Cowtown

Cowtown: (n) a small town, especially one in a cattle-raising district in the western U.S.

 As a boy growing up in Ohio, the pecking order was very obvious.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cleveland was a city that was so metropolitan that it had pollution. Nobody talked much about Cleveland—it didn’t even really seem like it was part of Ohio. It was more like a piece of New York City, stuck up next to Lake Erie.

So for the people of Cleveland, coming down to Columbus was journeying to a Cowtown.

Now, to the folks in Columbus, there was a city just to the north, which was smaller and perceived itself to be intellectual. But for those who lived in the Capital, it was their Cowtown.

Westerville. Westerville looked ten miles to its north to find a village that was mostly farmers and a few people who commuted to the capital city for employment, called Sunbury, and considered it a Cowtown.

That was the Cowtown I lived in.

But Sunbury wasn’t going to put up with that, so we decided to pick on a little town called Centerburg, which we believed had barely emerged from the caves to discover fire.

Centerburg was our Cowtown.

Now, poor Centerburg had trouble. It needed some community to be its Cowtown, but most of the areas around them were the same size. So because a nearby burg, Johnstown, had an occasional murder, Centerburg decided to make it Cowtown.

Just outside Johnstown was a little spot in the road that had a couple of antique shops and a bait store.

Alexandria. It was the Cowtown of all Ohio Cowtowns.

The goal, I assume, was to make sure that even though you were going to be overwhelmed and disregarded by some larger metropolis, there had to be a less robust region that you could feel free to look down on due to their lack of sophistication.

Now, I thought it was something that just went on in Ohio, until many years later, I was sitting in a restaurant in Manhattan of New York City, and heard a waiter refer to Philadelphia as a Cowtown.


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Chlorinate

Chlorinate: (v) to impregnate or treat with chlorine.

Sometimes I don’t know if things have improved since I was a boy–or if I was just a little wimp-ass. In other words, I have memories of
some activities being very difficult, odd or unusual, which in my life today, are common.

One of those would be a swimming pool.

When I was a boy of ten years, I went to the local pool in my Central Ohio area, and when I got near the water, I couldn’t breathe. The odor, the chlorine, the mixture of too many people–I don’t know what it was. But my head spun and I thought I was going to faint. (For God’s sakes, you can’t faint when you’re ten years old–unless you plan on being the kicking post in your school for the rest of your life.)

Stupidly, I reached out, thinking it was my brother’s arm, and grabbed onto a thirteen-year-old girl, who immediately screamed. When the lifeguard came running up, she explained that I had accosted her, and with my head still spinning, I was unable to contradict her story.

I looked loopy.

The lifeguard came close to my mouth and insisted he could smell cigarettes, so it was assumed I had become dopey and out-of-control by smoking, and had attacked this young girl at the pool.

The worst part was, as my punishment, the lifeguard made me sit on a chair next to the pool for a full hour, as I breathed in the fumes and became weaker and weaker.

But eventually I got used to the atmosphere and it no longer felt like I was sniffing the air on Venus.

Chlorination seems to have improved over the years.

Or I have just stopped being a flag girl for the marching band.

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Chilly

Chilly: (adj) uncomfortably cool or cold.

Three-and-a-half minutes.

Sometimes I pity those in South Florida who are unfamiliar with this precious expanse.

It’s the length of time it takes to step out into a frigid night, tiptoe across the ice, climb in your car, start it up–and for the heater to gradually
surround you with toasted air.

Watching the ice melt on your windshield as you sense you are safe, sound, warmed and relaxed, staring out your window at the glorious winterscape.

You can put your car in reverse, back out of the driveway, and carefully slip-slide your way down the road, feeling that you’re encompassed by a fire of contentment, permitted, from your cuddled position, to look at the arctic surroundings.

It is amazing.

Sometimes the three-and-a-half minutes feels like three-and-a-half hours because it’s so cold–but when the heat finally arrives, it is so comforting, so tender and so forgiving of the icy world around you that you could just sit in there for the rest of your life.

As we enter the winter season, this scene comes to my mind, as I am a native of Central Ohio.

Heated air in a car on a winter’s night is a confirmation that if we’re patient and start up the engine, a little warmth will come our way.

 

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Chalice

Chalice: (n) a large cup or goblet

Every once in a while, I fancy myself a flitting twit of noble extraction who was accidentally birthed in Central Ohio due to a curse of a witch
with an axe to grind.

This doesn’t happen very often or my communiques would be coming from a sanitarium.

But there is a nasty part of my soul that wants to be superior.

I want to be a king instead of a serf.

I want to drink out of a chalice instead of a cup.

I want to have whole cooked birds placed in front of me so I can peruse where to dive in to the crunchy brown skin and begin to gorge myself.

I want to have the fanciest car in the parking lot.

