Reynolds Road – The Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Today, I realized that I may have been an accomplice towards the decline of my heyday. If you’re not from Toledo, you may not understand. If you are from this area, you may not want to understand. The majority of my life has been spent inside the confines of Maumee, Ohio; my hometown. Throughout the past few years, crossing Heatherdowns was no longer necessary. Everything I needed was quickly moving south. In fact, I’m not sure I ever stepped into Perrysburg until after I returned home from the Army. Damn, Jackets. Now, I find myself far into Rossford. What happened? Who let it get this bad and how much worse does it have to decline before we see positive changes? I’m very upset.

It was 1987. I sat in the backseat of my parents 87′ rusty tan Honda Accord. There was one place to be and this was a place I referred to as “the strip”. This was it, this was the Vegas Boulevard of Northwest Ohio. If I was sitting in the back of a car on Reynolds Road, in Toledo, Ohio, we were doing something great. Restaurants, Mall, Movies, and the social mecca of any city that surrounded Toledo. My sister had her wedding reception at one of the tallest, nicest hotels in the south Toledo area. She sang karaoke on her twenty-first birthday at the Bombay Bicycle Club. I grew up riding in the front of a shopping cart at Kmart, drinking a small frozen coke and begging my mother for a star wars figure or matchbox car. (Which she obliged as I agreed to be on my best behavior while she finished riding the wave towards the blue light specials). I had cookies at Rax with my meal, we had two movie theaters (one inside the mall and one outside), and I can’t tell you how mesmerized I was to watch adults play Mortal Combat at Dominick’s after they tossed back whiskey and potato skins. Dear lord, how dark was it in that place? MC Sports, Hot Sam’s, and Damon’s ribs. This was a treat for me as a child. I knew that anywhere we went on Reynolds Road, was the place to be. It was something special to have experienced.

I drove down Reynolds Road today heading south from Rodgers High School. It was heartbreaking as I shook my head in despair for the majority of my journey back home. Parking lots overgrown with weeds and barricades. Empty stores and vacant hotels aligned the city street that once never slept and now seemed to be just a distant memory of what my youth stood for. It is the definition of a broken boulevard and it’s not getting any brighter. How can we allow something to hit rock bottom until we decide to build it back up. How far south is this city sliding? To me, it’s a dark cloud that is about to hover over my hometown. A town that I love and cherish and will not allow to relinquish itself to this exact fate. Toledo has always been the bigger brother that Maumee has looked up to, until we grew up and realized it’s still trying to hold on to it’s glory years and is now attempting to ride our coat tails and move in. You’re better than this Toledo.

I can not comment on politics, or city funding, or give answers as to where and what the tax money from a casino in Rossford is going towards. I can’t tell you if my spending in Maumee and south of has contributed to this decline. What I can tell you, is that something needs to be done. Results can not happen over night, but this is an ongoing plague without the concern to test for a cure. Is this the Mayors fault, do we need to sell south Toledo to Chinese investors? How do we get people to stay downtown if there isn’t a sporting event? Just today, I was informed of a rumor that Toledo is in the top ten for the most vacant businesses in the country. I wish I saw city officials taking a more hands on approach and less crunching numbers. It boggles my mind.

As I relive my sister’s karaoke prowess on vhs, at the Bombay Club, I smile and remember what promise the south side of Toledo once held. I envision the wood crates full of lp’s at Peaches Record Store right before we emptied our pockets of the remaining quarters at the Red Barron Arcade. I’ve lost this forever and my hopes for a revival fades as each day passes. But seriously, I’m glad they’re paving the road around the abandoned mall. It seems like a great start..

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435.37 Gigawatts

Last weekend I found a passionate hobby within my love and hate relationship of small town America. I found myself driving with no direction only stopping periodically to anything that had caught my eye. I would take a quick photo or reflect by closing my eyes and remembering how it felt at that moment. Sight is often the last sense that I use to remember anything. I found myself not too far from my home but in much smaller towns such as Delta, Neapolis, Swanton, and ironically Assumption, Ohio. I loved every moment. It was literally like walking back in time, as I stepped foot in what appeared to be vacated ghost towns. Growing up in Maumee, Ohio gives me very little leverage to downplay the importance of a smaller sized community. However, Toledo was always holding our hand as the bigger brother. I grew up in a city that I’d consider relatively average sized and that has allowed me to have perspective on both sides of the fence. This past weekend gave me permission to be unbiased as I set out to soak up the culture of my surrounding step-cities.

