Zanesville is a City of Things Unknown
May 15, 2012 Leave a comment
(note: As can be deduced from the title, this is an homage to the pieces that comprise Gay Talese’s New York: a Serendipitor’s Journey (collected in Fame and Obscurity). I was instantly smitten with the series of essays when I read them and was inspired to turn a Talesian eye on my own city. Though significantly more wordy and with some of my personal delights and biases evident, I did try to maintain a more or less neutral outlook and present the city as it is, detailing some of its splendor and some of its more lamentable asepcts; Talese was a little more buoyant where I get a little bit whiny, but as a whole, I think that Zanesville, a random town in Ohio that could be any town in the Southern Midwest (save for its somewhat memorable name), deserves to be recognized as the unique entity that it is. This piece was started in 2006(?) and finished in 2009, with the bulk of the work being done in 2009, and I later used it in issue #3 of the Wormhole Collective.)
Zanesville is a City of Things Unknown
Zanesville, Ohio, latitude 39.940N, longitude 82.013W, is a city of things unnoticed, of strange occupations, of things unseen, and is a city with a life of its own. It is a city that mixes the quirky with the mundane, the mainstream with the local, and the town with the country. It boasts of having once been the capital of Ohio (1810-1812) and of having been a city whose minor league team, the Zanesville Infants, played in baseball’s first night-game in 1909, thanks to recently invented portable electric lighting. Not only is Zanesville the hometown of to two athletes currently playing professional sports (Jay Payton and Kevin Martin), but it is also the birthplace and home to a physicist, Thomas Townsend Brown (1905-1985), who studied anti-gravity and electro-gravitational propulsion, mechanisms by which he suggested UFOs might fly. Zanesville is also a distinguished city of letters: it is home to the famous Y-Bridge, and an S-Bridge also exists nearby; its library system has at least 289,353 books and Zanesville is the birthplace of the extremely prolific western author Zane Grey, author of over ninety books himself.
But these are all well-knowns. For starters, to really demonstrate the notion of things and places unnoticed, inZanesvillethere exists a seemingly unused staircase. Downtown, next to the Creative Graphics print shop on the corner of Main and Fourth, there is a gloomy yet hopeful set of dark stairs that leads to a dank enclave moonlighting as a doorway. One cannot escape noticing that the universal kin of mystery is invitation, as mystery is almost always a cause for investigation.
A railing guards against a preoccupied citizen’s unnecessarily broken legs, and a roof, level with the sidewalk, covers the space from above; were one so poetically inclined, an ancient urban breakfast nook could be the closest comparison. The space is obviously unused, for piles upon piles of leaves and trash have accumulated. The collection is most likely comprised of numerous seasons’ leavings, and it exists not just in corners but in a consistent, pillowesque layer, that in its volume signifies the forgotten or at the very least obsolete usage of the stairs. It was forgotten even in the sense that the stairwell was not even used as a garbage receptacle; the trash and leaves floated down on their own accord. Furthermore, the door is rusted around most of its perimeter, and the knob, if not the entire door itself, is stuck shut.
A few stones have been pulled down or crumbled, obviously adding to the air of mysterious danger – for what reason were the stones removed? What was hidden behind them? Did some kind of struggle ensure outside of the door, underneath the view of the nearby courthouse and police station? Or was it merely someone bumping the wall on the way out, carrying a box of whatever is stored below (provided it is a storeroom)? The questions are purely rhetorical of course; the correct answers are not necessary because any theorizing compliments the atmosphere. Even if no mystery is uncovered or the door has yet to budge, a feeling of accomplishment still resonates in the heart of the explorer; in the momentary diversion from whatever it was they were doing, they have borne witness to a part of the universe that few care to see or acknowledge.
