Bender’s Tavern

A trip to a food past: I came here based on a Yelp review that said (essentially), “Bender’s is probably the best restaurants in three counties.”  Happily, this turned out to also be a historic restaurant that has been in the same building since 1907, with a lot of the menu’s ‘favorites’ tracing back almost that far. For example, I can now check off turtle soup (an American classic that sort of disappeared from our menus) from those “have you eaten this?” food lists memes that float around the internet — not mock turtle soup mind you, but the real McCoy with actual turtle meat, which apparently has been on their menu for over 60 years. It was tasty, but I have nothing to compare it to so I have no idea if it was good turtle soup.

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… The thing on the side is sherry, to be added ‘to taste.’

They even still do Monte Cristo sandwiches (another item that’s mostly disappeared from US menus, that was once ubiquitous), but apparently only on Mondays. For my main I had a fairly decent crab cocktail (trying to loose some weight). Apparently, and I discovered this afterwards while researching the place on the internet, the automobile Blue Book used to suggest this place as a driving destination.

If you get there when the place isn’t busy, the manager will happily give you the historical tour. I was just walking around looking at the place and he walked right over and started giving me background information. For instance, I learned that the mural that’s in the bar was painted by a local artist in barter for free food and drink during the whole period it took him to paint it

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And, believe it or not, the bar area originally not only had spittoons on the floor, but also urinals!!! Standing right out in the open (uhg). Apparently, once the place started to get popular for it’s food (and not just the liquor) the owner purchased the building next door and created a ladies dining room with it’s own door, so that they wouldn’t have to enter via the main doors at the bar, and walk by guys with their dicks out…

(SERIOUSLY? This was a thing?)

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Found a more complete write up on the history of this place in a google book called “Taste of Ohio”

First Ladies National Historic Site

Worth a visit, but underwhelming; remember to use your National parks pass!!

You know how pretty much every former US President has gotten a memorial or (at least since Herbert Hoover) a library, well this fairly new National park is a museum (consisting of two, not quite adjacent buildings) dedicated to the women behind the men… i.e., all our unsung first ladies. It was established, in order to fill that gap, around the year 2000, and consists of the historic (from 1878-1891) home of Ida McKinley (whose husband’s memorial and museum are about 5 minutes away by car), and a nearby former bank (built 1895 — so after her family had already moved out); the former bank now holds a small collection of first ladies dresses, etc., and a library/research section (on its upper floors).

The Museum is pretty easy to find, and there is free parking. However, one of the more disconcerting things about this site, at least to me, was how the area is arranged; the lot is adjacent to Ida McKinley’s house but blocking your entrance is one of those vertically swinging gates. When you get there you have to ask (via a microphone) to be allowed in, and will be asked to verify that your intent is to visit the site — I get why they do it, but it is pretty unusual, all things considered. Then you will discover, confusingly, that the building you need to go to first (it’s where you pay your fee and are then led around by a docent) is NOT the house you just parked next to, but rather, it’s the former bank building which is on the FAR side of an adjacent hotel&parking-structure. And, if you happen to be cutting it close till the tour, as I was, and have any trouble walking (as I do), then it can be quite the trek. However, and I learned this afterward having already left the site entirely, there are actually quite of few first ladies dresses and things of that sort on display in the hotel, so you should try to either time your arrival so that you have a chance to see those — either before a tour, or otherwise try to remember to do it before driving away afterwards (the docents were NOT the ones who told me about it, so odds are they won’t remind you either).

In the bank building (where you are NOT allowed to take pictures) you’ll pay your fee, don’t forget to use your national park pass if you have one, and be led to a back ‘library’ to watch a pretty propagandist movie about the first ladies. I say this, because it says things like, and I’m paraphrasing “all of the wives were supportive of their husbands” and then goes on to even mention Bess Truman who I wouldn’t describe as a ‘supportive’ first wife….

Now if you know anything about Bess, you’ll know that she DESPISED Washington and would only deem to be there when her presence was absolutely demanded (essentially abandoning her husband for the majority of his presidency). Her behavior overall made it clear that she was less than thrilled about her husband’s political career in spite of Truman doing everything he could to keep her involved, including nepotism in the form of finding her paying jobs. Once, when asked if she’d like her daughter to one day be President, she said, “most definitely not.” Bess held only ONE press conference over the course of Harry’s two terms in office and only did that once her repeated refusals to do them had become a political issue. While one could give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she feared her father’s suicide would become a public issue (back then the ‘heinous sin’ of a suicide in the family was like a permanent ‘taint’ on the blood of all descendants), or perhaps one could argue that it was a before-her-time feminist stance (if the press asked her what she might be wearing to a public event her “written” responses were usually pretty sarcastic) the overall effect is still of a woman whose behavior could not be described as “supportive of her husband.”

