Tag Archives: Ohio

Making tree forts out of high wind destruction

So, this was supposed to be our first big week of preschool.

But the back end of Ike sneaked up on Ohio and smacked us with 50-70 MPH winds for several hours on Sunday evening, tearing down trees and fences and power lines, leaving about half the city and much of the state, still today, without power — our first Midwestern hurricane.

Schools are closed, traffic lights off, grocery stores stocked with few or no perishable items and both the city and state are in a declared state of emergency. Lots of my friends on the north side of town have been told that they won’t have power until the weekend. For reasons I can’t fathom, our power was restored after one peaceful night, but our town is, for most intents and purposes, shut down.

Thank goodness for 10-year-old aspiring architect neighbor girls.
Our block didn’t have any major tree-falling incidents, but the storm left a massive debris field of branches scattered across every yard. Our ten-year-old neighbor, banished from school, decided to use the remnants of destruction to fashion an elaborate tree fort in her front yard, and she sweetly let Declan help, and repeatedly indulged his desire to be tickled and scared.
From the side, you can see that they wisely constructed a railing up the hill on the way in.
The roots of the tree, I was told, are the steps to this entryway.As I was taking pictures, she turned this sign from “keep out” to “come in.”
The inside room is cozy with its Hello Kitty blanket, and a mirror hung on the bark.

Sometimes the sheer awesomeness of kids makes me cry.

Related Posts:

Bee not afraid

This is Arnold Crabtree, the “bee man,” wearing a beard of live honeybees at the Honey Festival in Lithopolis yesterday, an event swarming with beekeepers, Ohio honey products and a few men who wore mutton chop sideburns without one trace of irony. Most of the bees at the festival were kept inside of tents and behind glass, and the ones that were drawn to the honey tasting booths were treated with remarkable care. Beekeepers like Crabtree want you to know how gentle most honeybees are, and to draw attention to the working insects’ declining population.
I know, because my brother does some beekeping, that honey has potentially fantastic health benefits. For example, if you eat local honey that includes the pollens that afflict you regularly before allergy season, some say that it can help reduce your allergies.
I found out why Van Morrison sang about Tupelo honey, because I got to taste some on bread, and it was deliciously sweet. The Ohio State Beekepers Association had honeys from around the world for tasting, as did some of the local honey booths. We bought some local honey, extracted in spring, which has more of a kick than that of the summer. We also got some infused with peppermint, and a small bottle infused with lemon verbena. Yum.
Puns were plentiful and really kind of adorable. We missed the spelling bee and the honey cook-off, but it was a sweet afternoon in more ways than one.

Related Posts:

Give me light

I had the remarkable opportunity to interview artist James Turrell a couple of weeks ago and preview his light installation at Franklin Park Conservatory.

I hope that the story I wrote gives local people a broader understanding of his work, and a sense of what makes this such a special addition to our local landscape.

The official illumination of the piece is tonight.

Related Posts:

Great Google-y moogly: An alternative “about me”

So, she recommended that whether we’re headed for BlogHer or not, women bloggers consider introducing themselves to the wider community by posting about the perverse-sounding act of Googling ourselves.

This isn’t, by any means, my first time at this. As a freelance writer, it’s something you do semi-regularly to find out who might be republishing your work without permission. The biggest offenders are music fan sites, and sometimes the musician’s site itself, although it’s hard to be offended when someone has taken the trouble to translate your review of Cher’s farewell tour into Spanish. And it’s a little confusing when Josh Groban fans reproduce your concert review and flank it with little flashing tulips, in spite of the fact that you refer to their vanilla heartthrob as “Donny Osmond Giovanni.” But this is the kind of stuff that happens.

Nowadays, the first thing that appears (beyond the links to that you can already find in the margins of this page) is a piece of my past persona as an alternative weekly staff writer, including the listing of an award I won with my colleagues for best local political story many years ago. We addressed the rise of hate groups in Ohio. My piece was an interview with Floyd Cochran, an ex-Aryan Nations recruiter who turned his life around to become a vocal advocate of social justice. This was a shining moment in my 20s, as the story was reprinted in alternative weeklies in Detroit, Los Angeles and many smaller cities in between. It was also picked up by PBS’s Not in Our Town campaign against American hate crimes and included in their education materials for years.

I wasn’t a journalism major in college. In fact, I went to a college that had “concentrations,” not majors, and mine was an amalgam of American history, American literature and creative writing. My work study job was student activist. I fell into journalism because I always knew that first and foremost, I wanted to write, and the close second was that I wanted to make a difference. So these pages of links, this life happened (at least a little) by accident.

