Sunday, August 12, 2001


A view from the beach

        When fog sneaks up on the shores of Lake Michigan, it floats in like a ghost ship, as quiet as a thought. If you listen closely, you can hear the worried moans of fog horns as freighters feel their way through heavy velvet drapes of mist.

        Otherwise, silence.

        Serene, peaceful silence — a soothing relief from the snarled traffic, ringing phones and constant background hum of endless talk that is the heartbeat throb of the city.

        It's so nice to leave all that behind and rediscover blue skies, sun-baked white sand and the playful slap and slosh of Lake Michigan pretending it's the Junior Pacific on the West Coast of the Heartland.

        Even on foggy days, you can see things more clearly from a folding beach chair than from an office desk.

        And on clear days, the perspective is stick-figure simple compared to the daily news parade of Picasso clowns and their cubist issues.

        The ruler-edge where indigo water meets the scarlet brushfire of a setting sun, this is the place to measure your blessings.

        Good health. Happy children. A strong marriage. An abiding love for the Creator who made such a beautiful world.

        What else matters?

        Gazing at the far horizon, I decided that what matters is not stuff. Stuff wears out. It craves attention and the more you own, the more it owns you.

        No, what matters is memories. It's what we take away from a vacation that can never wear out. It's a mental snapshot of your family at a precise moment in time; jokes that nobody else would understand; moments that are folded away like pressed flowers in your heart's album of vacations, brought out years later with, “Remember the year. . . ?”

        I also saw something I notice every year with mild surprise: The world goes marching on without my opinions and neither of us really cares a lick.

        When I returned home, the two weeks that seemed like an ocean in anticipation had passed like a drip from a faucet.

        It was as if nothing had changed. I picked up the conversation again in mid-sentence, as if CNN had been on “pause” like a rented movie.

        Some weirdos are still belly-aching because the president gave them some of their taxes back. Bill Clinton is being paid to tie knots in the truth again. The cable networks are still showing the same tired loops of tape of Chondra Levy and she's still missing and Rep. Gary Condit is still stonewalling.

        And Cincinnati is still talking — no, obsessing — about race.

        This year when I left town I left something behind that I didn't even know I was carrying. It was a gnawing feeling of discouragement, a burden Cincinnati has been wearing like a house-arrest ankle bracelet since April.

        For two weeks, I didn't hear anything about race problems. No stories on Page One every day, nothing on the evening news every night. It wasn't the topic of every conversation. In other words, once you get 400 miles away from Cincinnati, it sinks in like the headache that went away: What a relief to leave all the hostility and frustration and social terrorism nonsense behind.

        It's as if our whole region is stuck in one of those dreadful sensitivity training sessions, where people stare at the table and inspect their shoes and say nothing, not a single hazardous word, while “victims” heap on the guilt with both hands.

        We act like a city in therapy. We know the problem. We understand it. We love to talk about it. But talking has not solved a thing.

        It only makes the fog thicker.

        Now I'm rested and refreshed. But maybe Cincinnati needs a vacation.

        Contact Enquirer Associate Editor Peter Bronson at 768-8301; fax: 768-8610; e-mail: Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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