Motion (Picture) Sickness

I’m sick of all this puking in movies and TV. 


It’s become pandemic. You can’t watch a movie or turn on a TV show without somebody hurling on-screen. And it keeps getting worse — in frequency and intensity.

I did an online search for vomiting in movies and TV and turned up dozens of articles — many of them written by critics — complaining about gratuitous and excessive vomiting in popular entertainment. They’ve been griping about it for at least 15 years and all the critics seemed to agree that it’s becoming more prevalent.

In a 2010 article Anne Billson wrote in The Guardian that the taboo against explicit on-screen vomiting was first breached in the 1953 film “The Wages of Fear.”

Billson said the “barf gates” really opened in the 1970s, most notably with pea soup projectile vomiting in “The Exorcist.”

Things went downhill from there. Thirty years later, Monte Python’s “The Meaning of Life” further pushed the envelope when the humongous Mr. Creosote flooded a fancy restaurant with vomit. (Legend has it the scene required 9,000 gallons of fake puke.)

In the article, Billman lamented that it would only be a matter of time before actors were throwing up in 3D.

In March of this year, New York Times TV critic Neil Genzlinger complained that on-screen vomiting had become a TV cliché “that deserves to die.”

Genzlinger indicated that, unlike other obsolete taboos such as sex and violence, puking generally does nothing to further plots or reveal the essence of characters.

Apparently on-screen puking isn’t just for the unwashed masses. In 2007 Joe Queenan wrote in The Guardian about an experiment he conducted. He rented five videos at random, watched them with his family and all but one had vomiting scenes.

“So there you have it,” Queenan concluded. “They’re puking in award-winning Franco-Algerian Films, they’re puking in mainstream animated films, they’re puking in Steven Soderbergh films, they’re puking in Korean horror movies, they’re puking in spellbinding indie features about enigmatic rock stars, and now they’re even puking in iconoclastic TV series.”

Not just the critics are saying, “Enough already!”

My online search turned up scores of discussion threads on the topic and even a Facebook page called “There’s Too Much Vomiting on TV Nowadays.”


In a 2013 online discussion, participants talked about their struggle with emetophobia, the fear of vomit or vomiting. They bitterly complained that they could no longer enjoy movies or TV because of all the puking.

Had I been a part of the conversation, I would have added that it’s not so much a fear of puke; I just don’t want to see it. I have two kids — now adults — and a houseful of cats and dogs. There’s more than enough puke in my life already.

Who’s to blame? We are. We keep watching this dreck.

While we’re in mea culpa mode, I have to take at least some of the blame for puking in the movies.

When I was young, my friends and I sometimes went to the Garden Theater on the near West Side of Cleveland. It was the only movie theater in town still showing serials along with the Saturday matinee.

The entertainment was stale and so were the refreshments. Long story short, while sitting in the back row, I did my Mr. Creosote impression.

What followed can best be described as the parting of the Red Sea in super slow motion. Row by row, the people in the seats directly in front of us got up and scurried for the exits.

It was far more entertaining than what was on the screen.

If they make a movie about my life, I’m going to ask that they omit that scene.

Tree muggers vindicated – trees ARE evil!

Proof that monster trees are everywhere, they’re stalking us and they want to kill us.

Until last Sunday, I never understood tree muggers. That’s a term I use for those who seemingly never saw a tree or a forest they liked.
Thanks to a harrowing experience, I’ve come to appreciate where tree muggers are coming from. Trees are not the benign inanimate objects many of us take them for; they are intimidating and sinister. Given a chance, they’d trip us with their roots, ensnare us in their gnarled limbs, drink our blood and replace it with sap and turn our brains into mulch.
Last Sunday I came to realize that trees are lurking everywhere, in the woods, along city streets, in nurseries … watching our every move, waiting until no one else is looking. While hiking in the park, I felt the trees staring at me. A chill went up my spine when I turned around and came face to face with this:


I turned and I ran until I came to a spot under a huge oak tree, lost my footing on a bunch of acorns, and went into a pratfall with arms flailing and blue language spewing from my lips. Then, I looked up to see this:


