Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nick's Career of Musical Chairs

Nick’s now the pride of Lawrence County,
He moved in the band’s van fast.
But how long will this move last
Before he starts throwing chairs,
Before he moves to another county,
In his career of musical chairs?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Portsmouth, Ohio: Best and Worst

It’s the best of cities,
It’s the worst of cities;

It’s the city of upright people,
The city of the toppled steeple;

It’s the city of the crucifix,
The city of the cocaine fix;

It’s the city of churches and chimes,
The city of the rotten Times;

It’s the city of chronic crisis,
The city of river vices;

It’s the city of piety,
The city of notoriety;

It’s the city of squeaky clean,
The city of blatantly obscene;

It’s the city of the punctual,
The city of the dysfunctional;

It’s the city of the midnight oil,
The city of the wacky Doyle;

It’s the city of concerned citizens,
The city of crooked politicians;

It’s the city of crusading bloggers,
The city of pettifoggers;

It is the city of Christers,
The city of shysters;

It’s the city of floodwalls,
The city of pitfalls;

It’s the city of antique shops,
The city of chop shops;

It’s the city of old coots,
The city of young prostitutes;

It’s the city of work,
The city of shirk;

It’s the city of on-the-go,
The city of who-you-know;

It’s the city of the first brewery,
The city of  Mountain Dewery;

It’s the city of blue skies,
The city of meth highs;

It’s the city of hospitals,
The city of pill mills;

It’s the city of aspirin,
The city of Oxycontin;

It’s the city of hope,
The city of dope;

It’s the city of new schools,
The city of old fools;

It’s the city of pork-rind heiresses,
The city of Temponerases;

It’s the city of every kid passes,
The city of remedial classes;

It’s the city of the evangelical,
The city of the ungrammatical;

It’s the city of right principles,
The city of wrong past participles;

It’s the city of drawers and hewers,
The city of backed-up sewers;

It’s the city of live wires,
The city of suspicious fires;

It’s the city of the opera singer,
The city of the slumlord Singer;

It’s the city of black and Jew,
The city of Klan residue;

It’s the city of Scottie’s potties,
The city of Mearan’s hotties;

It’s the city of the father’s dereliction,
The city of son’s addiction;

It’s the city of drug-dealers on the run,
The city of the chief’s drug-dealing son;

It’s the city of the dedicated teacher,
The city of the adulterous preacher;

It’s the city of okey dokey, 
The city of kin in pokey;

It’s the city of Meals on Wheels,
The city of drug deals;

It’s the city of whites and blacks,
The city of mansions and shacks;

It’s the city of Good Will,
The city of ill will;

It’s the city of cooked books,
The city of unbooked crooks;

It’s the city of in the tank,
The city of American Savings Bank;

It’s the city of tightening the belt a notch,
The city of the state imposed Fiscal Watch;

It’s the city of solvency,
The city of bankruptcy.


It’s the city of the river breeze,
The city of radioactive retirees;

It’s the city of the beauty queen,
The city of the pregnant teen;

It’s the city on the dole,
The city of the doughnut hole;

It’s the city of Crispie Creams,
The city of Jones’ schemes;

It’s the city of poverty,
The city of obesity;

It’s the city of exercise classes,
The city of fat asses;

It’s the city of Waller and Massie,
The city of sassy lassie;

It’s the city of the Welcome Center to greet you,
The city of estate planners to cheat you;

It’s the city of real bingo halls,
The city of imaginary malls;

It’s the city of Clayton’s tools,
The city of Mearan’s mules;

It’s the city of Kalb gone to pot,
The city of Bihl, who got caught;

It’s the city of Hospice,
The city of injustice;

It’s the city of Pampered Pets,
The city of unlicensed vets;

It’s the city of the opportune knock,
The city of the pilfered rock;

It’s the city of the proud American,
The city of the Ku Klux Klan;

It’s the city of restaurants starting,
The city of prohibited farting;

It’s the city of the appraisal sham,
The city of the Marting scam;

It’s the city of Kalb on his three-wheeler,
The city of the wheeler-dealer;

It’s the city of preacher and parson,
The city of incest and arson;

It’s the city of priest and minister,
The city of lawyers who’re sinister;

It’s the city of winks and nudges,
The city of inebriated judges;

It’s the city of praying for prosperity,
The city of the chronic austerity;

It’s the city of food stamps,
The city of hungry tramps;

