Sunday, July 10, 2005

Item from the Past: Summer of ’99

July 8, 1999

Had a good Fourth of July weekend hereabouts. High point was the fireworks by the towns of Westmont, Woodridge and Downers Grove. Which means, being a taxpayer in Westmont, I paid a bit to put ’em on, and it’s a fine way to spend public money, too. We watched the show from a large parking lot; us and a lot of other people, sitting out side their cars on folding chairs. Even Lilly paid some attention, though she was a little scared of the noise.

The day before, we spent some time the day before at Navy Pier, an excellent public space that juts into Lake Michigan downtown. Lilly had the best time of all, finding short sets of stairs to climb up and down (a current favorite of hers). There was a band, and Lilly danced -- wobbled, really—to their tunes, which was a seriously cute activity.

About my recent to Grand Rapids, never mind the town itself. The best parts of the trip were the flights over and back, on Jetstream 31 propeller airplanes, seating about 20. It was a little like being inside a flying lawnmower, but the view was splendid, especially on the return, when there were few clouds. We flew at about 8,000 feet, according to the pilot, and generally followed the coast of southern Lake Michigan, so I could see some of the parklands, the lakeside towns, and, in Indiana, the active and inactive steel mills.

Later I went to Columbus, Ohio, was to conduct a Columbus roundtable, which I did—14 or so local real estate types, sitting around a conference room, eating breakfast, responding to my questions and often, each other.

Currently, there’s a quarrel between the owners of an older mall (a Cincinnati company) and a Columbus developer who wants to build a new one using tax-increment financing, which is essentially a local tax break. Of course, it’s really a quarrel between competitors, but it’s being portrayed as a matter of public interest by both sides.

Columbus seemed pleasant enough, a Nashville-sized city. Before I went, I only knew a few things about it -- it’s the capital of the state, and Thurber’s hometown (I had to tell my young associate editor who that was). Also, Wendy’s started there. The Ohio state capitol isn’t impressive. It, like Tennessee’s, is Greek Revival, but not nearly as elegant.

Even the inside was spare, with a few monuments to obscure pioneers of Ohio, heroes of the Great Rebellion, moldy governors, etc. Some of the statuary outside was well done, however: a good Spanish-American war memorial, and a prominent larger-than-life of President McKinley, erected a few years after his assassination, with words to the effect that such a man’s fame would shine through the mists of time. Uh-huh.

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