As I walked around for a few minutes and peered within the few store fronts that now entirely consisted of thrift shops, I felt as though I had walked back in time. These smaller sized cities were eerily reminiscent of being twenty odd years behind us in technology. This made me extremely jealous. I had this warm feeling of unpaved country roads, apple trees, children without bicycle helmets, and absolutely no street lights. Horses roamed over the tiny rolling hills and ponds in your front yard were a sign of being distinguished. I imagined no cell phones, pot luck dinners, bon fires, and fridges full of chilled apple cider. As I roamed the towns for a mere three minutes, I noticed that the only business open past 5pm on a Saturday was the local Taverns. This, to me, is a very uncomfortable small town must.

As I walked in, I immediately felt as though they knew I had never stepped foot in their city before. Everyone had haircuts from the 80’s and smoked cigarettes as though they had yet to hear about the big C and only because it’s just been talked about on this new phenomenon called the http://www.something/In-ter-net. Hell, the crusty old magazines they had lying around only laced every other page with promotion. I glanced around at all seven customers that were sitting at the same table as I tiptoed my way towards a bar stool. Remember my new found hobby? I pretended as though it happened to be 1983. I sat Indian style on my puma minimalist running shoes as if to not disclose that i came from the future and cautiously, yet boldly asked to have what the locals have. With a slight flick of the wrist and a subtle spit of her tobacco, I received a tall scotch and water. In a matter of moments, the bartender asked what I was doing as I was fiddling with my iphone. I said “Nothing, what this old TI-83 or my pager on my hip”? She chuckled. I pretended as if I had saved myself from being erased on a Polaroid photo while my mother and father danced to Johnny Be Good.

Living in a small town has its positives and negatives. I often tend to compare it to house arrest (thankfully, I wouldn’t know) I feel as though we are stuck; this being a negative. Needless to say, this is what I know and have come to appreciate and love. My family and friends are here. My home and heart are securely placed in a city where most people pass through each day in a blink of an eye. I would describe my hometown as a small broom without a dustpan. You absolutely can not shake your past. People are still known for their game winning home run in little league baseball or their reputation in high school. Every person in this city is 4 degrees of separation from someone else they have slept with. Your childhood home is a bike ride away, and now you are drinking at the same bar your father did and still is.

My ex girlfriend walked past me today in silence. Perhaps and deservingly because of my actions that I will take full responsibility for. This is neither here nor there, but it’s painstakingly unavoidable where I live. We went from needing passports, to no longer acknowledging one another. It’s something that I may never completely adapt to. Someone recently sent me a private message to my blog saying that I would be better suited for a bigger city. That I seem like a sore thumb where I am and I would fit perfectly in a city that would allow me more opportunities. To not have a drink with my gym coach at the local watering hole, personally know the local sheriff, and possess the ability to become a new identity each and every day without being prejudged. It’s a very tough situation because I find myself directly on top of the fence. I have a small town heart with big city dreams. I live with the grass stains on my knees and a doors unlocked lifestyle. I just can’t sweep up my past without reliving it on a daily basis. Heartbreak is visible in a small town and that is often why they become gossiping, tight knit communities. Your past will never leave you or anyone that knows of you.

Al in all, I can not and will not leave. I love my family and cherish where I come from. Sometimes I take this for granted, but deep inside my heart it’s the most comfortable feeling I’ve ever known. Not unlike previous relationships, I enjoy the comfort of knowing someone loves me and is always just a stones throw away. This is what I have come to know as love. A comfort at a slight distance. This is my definition of the hometown I may live in for the rest of my life; Maumee, Ohio. Damn, I love you.

Hoarding Mistakes.

I am an organized packrat. I find it very difficult to part with anything that has meant something to me and my life. A note, card, receipt, or a ticket stub; I have all of them. They are a majority of my storage both physically and emotionally. My past is filled in boxes upon boxes and tucked safely away to never be looked at again. It’s a combination of comfort and a fear of separation that insists these mementos follow me in every single move that I’ve made thus far in my life. I have this unique gift of holding on to good and forgetting about bad. It’s haunted me at times and forced me to forget why I am, where I am. I remember smiles and hugs. I envision vacations and hear laughter. I remember firsts and forget lasts. Sometimes I have to force myself to focus on negativity in order to move on with the positives of my life. If not, I am consistently reliving the days of my past and unwillingly avoiding the present. This is a task I find extremely difficult and daunting. It’s hard for me to allow myself to experience something new even when I am willing to admit the crippling negativity that had once persisted. Deep with inside my heart I know that I can not worry about something that happened yesterday when it no longer carries a tomorrow.

I am very reluctant to point my finger at another without pointing it back at myself. I know how emotions often get the best of us. Hatred is temporary and love often prevails in the end and allows us to recoup what we‘ve lost in order to believe in persistence. As humans, we are made to love one another and tempted to mask our hurt with unaccountable anger. We are meant to forgive and motivated to learn from mistakes. Failing to learn from my missteps has often captured me in one vicious cycle that wont allow balance unless I remind myself to admit how it initially became a mistake. There are four reminders that I keep with me at all times. Four mementos that have not fueled me with hatred but remarkably with motivation to become a better person. Whether right or wrong, deserved or unfitting, they remind me how far I’ve come and that I have the final say in how my life is portrayed.

