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Excerpts of Ohio Travel Diary
State 36 - OHIO 08 NOV 99 - 12 NOV 99


Pencil pusher

The Ohio Capitol has a wonderful gift shop downstairs in "the Crypt," a place where was once the boiler room, but is now a museum, cafe, and gift shop. All the subterranean hallways, like a sewer system, are so much fun to explore. At the gift shop I purchase an 18-inch Presidential ruler. It's a ruler with all the President's listed in sequence, and a photo of each one to boot. Ken says it's a "Ruler of Rulers." (Pretty funny.) But I also purchase a pencil that's two feet long. It's silver with a black etching of the statehouse and the words, THE STATEHOUSE, etched in black in case you forget what the building is years from now. I'm thrilled to have this pencil, cuz Ken is always stealing my pencils and always denying the theft. No one else lives in the trailer with us, not even a mouse, but the man persistently avows innocence. Well, he can't possibly pilfer this pencil unnoticed. I get home, all excited with my own, personal pencil. Sharpen the pencil and begin using it right away. But. What's this? Huh? A Number Three pencil! Yuch. I'm stuck with a two-foot long #3 pencil. What a waste. Who the heck uses #3 pencils anyway? Oh, how I hate them. Well now for sure, Ken won't steal this. Number three pencil. Harumph.. Why do they even make 'em? They're useless.

Dress code

Today I feel like dressing up in a skirt and blazer and I notice something as we tour around. . . It's amazing how people treat me differently in this outfit than they normally treat me when I wear jeans. Today I get respect. People behave as though they're, well, as though they're afraid of me, or afraid of my disapproval. People want to please me. The reception I get across the board from all age groups and walks of life -- even humorless security guards -- treat me the same: respect and trust. If it were more comfortable to do so, I'd do this everyday.

Easy money

We visit historic Lebanon today. The town is full of antique shops as we venture into one after another, flipping price tags, flipping out over the excessive amounts, walking on. Around lunch time we mosey into a shop and find an elderly lady bent over the counter and an older gentleman scrunched in an antique rocker. Both are hunched over a spread of plastic picnic-ware, chewing various blends of take-out food. Neither of them acknowledge me or Ken as we enter their establishment, well, not in words, anyway, but their eyes follow us. After swallowing a hefty portion of a hero sandwich, the gentleman calls out, "Hey! Are you the couple who won the lottery yesterday?" Ken and I look at each other. "No," says I. "If we were, believe me, our smiles would have been much wider when we walked in." The gentleman's attention goes back to his sandwich; he takes another bite. "Well, ya know," he says chewing happily, and gulping a cup of coffee, "they were on TV last night. The newsguy asked what they're gonna do with their millions and they said they're coming here to buy up the place." (Imagine that. You win the lottery and the first thing you think of is antiques.) My mind wanders . . . Easy Money. What can it be like? I remember reading a story about a woman at the turn of the century who had to work for a living. Back then the working path was very narrow for women, the choices very limited. This woman chose to be a writer, one of the nastiest jobs on the planet. She'd walk the streets trying to sell her articles to ornery and suspicious publishers, until one day a relative bequeathed her an annuity. She went to her usual cafe, but this time, she said, when she paid the bill, she didn't worry about how she'd pay it next time. "I knew that next month this purse would be replenished," she sighed satisfactorily. Oh, I thought. What can that be like? Easy money. Annuities. A purse perpetually being refilled.

No whites allowed

At the campground laundry room, I strike up a conversation with a woman who's new to this RV lifestyle. "Can you recommend any restaurants?" She innocently asks me as I unload the washer, carefully checking for grey socks sticking to the sides of the grey-speckled machine. ("Restaurants?" I disdainfully evaluate in my mind.The whole purpose of RVing is to cook one's own meals and save a bundle.) "Well," I say nicely. "We don't eat out. We cook in the trailer." The lady loads her wash in the machine I just vacated. "Oh, dear me, no. We're on vacation. I'm not cooking a thing. (pause) "So, you actually cook in your trailer?" She asks. "Yeah. I even bake my own bread every morning." I offer. The woman stares at my waistline. "Really? But don't you find that when you make your own bread you eat too much of it?" I confess we do. We eat a loaf of bread a day and a half a stick of butter. She offers a remedy, "My husband and I are trying to lose weight. We're on a diet that is so easy I can't believe it. You eat bacon and eggs every morning. You can eat the eggs any style. And you have to have coffee and grapefruit juice. In fact, you have to have grapefruit juice with every meal." (Already I hate this diet.) "Oh . . .and you can't eat any white food. No bread. No potatoes. No turnips. No corn. No celery." She tells me that this the easiest diet she's ever been on. The only thing she misses is ice cream. "You're supposed to lose 10 pounds in 10 days, 20 pounds in 20 days and so on. My husband lost 20 pounds, but I only lost ten. Men have it easy." My clothes are dry and I go back to the trailer, thinking about white foods. Let's see, what other foods are white? Pasta. Rice. Cheese. Hmm. I wonder if chicken is considered white. Hey. Wait a minute. They can eat eggs. In fact, they *must* eat eggs and bacon every morning . . . so what about egg whites? Well, the lady is long gone. Can't ask her now.

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