Another downtown feature, unfortunately for its citizens, is the occasional presence that decidedly does not make itself unknown: the dog-food plant emits a most foul and generally fun-wrecking odor that, because of the plant’s location, is inescapable to that half of the city. Obviously a smell of its magnitude can never be a thing unnoticed, but perhaps the mental lengths people go to in an attempt to shut it out of their mind would qualify it as a purposefully forgotten entity. The smell is terribly sour, but also banal; it lingers, coloring olfactory nerves with a dull brownish orange. This is all figurative, of course, the rotten color and essence of a rotten day, but spirits cannot help but be depressed and dispositions cannot help but be taken down a notch when being forced to smell the smell. You can attempt a respite from this irritating putrescence by ducking into your car only to find the smell has burrowed itself into pants and jackets, and your initial groan is either happily or gloomily alleviated when the realization hits that it has not, in fact, pervaded your clothes but that the sanctity of your car’s interior has itself been breached.
Everyone knows there is always a traffic jam outside of Wal-Mart, but did you know that Zanesville is home to the oldest Shakespeare reading group in the country? Indeed, the “provincial town on the road to Wheeling” was home to one Joseph Crosby, a native Englishman who had one of the three best private Shakespeare libraries of his time. He was an amateur Shakespeare scholar and the author of articles that were known to most Shakespeare scholars in England and the United States, and the reading club that meets to this day is thanks to his initiative.
Zanesville is the home of a 1995 State Basketball Championship (the first in almost four decades) but was also the site of a nauseating “satanic” child murder; there existed a secret ‘fight club’ that flourished for a number of bouts and then went extinct in a quick volley of sickening punches, and there are businesses offering Tarot card readings that seem to be perpetually open. Zanesville is not a city that lent its name to a haircut of questionable taste as one of its neighbors unwittingly did, but this isn’t to say it is a city without a very discernible style of its own. And depending on one’s mood, Zanesville can be referred to as “Zanesburg,” “Zanestucky,” “Zanes-vegas,” and/or “Insanesville,” nominally pejorative though the nicknames are usually spoken with affection. No matter what you call the city and what you intend the name to imply, much is revealed about the Zanesvillian way of speaking by the phrase “Nok Nerk,” meaning, of course, “Knock Newark,” a cry against the much maligned city to the west that could otherwise have been a sister city were it not for a vicious high school sports rivalry.
Zanesville also boasted the incongruous existence of an Indian restaurant, and a few years later an Eastern-European eatery. Even more surprising is that they both improbably existed in half-Zanesville sized Cambridge before moving to Zanesville in an attempt to gain more business, though the two restaurants lasted only a matter of months before closing their doors. The fun was there while it lasted, though: the (Indian restaurant name) was located in the basement of a random motel and Elisabeta’s was in the same room as the Elk’s club bar; to buy a beer at the latter, one had to pay the waitress up-front so she could in turn walk over to the bar and buy a beer from the bartender.
Despite the restaurants that open and close and come and go, lost fortunately or unfortunately to the annals of the Chamber of Commerce’s records, there is a well-known restaurant whose food claims to warrant trips home, and, irrespective of its purported quality of food, for years has also been a teenage paradise where, thanks to the archetypal brilliance of the high-school football game, people congregate afterwards in an incredible sense of revelry, faces aglow with shared pizzas and budding romance. That the majority of the staff is around the same age of course allows the already humid and hot kitchen to simmer with its own hints of incessant, classic flirtation.
Various other locales serve the same purpose; the movie theater’s dimness permits first-kisses and the roller skating rink creates eternal associations between certain slow songs and the command to couple-skate, after which the enamored couple can share a hotdog and an enormous (price) pickle. A secluded water-tower serves as a far more clandestine lovers’ lane and thus an setting for perhaps more “advanced” experiences. It’s hidden location makes it prime real estate for any number of unknown activities and thus a couple may have to quickly jettison their hard-earned rendezvous when a caravan of cars careens down the road in a most intimidating manner, they too making use of the isolation for their own secret reasons.
Sometimes Zanesville is a city of unreasonable hopes. There is a bar on Maysville Pike that consistently offers, and has been for at least almost a decade, ‘Girls Gone Wild’ nights and wet t-shirt contests. It is the stuff of lore whether or not the tragically misspelled spray-painted signs have ever lured any participants, but the construction of stripping poles inside the bar speaks for the proprietor’s and patrons’ perpetual hope.
