North, east, and back a few years.
Last night, I drove up to Warren for a get-together with friends and former co-workers from the
Tribune-Chronicle. Left home just before 5 p.m.,
with the sun low in a clear, pale sky, and that brilliant gold late-fall glow
just lying over the fields and the trees. Perfect Ohio
afternoon for driving back into the past a ways.
Not much has changed along the drive I used to make every
day: North on Route 44 to Rootstown, east on Ohio 5the rest of the way. This is still the best
time of year to make the trip. In Randolph,
I passed a bunch of kids playing football in someone’s side yard, one of them
wearing a Green Bay Packers helmet.
Heading east, I turned off onto a side road for a quick
visit to a bridge. It had (still has) a kind of familiarity about it that I
liked. Sometimes on the way home from Warren, if I could see a westbound train
on the tracks running parallel to the road, I’d try to get ahead of it and
reach the bridge in time to see it pass beneath.
Did this once in the winter,
when the side roads were snowier than I’d anticipated, had a moment of panic
when my car got stuck briefly during my turnaround in the middle of nowhere.
This time, I stopped long enough to take westward-looking picture.
Being back in Warren tugged in a few different ways: The Trib was my first full-time reporting job,
after years of trying to convince an editor someplace to give me a shot. Great
newsroom, too: Amazing people to work with and learn
from. Being back there
among familiar faces and landmarks strummed a few mental chords I hadn’t heard
in a long time, like when I drove past the store where I remembered that I bought
my daughter her first baseball glove one afternoon on my lunch break.
Still, it also reminded me how I never really felt quite
like I fit. Not at the paper, but in the Mahoning Valley. Just a different corner of Ohio,
with its own echoes and moods, like the northwestern farm counties or the
tucked-away central towns beyond the big-city suburbs.
We all got together at the Sunset Inn, the place the
newsroom always called for pizza and chicken and pasta when we’d work late on
election nights. I was only at the Trib for a little over three years, so there
were a lot of longtime former employees I didn’t know, but there were at least
a half-dozen or so I spent my time working alongside, and it was good seeing
The drive home was dark, the way I remembered, since the
two-lane roads thread between a lot of farmland and woods, and a good stretch
of highway passes by the shuttered Ravenna Arsenal. I picked up the Canton AM station almost all the way out in Warren,
and listened to a high school football playoff game on the way home.
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