Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , on February 25, 2011 by melvisx

So I was revisiting my blog from my journey to Ohio and thougth I should come clean that the photo in the header is actually from Fells Point in Baltimore.  Phew, I can sleep now.

Gas is how much?!

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , on July 16, 2010 by melvisx

I returned yesterday, took the shuttle to my car, realized I didn’t have enough gas to get home.  I thought I had enough to get to at least Livermore and I didn’t want to pay 3.19 a gallon by the airport.  After getting turned around and misguided in the pretzel of roads, freeways and onramps by the airport I had even less gas.  “I can make it”, I thought.  Well, around the “last SF exit” toward the Bay Bridge I figured I’d better not risk it, so I got off and found a Shell station with gas for the low, low price of 3.49 a gallon.  Sometimes I’m just not that smart, but after filling up I had a stress free drive home.

This will be my final post for this adventure as I am no longer in Ohio.  Wednesday we went to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame from which I only have one picture because I didn’t know they did not allow photography inside the museum.  So if you haven’t seen it before, here it is:

There was much to see inside.  My favorite part was the music video room, lots of videos edited together nicely.  They also had a special exhibit dedicated to Bruce Springsteen, that was cool especially seeing handwritten lyrics.  Among the unexpected things, maybe unexpected isn’t the right word as I really didn’t know what to expect, was a collection of drawings done by Jimmi Hendrix when he was a kid.  Speaking of kids, there was this one there that was definitely obese.  I’d say he was between 7 and 10 years old and 500 pounds.  Ok, maybe not 500 pounds but easily over 100, and under 4 feet tall.  I didn’t want to judge, I mean, maybe he had some sort of genetic issue, but I don’t think so; maybe he’ll grow real tall and his girth will stretch out.  Man he was big.

At lunch I remarked how weird it was to be looking over a large body of water, lake Erie, and not see any waves.  Ten pointed out that it was a lake and I said, “Oh, duh.”  The rest of the afternoon was spent waiting for Ten’s car to be delivered then we went to the Mt. Carmel Catholic Church festival in Niles, OH, a suburb of Youngstown, or more correctly the white trash suburb of Youngstown.  I am not kidding.  We saw some kids there that Ten’s mom referred to as “dirty high school kids”, and they were dirty.  Beyond that the festival was full of good food and entertainment including the, Rudy (I think that was his first name) Chiciglia band, consisting of a lead guitar, bass, accordian, and drums.  All of the members, except the drummer, were probably over 70; fun to watch.  That evening we hung out with Ten’s cousin and some of her friends two of which were riding tall bikes.  These are bikes that this guy built by welding several bike frames on top of one another.  Imagine a bike that has about three stacked frames and you’ll have a tall bike.  One was about 6 ft at the seat, the other was 9; crazy.

When I first was heading out to Ohio and was discussing the itinerary with Ten specifically driving through the not so good parts of Youngstown she said, “Be ready not to give a fuck.” I didn’t get that at first, but it’s clear to me now.  All over Youngstown, and I mean all over, are neighborhoods that were once full of houses.  Now those neighborhoods are full of blocks with empty lots where houses used to be and houses that are on their last legs, and homes that people shouldn’t be living in but are; it’s sad.  There are good neighborhoods but urban blight is everywhere.  We went into one house in town that had burned not to long ago that also had bullet holes above the fireplac and Trivial Pursuit cards on the windowsill, just a few houses away people were hanging out on their porch.  There was another we went into on a different block that still had a family picture on the wall.  Not sure what, if anything, can be done for areas like this, but it was definitely a new reality for me.

Note 'Trivial Pursuit' cards

 Overall an awesome trip.  Suffciently planned yet random, lots of cool tangents just the way I like to travel.  I was the beneficiary of a phenomenal tour guide and gracious hosts. (that sentence sounds funny)  Ten’s mom, while she could possibly talk your ear off about nothing, was great, even packed me some pie to eat at the airport while I waited for the plane.  And how can I forget Kadence, the sweet 12 year old yellow shepard/lab, and her one ear that sticks up all the time; silly bowlegged dog.  Thanks to all who followed along and commented,  I had fun!


Fun facts

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by melvisx

Ohio is home to the Warner Brothers, the inventor if the hot dog, Ed O’niel, the Klondike bar, the Good Humor Bar, lots of boxers, Bernie Kosar, Dave Dravecki, Phantom Fireworks, the Ohio Players; who knew?

