We interrupt these global tales to bring you a story about Ohio

Biggest basket in Newark, OH
Biggest basket, really more just a building though| Photo by Lauren Girardin

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Blame some intense family time, the social insanity that is San Francisco in August, and the pressure of of searching for a job during a recession – but we must apologize for the recent lack of storytelling here on Ephemerratic. We’ll take you back to our global road-trip adventures soon enough, but first, we have to interrupt for a more recent excursion to Ohio.

That’s right. Ohio. Land of the um, cornfields. Home of the…cornfields.

For city folk like Todd and I, Ohio is a sort of kind of travel adventure. It may not carry the exotic allure of Thailand – which we’re about to launch into stories about – but there’s something very foreign about Ohio.

To think that our first travel after going around the world and eating fertilized duck eggs (you heard me, little beak and all) was Ohio for a Berman family wedding (no way am I blood related to anyone who would choose Ohio!). That we were headed to Ohio left us a little dismayed. Ok, that’s an extreme understatement. It left me in a state of near panic, particularly after hearing that instead of one of the state’s triad urban jewels – Columbus, Cincinnati, or Topeka Toledo – we were destined for a a lesser burb – Newark, Ohio.

Bermans in Ohio
Uniquely packaged gift from us to them | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Not one to overreact, I went through the stages of grief like any sane non-breeder who’d found out they would be spending four days at a hotel that hosts the area’s major family fun attraction, a “water park” – which incidentally was little more than a pool and a playground with a few hoses spraying about randomly.

Denial: In true New Yawker style, I let loose a 5 minute rant consisting entirely of the words “fuck” and “hell” and “no,” occasionally spicing it up by tacking on gerund here and there. Normally I am a highly rational person, but I got the surprising news about Ohio while huddling for warmth under blankets in a tourist trap town in China where coffee was $3 US a cup. My tolerance for bad news was very low.

Anger: See ‘Denial.’ It was an emotional cocktail.

Bargaining: I tried, quite fruitlessly, to convince Todd that I didn’t need to go to the wedding. That I probably wouldn’t be able to spare the days, having hopefully started a new job by then (oh, the optimism!). That we’d be better off just seeing his family in New York as we usually would. Stubborn as the Taurus he is, Todd had none of my negotiation nonsense. Ruefully, I entered it in our calendar and told Todd, “the conversation isn’t over.”

Depression: I began to look at online information, only to sigh mightily over the magnitude of the Midwestern nowhere we were headed to. Even the irreverent honesty of this photo and it’s comment stream couldn’t console me. Once I realized that there were no direct flights between San Francisco and the nearest airport to Newark, and that the flights plus layover would take more than eight hours, I began to truly despair. I’m not a crier, but I muttered in blue relentlessly.

Acceptance: How did I overcome my Ohio-bound grief? I remembered my favorite Anthony Bourdain moment (at 4:50 on the video below), when he was sent, kicking and screaming, off to Texas. And I blockquote:

“Now I’m a New Yorker and I used to have the kind of preconceptions about Texas you might expect. But I learned to look at Texas as a foreign land, as different from mine as another country. And when I started to look at Texas with the same respect for that difference that I show other lands, I began to find much to love.”

Bourdain’s way of thinking got me not just to venture into scary southern places like Nashville, Tennesee a few years ago, but also to accept my fate and get over my Ohio grief. All hail the almighty Bourdain.

So I did what I always did when we headed anywhere on our round-the-world trip. I googled. As I dug deeper into the internet, I found out that while the town’s restaurants didn’t look like much, they were at least honest and homestyle. And, to my delight, Newark’s claim to fame is the largest basket in the world. Kitsch? Yeah, I can do kitsch.

So, what Ohio adventures do we have to report? Unfortunately our stories are very anti-climatic. Effort aside, it’s still Ohio. But here are the highlights:

Bermans in Ohio
Third wind Berman | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • The weather was balmy, no thunderstorms or tornadoes.
  • We survived an intense three-day family-time marathon, seeing a large chunk of Todd’s clan for the first time in at least a year, with no more Jewish guilt than is usual.
  • We ate our one non-wedding meal at Miller’s Essenplatz, a quasi-German, quasi-Amish (but truly neither), and positively Christian restaurant. After gawking at the greatly girthed restaurant patrons, none at our table was brave enough to order the carb overload of one of their signature dishes, “Noodles over Mashed Potatoes.” I suspect skipping this dish will be a lifelong regret.
  • Alas, the largest basket in the world is not technically a basket – it’s just a seven-story office building clad in mock-basket siding. Paul Bunyan would not be able to use it to tote apples for Babe the Blue Ox. We felt a little bamboozled.
  • Our niece, Shanti – a whole year older and bolder than when we saw her last – is now walking and talking. We’ve nicknamed her “Third Wind Berman” for her ability to dance (well, walk in circles) at the wedding for six hours, stopping only briefly to look for Mom. Todd’s brother and Shanti’s father, Joshua, holds the title of “First Wind Berman,” though his wind is not the kind you want to be near.

Where the Ohio trip held its own was when it came to transportation horrors, an essential component of any travel adventures. During a 14-hour trip home on the always unreliable US Airways (a trip which took us from Ohio to San Francisco with a dramatically inefficient detour through Philadelphia), we began to wax nostalgic for Asian bus rides. Even if it was repetitive Laotian pop videos, an inscrutable Turkish movie, or the unfamiliar countryside seen through a mucked up window, at least buses in Asia offered “in flight” entertainment.