American Consequences - June 2019

So Jim’s AOL and my fly-fishing are failures in the American sense. That is to say, they’re successful. This is why I’m telling, in some detail, and begging the reader’s indulgence, the story of Toledo, Ohio. I grew up there – well-fed, well-housed, happy, and prosperous by modest Midwestern industrial city standards. (Wildly prosperous by the standards of the world outside America, not to mention the standards of ordinary people all through history.) And Toledo is a failure of a city. Toledo is located on the Maumee River in northwest Ohio at the far corner of Lake Erie – 59 miles south of Detroit, 116 miles west of Cleveland, and a million miles from Manhattan, Paris, and Rome. If you know it

It’s like AOL. What a flop! Once the dominant brand on the World Wide Web, it’s now a peripheral, antiquated subsidiary of Verizon... itself a bit of a communications dinosaur with slipping profit margins. But I knew AOL’s co-founder Jim Kimsey. He made piles of money and spent the last decades of his life being a great guy – a decorated combat vet working on behalf of his fellow veterans, an open-handed philanthropist, and a patron of the arts. Of course, Jim got out of AOL at the right time (1991). Just like I got out of the trout stream. Which, incidentally, is full of big, healthy trout – not only because I don’t catch any but also because I still buy a fishing license every year helping to fund the state trout hatchery.

MICHIGAN

LAKE ERIE

Top: View of Toledo from the east side of the Maumee River, 1872. (A copy of the engraving hangs above the author’s desk.) Right: A map of the Great Black Swamp (“home of Satan”).

TOLEDO

Great Black Swamp

OHIO

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June 2019

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