Shawshank and Urban Bunnies

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , , , on July 14, 2010 by melvisx

Today we made the trek to the Mansfield Reformatory where the Shawshank Redemption was filmed.  It was an awesome building with a mediocre tour.  Our guide was enthusiastic enough but the place is an echo chamber, his voice was deep and he liked to mumble and tell long stories.  On this trip I learned, among other things, that a) I need a better camera, and/or b) I need to take a photography class.  Many of the photos I was able to take did not turn out because it was too dark, or I moved slightly while the shutter was trying to do it’s job.  I also learned that part of the movie “Air Force One” with Harrison Ford was filmed there, which explains Lenin and Stalin below, and also that Li’l Wayne filmed a video there; there is a cell painted red on the outside with gold trim and a gold toilet to prove in one of the cell blocks.  I enjoyed the tour a lot despite the droning tour guide (I was spoiled by the Christmas Story House where we were allowed to roam free), and the guy with the cane that was complaining about the stairs.  Dude, they told you there were going to be lots of stairs. It was cool to see the former living quarters of the wardens and their families, and the areas where Shawshank was filmed including the warden’s office and the boarding house room where Brooks and Red stayed (yes that’s in the prison).  The cell blocks and tiers had a lot of paint peeling off and the air was a bit musty but still super cool.  Our guide also pointed out the cell marked with an ‘x’ by the Ghost Hunters for those of you who watch the show, you’ll know what that means, for those that don’t, you’ll have to ask me later. ( One of the workers did tell us that he had had some experiences in there that were kind of creepy.  Once he and a co-worker heard some children laughing when he knew they were the only two people in the building.)  At one point in the tour we were able to walk up into one of the guard towers and one of the workers said we could wave at the inmates in the prison behind Mansfield Reformatory and they might wave back.  I thought that would be fun, if not a little cruel.  Unfortunately it rained so I did not get a chance to wave.  We did notice that there was a toilet in the guard tower that was not enclosed behind a wall.  The wall surrounding the observation room was about 3 and a half feet tall, and on top of that was about another 4 or 5 feet of class 360 degrees around.  So even when you were sitting down doing your ‘business’ you could still do your job and keep an eye on things.   I was hoping to have time to stop by the Bible Walk, Ohio’s largest wax museum, on the way back from the reformatory, but gosh darn it, we ran out of time.

No Whining, crying, outright blubbering or the likes thereof….WHATSOEVER! This is a respectable jail

Li'l Wayne Cell

Upon return from the Mansfield Reformatory we went to dinner with Ten’s folks.  We had some awesome Italian food.  I have never, and I mean never, had such good eggplant parmesan, the rest of the meal was just as good.  I’m not sure why but the restaurant had a regular radio station tuned in and they were doing some sort of theme relating to successful long term relationships.  Anyway this acoustic song came on and Ten queried, “Who sings this?”

“Um, I don’t remember, I know it was twins though,” I replied.

“Oh yeah they both had long hai–NELSON!”  This tangent will become important shortly.

After dinner we went urban adventuring again to a large factory that, according to Ten, blew up, or out to be more specific.  Apparently there was an explosion on the inside which blew all of the windows out.  It was cool wandering around, but again I was limited by my camera and picture taking abilities.  I did manage to snap a couple of good shots though.  From the factory we ventured up the street to a couple of abandoned houses.  The first one we went in was sad, well, in truth they’re all sad, but this one still had a family photo on the wall.  Furniture was strewn about, a couple of couches, a TV, some clothes, some 8-track tapes.  I was poking my head into the kitchen when I heard Ten say, “NO WAY!” Followed by hearty laughter and a query, “Guess what I found,” she asked holding a cassette tape.  I walked over, looked at the tape, it was……NELSON!  HA! Unfreaking-believable!

We tooled around some more in the Tauras but it was getting a little too dark.  As we were driving along, something caught the corner of my eye darting across a lawn (if you could call it a lawn, it was more of an overgrown weed field where there used to be a house).  I thought it was a cat or a squirrel, but it was a rabbit!  After that I saw about hopping around in different hoods.  The bunnies are takin back the hoods!