…. hence why I mean it when I say the movie they showed us about the first ladies was pretty “propagandist”; for me, I prefer my history presented unapologetic-ally, with the good, the bad and the ugly intact.

Then we were led into the front room where the docent offered to either let us just wander the exhibits independently, or he could share with us what he knew. I promptly said “share what you know” and he made it clear he knew his first ladies (although he did edit some of the most controversial stuff out), including things like the fact that Jackie-O felt she was cursed. The docent then essentially keeps us in the ‘first ladies room’ for what I’m pretty sure was a set amount of time — it was clear my group was ready to go one well before he allowed us to do it, and then we were told to all go as a group past the hotel (again) to the Ida McKinley’s house where we led around by a different docent.

Over all, I felt the place was underwhelming; the exhibits in the first building were, in my opinion, worth seeing but not quite ‘ready for prime time.’ It was like they knew they HAD to have something, and this was the best they could come up with.  I have not yet seen the Smithsonian’s first ladies exhibit, but I’m guessing it beats the pants off of what I saw here. And then, while the lower floors of Ida’s house impressively attempted to ‘recreate’ the home — based on old family photographs of the rooms, the top floor of Ida’s house then discordantly tried to tie back into the first ladies theme by offering a gallery of portraits of the women. While up there I brought up the topic, “what are you guys going to do if Hillary wins the presidential campaign?” The docent admitted it was an issue they were currently trying to wrap their brains around — even though it was something they should have considered at the outset. Insisting that first ladies need to be recognized is a feminist stance… Yet,  Just looking at the place, in my opinion, how they set the place up is evidence that its founders essentially bought into the belief that presidents are and always will be male. Considering organized the place not 16 years ago, you’d think they’d have prepared, nay… looked forward, to the eventuality of a female president, but it is clear they had not.

Before leaving the site entirely, I struck up a conversation with some retired folks who were in the parking lot. To my great luck, one of them had grown up in Canton and started telling me about just how different the site had been then — reiterating something I had spotted in an image that was in the house.

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Ida’s childhood home had been converted into a business, and the parking lot we were standing in, as well as the home’s garden, had been occupied with other businesses/buildings … all of which have since been torn down (in order to restore the site, something that probably could not have happened but for a downturn in the Canton economy).

President McKinley National Memorial & Library

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For those who are weak on their presidential history, McKinley was the 25th President, and was shot six months into his second term, in 1901, by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist (he didn’t think we should have any sort of government); McKinley is probably best remembered for, by the simple act of dying, making way for Teddy Roosevelt — which might not be fair to McKinley who was actually a fairly effective president (depending on how you feel about US expansionism/colonialism), but is none the less an accurate statement.

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As mausoleums  go, this is a pretty impressive one, and doubles as a popular place to work out, a phenomena that I seriously doubt the folks who designed and built it had in mind. While there I saw any number of ‘dressed to work out’ women and some men doing the steps. I even saw one class of orange clad 2nd graders assigned by their teacher to run up the stairs as a way of calming them down after a long bus ride, before entering the presidential library/museum portion of the memorial.

 

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Next door to the mausoleum is a really impressive little museum (completed in 1964) that is most definitely worth a visit. It kind of reminds me of a miniature version of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. There’a small planetarium (because of all the school kids I was lucky enough to see a light show on a week day), a gallery devoted to the McKinley’s that shows furniture and various items that belonged to the and includes an animatronic President so good that I’m thinking they may have gone to Disney for his production.

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There is also a whole wing dedicated to recreating a small town of McKinley’s era, with various shops, a post office, a doctor’s office, a dentist, etc., which is in and of itself worth the price of admission, etc., and that’s just on the top floor. I consider this to be part of the living museum trend, even though none of the ‘buildings’ are saved historic ones.

 

The basement is devoted to dinosaurs, but I barely got to see it. There is in fact way more thing to do that I made time for because I wanted to make sure I was able to fit in a visit to the first ladies museum on the other side of town before it closed. If I go to Canton again, which I intend to, I will devote a whole afternoon to this museum.

 

Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Hadn’t come to Canton intending to visit the Pro football Hall of fame; to be honest didn’t even know it was there (not a football fan); however, driving around in this town it’s kind of hard to miss it.

So I came here, and I was interested, but not $24 + $10 for parking interested….

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Once I saw the prices, I opted to just check out the gift shop, which the guys working their front-desk did not want to let me do (and they even said I should have paid the $10 for the pleasure of parking my car before shopping) but I just ignored their comments, and no one stopped me.