Zanesville is a city whose functioning strip club is in a renovated church and whose attendees often see high-school classmates working. Similarly, gatherings amounting to near high-school reunions take place every weekend at the Barn on Linden Avenue, where one high school star proclaimed his kid “a week or a month old; I don’t fuckin’ know.” Adults can and do maintain the same roles they had in high school, drinking and gossiping equivalently, for why would somebody’s high school personality be expected to differ from the personality they actually possess? But because of these activities, it’s also a place of things unheard when people previously invisible to one another are now friends thanks to the similarity of their scholastic and geographic background. In this locale, and in virtually every other place in the city, unknown and unnoticed events take place. Friendships are rekindled or lost, decisions are made, deals are closed, minds are opened, and genius lines of comedy or tragedy are spoken and exist only for their specific moment. It is a microcosmic and macrocosmic representation of the world, representative of the best and worst qualities of its human inhabitants. Its walls have seen and heard so much that if their history were to be recorded, so many documents would be issued forth containing the countless unknowns of every person and the infinite unnoticed perspectives of every event and absolutely puzzle the world with their complexity and hidden wonder.
Perhaps this recognition of the people around them leads many people care deeply about their community, which is why Zanesville is an extremely civic-minded city with its own chapters of the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, the Masons, the Jaycees, the American Legion, the Knights of Columbus, the Eagles, the Elks, and the Lions, and of course the Boy and Girl Scouts.
The home of one civic group, the grand Masonic Temple building on Fourth Street, also hosts an instrument shop, a number of offices, and a few artists’ spaces, as well as creaking floors, ghost-like silence, decidedly un-modern architecture, decoration, and the distinct smells of decades previous. The effect is such that you’ll struggle to understand why you are suddenly imbued with feelings of adventure and heightened street-smarts, but then comes the realization that you have been transported to what amounts to the set of a film noir, sans the sight-prohibiting cavalcade of smoke. The light in the building is somewhat dim, furthering the feelings of mysteries pursued with assistance from a necessarily strong bourbon.
The personality of the building inspires at least notions of gumshoe activities, but imagine the surprise (or lack thereof) when one discovers that there are in fact private investigation offices on numerous floors of the building, fortunately all possessing windows in their doors of the necessary opaque glass with the name of the firm noted in block letters.
Interestingly, the entire building also has the appearance of being abandoned, though only very recently so. It is as if there was a need for all tenants to exit but extreme care was taken to sweep and dust the hallways, dust, and remove any unnecessary clutter, no matter how small – there are no gum wrappers, pencil shavings, or any other remnants of anything lying on the floors or anywhere else. And, as an aside, speaking of thing abandoned, one shouldn’t forget the abandoned optometrists’ office on Sixth Street, replete with files, office supplies, mailboxes with letters, and optometry equipment from the 1980s left entirely intact.
The Temple itself, powerfully ensconced on the top floors, lulls the explorer into a false sense of security because it gives the disarming appearance of abject plainness, as if to discourage any exploration of its secrets by maintaining that it doesn’t possess any. There are a few token tapestries, symbols, and swords to indicate that it is a Masonic Lodge, but only enough to indicate it is supposed to be a temple. But its apparent simplicity may be its best disguise, for rumors certainly abound concerning the Masonic quest for a new world order. Can a seemingly innocuous small town be a hub of conspiratorial mayhem? Are the portly, occasionally twangy-accented members of the Zanesville Masonic Temple really the agents of a sinister “new world order”? Indeed, Zanesville is really a city of things unknown! Again, perhaps that is their most ingenious trick, that its apparent docility belies its power, though the cliché under which this assumption operates gives away its untruth, a guise exposed with only a few moments’ speculation.
