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Though I’ve lived near this sandstone prominence most of my life, I’d never stopped to see it up close until last Monday. I didn’t see many pines around Pine Rock, but I did see many cool views:
After a day of snow and cold, the sun came out today and created some cool scenes and shapes along my Ogle County commute this afternoon:
Art fans in my county can look at another example of artistic wrapping (see earlier example here) by driving on Route 2 north of Oregon, Ill., to see Lorado Taft’s “The Eternal Indian” statue, commonly referred to as the “Blackhawk Statue.” What looks intriguingly like a green monolith on a green hillside is actually the statue under protective wraps while it undergoes restoration work to repair cracking concrete. The picture below doesn’t give a sense of the statue’s scale, but it does focus on some of the disintegration:
I’m not sure, but the beard may be real.
This was my view this morning as I sat inside Oregon’s McDonald’s. I took the picture because last week, I saw this same rig headed westbound on Madison with a load of mulch spilling out of some garbage cans in back of the wagon, and the dog running unleashed alongside. Today I saw either the homebound leg of a four-day outing, or an additional cross-town lawn-mower venture.
I love the sound of that title phrase, and so I’m using it, and now I just gotta come up with some stuff to go with it. Trying to fill in a post with what one might expect to find under such a title seems banal, so let’s just explain that I haven’t posted in a while (because of busyness, tiredness, March) and want to get back in the ol’ saddle of blogging, so to speak.
So here are some recent things I’ve learned from my observations:
1. Any minister who says “I’m just jokin’, I’m just jokin'” at a funeral, in the context of no perceptible joke, may not be doing a good job of funeralizing. Also, it may not help to remind the surviving spouse — in the middle of a prayer — that he’ll be facing lots of loneliness and dinners for one in his coming weeks and months.
2. I know I’ve spent too much time in my rural county when I travel one county east and am amazed at how beautiful strip malls can be. A Starbucks, for Pete’s sake, seems a like an oasis in the commercial desert that is my home county.
It’s not just me that thinks my home-county is getting decrepit. A local newspaper, the Oregon Republican Reporter, last week printed a “Public Voice” letter written by someone who “grew up” in a local town but who now resides in a much nicer Chicago suburb, which letter advises Oregon’s “park district, school district, realtors [sic], chamber of commerce and the city .. to get together now and do something about [t]he decaying downtown district, decline in school enrollment, too many houses for sale, no new houses being built, and no new industry.” Also, “the community also needs young families with children and something needs to be done about that now.”
This is the kind of thing that is easier to publish once one has already left. One’s neighbors tend not to appreciate such critiques. Of course, it’s far easier for one to up and leave than it is to stay and struggle. But what are ya gonna do? Just because it’d be nice if some kindly developers would come along and gentrify everything in Ogle County doesn’t mean they will.
3. Other great titles I’ve heard lately, for which works should be created:
a. Sounds Like, Might Be, Coulda Been (said a waitress, describing how she wrote what might have been the name of the person who ordered food over the telephone)
b. Like Vinegar, and Betrayal (from a restaurant review in the 24 March 2014 New Yorker magazine)
c. Mid-Op Transsexuals (does anybody need to name a punk band?)
d. Staying Awake Makes You Sleepy (said my wife today)
e. Calm Down, Sensei! (said one of my students in study hall to another student who had just done some kind of quasi-martial-arts kick)
f. The Last Thing This World Needs Is Another Me (said one of my students last week)
g. Hey, Your Elephant Has a Really Nice Trunk (as one of my teacher colleagues said, as a facetious example of finding things to praise about a child’s drawing)
We suspect there’s a local road-maintenance worker who likes to make the work of filling pavement cracks an ode to the art of Keith Haring.
UPDATE: This neighborhood’s roads were repaved on or about 15 August 2013 — the art is gone! But the roads do make more sense now, monolithically speaking.
UPDATE 2, Sept. 2014: For more unintentional Ogle County art, see here.
In recent days, I’ve witnessed people saying things so terrible that I wonder if, and I hope that, I’m watching performance art. Maybe I’m seeing a set-up piece for a hidden-camera show like this one , or maybe the people involved are just trying to provoke others. If these things were happening in a big city or a college town, the “performance art” interpretation would be at least possible, but since I’m seeing and hearing these things in rural Ogle County, I’m afraid these people being so stereotypically hateful and racist may not be acting.
On 10 July, at my local diner, two white ladies in their 80s (or thereabouts) were kvetching very loudly about how kids can’t do math in their head, and so on, and they eventually moved on to other topics. One said, “I’m just so angry,” and the other answered, “we all are.”
But rather than accept that perhaps their anger were invalidating any other opinions they might have, they continued to complain: one woman said that someone wanted to bring “Muslims over here,” to which the other said, “we already got 8 million,” and then I missed a few words, and then I heard, “Let’s just hope somebody kills ’em,” which I thought referred to the Muslims, but my wife heard “kills ‘im,” which she interpreted as referring to the current U.S. President.