The older I get, the more I realize that my time on this earth is the most valuable possession that I own. Nonetheless, it’s not up to me as to how long I have. I’ve found myself to be less tolerant with merely being content and more susceptible to experiencing as much as possible until I find my cloud nine. If I never find it, so be it as long as I die trying. I’m not bitter, angry, or depressed. I am gracefully challenged with an abnormal amount of motivation to physically see what I feel within my heart. I try every day to be respectful for the gift I have been given; however, I can’t mask my truths. I apologize to those who have to see my reality and honesty in it’s negative light. It’s a part of who I am and how I feel. I can’t let go of something that internally inspires me to find what it is that will eventually relinquish that light and grant me the courage to let it go. Knowing that one day I will find it and be able to move on in a positive direction that I have so passionately searched for is all the motivation I need.

I want to thank the people who have given me my reminders. I honestly have let go of any resentment and have learned to forgive. These mementos are with me in good spirits to remind me of the strides I have made and the hurdles that I am capable of overcoming. They have allowed me the opportunity to no longer squander my time with something that had faced me in the wrong direction. These will not be boxed up and forgotten. They will make me smile and support my realization that sometimes making mistakes are the ultimate blessing in disguise.

The Fog Is About To Roll In.

There are a lot of organizations around Toledo that promote engaging people and inspiring changes. I’m hesitant to comment on their intentions because I have very little knowledge pertaining to their mission statements and goals. If I had to make a blind guess, I’d say Bar Louie is getting an extreme makeover. Intentions are often strong but they lack the priority and leadership that can be provided in order to make the lasting changes in our community.

The odds (for me) of starting a non-profit organization are slim to none. My patience wears thin and I’m victim to the lack of instant gratifications and results that promote the potential to move forward. I severely and inadequately miss the knowledge that is necessary to begin the process towards my good will within Toledo. However, I want to help. I want to make differences. I selfishly need meaning and purpose in this life I lead. Sometimes, I believe Heaven and Hell exists within our selves and the thought of an afterlife merely promotes the inspiration for good deeds. Giving, helping, supporting, and kindness are all feelings of heaven and although this is a debate for another day, being given the opportunity to feel this way, everyday, is a blessing. A chance to achieve inner peace and make the best of the gifts in our lives.

If there was an idea scale of one to a hundred, one being just the thought, this would be a two. A few of my friends and I have been throwing around ideas of donating, supporting, and giving. Not by meeting in a bar, ringing a bell, or holding out a fireman’s boot on a street corner. Rather something that will make someone in need feel loved. A way we can gather people together, meet new people, and help someone in need; with fun and unique intentions and ideas.

There are so many possibilities, and this is one that stands strongly within my heart. Fog. Flashes Of Gratitude. I realize that flash mobs are on the tail end of their prominent moment of popularity, but the concept of a flash mob with the focus of intentions with generosity can rise. The concept is rather simple. Once a month, we nominate/promote someone or something in need through social media. People can write in, or designate someone that needs a helping hand to get back on their feet. Even if it’s just the gesture that counts. We designate a time and spot at the end of the month to FOG them. A free cookout for homeless with donations. Toys at a children’s hospital. A line of hugs. Clothing drives. Yard/House work. Clean up.

This entire process could take, at most, one hour of your time each month. Then, if desired, we would have cookouts, play bocce, dinner, or just gather and meet new people to discuss new ideas and concepts. It’s a win/win idea that primarily promotes helping people in need within the city we live and love.

Possible? Hope so.

Where Are We Going To Play Football When The Pine Tree Grows?

I never ever thought I’d grow up, until I actually did. I was not prepared. There is something that we capture as children and young adults that we can never regain as we get older in life. I lived in the moment each and every day and in return, my life moved at the welcomed pace of a snail. The years between sixteen and eighteen felt like an entire decade. I could not wait to grow older. I was misinformed.

I learned how to roll a rubber bowling ball, use wood glue, water color, and combine numbers with letters. However, I wasn’t prepared for death, child support, divorce, taxes, layoffs, mortgages, budgeting, or pre-treating my laundry. It’s debatable whether this is something I should have learned at home, or it’s just a part of the growth itself. I understand that I was in the minority when I graduated from High School and even more so now. College has become a must and if you don’t attend, join the military, or work for your parents; you’re about to get a serious dose of Life 101.

