Sunday, May 16, 2004

Making Good Use of the New Title Feature...Sort Of.

I've had a perfectly useless long weekend, and a perfectly useless Sunday afternoon. But I enjoyed it. I went the long way to Columbus and back today. I'm not exactly a scenery person, but 71 is one of the most boring damn roads I've ever seen. And driving down and back up that sucker twice a week every week for two school years is enough to drive anyone crazy. So today I took some back roads.

I almost wish I would've brought my camera. Rural Ohio can be quite beautiful when the sun is just setting and the flowers are just blooming and the grass is that unusual late May/early June shade of green that I've never seen anywhere else but Ireland. But there were better things than just the scenery. There was, for instance, the ultimate low church Protestant ideal, a church actually entitled: An Apostolic Church. Catchy, no? There was a man who, apparently having no available lawn mower, stood weedwhacking a giant patch of grass in his multiple acre side yard. There was the country church, a couple of miles from nowhere, which apparently was sponsoring some sort of aerobics class in their front lawn.

It was a nice day. I couldn't do it every week; it took too long, and it's annoying to have to slow down to 35 going through all of the little backhill ghost towns, called delightfully dated names like Steam Corners. In my opinion, if fewer than five families have lived there in twenty years, its time to reraise the speed limit.

Someday I want to do a study on some of these little towns. Ohio has seen a lot of major changes over time. The coming of canal, and its eventual abandonment, is one change that is pretty well studied. But the coming, and eventual abandonment, of the railroads is one that I think might be even more interesting. The death of heavy industry will doubtless be another.

It's funny to think that the small town my dad grew up in had more inhabitants when he was in high school than it does now, and that the public transportation system he grew up with was developed and accessible enough that his older brother took the train to college in Cleveland and back every weekend, which I can't even imagine now. It's even stranger to think that the transport system of my grandmother's era was so vastly superior to our modern one that housewives from my area regularly took the trolley down to Columbus or up to Cleveland for a day of shopping before coming back home to fix dinner for their husbands. Today, if you haven't got a car of your own, you haven't got a ride.

After taking trains all over Europe, it makes me sad to think that we have such a lousy transportation system. When the car companies emerged at the dawning of the twentieth century, they made war on the railroads. And they were successful enough to drive them almost entirely out of business. If they hadn't, we'd have a hell of lot fewer cars on the road today. And if that were true, I wouldn't be so pissed about having spent $2.05 a gallon on gas today, for my long drive through the country.