You can take the boy out of the West Side, but you can’t take the West Side out of the boy

There are reunions and there are reunions


West Side Market – my old stomping grounds.

Returned to Cleveland yesterday for a reunion with friends, which included a quick visit to the West Side Market.

For me, it was kind of like coming full circle. When I met these folks 36 years ago, I was an under-educated working class kid. I was driving trucks for a living, with little hope or regard for the future. Such was the fate for most the people I grew up with on the West Side. You graduated from high school, got a job and slogged through life, resigned to living and dying in that world.

When I met them, all that changed. (I was backing a truck up to a dock in Lorain, Ohio, when I first met two members of the group. They later introduced me to their circle of friends, who were connected by virtue of living in Shaker Heights, an East Side suburb.) Though much younger than I, they were well-educated and worldly. The things they talked about and their passion for living inspired me to go to college.

Eventually — very eventually — I was able to parlay raw writing talent, temper it with education and discipline and write for a living. Meager as it was.

I confess that the discipline was a battle. I pissed away years, way too many years, drinking, partying and generally fucking off. But eventually it happened.

The evolution came full circle during the 17 years I spent writing for the Ashland Times-Gazette, a small-town daily in North Central Ohio. There I learned that the world didn’t revolve around me. I learned that my job as a journalist wasn’t about Irv Oslin, it was about honestly and fairly chronicling the lives of the people of Ashland County — regardless of how I felt about their politics or way of life.

I came to know them and appreciate them for who they were.

That brought me around to Buddhist philosophy — losing the self. It brought me back, really, because I’ve always had a strong undercurrent of compassion, a desire to do for others.

I was reminded of this when I drove to the West Side Market yesterday to be reunited with the people who, so long ago, took the boy out of the West Side

I saw a middle-aged black woman getting into a car parked on Lorain Avenue and pulled up behind, waiting for her to vacate the spot. She got out, rooted around in the trunk, then closed it and walked around the car and opened the rear passenger-side door. It occurred to me that, had I been impatient and self-centered, I would have been annoyed at the delay.

The woman retrieved an umbrella from the back seat. It was sprinkling and chilly, so I figured she wanted to have it handy for when she reached her destination. Not so. She walked up to an old white man in wheel chair. He was waiting for a bus. She gave him the umbrella, got back into her car and drove off.



Reunited – Later in the day at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Can’t thank these people enough.












Algonquin it ain’t – Charles Mill Lake canoe trip, part 3

You are NOT alone

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One of two bald eagles that watched me break camp.

There was no one else around at my Muskrat Bay campsite, but I was not alone. Lucy kept me company all evening and, when I crawled out of my tent in the morning, she was still there.

Lucy was a Canada goose. She appeared to have been injured and unable to fly. She swam around in front of my campsite, constantly positioning herself so she could keep an eye on me. It was sad to see goose couples come and go. Lucy watched them helplessly, perhaps longing for a life she’ll never have.

She wasn’t the only company I had. As I prepared breakfast and ate it, an osprey looked on from a tree across the bay. It flew off as I broke camp and, moments later, a bald eagle landed near where the osprey had been and stayed there until I slid my loaded canoe into the lake and paddled off. It was joined by a second eagle.

I began a day of exploring the lake north of the SR 430 bridge. Along the way, I saw a mallard, an egret and a plastic goose. I also rousted thousands of cormorants, which have become something of a plague on Charles Mill Lake.

There are suitable Islands for camping and a site — complete with a picnic table — on a peninsula at the southeast entrance to Big Turtle Bay. The downside is they’re situated between US 30 and SR 430 and the sound of traffic never stops.

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon paddling along the shoreline on the northern end of the lake. Because of the highways, Eagle Point campground, a boat ramp and houses, it’s less appealing than the southern part of Charles Mill Lake.

In short, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to stay there.

In Camp Harbor on the west side of the lake, I came upon what I hope wasn’t a familiar sight — a scuttled dredge. Years ago, while working as a reporter for the Ashland Times-Gazette, I wrote an article about the naming of a new dredge. It was dubbed “Sedimental Journey.” Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District had purchased the dredge. The plan was to dredge the channel under the SR 430 bridge, which separates the northern and southern parts of the lake, then take it to other MWCD lakes.

I can’t imagine it would have been scuttled without being used more.The average depth of Charles Mill Lake is only five feet. That’s down three feet from the original depth. The bottom of the lake is covered with a gooey layer of silt, the byproduct of irresponsible farming, logging and construction practices. I’d like to think that this was another dredge, one replaced by Sedimental Journey.

Ironically, as I explored the lake for three days in April, 50,000 gallons of drilling clay had been dumped in a wetland upstream — a byproduct of the Rover pipeline project. It might not reach the lake, but the harm to wildlife and the wetland is disheartening just the same.

Here are a few photos from the final day of my three-day canoe trip:


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Lucy, my constant companion.


A mallard duck doing some morning yoga, north of the SR 430 bridge.

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An egret looks for fish in the shallows along the eastern shoreline.