I closed my locker for the last time and before I knew it, I woke up in Ft. Fucking Knox. It felt as though Mr. Otis pulled the car over and dropped me off in the middle of the Mojave. I never worried about tomorrows until then and if I didn’t start, I’d be writing in a blog at Panera after eight hours of making t-shirts; in a 108 degree building. As Mr. Otis pulled away, he ran his fingers through his thick bushy beard as he threw my painting out the window and screamed “best of luck“. He had that look in his eye as if he’s seen this before and my odds were not entirely in my favor. I was in the middle of nowhere with no direction in sight. I’d know how to survive on leaf collections and floor hockey but If I can’t financially figure out how to support myself and find shelter, I’d have to hitchhike through life.

I took a test in middle school to determine my career path. I answered every question with great detail and honesty. I bubbled every circle perfectly with a brand new #2 pencil. I could barely wait for the results in order to research my future occupation. After a few days, it was determined that I would pursue Underwater Cave Spelunking. I can’t swim. We had “Career Opportunities” in High School that I believe was mandatory. I remember writing a paper about wanting to become a bee keeper and playing around with Monopoly money. I’m fairly sure that if I had taken this class seriously, I’d still be left with the questions I have to this day. Filling out applications for a half hour and writing resumes did not inform me of the man, and how he was going to stick it to me because I wasn’t prepared enough to have multiple options in my life.

Every time I ran “2 laps”, I ran 2 laps. Every time I run now, I think about not having money, my garage door not working, making my girlfriend happy, lost loved ones, and waking up at 4:30 am for work. Including sleep, I spend fourteen to fifteen hours a day in a trance; most of it at work. I can’t imagine a life where Monday feels like Friday at 5pm. I know it’s possible. I mean, I picture Perez Hilton on a giant king sized bed with over sized pink pillows made of Indonesian duck feathers, eating Fig Newtons and blogging about the Tom Cruise divorce; in a perfect 72.5 degree bedroom on an F’n Monday. Not exactly something I dream of doing, but I’m sure he’s more than content. I bet he was never introduced to Mr. Otis’ and his musty Ford Taurus.

Kids are growing up much faster now than I did. Technology stabbed everything I loved as a child in the back and closed a majority of the windows to our youth. It didn’t make our lives easier, it made them more complicated. Passing notes, letters in the mail, Scrabble (the actual board game), and reading a Playboy in a friend’s garage. Gone. I’m just as guilty as the next when it comes to being roped into the world we live in. For the most part, we have to evolve with the times or we will be left behind; whether we like it or not. When I was a kid, we rode our bikes to Highland Appliance Center to play Nintendo. Soon after, kids rode bikes while playing Nintendo, and now (if not soon) kids will be projected into the Nintendo riding a bike from their couch within their basement. Technology, McDonalds, and Mr. Pibb are making us fat and lazy. I vividly remember playing kickball outside for hours as a child. I would and have shit my pants instead of missing my turn to kick. I waddled to second, had my shadow replace me and go behind second base (that was a tree) and discard of my Knight Rider underwear. We ate unwashed grapes off of vines at halftime. Hopped fences, ding dong ditched, and ran home to the sound of a ringing bell; not a cell phone. We stole wood at construction sites and built empires with a few nails and a can of spray paint and at night, used that can to kick in a game we grew to cherish. This is what I can’t get back.

I have a memory that I will hold onto until the day I pass away. We grew up playing football in my friends front yard and one day, they planted a very small pine tree on our ten yard line. (How dare they). Thankfully, it was small enough to not interfere with any down and outs. I asked, (like it was yesterday); “Where are we going to play football when this pine tree grows”? My friend and his brother both looked at me and said, “We won’t be playing here or living here when that tree grows that big”. I acted as though I was joking when I asked that, but inside I was destroyed. It felt like the first time a girl told me we’d be better of as friends. I suppose right then and there, life allowed me to grow up. Our experiences, mostly hardships allow us to live and learn. Regardless, I’m a strong believer in a helping hand. Guidance from our elders and being able to lose the “I found out the hard way” mentality.

I hope some day we can have a life class in our school systems. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t; but if we can roll a rubber ball at some pins while wearing jock straps, we can certainly learn about alimony payments. We can provide our children a path full of opportunities, instead of a desert and a painting that takes fifteen years to sturdy my steps upon a path I may have just discovered. Now, life is going by too quickly and although I currently have no desire to defecate in my pants, I can’t slow it down and I know it. To underestimate your youth and decisions you make prior to becoming an adult can be critical. Find your path and live your dreams. Help another and help yourself. I was told something that sticks with me. Why do you put on your oxygen mask first before your child? You can’t help another if you can’t help yourself first. Be passionate about life and what it offers. Embrace all your trials and tribulations and live every Monday as if it were a Friday.