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Friday, May 30, 2014

We

There has been something unusual happening in our town lately.

No, the river is not flowing backwards; Lake Erie has not wandered off. Nor have we been invaded by little green men in UFOs. As noteworthy and momentous as any of those events would be, what has been occurring of late is much more profound and significant.

In order to better appreciate what is happening, a bit of background is needed.

My Lovely Bride and I are long-time residents of our town. While we agree it has been quite some time, there is a minor difference of opinion as to just how long we have lived here. My contention is we arrived in town 3 or 4 days following the cooling of the Earth’s crust. LB insists it was right after primitive vegetation burst forth.  However, bear in mind just who the historian in the family is.

The town we found was active, people took part in events and festivals. The swimming pools were open; the Recreation Department had year-round programs available.  A new city hall replaced the former old mansion modified to office use. A weekly car cruise in at the memorial to the city’s fallen and veterans.
Our local government, business community, and citizens had a spirit of cooperation, working together to get things done.

Then, due to some rather poor decisions resulting in rather unpleasant outcomes, the Administration changed.  A radically different Administration came to City Hall.  Slowly, insidiously, the former attitude of “we” was replaced by one of “us vs. them”. What began as minor breaches grew into yawning chasms between the Administration, city departments, business community, and residents.

As the economy went South, in a Draconian effort to be fiscally responsible; everything came to a grinding halt. Relations with the business community soured.

In summation; it was not a joyous time.

However, Change took place once again. A new Administration came to City Hall.

Once again, “we” began to push aside “us vs. them”. Readers may recall the June, 2013 column Swimming Pools. Our city was faced with a summer of no pool. A particular Lovely Councilperson offered to work with anyone willing to explore other avenues; be it fund-raising, corporate sponsorship, grants or what have you. The Administration at that time turned a deaf ear.

Now, as a result of a co-operative effort by the city, the local YMCA, and a new member to our business community (Best Supply); Father’s Day will be the opening of the pool.
The Lake County Captains have held an Easter egg hunt for the children of the town on the ball field this Spring, the first ever. Thanks to the generosity of Peter Carfagna, the team owner, the City’s festival will be held at the stadium this year; another first.
Yet, the most telling was this past weekend. Early on a Saturday morning, throngs of people descended upon City Hall armed with shovels, pruning shears, rakes and work gloves. The grounds around City Hall had been neglected.  Flower beds were weed filled, shrubs overgrown.
With tools, donated flowers, shrubs and trees, and a can-do approach, the city property was transformed into beds of colorful annuals, fresh mulch, and trimmed shrubbery.  Five hundred new American flags (again, donated) snapped in the fresh breeze along the Boulevard of Flags.
Has our town become perfect, a model city? No; not by any means.

But, we are a better city than before. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lawyers, Sushi, and Pink Slippers


One result of my Lovely Bride's activities in the community has been getting to know a lot of lawyers and judges.

Hmmm... that didn't come out quite right. Let me re-phrase...
One result of my Lovely Bride's being an elected official and active in the community has been getting to know a lot of lawyers and judges.
There, that fits.
I have come to the conclusion that lawyers are people, too. As tough as that may be to comprehend, they truly are. Although the profession of law has been maligned since at least the age of Shakespeare ( he tried to get off a driving a pony cart while impaired rap and lost due to poor legal counsel), they serve a very critical purpose.
I have a great deal of respect for the Law and legal profession. In fact, at one point, I had hoped to become an attorney. Alas, the winds of Life directed my sails on a different course setting. I don't look at “what may have been”; rather I look at “what may not have been”. While LB and I would in all likely hood have gotten married; I would not have the four wonderful children, and eight outstanding grand-children who have blessed our lives.
One would never hear me make any derogatory jokes about members of this esteemed group. Far be it from me to ever say anything like;
Q. Why don't lawyers have coronaries?
A. You gotta have a heart first.
Nor would I ever say anything like;
Q. What is an example of an oxymoron?
A. Honest lawyer
And, I would never, never tell such a besmirching joke as;
Q. What do lawyers and reptiles have in common?
A. They are both cold-blooded.
Such attacks are juvenile, insensitive, and serve solely to perpetuate biased stereo-types. They also provide a giggle now and then.
Several of our good friends are attorneys, which has resulted in some very unusual happenings as of late.
One young man is an interesting example He is truly a genius. His grasp of complex legal and political concepts is mind boggling. I can easily envision our friend John debating the finer points of Constitutional law with Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall.
John is a professor at Cleveland Marshall College of Law. His specialty is Tax Law. He has worked at large firms in New York City and in Washington D.C.. However, his family is from Northeast Ohio, and the desire to be near the home hearth outweighed the glitz and glamor of the Big Cities.
Being a professor, he is involuntarily bound by that ages-old precept of “Publish or Perish”. And, he does just that; publishes with regularity for various law reviews.
But....these publications tend to not show up on the majority of people's Top Ten “Must Read” lists. Which is where I; a some-what off plumb History major, English minor, published author comes in.
John asked if I would read some of his articles, and do a short review in Lookingbackatseveralhills.
I, not fully grasping the enormity of what I was doing, agreed.