I regained my footing and sprinted out of the forest. Out of breath, I hastily walked down the road toward my house, constantly looking over my shoulder. Then, I heard a sound coming from the tree line along the road, looked over and saw this:


It was enough to convince me that tree muggers aren’t irrational after all.
When I got home, I did some research on the darker nature of trees. Lo and behold, there it was — images from our popular culture depicting sinister, evil trees. Like the ill-tempered apple tree from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz:”


It’s widely known that, during the making of the film, one of the Munchkins, after having been spurned by a lady Munchkin, hanged himself from a tree on the set. Movie buffs claim he can be seen in the background dangling from the tree with his legs kicking as Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow dance down the yellow brick road en route to Oz.
Skeptics have countered that what you’re actually seeing is a large bird, a crane of some sort, meant to add some realism to the set.
Popular culture also gave us a glimpse into the true nature of trees in the 1957 horror classic “From Hell It Came.” The star of the film, an evil tree monster called Tabanga, terrorizes the natives and their American visitors on a remote desert island. Tabanga can best be characterized as a zombiefied version of the evil apple tree from “The Wizard of Oz.”

tarbanga3 copy

The hit TV series “Twin Peaks” demonstrated that not only are trees sentient, but have supernatural powers. Remember clairvoyant talking log?


The mysterious Log Lady’s psychic log had a lot to say, but its counterpart from “Sesame Street’s” parody “Twin Beaks” had just one thing to say. Tired of people pumping it for words of wisdom, the log finally spoke up, saying, “How should I know? I’m a log!”
Which only goes to show that, not only are trees sentient and endowed with supernatural powers, they’re smart asses.


Next time you’re out hiking or just walking down the street, be on the lookout for sinister trees. Get photos and email them to me. I’ll add them to our watch list. Together, we can stop the spread of these knotty hooligans. Remember the tree muggers motto: “I came, I saw, I sawed.”

From the back of a station wagon to the canoeing capital of Ohio

A History of the Loudonville-Mohican Area Canoe Liveries

By Irv Oslin

Editors Note: This story was commissioned in 2011 by the local convention and visitors bureau and had been posted on their website. However, it doesn’t seem to be available any more, so I’ve revived it here.

This plaque honoring Dick Frye is posted at Mohican Adventures

This plaque honoring Dick Frye is posted at Mohican Adventures


In 1961, a slender, bespectacled man named Dick Frye started renting canoes on the banks of Clear Fork of the Mohican River. This humble venture spawned a canoe livery industry that would make the Loudonville-Mohican area the canoeing capital of Ohio.

The area’s canoe liveries have weathered many changes in 50 years. They managed to stay afloat through floods, draught, economic doldrums and the changing tastes of generations of paddlers.

Over the years, liveries have come and gone or changed hands, but some of the early players remain. They continue to be a guiding force for the area’s livery business.

The First Livery

All of those involved acknowledge that they owe a debt of gratitude to Frye, the man who started it all. Frye, a Crestline, Ohio, native, died in 1992 at the age of 71. He had a passion for canoeing, downhill skiing and life itself. Frye died while skiing on opening day at Snow Trails near Mansfield, Ohio.

“He died doing what he loved,” his daughter, Cindy Nickles said.

Like the children of many canoe livery owners, Nickles has fond memories of working at the livery from an early age.

In fact, the liveries spawned many fond memories for the young people who worked there in the summers. Among them was Ashland University director of professional development services Tom Lavinder, who worked for Frye 1969-1973. He was in high school and college at the time.

“To tell you how great a guy Dick was, he would always slip us a $5 or $10 bill on weekend days when we would bring the canoes back via trailer from the Wally Campground, so we could keep the canoes rotating for people waiting back at the livery to take their trip,” Lavinder said. “He always wanted to keep the canoes coming back from pickups so people wouldn’t have a long wait to take their trip.”

One day, Lavinder took the corner too fast at the State Route 3 bridge and wiped out a couple of storage racks and canoes on the trailer.

“As I pulled in, Dick walked up to the van just as he would have if he was going to give me a $5 or $10 tip,” Lavinder said. “I was pretty sure he was going to give me an earful about destroying the racks and damaging the canoes. He just calmly slipped me a $20 bill, smiled and said, ‘I’m sure that will never happen again’.”