It’s the city of honorable pursuits,
The city of crooks in suits;

It’s the city of flood wall murals,
The city of pork-lined urinals;

It’s the city of Southern hospitality,
The city of redneck hostility;

It’s the city of he who has, gets,
The city of he who hasn’t, bets;

It’s the city of bingo and lottery;
The city of gambling and besottery;

It’s the city of crying need,
The city of undying greed;

It’s the city of speaking in tongues,
The city of smokers’ lungs;

It's the city of scarlet tanagers,
The city of fly-by-night city managers;

It’s the city of bikers collecting for toys,
The city of bikers making too much  noise;

It’s the city of victory torches,
The city of sagging porches;

It’s the city of dreams,
The city of schemes;

It’s the city of fame,
The city of  shame; 

It's the city of two-faced Sallie S,
It's the city of sanctimoniousness;

It's the city of the Counseling Center,
The city of naysayer and assenter;

The city of unctuous and pious ooze,
The city of the Samaritan Ed Hughes;

It’s the city of do-and-dare,
The city of I dont care;

It’s the city of  integrity, 
The city of S.O.G.P.;

It’s the city of enough is enough, 
Its the city of the fall-guy Huff;

It’s the city of the Master Plan,
The city of the can-can man; 

It’s the city of shoes and shoelaces,
The city of heels in high places;

It’s the city of vegetarian fruits,
The city of councilmen in cahoots;

It’s the city of the Golden Rule,
The city of hobbling Home Rule;

It’s the city of the mythic mall,
The city of the bingo hall;

It’s the city of churches and chimes,
The city of the lying Times;

It’s the city of the champion of freedom,
The city of Austin Leedom;

It's the city of the doughty Daub,
The city of the redneck Kalb;

It’s the city of no respect,
The city of Jeff Albrecht;

It’s the city of the blessed and cursed,
It’s the city of the best and worst.

                                                                         Robert Forrey, 2010-2014

Friday, April 05, 2013

Scioto County and the "Portsmouth Boys"

Ohio's  88 counties color coded according to health rankings 

Scioto County and the “Portsmouth Boys”

The health rankings which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, makes about Ohio's 88 counties, on the basis of available statistics (click here),  is probably  about as comprehensive an evaluation of an Ohio county’s overall health, or quality of life, as we can get. Ohio’s health rankings,  include a lot of categories. It is based on statistics regarding, among other things—to list them alphabetically—air quality, alcoholism, diabetes,  drug use, exercise,  health insurance,  junk food, level of education, obesity,  poverty,  premature death, quality of drinking water, recreational facilities, sexually transmitted diseases, single parent families, smoking, teen pregnancy, unemployment, vehicular deaths, and violent crime. If it is not complete, it covers a whole lot of things, because a  whole lot of things affect the health of a county.
Which Ohio county is first in the most recent (2013) Health Policy Institute health rankings? Gauega, up in the northeast corner of the state. (Just as Scioto is a native American word, meaning deer, Gauega is  also a native American word, meaning raccoon.) I had never heard of Gauega until I saw it ranked as the  healthiest county in Ohio. In 2008, Forbes magazine rated Gauega the fourth best county in which to raise a family, fourth not in Ohio but in all of America.
Which Ohio county is at the bottom of the most recent health rankings? If you haven’t already heard, and you’re from Scioto County, you might be able to guess which county is  88th. Yes, Scioto County.   When all the categories are averaged out, Scioto is at the bottom. Why? No one factor could account for why. There are lots of factors—economic, cultural, ethnographic, political— some of which go way back in time.
Scioto County’s economic problems are profound, and the chronically depressed economy may be the most important reason why it  is at the bottom of the health rankings.  After the Second World War, the development of the so-called global economy led to  the wholesale migration of American industries abroad, where the cost of labor and raw materials were much cheaper. The global economy was the death knell for the industries in south-central Ohio, particularly for the steel and shoe industries of Scioto Country. But the cultural, ethnographic, and political  factors worsened the county’s  economic problems.
From my observations of almost a quarter century residency, the culture in southern Ohio, usually called Appalachian, is exclusionary rather than inclusionary, collusive rather than competitive. The people tend to be independent but not especially industrious, to be creative and colorful but not particularly enterprising. Clayton Johnson was reportedly overheard to say the locals never learned how to use alarm clocks. The culture of south-central Ohio tends to keep everything in the family, using the term family in its broadest sense.  That culture is distrustful of outsiders, to new ideas and methods. It is, in the language of anthropology, endogamous, which is the tendency to marry within the group, as opposed to exogamous, the tendency to marry outside the group. But “married,” sociologically speaking, means keeping things within the group, not just the family, and not just women but opportunities and advantages, and especially in the last half century, the money and pork government provides to the poor and unemployed of Appalachia.   If Grapes of Wrath dramatizes the predicament of the Oakies in the Great Depression, Taps for Private Tussie (click here) does the same for Appalachians in the early 1940s, during the Second World War.