However, this isn’t to the say the city isn’t without its private and not-so-private networks, connections, and spheres of influence. There are quite a few well-knowns whose names are instantly recognizable to any citizen, for any number of beneficent reasons - money donated to schools, charity work, fund-raisers, sponsorships. But with power and celebrity, however local, comes corruption, but then again, with power and celebrity comes power and celebrity. Consider the cocaine-dealing fiasco whose players included various Zanesville business and medical luminaries and how its castigation played out: perhaps a few waves were made on the city’s make-believe high society waters and a few cries of derision were undoubtedly uttered, but when one considers the rumored commonplace cocaine usage in the locker-rooms of the Zanesville Country Club and the attitude with which the upper-echelons of Zanesville society conduct themselves and their relationship to the town, it’s no wonder that the whole affair was forgotten when another source of gossip presented itself. Those implicated were the subjects of rumors and nothing more, and were thus permitted to return to their notions of royalty. This arguably lamentable outcome served only to reinforce their status, a miniature ‘good-old-boy’ network that will doubtlessly continue in perpetuity and whose past and subsequent generations are taught their privilege from the earliest of age, as exemplified, for example, by letting off, after being caught during surprise police searches at the high school, the known drug-dealing children of the elite while the children of the less influential are continually reviled for their corrupting influence and bad behavior. The upper-class’s puzzling influence and questionable menace (what can they actually do?) serves to protect only their own despite their sworn commitment to the community; there is a primordial instinct of self-preservation amongst this self-styled elite but it is by no means unique to the wealthy.
“Hardly ever have I found in my travels such pure morals as in my native village…a life that is subject to no contemporary law, and attends only to the exhortations and warnings that come to us from olden times,” the narrator of Franz Kafka’s ‘the Great Wall of China’ reflects, accurately defining the delicate mores of one’s village, as if there were – and there is – an intractable code of conduct that arose with the city’s buildings but is yet older still, maybe even eternal, lodged within the people whose essence has existed since time began and was just waiting to inevitably manifest itself in Zanesville. The whispers and glances of condemnation or confusion about how someone could display such a lack of common sense are often the soundtrack to any social activity. The laws are unwritten but plain, complex but fairly easy to follow. Definitions such as “not right” or “just how it is” are the only explanation one can get for wayward behavior, and the attempts to explain that other ways of living do exist fall on the deaf ears of those who legitimately cannot understand that this is the case.
But, fortunately for the downtrodden, Zanesville was rumored to be blessed with a downtown “street defender”, who, according to schoolyard lord, was obviously the protector of hapless denizens walking around at night.
The graffiti in the parks, that adorns its benches, verandas, light posts, signs, walls, and buildings, is a jumbled and impenetrable mass with only the occasional name or phrase catching the observer’s eye. Anger, new-found or unfailing love, allegiance to a particular band/team/group of friends – all indicative, like most scribblings, of a sudden surge in emotion or simple ennui. The benches and the tables that hold these testaments speak of the warm, if fleeting, affection and excitement inherent in the lovers’ touching carved dedications; the countless beats of hearts and the tables smooth from sweating palms as their hands drew closer and closer to touching: the evidence of the excitement of budding romance undoubtedly evokes memories in the passersby who glance off-handedly at the graffiti. They likely don’t pick through or even attempt to decipher any of the messages, but the mere glance at something that may or may not even register can touch off tidal waves of reminiscences, happy and sad.
Sometimes, though, one is shocked back into the world of the cognizant when their wandering eyes catch “Jill fucked Jim here 5/12/02”, or some other similarly hilarious blunt statement.
There is a sense of astonishment and discovery even in these perhaps crass statements; you can try to look past being offended to feel sheer wonder at what brilliant acts humanity is capable of committing. Like the eight-year-old who told amused Arts in the Parks volunteers that his favorite author was Tom Clancy, whose bemused and quietly laughing glances to one another were replaced with shock when the kid detailed a number of the books’ titles and plots. Similarly brilliant, looking downhill at Putnam Hill Park, there still lingers the sweat from the perplexed then stomach-knotting realization that one kid undoubtedly felt as he fell and dislocated his shoulder trying to skateboard down the Park’s forty-foot metal slide – who knows how many kids have attempted similar stunts since the slide’s inception? Though the city no doubt factored in the possibility of someone being hurt on the slide, trying to skateboard down it is an act of outright insanity (or bravery) that probably went unforeseen in the planners’ minds. This isn’t to say that its fun was any less innocent than a regulation slide down the slide would be, it just seems exponentially more dangerous.