Frye was right; it didn’t happen again.

Before Frye started the canoe livery, Nickles and other family members worked at a 20-unit motel he had built in Ontario, Ohio. They sold the motel after the livery was established.

Frye got the idea for the canoe livery in the 1950s. He took a trip to Michigan, rented a boat from a livery and paddled the Au Sable River. He was convinced that canoe liveries would catch on back home.

Frye started by renting his own canoe, operating out of an old Mercury station wagon at State Routes 3 and 97. He bought the canoe while in junior high school, paying a dollar a week for it from money he made on his paper route.

The idea caught on, so Frye bought 14 canoes, built an A-frame hut and Mohican Canoe Livery was born. It was Ohio’s first.

On July 4, 1969, the area was struck by one of the worst floods in history. A local teenager named Doug Shannon helped the Frye family retrieve canoes from the rain-swollen Mohican River. So began Shannon’s immersion into the area’s canoe livery industry.

The Mohican Canoe Livery was built on land Frye leased from the state. He was becoming uncomfortable with the arrangement, so he bought land on State Route 3 along the banks of Black Fork of the Mohican River and started a second livery, Dick Frye’s Canoe Livery.

Shannon and his wife, Patty, took over operations of that livery, leasing it in 1974. They bought it and Frye’s original Mohican Canoe Livery in 1979 and combined the two. The Shannons moved Frye’s A-frame hut and canoes to the site along the Black Fork. The A-frame remains on the livery grounds to this day.

The Shannon’s operation, now called Mohican Adventures, had grown to include go-carts, miniature golf, camping and cabins.

The Shannon family at Mohican Adventures

The Shannon family at Mohican Adventures

Over the years, other entrepreneurs operated a livery at the original site on the Clear Fork under the name State Park Canoe Livery.

 Other Early Players

Meanwhile, a few other area businessmen took note of Frye’s early success. In 1965, Howard “Hezzy” Nave started Loudonville Canoe Livery on West Main Street. A few years later, Ken Wobbecke, who started Mohican Wilderness Campground on Wally Road, got into the livery business. In the mid to late ’60s, Clayton Drouhard started Pleasant Hill Canoe Livery on the Black Fork in Perrysville.

Nave died shortly after this article was written. He was  76 years old. Wobbecke died in 2009 at the age of 89. Wobbecke was widely recognized as a pioneer in the area’s campground and tourism industry. Right up to the end, he was working on expanding recreational opportunities at Mohican Wilderness and the entire valley. Drouhard died in 2006.

Loudonville Canoe Livery is still going strong. Ken Wobeccke’s wife, Ann, and other family members continue to operate the livery at Mohican Wilderness. Pleasant Hill Canoe Livery changed hands a few times. George and Amy Smith ultimately bought the livery and operated it under the name Pleasant Valley Canoe Livery, which ceased operating in 2004. Like other area campground owners, the Smiths now arrange with area liveries to provide canoe trips for their campers.

A double rainbow at Smith's campground.

A double rainbow at Smith’s campground.

Former Cleveland Browns football player and State Senator Dick Schafrath bought Loudonville Canoe Livery in 1973. He and his family owned and operated it for 24 years.

“I was very happy working with my brother, Mike, and his kids,” Schafrath said. “You can’t buy that kind of happiness.”

He remembered that things were different in the early days. Liveries operated in a more casual atmosphere. Teenage helpers drove rickety shuttle buses and towed canoe trailers up and down the narrow winding roads. Though not officially condoned, drinking on the river was common. That changed over the years. Adults now drive the buses and are required to have commercial driver’s licenses. The buses are inspected annually by the state. Livery owners work with the Ohio Division of Watercraft to discourage drinking on the river.

In 1997, Schafrath sold Loudonville Canoe Livery to Chris Snively and Mike Heffelfinger. They own Mohican Reservation Campground on Wally Road and had been contracting with Loudonville Canoe Livery to provide canoes for their campers.