Spooky infirmary in the middle of the factory

The Amish and Chicken Wings

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , , on July 14, 2010 by melvisx

Sunday was spent on a quest to find the Amish.  Ten, her mom and myself headed out to visit Amish country and inadvertantly took a detour when none of us saw the sign for the turn off.  No, the sign did not say, “AMISH NEXT EXIT”, we probably would have noticed that one, it was a regular ol’ highway sign.  Anyway, after realizing we had travelled about 45 miles beyond where we intended to be we made a U-turn and headed back. As we got closer to or destination I began to notice laundry hanging outside several houses and my observation went something like this, “Hm, there’s some laundry hangin…HEY! It’s Amish laundry!”  How did I know you ask?  Excellent question.  The row of monochromatic dresses gave it away.  After a similar detour in the town we meant to find much earlier we found “Mary Yoder’s” an Amish restaurant.  I say Amish because I think it was just modeled after the Amish, not run by them.  Regardless, the food was excellent.  We headed from the restaurant to find the “End of the Commons” general store which was the original store for this Amish community.  On our way we saw several horses and buggies, passed a few, then pulled in to store which was near a giant wooded replica of a horse and buggy.  Not sure why they needed a Trojan horse and buggy, eh, it added to the scene.  The store itself had creaky floors and mix of authentic Amish stuff and touristy trinkets made in China.  It is a functioning general store with dry goods and hardware, but it is also a touristy spot that sells fudge, and gimmicky crap like “Red Neck Bubble Bath”, which is a little packet of beans; har-har.  (Ok, it was a little funny.)

After the store we headed back to Youngstown and just hung out for a bit questing for the elusive Pabst sign again and looking for abandoned houses to explore to no avail, they were all locked and/or boarded up.  For dinner we headed over to Sharon, PA to eat at Quaker Steak and Lube, which is famous for it’s chicken wings; with good reason, they were delicious.  The restaurant itself had several cars and even a semi parked on the roof, and various car related memorabilia hanging inside including a whole car!  Oh, not only are the wings delicious, some are even super hot.  In order to eat the hottest ones on the menu you have to actually sign a waiver.  In the bathroom there was a sign on the paper towels that read something like this, “If you ate the atomic wings wash your hands before you use the bathroom”, probably good advice, but not the best place for it.

Whoops, just before we went to dinner we visited Daffin’s Candies which is the home of the CHOCOLATE KINGDOM!  A truly maginificent sight to behold, ……….that took up an area the size of a walk in closet.  See for yourself below.  Sorry for the dearth of pictures RE: the Amish and Quaker Steak, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Hey, ho, Ohi-o

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2010 by melvisx

After lunch in the Coventry neighborhood of Cleveland we saw:

Crazy Mullets

Driving through Warren, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown we saw:

And wondered, “How do you get in?”

Just a little further down the road we saw:

And thought, “What a great place for this, right in front of the Super K-Mart.”

Hey, ho, Ohi-o

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2010 by melvisx

Saturday started with a trip to Kravitz Deli a place that has been in operation since 1943, and the owner Rose Kravitz still works there, she’s in her 80’s. On the way there we heard polka on the radio, and the silly Germans in the previous post. From there we headed to Mill Creek Park one of the largest urban parks in the country; bigger even than Central Park. The park was gorgeous and was definitely an oasis. Within Mill Creek park is, well, a mill built into the hillside on the river. The mill itself has been there since the mid-1800’s and was grinding flour when we visited. It was amazing to see the engineering involved in the workings of the mill. We meandered back to Youngstown to meet up with Ten’s folks at the Art and Jazz festival and on the way back saw a closed down gas station that apparently also sold kerosene; hadn’t seen one of them before. Wandered around the art show for a bit, grabbed a gyro, then hopped in the car in search of a Pabst Blue Ribbon sign painted on the side of a building.

We saw the sign in a slightly mediocre documentary about Youngstown produced by Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini. We were obsessed with finding the sign until we got distracted by the silly gas station. I say silly gas station because there was a LOT going on. First we were trying to turn into the station but some lady had tried to turn down a one way street next to the station and was confused as to how to get herself out of the predicament; she was blocking the entrance to the station. Fortunately a good samaritan guided her into the station. The confused woman entered the mini mart at the station shortly after us asking for a pencil because she wanted to play the lottery. She was having trouble communicating this to the Middle Eastern cashier behind the plexiglass in her thick Asian accent. Fortunately the tall black woman with gold hair stepped in to help, “Why you givin’ this lady such a hard time?! All she want is a pencil; GIVE HER A PENCIL.” Meantime several people on their way to work at the hospital came in and got stuff and the confused asian driver seemed to know several of them, chit chatting with them. While Ten was pumping gas the tall black woman was trying to get some kids to pump up the bass on their tunes and Ten pointed out a crackhead prostitute by the door to the mini mart (this was explained in more detail in a previous post). We left the prostitute, doctors, and confused driver in search of the Pabst sign.