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A plastic goose lurks in a tree trunk near Sites Lake, a residential area on the north end of Charles Mill.


A scuttled dredge in Camp Harbor. Note the disintegrated oil boom around it.

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The cab of the dredge. I was concerned that the interior of the hull reeked of oil.

Click on the link below for a map of the lake:

Charles Mill Lake Map annotated


Previous posts on this trip:

Part One

Part Two











Algonquin it ain’t – Charles Mill Lake canoe trip, part two


While paddling around Bushman Bay, waiting for my friends to arrive at the lake, this tree called out to me.

Sitting around the campfire after a day of exploring the western part of Charles Mill Lake, I thought about the traffic on nearby SR 603. Like a lot of rural state routes, traffic dies down at night. It was far enough away and masked by trees and the sound of water going through the dam that I could barely hear the occasional truck going by.

I thought about how many times — thousands — I had gone up and down that road to and from work. About 13, 14 years. Tires over the bridge now; I’m retired.

On the second day of my trip, my friends Kevin and Theresa joined me for a day paddle.

We spent several hours exploring the east side of the lake, from Charles Mill Dam north to the main campground. Part of the mission was to explore islands, looking for other potential campsites.

I’d always thought Harbor Island at the southern end of the lake looked promising. Like Mud Lake — mentioned in the previous post — it was not. It, too, is choked with multiflora rose and too close to civilization. There are several houses nearby.

From previous experience, I knew Applegate Island was suitable for camping. Kevin Theresa and I found Barb Island to be good also. It’s small, but isolated enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to camp there. Except during duck hunting season. Duck hunters have staked claims on most the islands and other spots along the shoreline, posting their names and phone numbers. It’s a good lake to stay off of during waterfowl season.

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Theresa and Kevin check out turkey vultures that were checking us out in Muskrat Bay.

We were particularly impressed with Muskrat Bay. Isolated and shallow, it was teeming with wildlife including great blue heron and belted kingfishers. As we headed out of the bay, I told Theresa that the islands there had camping potential. Those words proved to be prophetic.

After we parted company, I headed north. I planned to paddle upriver on Black Fork of the Mohican River and, perhaps, camp on one of the islands.

However, it had rained a lot the previous week, leaving the islands muddy. I found a few suitable spots, but they were too close to SR 603, which follows the river pretty much from US 42 to SR 30.

So, I grabbed a six-pack of Molson XXX from Molly’s Cheese House and headed back downstream to the lake. (Another story for another day.) I paddled back to Muskrat Bay and found another perfect campsite on one of the islands.

Here are a few more photos from day two of the trip.

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Great blue heron in Muskrat Bay. Notice how shallow the water is.

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Waning full moon over Muskrat Bay

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Turn on yer Bud Lite — I “repurposed” a discarded beer bottle found on the island and made this swell candle holder.


Click on the link below for a pdf map of the lake.

Charles Mill Lake Map annotated

Next – Breakfast with friends in Muskrat Bay and dredging up memories.




Algonquin it ain’t – Charles Mill Lake canoe trip, part one


Perfect ending to a perfect day – sunset from my campsite in Bushman Bay at the southern end of Charles Mill Lake.

You’ll never mistake Charles Mill Lake for one of Algonquin Provincial Park’s pristine lakes. But I didn’t have to drive 10 hours to get there. As the crow flies, it’s 13 minutes from home.

As the crow walks, it’s considerably longer.

At any rate, it’s a fun lake to explore with a few surprisingly nice campsites tucked away in the shallows. For three days in April, I canoed and camped there, exploring the backwaters.

Charles Mill Lake is an impoundment of Black Fork of the Mohican River. When Charles Mill Dam was built in the 1930s, it created one big lake out of several, which were formerly known as the Mifflin Lakes and, before that, the Petersburg Lakes.

On the first day of the trip, I explored the back bays of what had been Mifflin Lake, Bell Lake and Mud Lake on the west side of Charles Mill.

I’ll let these photos tell the rest of the story.


Anglers try their luck on Mud Lake. As I paddled between the shore and the tree root, a mink swam by.



A disposable lighter among goose eggs I found on Mud Island. My explanation? A crow decided it would be fun to fuck with the geese. Some islands on Charles Mill Lake are suitable for camping. This isn’t one of them. It’s choked with multiflora rose and litter – and too close to SR 603.



Dwarfed! While I had stopped for lunch at Charles Mill Marina, the launching of the Queen Mary was in progress. That’s my Old Town Pack on the right.



After a day of exploring the west side of the lake, I found a quiet and scenic spot to camp in Bushman Bay.



A beam of sunlight shining through the clouds created an interesting effect on the water in the bay.



The only visible sign of civilization from my campsite — Charles Mill Dam.



A cistern? I explored the ruins near my campsite of what had been a farm. I also found a building foundation and what might have been a couple wells.



I bushwhacked through multiflora rose to get a view of the sunset on Charles Mill Lake. Fortunately, I found a deer path on the way back to my campsite, which made for easier – and less painful – going.

Next: Day two of my Charles Mill Lake canoe trip.