Mel Reinthal, another early player in the Loudonville-Mohican canoe livery industry, has stayed in the thick of things. He bought Pleasant Hill Canoe Livery from Drouhard in 1973. He sold the livery to the Smiths in 1999, but retained the rights to the name. He still works for folks in the business including the Shannons. In the summer, Reinthal runs a concession stand called Mel’s World-famous Hot Dots on the grounds of Mohican Adventures.

“This still allows me to talk with the livery customers, which I dearly love,” Reinthal said.


By and large, livery owners have enjoyed being in a business where the chief product is fun. But, it is a business and not always fun and games. Competition drove the evolution of the industry. That’s been particularly evident on State Route 3 south of Loudonville, where most of the liveries are clustered.

After his early success with Pleasant Hill Canoe Livery, Drouhard registered the name Mohican River Canoe Livery and set up shop just north of Mohican Canoe Livery. It was one of several that came and went over the years on that stretch of State Route 3.

The Shannons bought Mohican River Canoe Livery in 1980, ending Drouhard’s involvement in the industry. They operated it as a separate entity for three or four years before merging it with their livery.

South of the Shannons’ operation was Black Fork Canoe Livery. Larry Rogers started it in 1973 or 1974. While in high school and college, Rogers had worked for Frye.

“When I started with him, I thought nobody would really rent a canoe,” Rogers said. “I remember more than once asking him whether he ever thought it would turn into this. He said yes, but I wasn’t sure whether he really believed it.”

One thing the early players had in common was a vivid imagination — and a tendency to act on it. Rogers was no exception. He built his own fiberglass kayaks. They were later made by John Barnhill. This was at a time when the liveries only offered canoes.

“It was a really hard sell,” Rogers said. “For the first couple of months, I’d tell them take a kayak and, if you don’t like it, don’t pay me.”

It turns out that Rogers was decades ahead of his time.

“Kayaks are definitely the growing trend,” said Patty Shannon of Mohican Adventures. “Over the years, we went from aluminum to plastic canoes, then rafts. Now we’re expanding our kayaks.”

Rogers sold Black Fork Canoe Livery to Schafrath in the mid ’80s. Schafrath ran it for about 10 years.

Anchoring the south end of “livery row” on State Route 3 is Mohican Valley Camp & Canoe. Recollections of current livery owners and tax map records indicate that it was started — perhaps in the late ’60s — by the Ziegler family. It originally was called Ziggy’s Canoe Livery. The Shannons recalled that it was once run by a man named Norm Heller or “Stormin’ Norman,” as they called him.

The livery appears to have changed hands a couple of times over the years. The current owners, Al and Sheila Bechtel, bought it in 1990 from Sheila’s cousin, Robert A. Guisinger.

The Bechtel’s bought it because they “were looking for something to do.” It’s been every bit of that.

“It’s very intense, I’ve gone 40 hours straight without sleep,” Al Bechtel said. “But I enjoy the independence and the people I’ve gotten to know over the years, the regular customers who keep coming back.”

A number of canoe liveries up and down the river came and went over the years, including Clear Fork (later Webster’s Mountain Sports) and Blue Lagoon in Butler. Doug Shannon said there were also liveries upstream near Charles Mill Dam and downstream at Brinkhaven.

Patty Shannon believes the Butler liveries didn’t survive because that stretch of the Clear Fork is too shallow most of the summer.

On the other hand, Amy Smith of Pleasant Valley Canoe Livery believes it’s hard to compete with the allure of the Loudonville-based liveries. They tried to entice paddlers to try a more remote stretch of the river upstream.

“We marketed and marketed and marketed that trip, but people told us they wanted to be where the action is,” Smith said.

Lake Fork Canoe Livery was an exception. The livery has operated on an isolated fork of the Mohican River for more than 30 years, offering quiet trips for families and nature lovers.

Lake Fork Canoe Livery on State Route 3

Lake Fork Canoe Livery on State Route 3

Jeff Gilman started it in the late ’70s. His family bought Long Lake Campground in the early ’70s  and he decided to test the waters in the canoe livery business. But he didn’t enjoy it.

“After three years of running the livery, I was exhausted,” Gilman said. “I sold the canoes to Reinthal and sold the livery.”

