tree fell on bench

This is the dastardly pine tree that fell in mid-April, damaging a bench near the Athens Public Library. The bench bears a name-plate for The Athens NEWS. Photo submitted by James Salzman.

It’s another Ohio Brew Week, and I very nearly moseyed up to my memory bar to tap another generous pour of my beer anecdotes. But then I realized that all the worthiest beer anecdotes probably have appeared in my previous OBW columns. I just can’t trust you folks to suffer from as poor a memory as I do.

So a slight change is in order. Here’s some column nuggets, all except one of which have nothing to do with beer other than the fact that drinking some might make them seem more interesting. 

In the spirit of Ohio Brew Week, I will start with the lone beer anecdote. If you’ve heard this one, keep it to yourself, sport.

Happy Birthday!

When I was about 15, my friends and I were invited to the birthday party of a girl in our sophomore class. An older guy we knew had bought a 12-pack of Stroh’s beer for us to take to the party. At that point, none of us had driver’s licenses, so we had to figure out how to get that all-important 12-pack from point A to point B.

The idea was mine: Place the 12-pack in a bigger box packed with paper, then wrap it to look like a birthday present. We proceeded according to plan and asked my dad to drop us off at the party. When he asked what was in the present, we told him it was actually a rock wrapped up to look like a present. That, we figured, would explain our hinky behavior surrounding the gift.

My dad laughed and said OK.

Yes, I’ll admit I lied to my father, but (shameless rationalization alert) you know, if dad hadn’t forced us into our subterfuge by laying down unreasonable rules (a 12-pack of beer among four or five teen boys, where’s the harm?), we wouldn’t have felt compelled to behave like lying little sneaks.

Anyway, the trick worked. We hid the 12-pack in a nearby field, and occasionally walking out there to gulp a beer and perhaps contract poison ivy. The birthday girl was the pastor’s daughter so no beer drinking in that house. And I remember not one other thing about that evening.

The Eternal Stoplight

If you can show me a local stoplight that lasts longer than the left-turn arrows at the double turn lanes from westbound East State onto the U.S. Rt. 33/50 bypass, I’ll award you an XL Athens NEWS T-shirt (that’s the only size we have left).

I’ve sat waiting for those God-forsaken arrows to turn green so long that my fingernails have grown out and curled, my children have brown from babies to adults, and I’ve died and gone to heaven (or somewhere; it does seem a bit hot).

Well-Meaning Suggestion

Here’s some free advice from a longtime editor. If you’re a political candidate, local or otherwise, when releasing statements, posting on social media, or emailing the news media, short is always better than long. A couple of short paragraphs will have much greater impact than a 900-word-long essay that addresses every minute point minutely. Most people start skimming soon after the beginning of a large block of copy, or else they choose not to read it at all. 

It’s a good rule for anyone really. If you’re trying to explain something important to somebody, if you find yourself writing a veritable book, stop and start over. Find your point and stay there. In interpersonal communications, short and sweet is always better than long and never ending. Not only is it easier to understand, but your reader won’t cop a hostile attitude toward you for wasting his/her time.

This does not apply to fact-filled, interestingly written news articles that go on forever. Does it? Please say it doesn’t.

Mother Nature Hates Us

I got a message the other day alerting me that The Athens NEWS’ outside bench near the Athens Public Library had been damaged, apparently by a tree. I checked out the report, and quickly found the bench on the short bike-path spur near the library’s Home Street entrance. The badly peeling paint wasn’t the worst of it; the back of the bench had been crushed and bent when a pine tree fell on it. (I almost wrote “recently,” though I have no idea when that happened; it could be years.) However, the gold Athens NEWS nameplate centered on the bench back still looks almost like new.

athens news bench damaged

This badly bent Athens NEWS bench is located a few yards from the entrance drive into the Athens Public Library. A tree apparently fell on it, then didn’t have the courage to stick around and face the music.


athens news bench - name plate

This is the relatively new looking Athens NEWS nameplate on a badly bent bench is located a few yards from the entrance drive into the Athens Public Library.

By the thunder of Zeus, I was outraged!

Actually, I was not outraged. Actually, I didn’t know the bench existed before being told it had been ruined.

I asked A-News founder and former owner Bruce Mitchell about it, and he recalled that the paper bought three benches 10 years or more ago from the Athens rec department. The city was supposed to maintain the benches, with the paper buying the nameplates. Bruce said his wife, Susan, has replaced some of the nameplates over the years, both on our bench near the library and on the two out at the West State Street park.

I borrowed a bike from the library Saturday morning, and rode (to passersby, I likely resembled a giant bead of sweat) out to the West State park, and along the way observed a wide variety of benches, including several along the bike path. Most of the city benches appear to need a new coat of paint, but otherwise they look OK.

After I emailed Mayor Steve Patterson about the damaged Athens NEWS bench at the library, he got back to me a few days later and said, “We’ll pull the plaque off and put a new bench in” (or fix the existing one if that’s possible).

That’s gratifying. Now I can forget about the bench that I never heard of.

Trump: Our Environmentalist President

The headline for this blurb is a textbook example of a contradiction in terms. But seriously, the president’s public appearance Tuesday touting his administration’s “progress” on the environment was obscene, when you consider his aggressive actions to roll back long-standing environmental protections, replace scientists and science with ideological hacks and hackery in key environmental positions and programs, and raise the white flag of surrender in the critical battle against climate change. “Trump the environmentalist” is like saying “Osama bin Laden the humanitarian” (or for that matter, “Trump the humanitarian”).

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