The gift shop is basically any sports wear shop you’ve ever seen that specializes in any particular NFL team, only this one has stuff for every team, and not much more than that. They don’t even have much specifically aimed at that museum itself… I compare this to goods for sale at Hong Kong Disney which are just generic ‘disney’ stuff, with almost nothing that is specific or special to the park. In other words, there’s no reason to not just buy a generic disney character shirt at a discount store rather than pay the elevated park prices. Suffice it to say, I was out of there in about three minutes. 

I heard afterwards from the front desk clerk at my hotel that it’s possible to get a combined ticket for both the NFL and the Rock and Roll (which I didn’t realize was also in Canton)hall of fame ticket for $30, and according to my male friends — when they heard I could have gone in but didn’t — both are MUST see museums  ….. So, I will try the combo ticket next time I’m in Canton. 

 

Things we do for love

Today was a very emotionally exhausting, upsetting, and draining day; I did something that in my lifetime I never expected I would have to do … I tried to go visit a dear friend who is in prison for having been incredibly stupid. What he did was the sort of thing that in other countries (many in fact) would not be illegal … but here in the USA its not only illegal, it’s anathema.

That said:

There’s a list I keep in my head, its a list of all the people on this planet that I love. It’s a list slowly compiled over my lifetime. To be fair, most of the people on it are men (who I may or may not have been sexually involved with at some point), but there are a handful of women too. These are the sorts of people who I can go months or years without seeing, but always feel close to in spite of that; and, when we eventually get back together it’s almost like we never separated. Almost without exception these folks are unique, brilliant, creative individuals who are often the sort that make a difference on the planet — some even make it into history books (no seriously, they do). They pretty much all live large in one way or another. This guy, this friend, for many years not only was he on the top of my list, he was one of personal heroes,

… he was, and still is — despite what he’s done, someone who made me want to be a better person.

That was the friend I tried to visit today, emphasis on the tried… and failed. If I were to describe him to you in detail, you’d understand why I can forgive him for being a stupid idiot about certain things — and I can not over emphasize the level of stupid that got him thrown in prison. However, in my world some stupid (no matter just how stupid, and this was very very stupid on oh so many levels) does not negate 25 years of honorable merit, at least not in my book. Not only was he one of my personal heroes, but this is the sort of guy, who till just a few months ago, schools invited over to talk to their kids about how ‘no matter who you are, and what your background, your life is yours to lead and you’re the one who gets to make decisions — good or, ironically, bad — regarding how to live it.’ But like many folks from problematic backgrounds he had never fully addressed his inner demons but rather he just repressed them in favor of basking in his current successes, (imagining I suppose that they were now no longer part of him) till they came up to bite him in his ass. To quote different friend of mine who, like this person, was a recovered alcoholic, “there really should be a required 13th step of therapy, so you can figure out why you turned to your drug of choice to self-medicate yourself in the first place.” When I met him he was already maybe 10 years sober and doing amazing things with his life. I can only hope that while in prison, that what he’s doing during his time of prison (in addition to writing his book) is working with a therapist to discover why he did this oh so idiotic thing.

Before he’d gone in we’d talked multiple times and each time I asked him if he wanted me to visit him when he was inside, and he had insisted he did. So, I honored my promise and I drove to the prison to visit him. When I arrived it wasn’t visiting day (he’d not stayed in contact as promised so I had no idea when visiting day might be — the prison web site didn’t say), and the staff at the secured entrance didn’t even know whether or not I was on the list of people who were allowed to visit him.

Before going I had on multiple occasions spoken with his mom and once with his sister, telling them that I intended to go. His sister had even a few weeks before reminded him that he had said he wanted me to, and that I was planning to, and that he should make sure to do what needed to be done to get me on the visitors list. She said he’d not responded one way or another, so that she wasn’t sure if he would do it or not. But I figured, if he had, I would see him, and if not, I’d do what I could to fix that… and even if after that he had not put me on the list, at least he’d know I had done everything in my power to try.

To those who have never had anyone in prison, this is foreign territory. Lord knows I honestly never thought that in all my years any of my friends would be on the inside for anything other than, maybe unintentional manslaughter (being unlucky enough to accidentally kill someone, which could happen to anyone I suppose). Anyways, there is, apparently, paperwork that the prisoner is required to send to you requesting that you visit them, which you then have to fill-in and send back; then, the prison does a background check on you before you can be put on the list. Makes sense if you think about it. The onus, according to the guard I spoke to, is completely on the inmate to do that paperwork, and the guards intentionally won’t lift a finger to help them. The theory being that most prisoners lack the basic skills to succeed in life (or they wouldn’t be in prison), and this is part of them learning those skills. Then, once the prison has jumped through the hoops, and you’ve cleared the background check, the prisoner is supposed to send you an email inviting you — none of which my friend had done in spite of the numerous promises before going in that he would.

