though, the blaring of a tornado siren can mean the difference between life and death.

I have never experienced a tornado, and I admit to a morbid curiosity about this meteorological phenomenon. I suspect, though, that I am all the luckier for never having a tornado tough down closer than five miles away fro me.

I recall last summer driving to my house when the sirens began blaring, and the sky turned greenish-black in the southwest. I was paranoid that my teenaged children would not take cover, and they did not pick up the phone when I called. Of course, I kept getting commercials on the radio, as the winds suddenly shifted 180 degrees toward the storm.

Luckily, the spotted tornado struck a few miles to the north in Monroe County, and my kids were smart enough to have already gone to the basement with the dogs by the time I got home, perhaps three minutes before the storm hit.

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Where Once There was a Hardware Store Named Janney's

(Toledo, OH) I frequently drive past the intersection of Secor and Alexis Roads, which once boasted the upside-down signs of Janney's Ace Hardware. Bulldozers razed the buildings of the former business months ago, and the process of preparing the property for its new owners has begun.

Unfortunately, the site will become home to yet another big-box pharmacy, which in this case is the Rite-Aid Corporation. Yippee - I can now travel about 20 fewer yards in my trips to purchase acne treatment for my kids.

Yes, time marches forward, and I might be guilty of nostalgia, but I fail to see how the area benefits from the loss of Janney's Hardware and the opening of another cookie cutter pharmacy. The formerly thriving hardware store is another casualty of attrition in a world obsessed with with conglomerate retailers, and I do not begrudge Tim Janney and his family for selling the property.

Lord knows I would not want to have to compete with the likes of Home Depot and Lowe's.

Still, there is much to be said for having a neighborhood hardware store staffed with people who know the answers to your home improvement questions, as opposed to having to turn to minimum wage, pimply-faced 19-year-olds for "advice" at some of the warehouse hardware giants.