The dying heartbeat of America

No matter where I am, I always try to make an effort to go for a drive and explore the area. I-5 in Oregon and Washington lined with mountains on each side was breathtaking. Bardstown Road in Louisville boasts a lot of local mom and pop bars and restaurants, intermingled with book stores, art shops, and tattoo parlors. And there is nothing like Music City USA, with the neon lights and a trying-to-make-it-big band in every door. So when I rolled into a town in the northeast region of my home state, Ohio, I was anxious to explore somewhere I had never been. Ashtabula, the hometown of my very good friend Dave Burnham, offered a very different experience. And I realized I was in every small factory town in America.

As I drove through downtown, the very first thing I noticed was the street. Small jogs in the pavement around landscape islands were proof that this had once been a beautiful, thriving area. But the cracks and potholes in the pavement, the dirt where the grass used to be, and the dead trees reflected the nature of this community. The buildings, no doubt once filled with hardware stores and insurance agents, now house thrift stores and Army Navy stores. That is, the ones that are not standing empty. Elderly people seem to wander the streets with no where to go, almost lost. You could see a sadness on their face. Some were carrying what looked to be bags of cans or scrap metal. I was astonished but remembered the words my friend had told me. This was an old factory town, but the factories have closed. I was saddened when I realized that the economic downturn caused the depression of this once vibrant city. As one of the people told me, "anyone with half a brain has left this damned town". It suddenly occurred to me that towns like Ashtabula were once the heartbeat of America, and that cities like Cleveland and Columbus were built on the foundation of these places. And that heartbeat appears to be dying.

Ashtabula wasn't all run down though. On edge of downtown there are some beautiful homes. They appear to have been bought and rehabilitated, and the architecture was stunning. These were homes of the money people when the town was alive. Lush green lawns and new sidewalks adorned this neighborhood that is clearly on the comeback trail. I can imagine a time when the whole town looked like that, and hope for the people of northeast Ohio, it does again soon.

Back to Columbus Sunday to start a very busy last few weeks of August. Divorce will be final the 17th, then have a class in Cincinnati the 23rd thru 27th, followed by camping at Mohican on the last weekend of the month. I am so looking forward to that weekend! Oh and lest I forget John-Michael's birthday on the 26th. Whew.

Good Night Everyone...............

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