Portsmouth Boys

The “Portsmouth Boy,” to borrow a term from Frank Lewis, is at the apex of the endogamous, if not incestuous, culture of Scioto County. Economically and politically, rich, gray-haired Portsmouth Boys control Portsmouth, the county  seat. Because of chronic depression, Scioto County has been on the dole, directly and indirectly, for about a half century. The Portsmouth Boys decide for what and to whom government money is distributed. The Marting Foundation is the most influential and notorious of the local private organizations distributing government money.
The Scioto County Welcome Center is the unofficial city hall  created by and for the Portsmouth Boys with government money. I liken it to the social clubs that the Mafia (who play poker instead of bingo)  created in lower Manhattan (where I once lived). The social clubs were fronts for rackets and for the laundering of money derived from those rackets.  The Scioto County Welcome Center laundered government money. Bob Huff was chief executive officer of the Welcome Center, but he was not a Portsmouth Boy and he ended up being the  fall guy who was blamed when the racketeering and the laundering of government money came to light.
On the day the new Grant Bridge was opened in October 2006 (click here), after taking longer to build than the Golden Gate Bridge, the cut-up Steve Hayes reported on WNXT that Bob Huff was outside giving passing motorists the finger (a photo shows Huff waving, not giving the bird, as if he was taking credit for the bridge). Bob Huff, not a Portsmouth Boy,  was the one who ended up getting the finger after which he got out of town, pending prosecution, assuming that ever happens.

Bob Huff waving, before he got the finger

“He Who Pisses”

Instead of Scioto, an Indian word meaning deer, a more appropriate native name for the county might be, Squunck, a native word  for skunk.  Squunck means, literally “he who pisses,” which is what the former redneck mayor Jim Kalb said I was not worthy of—not worthy of being pissed on. Our current black, philandering, unelected mayor, the Rev. David Malone, is not much better. Both of them in their parasitical careers, have declared bankruptcy, a fact that Frank Lewis, of  the Daily (except Mondays) Times (PDT), does not mention. Kalb and Malone are just the kind of unsuccessful Portsmouth Boys, the kind of moral bankrupts, that the rich Portsmouth Boys help get elected to public office. Kalb and Malone, the dregs of the Portsmouth Boys, found in public office a refuge from the shame and failure of their insignificant lives, failure being  the unpardonable sin of American life. Kalb would have long ago been fired from Kroger’s, where he was a lowly grocery clerk, if it had not been for the protection provided by the Teamsters, the union founded by a former Cincinnati  Kroger employee, Jimmy Hoffa. Kalb’s second wife at one time got a restraining order against him. If only we could take out restraining orders against  the rich Portsmouth Boys. That might at least begin  to improve the health, the quality of life, in Scioto County.
The impassioned Austin Leedom’s has denounced the most recent general manager of the PDT, Mike Messerly, as a tool of the Portsmouth Boys. Since he is not a Portsmouth Boy himself, Messerly’s job is no more secure than was that of  any of his many predecessors. Although it is  only a shadow of what it once was, the local media, with Steve Hayes blatantly at WNXT and Frank Lewis more insinuatingly at PDT, have been instrumental in helping the rich Portsmouth Boys remain in control of the county and city. The consequence of  the rich Portsmouth Boys remaining in control is that  Scioto County will remain 88th, at the bottom of Ohio’s health rankings and we will continue to live in Skunk Holler. The county map above, with the color coding, shows that most of the bottom tier of the counties are concentrated in south-central Ohio, with Scioto (abbreviated SC) at the bottom of the map and in the rankings (see below), suggesting what part of the human anatomy it is analogous to. In Scioto County we are married not to the Mob but to the Portsmouth Boys.

Ohio County Health Ranking