Sherman Lavinder owned the livery for three or four years before Britt and Nancy Young bought it in 1983. (Sherman Lavinder was the father of the previously mentioned Tom Lavinder, who worked for Frye in the ’60s and ’70s.) The Youngs started Camp Toodik in 1969, a campground downstream from the livery. They originally didn’t plan to offer canoeing.

“Our campers got us into the canoe business,” Nancy Young said. “At first, they asked us to buy a few canoes for them to paddle around in front of the campground. Then they said, ‘Hey, you have a pickup truck, why not take us upstream?’”

The Youngs eventually bought a trailer, a van and 16 canoes and built the business from there. They later changed the name of the livery to Toodik on the Lake Fork. Before buying the livery, they used a county road right-of-way for a put-in point. Their son, Matt Young, recalled that it was quite a chore lugging canoes, two at a time, down a drainage ditch to the bank.

Britt Young loved to entertain his passengers on the shuttle bus by telling the stories behind various points of interest as he drove through the countryside. He died in 2002.

 New Blood in the Livery Business

Nancy Young retired and sold Toodik Campground and the livery in 2007 to Bill and Brenda Lucas.

Asked why they bought the campground, Bill Lucas replied, “We’ve camped all our lives. While we were camping, we decided this is what we wanted to do.”

The Lucases are from Portage County and had never been to Camp Toodik before. They found out about it being for sale through the Internet.

“The livery came with it,” Brenda Lucas said. “You have to have a livery; that’s why people come to this area.”

They enjoy being on the quiet fork of the Mohican River.

“Some people like the crowds,” Brenda Lucas said. “But there are people who like it quiet, especially families with young kids.”

River Run Canoe Livery had a similar history. It’s affiliated with River Run Campground at the confluence of Black Fork and Clear Fork of the Mohican River. Bernard and Barbara Lassond developed the campground in the ‘70s.

Rick Osborne, who now owns the campground, started the livery. He was not a camper and had only canoed a few times. His father, Dennis “Duke” Osborne, was an executive with Kroger, the grocery store chain. Rick Osborne was following in his father’s footsteps, but his father discouraged him.

“He told me I wasn’t going to like it,” Rick Osborne said, referring to the corporate culture at Kroger. “He was looking through a Columbus paper, saw this place for sale and bought it.”

Like the previous owners of River Run Campground, they had contracted with a livery to handle the canoe business, in this case Loudonville Livery.

“When Schafrath sold the livery, I thought I could purchase my own equipment and do a good job of providing that service for our customers,” Rick Osborne said.

In 1997, he started a livery just upstream of the campground, directly across the Black Fork from Mohican Adventures. He built his business by emulating the area’s more successful operations.

“You look at who’s doing things right — like Doug and Patty,” Osborne said. “I’ve always tried to follow their example.”

 Going With the Flow

There’s an old saying among paddlers: Go with the flow. That philosophy helped the Loudonville-Mohican area canoe livery industry stay afloat for 50 years.

It’s clearly not a business for the weak-of-heart. Over the years, it has taken plenty of patience, perseverance and a passion for an activity that appeals to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons.

The liveries have weathered generations of economic and meteorological ebb and flow. In some cases, such as Mohican Adventures, there has been continuity from within. About 30 years ago, industry pioneer Frye passed the torch to the Shannons. Now their daughter, Michelle Gray, and her husband, Josh, are running the business.

Other liveries have evolved through ownership changes with a few new players coming aboard.

They all seem to have one thing in common — an appreciation for the challenges and rewards of the business. River Run Canoe Livery owner Osborne summed it up.

“It’s hard work, but there really isn’t anything I dread about it,” he said. “Where else can you make a living watching people have fun?”


In Pursuit of the Elusive Happy Plate

Journalism that leaves you hungry

As a journalist I was at my best when I had nothing to do.happyplateman

Creativity is stifled when you belly up to your desk to find yourself gazing at a calendar cluttered with interview appointments, special assignments, staff meetings and deadlines.

Sadly, rigid scheduling has become the norm in a profession that has come to value productivity over product.

