As we do every year (24 and counting for me; longer than that for many other family members), we ventured down to Old Man’s Cave State Park to spend three days with Kate’s family over the Thanksgiving holidays. It was a wonderful time – thirty-five people hanging out in eight adjacent cabins, talking, eating and drinking, and hiking. Lots of hiking. For you non-Buckeyes, there is actually a corner of the state (the southeast one) that butts up against West Virginia, and that can be considered to be relatively scenic. It’s not the Grand Canyon, but there are canyons, and ravines, and caves, and hills that the natives somewhat euphemistically refer to as mountains, and miles and miles of unspoiled natural beauty. It is, in fact, one of my favorite places on earth, at least partly because of the wonderful memories I’ve accumulated there over the past 24 years. There are four generations of us now; the nephews and nieces are all grown up and have kids of their own. But they still drive from Chicago and Washington D.C. with the toddlers in tow to be a part of it. I think that speaks volumes. In this day and age we’re all a part of something remarkable – a functional family – and at the end of three days everybody still likes each other. I’m so thankful that I can be a part of it.
So we hiked at places called Conkle’s Hollow and Old Man’s Cave and Rock House and Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. My mother-in-law, who will be 90 next month, joined us for the paved hike down to Ash Cave. There’s something to be said for those hardy German genes.
On Saturday, my niece Heather and I ventured down to Athens, Ohio, the home of Ohio University, where I went to school back in the pioneer days. Okay, but it was the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. Close enough. We strolled around the deserted campus, which will soon be home to my youngest daughter Rachel, and I realized that I will indeed look forward to visiting this idyllic little college town on a fairly regular basis. I picked up a few used CDs (Destroyer, Cat Power, Sandy Denny, Iron and Wine, Sparklehorse) on the cheap at Haffa’s in uptown Athens. Haffa’s opened when I was a student at O.U. in the mid-‘70s, and it’s still there. That was great to see.
Before we left on Thursday I received a very gracious e-mail message from Joe Henry. Joe Henry is a music producer, friend to the stars, Hollywood maverick, father, husband of Madonna’s sister, and the best singer/songwriter you’ve probably never heard. At any rate, I wrote about him in the latest issue of Paste because I really love his music, and he was kind enough to send me a wonderful reply. Sometimes I wonder if all the late nights and weekends spent staring at a keyboard even matter. And then I receive a note like that and I remember. If I can help a few people connect with such a talented artist, then I will be happy.
Finally, another friend, Jeffrey Overstreet, is about to publish his first book, entitled “Through a Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies.” Y’all should read it. You can check out a review of JO’s book from Publisher’s Weekly right here.