However, in Zanesville, no behavior, regardless of the irreproachable intentions or innocent frame of mind of the person undertaking it, is entirely free from criticism. Take for example the charmingly titled essay “The Five Sins of Zanesville” and its almost endearingly quaint admonition of Zanesville’s morally corrupt citizens: the first sin on the list – lust – is evidently “the norm for Zanesville’s culture” considering “It’s not unusual to see teens making out in a car in the mall parking lot, adulterers drinking booze at the Foxhole bar, [or] young men buying porn at the gas station.” Zanesville’s second sin, which one can read about after an exceptionally long harangue against the first, is “Drugs n’ Booze,” another hallmark of the culture of the city in which “…its teens [are] sniffing glue for kicks – college students getting drunk at football games – patients [are] lying to their doctors to get Xanax or Percocet – [and its] high school seniors [are] smoking marijuana at the prom.” Whether or not the city has a problem with substances is up for debate (17.1 percent of the population binge drinks), but, fortunately, thanks to the guidance of people like “The Five Sins” author Dr. Patrick Johnston, Zanesville is a city that takes its religion seriously: it is a city of a solitary soup kitchen that can barely stay afloat, the only one among ninety-nine churches, two private Christian schools, a private Catholic school, one synagogue, and countless basement Bible-study groups.
Zanesville, initially called ‘Westbourne,’ was established in the 1790s by a Revolutionary War veteran and his son-in-law hired by the US Congress to forge their way west into the Ohio Valley. The son-in-law, John McIntire, and the veteran Ebenezer Zane’s brother John managed the ferry on the Muskingum Riverand a settlement sprang up from the crossing. Abundant resources of sand, clay, and iron awarded Zanesville centuries of industry and the factual nicknames “the Pottery Capital of the World” and “Clay City”, as well as the less known sobriquet “the City of Natural Advantages.” Even though it is forgotten, its implications are quite magnanimous. The nickname appeared in an 1889 Boston Globe directory of various cities’ nicknames, and its listing obviously spoke for its profound importance. This titular honor was also shared by Olean, NY, apparently at the same time, according to the existence of an 1889 book about that city proclaiming its own share of natural advantages.
Zanesville, Ohio is not to be confused with Zanesville, Indiana or Zanesfield, Ohio, the former being in a different state and the latter bearing a different suffix, though it was founded by and named for Isaac Zane, the younger brother of Ebenezer Zane, Zanesville, Ohio’s eponymous founder. The other two cities are interesting in their own right, of course: Zanesfield’s founder was kidnapped at age nine by the Wyandot tribe and grew up bilingual, and the city boasts amongst its residents an award-winning volleyball player.
Only Zanesville, Ohio, however, was said to hold the title for Most Restaurants per Mile (entirely thanks to Maple Avenue’s string of dining establishments), though exactly what body officiated this record was never mentioned. It’s not hard to imagine this being true, though; in Zanesville there are countless restaurants or varying speed and quality, most on Maple Avenue it seems, that employ upwards of 2100 people. This highly-refined desire for varied culinary experience also doubtlessly plays a role in the fact that one in three adults are overweight, one in five are obese, one in three have high cholesterol, and that 578 people died between 2005-2007 from heart disease. Be that as it may, Zanesvillians, like everyone else, are free to do what they want, as evidenced by the one in three who chooses to smoke and the one in five who consumes the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables. Some can also choose to not to heed the warnings of an especially low-clearance train bridge on Linden Avenue, where they wouldn’t be alone in leaving a twisted scrap of truck roof on the road behind.
Zanesville is a city twenty percent more likely to suffer tornado damage than the rest of the country but is a city whose earthquake activity is one hundred percent smaller than the national average. Zanesville is a city that had twelve murders, one hundred and seven rapes, eighty-nine arsons, and three hundred twenty-three assaults between 2001-2007, and Zanesville is also the title of a 2005 novel, a work of “surreal black comedy” by Kris Saknussemm that bears no apparent relation to the Ohio city and whose author threatened to sue Michael Jackson for stealing his idea of creating a giant robotic statue in Michael Jackson’s likeness. In 2006, Zanesville’s city schools held the contentious and divisive possibility of a teachers’ strike, averted only by a single ballot marked both in favor and against the strike. 2008 figures say it is a city of 25,129, whose average household size is 2.4; 60.9% of these households are families, 7.9% of households are of unmarried partners, and 0.4% are homosexual. Males account for forty-six percent of the population; females fifty-four. There are 11,662 housing units in 11.24 square miles, creating a population density of 2276.83 per square mile, according to the 2000 census. The average yearly pay for a city government employee is $38,895, of which there are three-hundred eighteen.
