The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Marietta, Ohio 45750

Rich Galen

Monday September 27, 2010

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From American Legion Post 64
Marietta, Ohio 45750

  • I am in Southeastern Ohio to do a fundraiser for a long-time family friend, Andy Thompson, who is running for State Representative from this district. For those who may have come in late, I went to college here (hence the unending, hair-tearing references to Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750. It took me a little over seven years to get my degree.

  • This is one of the reasons: Checkout time at the Hampton Inn is noon. I asked for a late checkout until two. They said the best they could do was one, so I decided to run over to the college campus and work out of the library - this is Sunday afternoon, remember - until I had to go to the fundraiser at four.

  • With me, still?

  • On my way to the campus it occurred to me that maybe I could work out of the American Legion post up on Wooster Street, what with me being a card-carrying member of Virginia Post 24 and all.

  • As I enter, there is ballroom dancing. "Last Sunday of every month," I was told, when I asked about it. Maybe 10 elderly couples are gliding around the floor the strains of organ music echoing through the large room, as they have probably been since they were in high school here.

  • Downstairs at the "stag bar" (in which, over the past hour, least 30 percent of the patrons drifting in on out have been women) both television are tuned to the NASCAR race at Dover.

  • They know Ohio State played yesterday, and they know that there's a full NFL schedule today, but what football talk there is at the bar is about the two local high school games Friday night when both the Marietta High School Tigers and the Fort Frye Cadets lost.

  • The woman tending bar is wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey but there is zero enthusiasm for switching one of the TVs to that game when she suggests it.

  • This is an American Legion post in Appalachia; the people around the bar have known each other (and each other's families) for generations; they are comfortable with their place in time and space. They have jobs, most of them in small manufacturing factories or one of the huge chemical plants which line the Ohio River just south of town.

  • Unemployment here in Washington County, Ohio is 8.3 percent. That is below the state average of 9.7 percent which is not much off the national average of 9.6 percent.

  • The principal reason Ohio's unemployment rate is so relatively low is because people have been moving out at about the same rate as the jobs have disappeared. Current estimates are that Ohio will likely lose two of its 18 Congressional seats when those seats are re-apportioned next year. While the national population appears to have increased by about ten percent over the past decade, Ohio's population has been about stable and Washington County has lost three percent.

  • Not that the folks here appear to be much interested in that. During a commercial break in the race I asked the dozen or so folks sitting at the bar if they knew who was running for Congress from this district (answer: Incumbent Democrat Charlie Wilson v Republican challenger Bill Johnson).

  • After a stunned silence (I had previously established my bona fides has having been a member of the Ohio Army National Guard in the unit which used to be housed here, so I was in no physical danger) a lively conversation started about whether we should have a Congress much less why anyone would run for it, much, MUCH less why anyone would vote for one of them.

  • One of the men from the far end of the bar asked, darkly, if I was running for Congress. I laughed and said in my friendliest voice with just a hint of a Southeastern Ohio twang that you couldn't make me do sum'um like 'at.

  • I decided to call off the rest of my on-the-fly anthro-political study and so didn't engage them in a discussion of Barack Obama. I was no longer certain of the limits of immunity from harm by dint of being a fellow-veteran, and I decided not to test them.

  • So, that's where I am on this beautiful autumn Sunday afternoon; having a beer at the Legion instead of sitting in the library at Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750.

  • Some things never change.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The Wikipedia entry for Marietta and another "blue-sky" photo, this time of the Washington County Courthouse. Also a Catchy Caption of the Day which is SO provocative I had to add a link to the underlying story.

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