Once upon a time, I went to a mall and asked a bunch of teenage girls what they thought feminism was. (I miss doing stories like this.) The article I wrote, “Feminism by Osmosis,” has been used in custom published women’s studies courses for several years since. No matter how much I have written in between, this is one of those pieces that keeps coming back high up in my Google image.

Another bit of feminist history that has followed me online (I think because I reprinted one on my first web site back in 1997) were two stories I wrote about the first woman to run for president, Victoria Woodhull – who was all the rage in historical non-fiction a few years ago.

I know more about Columbus, Ohio than you do. I spent two years as the senior editor of columbus.citysearch.com, therefore I wrote or edited a kabillion restaurant, hotel, attraction, bar, club, retail store, gallery, coffee shop, movie theater, park, weekend destination and other miscellaneous screen-length profiles that still live online.

Strangely, the work I’ve been doing as a Storyteller for the KnowledgeWorks Foundation for the past four years doesn’t appear until the bottom of the third page of my Google results.

There are also an endless number of artists’ web sites that list my stories about them on their resumés. You might already know who some of them are.

I am linked to a piece of my husband’s ignominious past by some obsessive Judge Judy fan site that tracked down a bunch of info about him after his appearance on that completely absurd show. (I didn’t go on the set with him. I knew he was going to lose. Declan — who wasn’t yet six months old — and I spent the day wandering around Hollywood instead. )

Without the Zollinger, my name is pretty common. Common enough that I was once in a video store and someone yelled for me from the front desk saying I had a phone call, and when I answered, the woman on the other line said “you’re not my sister-in-law.” I handed the phone back to the clerk, who then yelled: “Is there another Tracy Turner here?”

It’s almost enough to make me want to change my name to my husband’s.

I am routinely asked about business stories I have not written for the Columbus Dispatch, because another Tracy Turner wrote them.

Googling my shorthand name reveals that I also share it with an established artist, a BMW salesperson, a Texan OB/GYN, someone who takes still photos on horror movie sets and a guy from Kentucky who wrote a book of railroad tales and a biography of his brother, who died in a tragic car crash.

What happens when you Google you?

Related Posts:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a City, Part I

Hello, Columbus.

This is a view of Downtown from the Whittier Peninsula Metro Park construction site, soon to be home to an Audubon Center with urban nature programs. The existing river trail is lovely and flat and shady, but we ventured up the unfinished trail to get a preview of what’s to come.

The future of the water tower is said to be in question. According to sources we encountered on the trail, the contractors there desperately want to demolish it because knocking these things down is the most fun a demolition team can have.

I say paint the thing so it’s visible from I-70.

Related Posts:

Good neighbors embrace road rage

My mother, brother and I moved to Columbus in the summer just before I started fourth grade. Ohio was home to us long before then – a place with the most magnificent banister you could ever hope to slide down, cousins to play with and cavernous rooms to hide out in while anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus.

One of the first, most noticeable differences in my education on the East coast versus my education in Ohio was simply this: No one ever required me to learn a song about New Jersey, and I think it’s unlikely that anyone would have had I stayed. But literally within my first few weeks as a student in the Buckeye state, I was taught the Ohio State fight song, Carmen Ohio, a musical rendition of the riddle “What’s round on the ends and hi(gh) in the middle?” and the state rock song “Hang On, Sloopy.”

Somewhere around sixth grade, I was exposed to new Ohio rituals and traditions. There was one where one boy goes home for lunch the day before the OSU-Michigan football game and returns to school dressed in maize and blue (one of the colors in Big 10 sport teams has to have a Tweeds catalog-like name, so that no one mistakes it for a more ordinary shade). All of the scarlet and gray-wearing boys then dogpile on him, mock-beat him and strip him of his colors before math class. Then there are the bonfires with the marching bands, during which everyone sings all of the Ohio songs they had to learn in school. It a rivalry so fraught with insanity, HBO made a documentary about it.

As a non-sports fan with a son, I’m apprehensive about the day that Declan asks me for, say, maize and blue clothes so he can offer himself up to his classmates for mock sacrifice. Or worse – a day where the outcome of any particular game visibly dampens his mood (his dad – a big sports fan – is actually pretty good at shaking off this kind of disappointment). When I lived near the OSU campus, where I had to pay attention to the football schedule as a practical measure to keep my car from getting towed, you could sense the manic glee after a victory and the angry frustration after a defeat. (There didn’t have to be a riot happening to sense it.)

True sportsmanship, after all, is about common respect, no matter how hard the game is fought. Everybody shakes hands and moves on after the game. Or so I thought. But this billboard, which has been all over town for several months, doesn’t strike me as very sportsman-like:

And like a good neighbor, State Farm says it’s okiedokie to hit one with your car.