Journalism has suffered for it. Ask any reader. They’ve become cynical and for good reason. Readers can tell when a journalist is writing from the heart, when he has a passion for his subject. They can also tell when he’s churning out stories to fill space. It was the beginning of the end for newspapers when newsrooms became copy mills.

When that happened, it sucked the life out of newsrooms. They no longer had character — or characters.

When I retired, my editor lamented that I was the last of a dying breed. He called us “characters,” old-school beat reporters who brought plenty of attitude to the job and weren’t shy about wearing it on their sleeves, reporters who kept things lively in the newsroom.

We used to call our newspaper archives “the morgue.” These days that also describes the newsroom.

Or, as my editor would say, “Newsrooms have become more like insurance offices.”

The lack of competition is partly to blame. Competition breathed life into the newsroom. It created camaraderie among co-workers bent on scooping the competition or, better yet, pulling pranks on them.

Sadly, competition has gone the way of the typewriter and pica stick. The advent of the one-newspaper town killed competition; the concentration of media ownership drove a stake into its heart. It was bad enough having only one newspaper in town, now one corporation will own newspapers in many different markets. Welcome to the era of the news franchise — McNewsbites.

In our fast food world, we now have fast news. In order to compete with electronic media, newspaper reporters have been relegated to the role of hash slingers. They’re compelled to dish up the same bland gruel, not just day after day but minute to minute. Which makes the news even less palatable — for them and readers.

For journalists, the workload keeps piling up — more meaningless interviews, more assignments, more meetings, more deadlines. This is known as having a full plate in contemporary newsroom jargon. Your worth as a writer is gauged on how much they can heap on your plate and how fast you can chew it up and regurgitate it.

Reporting was a far more fulfilling profession when our plates were nearly empty. We walked into the newsroom at the start of our day hungry to stay on top of breaking news and eager to go out and pursue fresh stories, stories we could sink our teeth into.

When we finished writing articles, we traditionally typed the number 30 to indicate that it was the end of the piece. These days it might be more appropriate to type “WYLFWT” — shorthand for “Would you like fries with that?”

Get the Flock Outta Here!

Wrong Flock Evicted from Zanesville Lock

Lookin' a little rough around the edges after a night of camping on the Zanesville Lock.

Lookin’ a little rough around the edges after a night of camping on the lock.

I was saddened by a recent report in the Zanesville Times-Recorder about the eviction of more than 100 Canada geese from Putnam Landing Park on the Muskingum River.

On many a night, I’ve camped on the lock across the river from the park and enjoyed watching the people feed them. The geese would be scattered up and down the river. They specifically recognized the vehicles that brought humans to Putnam Landing to feed them. When the vehicles arrived at the park, the geese would converge on the parking lot hell-bent-for-leather, flapping, honking and jockeying for position.

The geese were just part of the entertainment on the Zanesville Lock. Depending on what time of year it was, you could count on seeing a steady parade of locals strolling, jogging, fishing or conspiring to commit some sort of criminal activity. (Another recent article listed Zanesville as the violent crime capital of Ohio.) Then there’s the guy who lives on the hillside above the lock — holed up in a fortress walled with old wooden pallets. Years ago, the papers ran stories about him hoarding hundreds of gallons of gasoline in plastic containers. After I read about this, the law against having campfires on the lock didn’t seem all that unreasonable.

Local officials don’t expect the evicted geese to return. According to the newspaper article, they were trapped and moved to an undisclosed location out in Muskingum County. The animal control contractor who relocated the geese told the Times-Recorder the geese had become semi-domesticated. He claimed that the geese had grown so fat and inept that, even if they could figure out how to get back, they couldn’t fly more than 50-100 yards.

The geese are in a better place now, he said. When they say that of humans, it usually means they’re dead. Apparently, that’s not the case with the geese. They were taken to a farm with several ponds and hundreds of acres of land where they can eat healthier and poop to their hearts’ content.

The latter was the main reason they were evicted from Putnam Landing, otherwise known as “Poopnam Landing.”

Rest assured, the geese will be back. Maybe not those geese, but there will be geese converging on Putnam Landing — honking, flapping and crapping to beat the band. Unless the city can get the animal control contractor to trap and relocate the people who were feeding them.

I’d make it a point to camp on the lock just to see that.