Either way, the other lady said, “That’s what I hope.”
This was so over-the-top obnoxious, not to mention nearly illegal, that I just started laughing, albeit bitterly. My wife said, let’s not get so angry when we get old. Let’s keep our minds in shape.
And then this morning, as I sat in a local McDonald’s (same one as here), I heard two older white men talking. One, who wore a blue dew rag and had a black leather jacket with patches that read “I RODE MINE, STURGIS ’04” (and 3 patches for other recent years), and who at one point said he was 73 years old, told his friend that he was going to a Tea Party meeting tonight, and after which he said these things:
“Obama’s got sh*t so fuc*ed up, that son of a bit*h … typical ni*ger sh*t … when you get home, google ‘who is Antonio West?‘ That’ll shut things up.” [Snopes says the case is a “false equivalency” to the Trayvon Martin case, as “the two cases are nearly polar opposites.”]
A few minutes later, the old white guy let loose with this: “If they did say it like it was, the damn paper wouldn’t print it … nobody will address it … damn n*****s keep breeding all the time … [we?] can’t keep building prisons … to me, I would say this … to the victor goes the spoils … or, give ’em the option of going back to Africa.”
I feel bad about publishing these words, but I’m doing so in hope that there’s some value in simply documenting things being said out loud in public spaces in small-town Illinois in 2013. Though I was angered by what I heard, I decided that rather than confront this man’s statements directly (anybody who would espouse these beliefs at this point in history seems to me someone who would also be resistant to being criticized or educated), I’d throw these online with the hope of reminding the rest of us that there still are people around who say these things.
And surely not every Tea Party member says things like this, but here was one guy who sympathized with the Tea Party who did. He either fits the stereotype, or he’s just acting to get a rise out of others. But I didn’t see anybody directly challenge the old white ladies or this old white guy.
I’m really hoping they’re just performance artists.
As Ogle County Poet Laureate, I consider it my mission to bring bits of local rural color into your otherwise already colorful lives. Now, before reading these bits, remember that rural taste follows national pop-culture by the respectful distance of a decade or more:
1. After a Palestinian man was convicted of attempting to murder his ex-wife, (which, of course, isn’t funny, but keep reading), he read a statement before his sentence that questioned whether Ogle County judges would not be biased against him because of his “race and religion,” the sentencing judge replied:
“Your comment on race and religion struck a cord with me,” the judge said. “For the record, I have some pretty good friends from Palestine[.] I don’t think any sentence I render here today would be based on race or religion. It is based on the facts and circumstances of the case.”
2. A story in last Sunday’s Rochelle News-Leader newspaper about heroin use in the county contained a quote by Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn:
“It appears that the drug is cheaper and easier to get more than ever. We have people coming from out of town selling this within our county.”
Buy local, everybody. Beware the out-of-town junk dealer. But we also do have few friends from “out of town,” so when we nab these carpetbaggin’ H-sellers, we’ll continue to “render” justice “based on the facts and circumstances of the case.”
3. Also, this headline seemed out-of-character for the area:
New Rochelle strip center plans set
And it turned out to be misleading. Our local officials continue to have
our best interests at heart.
So, there was an election here recently. I received 2 oval-shaped “I voted” stickers when I told the tie-dyed-shirt-wearing poll worker that I like to put one such sticker on my dog’s collar so that it looks like he got a vote, too.
In this county where I have been declared, by myself, Poet Laureate, 67 percent of registered voters turned out, and 13,409 of them voted for Mitt Romney, while 9,504 voted for Barack Obama (this data is from the 8 Nov. Oregon Republican Reporter newspaper, which despite its name, seems mostly nonpartisan, and which information does not seem to be available online). If my math is right, this means Romney got 58.5% of our county’s vote, and Obama, 41.5%, a pro-Romney margin of 17 percentage points.
Nationally, Obama received a +2.5% margin, and Illinois on the whole went for Obama by a margin of 16.2 percentage points, according to this listing by Nate Silver. On that same list, Ogle County’s margin of 17 points for Romney makes Ogle County more Republican-leaning than the populations of the states of North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Arizona, Mississippi, Alaska, Montana, and Texas.
But then, this really shouldn’t be all that surprising for what our Wikipedia article calls “one of the most consistently Republican counties in the nation when it comes to Presidential elections. In the last 150 years Theodore Roosevelt‘s 1912 run as a Progressive was the only time a non-Republican carried the county. No Democratic candidate has ever won the county, which favored the Whig Party before the Republican Party was formed.”
So reports the Poet Laureate of this GOP bastion permanently (short of some spectacular plate tectonics) located, to the impotent frustration of some of our local populace, only 90 miles west of Democratic-leaning Chicago.