From 1990 to 2007 in Muskingum County, of which Zanesville is the county seat and the site of the county fair, there were 20,411 births, of which an average of 60.42% were to married couples; there were 15,512 deaths (or 991.9 per 100,000) and from 1999-2007 there were 95 suicides and 33 homicides; 78.4% of women eighteen and over have had a pap-smear and 72.7% of women forty and over have had a mammogram within the last three years.
One can use these facts and figures to feel either counted and thus a part of it all, or can use these figures and feel reduced to but a statistic whose precious individuality is totally negated. But if one really wants to disappear, however, there is a tunnel at the bottom of a hill off of Blue Avenue that is part of the gorge before Taylor Street. Urban spelunkers are rewarded for their travels by their emergence into what seems like a space void of time, if one can brave the considerable length and considerable claustrophobia the journey necessitates. The tunnel goes under Blue Avenue into the small valley that continues despite the street’s crossing, and the fact that one can find an alternate path into the dale is beside the point. The travelers feel the profundity of their descent as they see the houses on the hill disappearing from view; they feel themselves camouflaged by branches and bushes and thus want to continue their journey as well as knowing that if they can’t see anyone then they can’t be seen either. Perhaps they are being prodded on by a sense of daring to see if they can stand to squeeze themselves into the tunnel or perhaps they are moved by the a sincere admiration of the beauty of the place. The fears are most likely unfounded, as one can see the light at either end of the tunnel, but it’s hard not to be plagued with a tense ‘what if?’ What if the hill under which the tunnel is built collapses? What if grates on both ends suddenly swing shut? It’s certainly hard to move under there, so it’s good to be aware of these possibilities. But if one can muster the courage to clamber through the tunnel, the award is momentous. There is a feeling of seclusion that, traffic seen and heard overhead notwithstanding, resembles the fate of the protagonist in JG Ballard’s Concrete Island, but without the tragic consequences of being almost totally forgotten. One seems to have fallen into his or her own little segment of lost time, but in this case the secluded area welcomes such feelings. On sunny spring or summer days, the little bit of water burbles, the insects make insect noises, the wind rustles, and the sunlight filters through the trees overhead in beautiful beams. One finds truth to the notion of a spiritual connection to the earth, and the feeling is helped immensely by the strangeness of the seemingly anachronistic concrete tunnel that opens into the glen; a surreal, alien indication of something that exists outside the realms of our understanding, an OOP (Out of Place) relic that is as mysterious and misunderstood as the metal of the Iron Pillar of Delhi or the Coso Artifact.
In Zanesville there have been waves of music groups and concerts replete with their own rivalries, rock stars, and gossip, all of which will be fondly remembered by the participants as the time to be in a band in Zanesville, a time much more meaningful and fun than the scenes the preceded or followed it, a perception similar to that of Mad magazine, whose fans always consider its zenith the years that they started reading. The legends of the music scene are always revered by those who lived them but whose fleeting renown is shrugged off by anyone who didn’t experience them first hand and therefore don’t want to be bothered, like anyone anywhere, by tales about how good things used to be. Each generation has its respective knowns and unknowns that warrant such status because of how specific they are to the generation that lives and lived them; these perceptions make up the historical fabric of Zanesville that is being inscribed somewhere in the aether by the overlapping and overwhelming variety of perceptions from all of its 200+ year history.
Another thing specific to each generation are the infamous schoolyard “personalities,” as Zanesville has its share of criminal lore, especially among the youth. In every generation certain names can be invoked and automatically instill fear, like juvenile boogeymen but more terrifying because their existence is as real as the punch they can deliver to a hapless adolescent’s face. When a “normal” person is in their company, the normal is instilled with a baffling mix of apprehension, a sort of unwillingly begrudging “respect” and giddy excitement like one has spotted a celebrity, though it is a celebrity who might suddenly lapse into unpredictable violent behavior. Keeping your distance is mandatory.
