News, Notes & Opinions | December 2016

Then it hit me: This will be the last time Christmas is like this. And by like this, I mean that all the kids will be together on Christmas morning without a care in their heads and everyone will be thinking only about home and family.

Last Christmas like this

I’ve never been the nostalgic type. Yes, everyone has a 16th birthday. Every gets a driver’s license.

But something is different this holiday season.

My son is a senior at GlenOak High School. He will graduate, and if he finds the same kind of energy to finish his high school years as he started, he will finish with a 4.0 grade-point average.

His first college acceptance letter arrived in the mail the other day. It was followed a few days later with a scholarship award notice.

Then it hit me: This will be the last time Christmas is like this. And by like this, I mean that all the kids will be together on Christmas morning without a care in their heads and everyone will be thinking only about home and family. Next year, when he’s home from college, wherever that may be, it won’t be the same. And then the year after that, the two oldest in the family will be home for Christmas on break. When kids are home for Christmas on break, it is a trying time. They’re used to their independence of college life. Parents are used to them being kids.

It just isn’t the same.

While you have those teenagers, embrace the change that is coming, but hold them tight because they’re only kids for a bit longer.

—Todd Porter

Restaurant reopening

There are more restaurants per capita in the tri-county area than anywhere else in Ohio. It’s true.

Why anyone would want to open a new restaurant here is a head-scratcher to me. However, when you factor out the chain places and look at the truly local restaurants and the ones that have managed to stay in business for more than five years, your choices are pretty slim.

When a local place such as Baker’s Cafe ‘33 reopens, be sure to stop by and grab a steak dinner there. The family-owned business is set to reopen soon. Owners Jeff and Midge Hendershot deserve our support after rebuilding following a fire that destroyed the building.

—Todd Porter

Learning how to keep memories alive

I try to be sentimental about the people and moments in my life, not the objects. I try anyway, but I still find myself holding onto some things that I probably should have gotten rid of years ago.

There’s the old reclining desk chair that my grandfather, a lawyer, used in his downtown Cincinnati office. The leather chair is grand, and I love it despite the fact that it is broken in an irreparable way that forces anyone who sits in it to fall way back. If you like to stare at the ceiling, then this chair is for you. I’ve tried, but it’s beyond repair.

Still, I have moved it several times. It weighs about as much as you would expect a grand old lawyer’s chair to weigh: a ton. I’ve moved it to several houses across several states. Once while moving, I swore it would fit perfectly upside down in the front seat of my jeep. Almost perfect but not quite. When I gave it the final push to squeeze it just one more inch inside, the leg cracked my windshield.

It now lives in my workshop, deep in the unfinished side of the basement where the Christmas decorations and
water heater co-mingle. Sometimes I like to sit in it and stare at the ceiling as I ponder my next project.

My grandparents had a lot of very cool stuff that, once they passed, lived in a storage locker for years. The items were mostly picked over by relatives, save a few things. I couldn’t let them go, and when my parents offered free delivery, I took everything. There was an art deco bedroom furniture set that needed only a thorough cleaning to return to greatness; certainly, an upgrade from our IKEA collection. They are so well-built that I don’t think I could find anything new (that I could afford) on the same level.

Every few months, I pick out something and try to give it life again.

For years, I’ve plotted bringing an old lamp back to life. This thing is grand. It’s about 4-feet tall. The glass body is about 8 inches wide at the bottom and tapers to about 2 inches at the top with a green and blue swirl running up the sides. Once it was the centerpiece of their living room. But after years in storage, the base was rusted, the shade was gone and it didn’t work.

Here’s what I learned: It was easy. You can make a lamp out of anything. Most things just need a good cleaning. And lastly, take a picture of something before you take it apart. I could have saved myself about an hour if I had followed that rule.

I went to the hardware store in search of, “you know, like a make-your-own-lamp kit.” The kind woman at the store nodded and pointed me to a make-your-own-lamp kit. It cost $10 and included the plug and light socket.

