Yesterday, I drove off fairly early in the morning (for me, that can mean 8:30), aiming the car in the general direction of Ohio. When I finally woke up, I was in Toledo, so I turned on Matilda (my trusty GPS) and told her to find Wooster, Ohio.
Wooster is one of my favorite towns in America. I can't tell you how I look forward to the not-quite-four-hour drive, and then to the town itself. To get there, Matilda takes me through at least a hundred miles of rolling, verdant farm and grazing country in northwest Ohio -- Amish country, peppered with mostly prosperous farmsteads, herds of fat sheet and cattle in lush green fields, and an array of small-town restaurants and collectible shops. Some of the towns have fallen on hard times, with the rest of us. But not all of them -- which was heartening. In Indiana, I thought I saw greater rural hardship overall than I saw in Ohio. That could be misleading, of course. This was one route in a very densely settled state. But -- we use the evidence at hand, don't we? I didn't find any remarkable vintage buttons in the two shops that caught my attention -- but I did find an amazing lunch at a place called C & J Cafe along a small state road. The delightfully grumpy waitress was a throwback to about 1956, complete with French-roll hairdo (think peroxide, dark roots, and smokers' wrinkles -- but what a great, in-your-face personality!).
The big shocker, though, was the fact that much of Ohio seemed to be under water -- and I'm not talking about the condition of real estate. Recent deluges have caused flooding in the Detroit area and in many other regions. But, in NW Ohio, entire quarter sections are under water. I wished more than once that I had brought the camera. What a sight to see oil wells inundated half-way up their pipework and brown cattle huddling in a temporary lake (cows absolutely love water -- they'll crowd into almost any sizeable pond or lake until they can't move -- not the brightest animals in the world!).
Wooster hosts the festival at the large, well-kept county fairgrounds at the edge of town. I didn't buy much -- I sometimes think I go to Wooster for the drive and to go to the town plaza, though the fair is very good quality and quite large. Or maybe I go so that I can have some of the incredible espresso and Hungarian pastry at a gorgeous little cafe on the town plaza -- it's called Tulipan. This time, I treated myself to an open face sandwich composed (it's an art form) of pate, cucumber slices, and some kind of delectable spread, on homemade bread, with a hand-carved pickle on top. The fruit cup was also an art form, with everything so fresh you wondered how they had kept it in a case for more than an hour. I bought Larry some Hungarian pastry, put it on the floor in the front of the rental car, and headed for the fairgrounds.
Grace (of Amazing Grace Farm) had some pretty amazing handpainted sock/shawl yarn -- amazing because it was very simple, suitable for summer, not overdone or too densely colored. I worry only that she sells her work for too little money -- and I keep telling her so. She ignores me. (This is a problem with women and their labor, as many of you know. I can't remember how many women have heard my little lecture, as I contemplate handspun skeins for, say, 8 dollars, about how self-sacrifice doesn't pay the rent). All I can do is to pay a little bit more than the asking price. It doesn't happen all the time -- and I have noticed that a lot of the handspun (and to a lesser extent the handpaint) at the festivals has come up in price over the past year. I hope it's related to the light dawning and NOT to the need for money in a recession.
Anyway: I bought her out of fingering-weight yarn, basically, because my fingering collection has suddenly sold down a bit too much. And then I bought a modest supply of handpainted roving for our nascent spinning program from Sue at White Creek Wool. I decided as well to pick up some samples of Gita Maria sterling silver pins and buttons, to see how people respond to them. I have been looking at their work for a couple of years -- enamel on silver -- and have worried about high cost in the present economy. But with the economy on the rebound, it might be time to mount a small market test. So I now have a scarf keeper, a shawl pin, and some buttons. We'll see. If they go, I can connect with her at the Michigan Fiber Festival at Allegan, Michigan, in August, and stock up. If not, I'm not saddled with a large inventory that has to be discounted to sell.
I really hate having to deal continually with recession-era economies. Let's hope everything heals.
On the way home, Matilda tried to take me along two roads, and over one bridge, that had been washed out -- so she yelled at me the entire way along multiple detours ("RECALCULATING!! A BETTER ROUTE IS AVAILABLE! TURN AROUND ....."). What a nag. But a person like me, with NO sense of direction whatsoever, benefits hugely from this miracle of modern science. Hard to believe that I used to flounder around without her.
More later. It's Memorial Day and it's time to think about my irreplaceable brother Randall Thomas (Randy), who died at age 56 from a minor heart condition exacerbated by alcoholism, which in turn was a consequence of traumatic experiences on a hospital ship in Vietnam. When I flew to San Diego to pick him up at the naval base, I remember a sense of utter shock and sadness: He was gaunt, hollow-eyed, not the achingly handsome, puckish young man we'd sent away in a Navy uniform (GOD he was beautiful -- I always coveted his long, long eyelashes, which I lack altogether). Randy was the brother who took madcap dares, made jokes, thought the rules didn't apply to him, and I absolutely adored him. He also never really believed in his own worth. So he drank. Once, when he was young, he actually 'borrowed' a bread truck that was parked outside of some bar in St. Paul, drove it around to everyone he knew handing out free bread, and returned it to the bar. He also would hop a plane (his wife worked for the airline) and surprise me at my university office ("Hiya Doc"). Vietnam destroyed him. He picked up dying young men from a helicopter, took them to the ship, watched them die, then went back to the same hill, over and over again. It was senseless slaughter. And he never recovered. I loved him more than I can say, and the injustice of that war for those who KNEW it was senseless, because they were there, still makes me cry.