Those of dubious fame have their fair share of second or third-tier hangers on, peripheral kids who are more or less untouchable because of their relationship to one of the big-name teenage criminals. Naturally, they take their fortunate familial or (friendship-based) ties as license to become jerks themselves and so make it more difficult for the average school student to avoid encountering the kids that parents no doubt warn about.
One of the celebrated protagonists of 1990s juvenile crime was constantly doing things that were automatically secured his place in the memories of those of his age. That he was accompanied by his younger brother (rumored to have smoked cigarettes at age nine!) further amplified his larger than life status. The pairs’ last hurrah before people of that age started growing up and going their separate ways turned into a summer or two’s worth of speculation when the spoils of their gas station robbery were rumored to have been buried in a local wood. The exact existence of the money was known only two the culprits who were as a consequence spending a few years in a juvenile detention center, and it was felt that the money of course couldn’t safely be looked for, for fear that the two would get wind of your name when they got out or because of the general hex that no doubt hung about the shadily-earned treasure.
Like in any city, the seriousness of the behavior is hard to gauge – is it just adolescent rebellion and its sloppy clambering for respect or is it a serious indication of sociopathic, psychopathic behavior? Is their behavior a result of a lack of guidance at home that will ultimately settle down once maturity sets in? Or is the onset of maturity much more dangerous because of the capacity for damage adults are capable? The question is unanswerable, not just in Zanesville but all over the world, and its parameters are even further confusing by the fact that both results are commonplace: some teenage criminals fall into obscurity while some do in fact go on to commit much more heinous and disturbing acts.
The narrator in Italo Calvino’s Smog is not particularly enthralled about his arrival in a new city: “To a young man who had just got off the train, the city – as everyone must know – seems like one big station: no matter how much he walks about, the streets are still squalid, garages, warehouses, cafes…trucks discharging stinking gas in his face…his nerves grow taut, and everything he sees is nerve-racking, piecemeal…had I been younger or had I expected more of life, [this] would have pleased and stimulated me; but not now, now I could see only the grayness…and I could only plunge into it as if I actually liked it, because it confirmed my belief that life could be nothing else…Now I felt lost in a different way, because I could no longer find, as I had done before, things in which I recognized myself, in which I could read the future. (Not that I believe in signs, but when you’re nervous, in a new place, everything you see is a sign.)”
It is a grim pronouncement like this that belies and portends loneliness, and if you so choose, focus can be placed on the gas discharging in your face or your own meaningless existence personified by the vacuity of a gray city. Arrival anywhere new is a daunting experience, especially when the place where you have arrived has a palpable routine already inscribed. It is up to the newly transplanted person whether or not to go so far as to make their own niche or to at least integrate themselves to some degree of comfortable anonymity. Trite sentiments perhaps, but applicable anywhere; Zanesville has countless well-known things to offer and even more things to discover and add to and enrich one’s own Y-City experience and life as a whole.
On one street inZanesvilleexists both theArtCenterand families with teenager children that in turn have their own children, and some may argue that these parallel existences are on opposite sides of some sort of arbitrary social spectrum. The snobby undertones of this comparison are entirely untrue because it is simply representative of the gamut of human life, certain behaviors are alleged to be opposites but in reality never mutually exclusive. Facts and figures can be referenced to say whatever the researcher wants, as if the numbers could accurately characterize an entire city and every one of its inhabitants. But try as you might, Zanesville is unclassifiable because people are unclassifiable. No one can predict the course the city will take in coming years just like none of its citizens’ secret fears, loves, experiences, dreams, and thoughts can ever be guessed based on surface factors. Nobody, person or city, can be reduced to a geographic or sociological generality. It’s easy to angrily dismiss the ignorance of a city when one believes elements detrimental to the city’s culture are everyday becoming more prevalent, but it’s also easy to notice the affinity and genuine sense of community much of the citizenry holds for their hometown. No matter the political persuasion, there is always a city-wide pride that translates into attempts to make it better, as well as to ardently oppose football rivals Newark on crisp fall nights. In this way and in every citizen’s personal relationship to Zanesville, a bit of hometown pride surely resides, a fondness perhaps stated best by a group of homegrown rappers when they stress that “Zanesville be the City.”