I want to have an outfit that someone recognizes as an “original” from Italy.

I want to be viewed as a “cut above”–the rib-eye, soft and moist, near the heart of the beast.

I desire that the focus be placed upon me and all spotlights trained in my direction.

I find myself in a twist of obnoxious pretense, grabbing my chalice, bedecked with jewels, and sipping wine that was pressed only by the feet of virgin maidens.

I want to be special.

I want to be revered.

I want my glorious chalice of appreciation.

And then…

My friend walks in the door and tells me I have my shirt on backwards.

I realize God has placed me where I need be.

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Butcher

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Butcher: (adj.) a person whose trade is cutting up and selling meat in a shop

Growing up in Central Ohio, it never occurred to me that I was surrounded by German immigrants. The last names of my friends should have been tell-tale–Steinmetz, Moodesbaugh, Ristine–but I took it in stride, as normal.

So when our local butcher was named O’Dell (which was his first name) it didn’t even register on my young mind that this was unusual.

First of all the whole idea of having a butcher is relatively uncommon–except I guess some large grocery stores have sections where somebody dons a white cap and does a good imitation.

But O’Dell was a character. He hawked his meat to everyone who came into the little shop with great aplomb and grace. He was famous for his ham loaves. The ingredients were, of course, a secret. (I don’t know whether that’s because there were mysterious spices or perhaps unknown meats.)

But what he was most famous for was grinding his own hamburger–and then to prove it was really fresh, he would reach in, grab a small pinch, roll it into a ball, throw it in the air and let it land in his mouth, consuming it raw.

I don’t know how many times a day O’Dell did this. But certainly enough that he got a gut full of raw cow.

Unfortunately, about twenty years later, O’Dell got stomach cancer and died. Now I’m not saying this happened because he ate raw hamburger.

But it does give me pause … and has prevented me from ever indulging in uncooked meat of any type.

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Boo

Boo: (exclam) said suddenly to surprise someone.

Halloween–many years ago in Central Ohio, driving around with one of my buddies and three cheerleaders from the high school who came with us because we Dictionary Btold them that we knew where there was a ghost.

We had no idea what we were talking about.

But we realized the only way we could pull this off and get the lovely young ladies so scared that they would grab us around the neck and hug us for comfort was to come up with an unbelievably creative story and weave it in such a way that terror would fill the interior of my Chevy Impala.

There was an old house outside our town which had been abandoned for a long time–so long that moss was growing up the exterior walls, and also bats flying in and out of broken windows. We decided this was the best place to go to establish the foundation for our tale.

When we arrived in the pitch-black surroundings, we noticed in the upper left-hand corner window, there was a faint glow, as if someone had placed a candle. It was so eerie that I knew the god of story-telling, wherever he or she may be, had prepared it just for us.

I began my fable.

“In this house an old man killed himself up in that very left corner window, by hanging from a nearby rafter, swinging in the breeze.”

As I pointed to the window, there was suddenly a shadow that swept across the faint glow, floating back and forth.

It was damn spooky–so much so that the girls went absolutely stark-raving nuts, screaming–and I nearly eked out one myself. We huddled together in the car, staring up at the mysterious phantom illumination.

After a few minutes I got so freaked out that I started the car and took off, much to the chagrin of my friend, who still wanted to continue the fear-mongering (perhaps to the point of turning it into a make-out session.)

But you see, even though I made up the lie, and knew it was not true, I had convinced myself of its validity, to the point that I was thoroughly prepared for that old ghost, at any moment, to descend upon us with a big, old-fashioned “boo!”

Let me see: I generated a lie which I began to believe and because I was convinced of it, acted as if it was the truth.

Hell … I became a politician.

 

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Atlantic

Atlantic: (n) short for Atlantic Oceandictionary with letter A

I was 22 years old before I ever got the opportunity to see an ocean. Living in Central Ohio, there were not many nearby.

When I asked my parents about whether they would take me so I could see…well, the sea…they told me it was no different from Hoover Lake down the road, where we fished.

“It’s just water, with shorelines, and maybe a little bit more sandy.”

Being a kid, I bought into their version and settled for my nearby body of water.

But when I was 22 years of age and arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, I had a couple of extra hours on my hands. I drove down to the beach, parked my car, got out and started to trudge across the sand. In a matter of seconds I came up over a rise and there it was.

The Atlantic Ocean in all of its glory.

Not only were the beaches much more than mere piles of sand, but the ocean was magnificent–nearly angry. It pelted the land with its waves, foaming at its mouth, eager to express its supremacy. And when I kicked my shoes off and went down into the water, I was astounded at the vigor and energy with which the waves struck my body.

As I found out with many things during my life, my parents’ definitions and interpretations were often flawed.

The Atlantic Ocean was much more interesting than Hoover Lake.

 

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