While driving around Ten decided to pull over in what I thought was a fairly random spot. She parked in front of an abandoned office/warehouse that we found an open door too and let ourselves in. Among the dirt and piles of stuff on the floor were several pay checks that were apparently never mailed, some furniture and I tire or two. We walked up the street from there and gained entrance into another warehouse that filled our lungs with nastiness, so we exited fairly quickly. Down the street from there was a school built in 1929 that we explored for a bit. In each place I found it odd that there was so much paper, and books, and other such stuff left strewn about. In the school there were whole bookcases with books left, as if people just walked away. It was all pretty fun and surreal at the same time, and neither of us fell down a hole or had anything fall on our heads.

Abandoned office

Side of abandoned office

School down the street from the abandoned office.

Thought the sold sign was ironic

Almost forgot. After the art show we walked over to the Arms Museum of Local History which was located inside an awesome Arts and Crafts style home. In the basement of the museum was a hands on room where kids could play with different period things, and games. There was one activity called, “Place the immigrants in steerage”. Priceless.

Gorgeous Craftsman door on Army Museum of Local History

Place the immigrants in steerage. This made us laugh out loud!

For dinner we went to Avalon Gardens Pizza located in a neighborhood that is, well, not so nice as evidenced by the warning in their parking lot and the bullet holes in the door right next door. The pizza was awesome, best I’ve ever had, and we escaped without incident. We headed back downtown, went to a martini bar, walked into the jazz festival to hear some Spyro Gyra, decided rather quickly that was a bad idea, seeing as how Spyro Gyra sucks, and left. We wound up hanging out with Ten’s friend Robert who showed us the patio he was making out of granite scraps from his job installing countertops. As we stepped into the back yard we were serenaded by Roberts neighbors who were having a fire in their back yard and singing Guns ‘n’ Roses songs; they weren’t bad…until they went for the high notes.

Mill at Mill Creek Park

Bridge at Mill Creek Park with mill in background

Me at Mill Creek Park


Sign in parking lot of pizza place.

Door next to pizza place.

Ethnic Diversity

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by melvisx

I grew up with the misguided notion that California was ethnically diverse, or maybe I just confused ethnic diversity with being accepting of people who were different from me. The eastern part of the country is far more diverse than California. At the museum of Labor and Industry there were all kinds of people represented, mostly Italian, but also Polish, Czech’s, Slovaks, Hungarians (Hunky’s), Greeks, and numerous others. I was particularly struck by this diversity as Ten was surfing the radio dial and tuned in some polka music and the German tunes which you can hear by clicking here: \”Silly Germans\”

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out Kid!”

Posted in Ohio, Travel with tags , , , on July 11, 2010 by melvisx

Sunday was the pilgrimage to the Christmas Story house.  Totally worth it.  Not only was the house awesome, the actor who played the little brother Randy was there!  I was actually surprised at the number of people who were there.  Long story short, the house was put on the market in 2006 and the owner put it on eBay for 99,900. Some dude in San Diego, thinking in California real estate terms, thought this was a good deal, so good in fact that he thought there might be a bidding war so he offered 125,000.  The owners snapped it up seeing as how other houses in that hood were going for 50-60,000.  The new owner renovated the house, which had fallen into disrepair, bought three more houses in the neighborhood for a gift shop and museum, all to the tune of 200,000+ dollars.  He has made that all back and them some because several hundred people have visited.  There was a map of the US in the museum with push pins representing the places people had come from to see the house; the entire north east was covered by push pins, the rest of the map is filling in too, I’d say 60% is covered.  The house itself is fairly small and doesn’t look exactly like the one in the movie, most of the scenes were filmed on a soundstage in Canada.  The leg lamp delivery and set up in the window, Ralphie in the bunny suit and his fantasy of shooting Black Bart with his air rifle were filmed at the house, as were all the external shots of the house.  They let us wander all over the house which was better than the tour of the Army Museum of Local History because our guide hovered around all the time.  After the Christmas Story house we went to a state park called The Ledges; awesome rock formations.  All in all, a great day.  I spent $60 at the Christmas Story House gift shop…..was that too much 😉




Major Award!

Electric sex glowing in the window


I said fuuuuuuudddggge.

Overheard at the gas station

Posted in Ohio, Travel on July 10, 2010 by melvisx

“Yeah! Gotta get sum more bass in that shit nigga!” says the tall black woman in the gold camoflage overall shorts with matching gold hair.

Ten leans over as she’s pumping gas and whispers, “There’s a  crackhead prostitute over by the door.”

Sure ’nuff there was.