And... I was quite pleasantly surprised. I read two articles by Prof. John Plecnik. One explored the Earned Income Credit for Federal tax-payers, the other an insightful discussion of the relative merits and short comings of a National Flat Tax.

His writings are much more than just a scholarly discourse on the whys and hows of our Federal system of taxation. They are engagingly written, sprinkled with copious doses of tongue-in-cheek humor. I would encourage my readers to visit www.plecnik.org. While there, read some of John's writings. I no longer feel quite so ignorant regarding being shaken-down.. I mean about paying my fair share to live in America.

At this time, the casual reader may be asking “Okay, that is great. What about the sushi and pink slippers.”
Ahh... patience, Grasshopper.
Another attorney friend of ours recently achieved a mile-stone. May of 1989 was her admission to the Bar Association. Joyce hosted a nice little reception to celebrate the event, and a quarter century of practicing estate and family law.
Becoming a member of the Bar Association is quite a memorable event. It is tantamount to being admitted to one's state medical board, or obtaining one's CPA certification. The recognition and reflection upon this achievement is quite well deserved.
My Lovely Bride and I found ourselves in the company of friends, acquaintances, and others all come together to share in some of the day with Joyce. While the crowd of well-wishers was a broad spectrum of people, one little detail struck us. Many attendees, including Joyce, were sporting the latest in fuzzy pink slippers.
I assumed since it was toward the end of the work day, some may have been on their feet all day in court or what have you and this was a good time to quiet the barking dogs. I did what most men would do; grabbed a plate and availed myself of the cheeses, dips, veggies, mini-wrap sandwiches, and sushi. Why trouble oneself with minor details when there is sushi, wasabi and cold beverages waiting to be consumed?
However, proving once again that females have far more different thought processes than males, LB could no longer contain herself. Sidling up to Joyce, making sure I was within ear-shot, she asks “I just have to ask; what is with the slippers?”
Joyce blushed, looked around, and then confided to us. What came forth was not what I had expected...
On May 8, 1989, a young Joyce Hribar awoke to the excitement of being sworn into the Ohio State Bar Association. She had gone shopping previously, selecting the perfect dark skirt and suit jacket, properly professional white blouse, appropriate hose, and brand new sensible female attorney power shoes.

She carefully wound her hair into a French bun, with a classy, yet understated hair pin. Grasping her briefcase, she walked from the house to her car. It is approximately a two hour drive from Cleveland to Columbus, and Joyce (wisely) opted to put her new shoes in the backseat of the car while wearing her pink house slippers to drive in.
1989 was a time before GPS, the common-use of cell phones, and navigation systems. Columbus, especially near the Statehouse, can be confusing. While searching for a reasonably convenient place to park, Joyce noted that commodity over which we have no control, Time, was slipping away. Finally finding a place to park, she grasped her things, and dashed to the Statehouse. With just a few minutes to spare, she ducked into a Ladies Room for a final check of her appearance. While standing before the mirror, she happened to glance toward the floor. There, resplendent in their fuzziness, were her feet; shod by her pink house slippers!!
A glance at her watch confirmed there was no time to dash to the car, get her proper lawyer shoes and dash back.
So, on May 8, 1989, Ohio admitted Joyce Hribar, Esq., to the Bar Association appropriately attired in a sensible dark suit, professional white blouse, perfectly coiffed hair, and pink slippers to its roll of attorneys!
She can laugh about it now. It has only taken 25 years..