I removed the rust with a combination of steel wool and a spray made for removing rust. Then I painted the base with an “aged bronze” metallic spray paint that I previously had success with while rehabbing a chandelier. And I cleaned the glass vase, which surprisingly was the most time-consuming part and yielded the biggest wow factor. As in, “wow, this may actually end up looking good.”

Once I figured out how all the pieces went back together and found a good shade, I was excited about the final result. Its journey to our family room gives it so much more character than anything I could have bought at the store.

On a side note, everything I see now, I think, “I could make a lamp out of that.”

—Dave Manley


Life with a snow-lover

I am married to a woman who might be the only person outside of Minnesota who yearns to retire to that state.

While other people talk about the Carolinas, Florida or Arizona, she talks about the Twin Cities and the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

She thinks Duluth looks cool. No, dear, Duluth looks cold.

And that’s in the summer.

“Cold” is an obscene four-letter word, even if you can say it on television. There are worse things in life, of course, but being cold ranks pretty high.

There’s a reason God invented fire, blankets and hot chocolate.

It’s not the cold that draws her interest, though. Cold air is but a condition needed to produce what she really loves. Something else that’s captured in four lousy letters: S-N-O-W.

As Tim McGraw might sing: She likes it, she loves it, she wants some more of it. No amount is too much.

She’ll get out on a sled or snowshoes to trek over it, build snowmen with it, create snow angels in it or just step outside to watch it fall. Heck, she even enjoys shoveling it. Really, neighbors, she does. Stop harassing me.

She never has snowmobiled or four-wheeled in the snow, but it’s not from lack of desire. Some day, I’m sure she’ll give those activities a try. (I gotta admit: I would try them, too.)

She is nuts about snow.

A white Christmas? Without one, her mood turns sour.

Me: “What do you want for Christmas, honey?”

Her: “Snow.”

Me: “I’ll get right on that.”

So, God, if you’re listening … a little snow in December. A lot on the 24th and 25th. After that, a few more flurries in January and February.

Then it’s time for spring.

Even she agrees with that.

—Rich Desrosiers


Legos make great Christmas gifts

A few years ago, our family decided it was time to finish our basement.

Most households undertaking such a project would want a recreation room, perhaps a workout area, maybe even a bar for entertaining. We included all of those, of course, but they were kinda like pinkie toes—nice to have, but you really don’t miss them when they’re gone.

That’s because our basement is all about the Legos.

We own thousands and thousands of them. Our best guess is we have more than 250,000, but we’ve never really attempted to count them. That would be crazy.

Legos were about the only thing I played with when I was a kid. I got them for Christmas, for my birthday and pretty much every time I had $5 to my name. I played with them for hours, building cities, roller coasters, castles, even a near-perfect replica of Cedar Point’s old Demon Drop. (I was too spooked to actually ride the real thing, but I sure could build it.)

Thankfully, my parents saved all my Legos when I moved out. I’ve heard so many stories of other parents throwing out Legos in these circumstances; I’m not ashamed to say these stories choke me up a little bit.

I reclaimed the Legos as soon as I had room for them where I lived, and my wife soon learned that they were non-negotiable. Then we started having kids, and of course, all of them have turned into Lego fans.

Back to the basement. When you own a quarter-million Legos, you need a storage system. This is extremely important. So into this basement, I designed some storage bins. I stole some ideas I found online from other Lego fans, and I tried to mimic one wall in the basement similar to what you might find in an official Lego store.

We have more than 900 storage bins. Frankly, we need more … because there will be more Legos! Santa Claus is coming soon, you know.

I hope every kid out there age 4 to 40 gets some Legos this holiday season. They’re a great toy—the building possibilities even with a $20 set are boundless—that’s so much better than a video or computer game. Plus, Legos will be just as fun 30-plus years from now as they are now (I should know).

And a shameless plug: Sir Troy’s Toy Kingdom in North Canton (I’ve written about that store in this space before) is a great place to buy Legos.

And if you have any laying around your house unused … I know of a great home for them!

—Scott Brown