Now, like I said, this is a highly educated (graduated from the best schools) individual who had reached some of the highest levels of success in his profession, so it’s not that he lacked the basic skills necessary to send me a form. I tried to explain this to the guard, that if my friend had not done it it wasn’t because he lacked the basic skills… but the guard, who clearly was not the brightest light on the Xmas tree, although I think his heart was in the right place, kept repeating to me that it was about them trying to teach the inmates necessary life skills. (sigh)

Now, you might say: “well if he still wanted you there, he’d have done the paperwork as required” — and in fact you’d not be the first. The thing is, I had asked him multiple times when still out of the prison if he wanted wanted me to visit, and he had said he most definitely did. Granted, once inside he probably got depressed and started to feel sorry for himself and decided that he didn’t want me seeing him like that (he knows he had been one of my heros, and that I love him)… but.. well I’m sorry, but fuck that shit. One thing I’m not is a fair weather friend, and if I think you are in a place where you NEED to be reminded that there are people on this planet who love you, I’ll be damned if I’ll make it easy to push me away.

It’s sort of the down side of having many friends who are unusually brilliant and talented, most of those sorts are also folks with lots and lots of issues.

To quote Steve Jobs:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

What Steve forgot to mention is some of these round pegs secretly hate themselves for a variety of reasons, and when if they were once high, but then are brought low by the forces in the world that will vilify them, is that they will then do some pretty self destructive shit to make SURE the world punishes them… that’s what I really believe happened here.

But seriously, most of the ones who change the course of humanity are folks that most of the rest of humanity wants nothing to do with till AFTER they become famous. So, if one of them stumbles and falls, I’m not turning my back on them because they somehow fucked up. Failure, even personal failure, is a learning experience, and learning experiences are some of the worst. Clearly, this is one he needed.

However, the fact that I had shown up without that paperwork process having been done by the inmate freaked the prison staff out big time. I’m not one however to let things like that stop me, and basically refused to leave in spite of many hints from them that I should, and that my friend had to initiate the process of my being allowed in (and yes, I told the guards multiple sob stories on how far I’d driven, etc., and I allowed the very real tears of frustration to fill my eyes, because what’s the point of being a girl if you cant play the damsel in distress card). The guy at the front desk realizing I wasn’t going to be easily put off called the person in charge of my friends group within the prison. This guy said to just go ahead and give me the form that my friend was supposed to have sent out; and that I could send it in (they refused to just let me fill it in there, it needed to be put in the post) …. and told me that then, after maybe two weeks, I might find out whether or not I was on the list.

Now when you enter a federal prison you’re not allowed to have anything with you other than your keys. I did not know this till I got to the front door … So I returned to the car and took only my keys and my id (cause I figured they would need that, but they didn’t). What they demanded was my friend’s assigned inmate number (in prison, apparently, you become a number), info that I in fact had with me, but it was on my iPhone and they told me to go get the information; but then when I came in with the iPhone which I had to go back to the car to get. When I walked back in, phone in hand, they said “NO you can’t bring the iPhone into the building (the guy was really freaking out) — not even into just the entry area; you have to put it back in the car.” So a lot of back-and-forth between the car and the prison was going on…. but I ultimately got the form I had to fill in

 ….. So now, an hour later, imagine I’m back at the hotel and I’m sitting down at the table to fill it out …. and I realize I don’t have my drivers license.

Suffice it to say that after the stress of the morning I started freaking out just a little bit ….

Now to backtrack…

Then day before when I first arrived at my hotel, I discover that while the TV worked, the HBO cable wasn’t (Game of Thrones, anyone?) but they promised me it would be fixed that next day; so upon return it I turn it on only to find that it is STILL not working. I called down and it apparently was a room specific issue, so the manager offers to move me to another room where it was working. So, I move…  and then when in the new room (this is after visiting the prison) I pull the key cards from the old room out of my pockets and dump them in the garbage. I collapse on the bed and watch some TV till I feel my emotional energy coming back.

I finally sit down to fill out the form and it asks for my drivers license (which is NOT in my wallet, where it should be — and I start freaking), and then — thankfully, I had a thought; I went to look in the garbage can and sure enough I had thrown out my drivers license…. remember I had put into my back pocket before returning to the prison after leaving my stuff — as instructed —  and I am sitting at the table, looking at the form and thanking G-d for the form having asked for my drivers license number because I could have easily, if not for that, have checked out the next morning with it still in the garbage.

It’s been that kind of a day