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Old One Hundredth*


I seem to have jinxed myself.

Discerning readers may have noted the most recent column was #99. This raises several questions, not the least of which are: how has the publisher permitted so many of these things to slip through the filter, and what am I going to write for Number One Hundred??

While dismissing the first question as a mere piffle, I began to focus upon the latter: How to be Memorable?
Well...surprise, surprise, surprise.

The more I focused, the more fuzzy things became. Have you ever tried the trick of staring at a dot in the midst of a bunch of squiggly lines? Everything merges into an indistinguishable mass.
That is how my creativity has been.

Sure, friends offered suggestions and encouraged me. My Lovely Bride would say “Don't worry, it will come to you.”, leaving me to find an empty Creativity In-box. I lifted my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help. Only this time, my help must have been enjoying a leisurely lunch.

Many times I put pen to paper; only to result in fairly nonsensical gibberish. For example:
It was a dark and stormy night and I wondered as I wandered....nah, nothing there
Four-score and seven years ago, I heard the raven say “Nevermore”...nope, that doesn't cut it either.
Zip pi-Dee-doo-dah, Zip pi-Dee-ay... my oh my, I can't write today...Good Grief!
And so on. I spent countless hours (well, maybe a few minutes) staring at a blank laptop screen; only to find myself falling prey to the subtle enticements of Solitaire. Regaining my senses, I would wrest myself from the clutches of the cards, to commence staring at a blank screen once again
I considered the significance of a century. Derived from the Latin word “centenuim”, it means simply. “one hundred years” No more, no less.

There were no coins with the Emperor’s likeness called a “c-coin”. There was no Centennial Lions vs Christians party at the 100th meeting. Nope; it simply meant a hundred years had transpired.
I then thought about the significance of 100 years. There must be a little divot in the Time-Space Continuum which changes my perspective of 100 years. When I was small, the concept of anything being around 100 years was unfathomable. Although Mayfield Village was over 100 years old, and there are still several structures in town easily surpassing that mark, 100 years was mind boggling.
While the prospect of “being 100” was once inconceivable; achieving that milestone is no longer out of the realm of reason. Suddenly, it doesn't seem all that old. Now, 175, 200 years old... you are talking some serious age happening there!
I recall visiting several battlefields with my Dad during the Centennial of the American Civil War. We journeyed to Gettysburg, Antietam, Petersburg, Mannassas, Appomattox...I was enthralled at the history, the drama, and the age of everything. I have historical documents from that conflict which are still legible, a century and a half later.

Little did I know, fifty years later, I would be telling my grandchildren of these places.
I thought about the beginnings of this blog. Originally, my Lovely Bride and I signed up for a weight-loss contest sponsored by our local newspaper. Part of the requirements was writing a weekly blog-post about our experience.
While I didn't take to losing weight so well, (LB came in second.. I am very, very proud of her), writing is second nature for me. LB would struggle with a re-cap of her week dealing with her nutritional modifications while continuing to drop weight like a champ; I struggled with jelly doughnuts, and wrote like... well, a person who enjoys writing.
I got booted from the weight-loss contest for not making the cut. Oh well, c'est la vie. I was most bothered by not being able to write. Lo and behold, the editor of the paper at that time approached me about continuing to write. If only she had an inkling of the monster which her suggestion spawned....
From the initial posting of January 29, 2013, I am writing Number 100. What a journey it has been. The views from the hills have encompassed tremendous joys, and deep sorrows. The views have gazed into the Valley on Uncertainty in August of last year, only to gaze upon the peaks of Happiness in March of this year. The views have sometimes been funny, sometimes reflective, but always open. Ups, downs, and level happy trails; we have trod them all.
I am happy to say; I look forward to at least 100 more views across the hills.
I hope you continue to walk along with me.
 
*Title shamelessly borrowed from the hymn “Old 100th”, sometimes better known as “Doxology”

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.