June 2011 - Ezy Reading:
My Ohio
Evan Kanarakis


The great state of Ohio means many things to many people.

For some, their first thoughts are of a ‘Midwestern heartland’, of sorts- a picturesque countryside of small towns bordered by a water tower at one end, and cornfields at the other. Tight-knit communities bonded by hard work whose proverbial blood, sweat and tears have poured into the land they’ve handed on from one generation to the next.

Others think of Ohio and see the cities. The sprawling capital Columbus, known for being home to The Ohio State University, or thoughts turn to places like Cleveland and Akron, former heavy manufacturing giants slowly making a path forward from financial turmoil and decline into urban renewal and revitalization. Others still look further south, to the ‘Queen City’ of Cincinnati on the Kentucky border, impressed by the ornate architecture of Over-the-Rhine.

Elsewhere, talk about Ohio immediately leaps to talk of sports, and a state where the heartbreak of crushing losses are all-too-familiar, especially in Cleveland where mention of such things as ‘the fumble’, ‘the shot’, ‘Red Right 88’ and ‘The Decision’ make an entire populace cringe. And the jewel in the crown -The Ohio State Buckeyes football team- have not been exempt from agony over the years, even as they’re so often a reliable source of victories-as-respite to help cloud older Ohioan’s memories of anguish and defeat.

Music is what many will consider when they speak of Ohio, too. You’ll hear of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Moondog Coronation Ball and the countless artists that hail from the Buckeye state: names like The Isley Brothers, Bootsy Collins, The Pretenders and The Black Keys are but a few from a long list of influential successes.

But these are just cursory glances, as if plucked from a token guidebook for visitors. Ohio is home to a thousand other alternately well-known or obscure attractions and identifying factors, from Lake Erie to Cincinnati Chili, from the Wright Brothers’ birthplace to a wandering Johnny Appleseed. Beyond this lie millions of personal recollections and remembrances that define and color thoughts and memories of Ohio for individuals. These have been affected and altered by experience (both good and bad) that are open to constant change and renewal by new experiences and the passage of time. This is true of anywhere in the world. Again: the great state of Ohio means many things to many people.

For me, right now, Ohio represents a very distinct memory: I’m up, as my friends put it, ‘on the mountain’ and standing at the edge of a cornfield with a farmhouse behind me in rural Butler, Ohio.

It’s not long from midnight and subsequently pitch black, but for a clear sky glistening with stars that seem brighter than ever to this city-dweller used to dull skies overhead. Below, almost as if in mirror image to the stars, fireflies glow amid the corn in what is at once both an eerie but also wholly magical, sparkling dance. By rights, this scene should be accompanied by chirping crickets and a gentle summer breeze rustling through the long grass. Instead, my good friends and hosts for this adventure are musicians –every last one of them- and as such they are currently in the basement of that aforementioned farmhouse engaged in a happy, laughing circle of guitars, keyboards and drums that will jam on until dawn.

In place of nature’s soundtrack, it is Neil Young that owns this moment. I’m lost in the spectacle of stars in every direction as the words “Keep on rockin’ the free world” echo out across the night, no doubt sending the deer scrambling. I nod to the beat of those making music and feel it’s time I returned to the fray. Admiring the extraordinary scene before me for one last time, I take a sip of beer from the bottle at my side and wonder out aloud if there is anywhere else on earth that I’d rather be in that particular moment. There surely isn’t.

And that is my Ohio. May I revisit it again soon.


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