Where do you draw the line between healthy competition/rivalry and insanity?

Related Posts:

Saturn has rings!

It’s roughly a light hour (or 746 million miles) away, but when you look through a telescope it’s just right there, so clear with its rings and its many moons. I thought about Galileo seeing it for the first time 400 years ago, how he must have puzzled, the stir his telescope created.

I teared up a little after I looked at Saturn, wondering how I made it to my late 30s without looking so closely at the heavens before. It’s yet another gift my son has given me.

We also examined the surface of the moon and saw a distant galaxy (M105, I think). Then it clouded up and other people left, allowing Declan ample time to play with some computer program that let him fly through the universe, as well as to chat with an astronomer who also happens to clearly enjoy kids.

I got the last-minute notion to run us up to Perkins Observatory on Friday night (thanks to Ed for the reminder). I’d considered it last summer, but hadn’t gone because Declan was still just two, and three was the suggested youngest age, although I think they’d have made an exception if I’d just asked.

At any rate, I’m so glad we went – what a wonderful, family-friendly place, full of people who are just thrilled to tell you whatever they can about the skies. Dec was excited to see through the different telescopes, but he also could have spent hours looking at their book collection, examining globes of Mars and Venus, and trying out all of the different astronomy computer programs. (His mouse skills are so good, it’s a little bit freaky.) I think we’ll be making regular visits back, so that we can see more of the planets as they come into view. And celebrate the sun in July.

If you are in Central Ohio, I highly recommend visiting Perkins. They recently lost their major source of funding (OSU), because while they have the second-largest telescope in Ohio, there are more powerful ones out there nowadays that the university can lease to do its research. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic proponent of science than Director Tom Burns, and that makes the place a real local treasure. He seemed genuinely thrilled to be with people in the crowd who were about to undergo the life-changing experience of seeing Saturn through a telescope, and he was so, so kind to my son.

They are currently on a drive to increase their endowment and save the observatory, so bring plenty of change for the change vortex, money for a Moonpie and whatever else you can spare when you visit.

Related Posts:


He was the father of five children, husband to my grandmother for 61 years, a highly regarded surgeon, a farm boy, an inventor, a World War II veteran and the man with a well-developed sense of humor who taught me to rhyme as soon as I began to speak. Our earliest conversations went something like this:


And so I called him Powdaddy. He would have been 96 today.

We lost him in 1999. My grandmother followed in 2004, almost exactly a year before I had Declan. It’s hard for me to fathom that my grandparents will not know my son, and that he will only know them through story. My grandfather would have loved my boy, loved his ravenous curiosity – a characteristic they definitely share.

On New Year’s Day, my mother and I (and a sleeping Declan) went out to the small town where Powdaddy was born, and chose to be buried. Mom wanted to put lay down a grave blanket, something her mother used to do at her mother’s grave every winter. While most people consider this simply as decorative, my mom and her mom took the meaning of “grave blanket” at its symbolic face, as a way to warm their place of rest.

Afterwards, we went to see if the house where my grandfather and his brother grew up — the house built by my great grandfather, who died in the 1940s — was still standing.

It was, although it may not be much longer.

The farmhouse is a few hundred feet from Buckeye Lake. From the shore down the road you can see a place that I learned used to be called “Zollinger Island.”

My great-grandfather sold it for $500 in order to pay for Powdaddy to go to Harvard medical school. His older brother insisted that it was the place to study medicine. Both men left their mark on the world of medicine, in different ways.

If you happen to have surgery just west of Downtown, it’s possible that you may have it in the room named for my grandfather by his colleagues. The family collected there at dawn one morning in 2000 so the hospital could dedicate it, then sanitize it again before the day’s first operation.

I miss you, Powdaddy.

Related Posts:

Child helps journalist

Here is a story that I wrote for Columbus Alive this week.

Declan helped.

Not because he is a particularly good editor or writer at two and a half, but because he makes me think about the nature of the universe as well as its incomprehensible size — things that can come in handy when you’re writing about art. In this case, keeping up with his interest in spatial dimensions and string theory directly applied to the wonderful work and artist that I wrote about.

I consider some of the abstract concepts in galleries, community centers and museums on a fairly regular basis. In print, I try to make them less intimidating to people, to help them see the joy, intrigue and adventure inherent in considering the questions that art can raise. I don’t always succeed, but I try.

Growing up, I always considered science, especially physics, to be too large and logical for the likes of someone like me. But Declan has helped me see the joy, intrigue and adventure inherent in considering the questions that astrophysics can raise and how, much in the way that you don’t have to be a critic to appreciate art, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate the cosmos.

Life soundtrack: The Posies, “I Am the Cosmos”: Launch

Related Posts: