My husband is crazy.

He recently got a wild hair and went on a research junkie's dream of a search for the various homes of Langston Hughes here in Cleveland. He found them, actual addresses, something the local preservation society has apparently been unable to do on their own. Most of them are long gone, a days work for the wrecking ball. Two houses remain. So he grabbed his camera and set off to see these homes, located on either side of an empty lot in a humble neighborhood. One has been foreclosed on, the other is now a rental property between tenants.

"It has good bones," he said upon arriving home the day he saw these houses. He was talking about the house Hughes wrote his first works in. He was amped, he'd found his treasure and the preservationist in him had already started working out how to rip off the vinyl and display the original woodwork beneath. He talked about it for days. Worried about the loss of these homes should it be determined that the lots had a higher value than the homes sitting on them. At a party we recently had he shared his find with everyone, showed them pictures. Our like-minded friends were equally amazed, interested and concerned about preservation. "If enough of us got together we could buy it," one told me. His eyes were lit with excitement at owning a piece of Langston Hughes' history.

Chris contacted the bank that owned the house, the local preservation society and a reporter he knew from high school in the attempt to bring attention to these homes. The story appeared in the local paper today and I have never been more proud to be this man's wife.

My husband is a crusader.

Today I learned that at least three states are planning to close their highway rest areas due to recent budgetary problems. Virginia will barricade half their rest areas. Vermont I understand plans to demolish several of the buildings.


Why does the closing of a rest area mandate closing the building or barricading the lot? Okay, the state can't afford the maintenance services, sewer and electric. Shut them off. Lock up the building and leave. The parking lot, presumably, still works and will work for some time without routine maintenance.

The thing is, the operative word is rest. Get off the road. Get out of the car. Take a walk. Need to take a leak? Most rest areas come equipped with these things called trees, and they have served both man and woman ever since there were men and women. Realistically we don't need architecturally interesting (or ugly) pavillions with an army of flush automatic-flush toilets and vending machines. We need a place to safely pull off and to pull back on. And quickly get back on.

When I was a boy rest areas weren't anything like what they are today. We didn't have neatly tiled bathrooms, we had a slit latrine. You had a stall, a light bulb, and sometimes toilet paper (travelers often brought their own. You wanted a drink? No problem. Over there stood a well, and a hand pump, the same kind that served American farmers for a century and are occasionally in use today. Yeah, the water sometimes came up a bit rusty and flavorful, but it was wet and I assure you that double-flitered, purified bottled spring water is not necessary to wet your whistle. Bottled water didn't exist until the 1980s and to this day I see no reason to pay for something that comes out practically free from any tap. We can live without flush toilets and softened water. Consider it a trip back in time.

So if Ohio finds it necessary to shut down a few rest areas during a time when our budgets are shrinking like testes in a blizzard I have no problem with that. But don't block them or start spending money tearing things down. Put up a sign saying this area is no longer maintained or patrolled by the state, but if you want to park there you may. The sign will cost less then the barricades. It will also cost a lot less then a wreck caused by a sleeping driver.

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