The unremarkable image above was actually quite remarkable, given the context. It was Monday, the last day of September, and the weather was hot and humid. Wonderfully so. The last thunderstorm of summer - if you can call it that, and it certainly made a bid for the honor - arrived slowly with great drama, the sky lighting up with flashes of the celestial neurons. It has been cold and rainy ever since. The mood of the world up here has shifted, for good, and we know this is the start of the long dark time.

But hey, pumpkins and candy! And a whole damned month of leering ghouls and orange-and-black packaging. I tell you, without a child around, without the structures and rhythms of school, it’s different. It has no narrative drive. There’s no feeling as if you should make this special, because you’re creating memories, or building on old ones. In those old days there was a rope strung between the years, reaching forward and backwards, and you used it as a handrail. Some days you used it to pull yourself along; some days you just brushed your fingers against it as you strode forward. Then one day the rope played out. But you still have to keep walking.

(Below is crossposted from Ricochet; sorry for the repeat but it's been a busy week)

I inherited the contents of my Father’s safe deposit box. It’s a testament to a previous generation’s concept of Value. There were many Morgan silver dollars, which must have had a particular appeal to his generation, since they were, well, silver dollars. Big, heavy coins. Their weight is a comfort: you can imagine someone feeling the contours of a Morgan in his pocket and knowing he had enough for a meal, a drink, a cot in a flop. If you were down to your last Morgan, you still had something.

I know a guy who runs a coin shop. He tells of people who inherit a roll of these things and figure they’ve hit the the jackpot. It’s a silver dollar from 1898 - it has to be worth a lot!

First he tells them: “Yes, but they made 25 million of them. Each year. The silver’s worth something, and if you have a Brilliant Uncirculated 8-feathers-over-7 Denver Mint coin, we can talk, but otherwise, these? Fourteen, fifteen dollars a throw.”

“What? Someone was selling one on eBay for ten thousand dollars!”

“And good for them if they get it. But here’s what these are worth.”

I went through all the coins in the safe deposit box and checked them against various internet sites to get a rough estimate of the value. Even if they’re worth $15, that’s nice. It’s a combination of real value - the melt value, i.e., what you’d get for the silver - and the value added by collectors who want a complete set. The collector’s market has, by now, hoovered up a lot of the uncirculated pieces, so people who want a complete set pay a little more for coins in slightly worse condition. If there are no perfect examples available at an entry-level price, less-desirable coins become slightly more valuable. It’s subjective, with a sturdy objective floor of the metal’s value below.

When I brought them home and showed them to my wife, she was reminded that her grandmother had given her some uncirculated Eisenhower silver dollars. Not a successful coin, like all of the post Peace Dollar coins. No one liked Susan B. No one liked Sacagawea. The Ike had its aesthetic merits, but it was too big. The uncirculated commemorative Ikes were 40% silver. The ones they released into the general population were base metal.

Same coin, with the same public value, but different objective values. The government banked on people setting aside the ones that had intrinsic value, and never spending them. The market for the uncirculated Ikes is soft, because they minted so many. A generation of kids that inherited the coins is trying to sell them. It must be worth something! They don’t make them anymore!

Sorry, Charlie. Which brings me to these:


The safe-deposit box had about 50 one-dollar silver certificates. They’re worth about $1.50, unless you have some star-added serial number bills, which I don’t.

The front of the bill is different than your standard one-dollar bill. It says:

“This certifies that there is on deposit in the treasury of the United States of America One Dollar in silver payable to the bearer on demand.”

Except that there isn’t. Congress, in 1968, retracted that promise.

The coins with actual silver have value - greater value, because they are made of something that cannot be invalidated by a legislative body. The paper money’s promise was a social contract that could be revised or revoked by the government as it pleased, at the exact moment it became possible and expedient, and benefited the government.

Might be a lesson in there somewhere, IDK.









Fifty-four thousand souls, which to me always means "Fargo sized." Wikipedia's entry is written with an unaccustomed authorial voice:

In August 1967, at the peak of Elyria's population, Midway Mall was opened. It changed the local economy by attracting local businesses from the town center or causing so much competition they went out of business. Industrial restructuring meant that good jobs left the area, and poverty increased. Three major car plant closings in the area lead to economic stagnation and joblessness in the 1970s and 1980s that affected numerous communities. The region was nicknamed "the Rustbelt," suggesting the decline of its former industries.

Hard times and new ideas have hit Elyria as the 2000s and 2010s rolled on, as industries such as Bendix, Riddell, and 3M are taking their business elsewhere, outside the city.

We wish them luck. Let's see what downtown looks like.

“Maybe we shouldn’t build this one out of oil-soaked timbers like the last four.”

Is there any name less impressive?

When you apply your paint with a firehose:



He was a prosperous car dealer and local capitalist of no small accomplishments.

“It’s my most brilliant optical illusion ever. By angling the window down, it appears that the entire second and third floor project outward like a bay window.”


FOE, and you know what that means by now.

What the woody space once looked like, who knows - but we can guess from the nice terra-cotta around it.


W. T. Grant, the fabled and ill-fated variety store.





Don’t think Shane had the scratch to do the facade justice once he took it over.


Lovely way to frame an old bank:



You know how I feel about trees downtown - best used sparingly - but this is a nice job, shady and civilized.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s a more interesting brick facade underneath.



The seldom-lamented school of punchcard architecture.


Oh, this hurts. The one in the middle is the Henry Mussey block; he sold stone. The others are called THE CENTURY.



The buildings on the end have the middle portion surrounded! The ground floor attempts to tie them together, and screws up the proportions and balance. Clone-stamp-tool arches - and those poor little projecting bays set in deep niches.



THE Century. The new one.

Architectural depravity of the sort you only got in the 70s and early 80s. Tin-eared, tone-deaf, arrogant, faddish.


Looks like the rest of the building isn’t exactly overflowing with tenants, either.

“You met my brother? He’s up the street. Wears brown.”



The first few decades of the 20th century deposited buildings like this all over the country. They varied by a few stories, the amount of decoration, the cornice, but they were all this building.



And that’s good!

Nice visual representation of a city that intends to thrive and grow:


Another one of those peculiar temples that’s jacked up on blocks, but there were classical precedents for this.


hat’s a rather uninspired effort.



But when ornamental encrustation had become baroque, something like this was a sign of clean clear times to come.


Finally, a bank of smaller proportions.



I’d say it was the Cutler National Bank, but who’d get the reference?


That'll do, I hope. If not, what the HELL ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT. Except go to the Motels and realize "that's not all there was. I feel chastened."






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