The long and corny road

We’ve tried longer visits, shorter visits, and more frequent visits, but we can’t escape this fact: Columbus, Ohio is a midwestern black hole that sucks us in every time we cross the country.

It’s not the city or the shopping (blech!) or the restaurants. For me and Barry, Columbus, Ohio, has more beloved people per capita than any other place on the planet. The magnetic pull starts with a special brother, a fantastic sister and brother-in-law, and two precious nephews.

Add a bunch of friends who are as dear as any blood relative. We haven’t lived there since 1990 — yet we continue to meet amazing people, both in and out of Columbus, who call that place their home. We’ve known some Columbus friends for almost 30 years, and others for one year.

So each time we leave, there are a few hours or days of letdown.

This time, we headed west on US40, the National Road. There wasn’t much to see. Corn. Corn. A sign for the Krazy Glue Factory. Corn. Corn.

I tried to remind myself that each corn plant is a new and different being that came from a seed and didn’t exist the previous year. How would you like it if people said, “Human. I’ve seen those before. You’re no different. I’m not interested.”

Unfortunately, I can’t discriminate between this corn and the corn I saw in 1981, or 1993, or any other year I drove or bicycled on US40.

The heat and humidity were oppressive, and our air conditioning was broken. The last time we had it recharged was because the lack of air-conditioning in Yuma, Arizona made us terminally irritable, and $400 was cheap compared to homicide. We’re a lot more tolerant (and cheap) these days, so we decided to live without it.

In Springfield, Ohio, we discovered that MacDonald’s was running a special on ice cream cones. This was too good to pass up — air-conditioning, people-watching, and two ice cream cones for only $1.

Barry came back from the restroom and found me playing with both his napkin and mine. “Sorry. I hope you don’t need this,” I said, handing back his very-crumpled napkin.

There was a game imprinted on the table, a circle divided into pie-shaped pieces with instructions on each one. You were supposed to spin a straw in the middle and do the activity it landed on. Since ice cream cones don’t come with a straw, I just picked my favorite. “Make a hand puppet out of your napkin,” it said.

After leaving MacDonald’s, Barry took the wheel for a while. He decided to drive on the interstate instead of the two-lanes, and guided the Squid Wagon back onto I-70.

At first I regretted his decision. What would we see along the four-lane highways? Corn. MacDonald’s. Corn. Corn. Corn. Boring.

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written before, you’re laughing at me. I am, too. You see, I spend a lot of time worrying and fretting and writing about my fear of being bored. Yet the truth is, it never happens. I am never, ever, ever bored!

Why? It’s not just each corn plant that is different and unique: It’s each moment.

Enjoy the next moment.

Let me know how that goes. Boring? I doubt it.

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