2008.12.31 A less-than-appetizing end to a really long year

Written by David Green.


What will you remember most about 2008? The election that seemed like it would never end? Or one of the personalities that somehow turned up on the news practically every day, like Britney Spears? Or one of those people like Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber who almost no one had heard of when 2008 began, only to become a household name you couldn’t avoid by the time the year ended?

Here at Nowhere Road, we prefer to remember some of those stories that didn’t get nearly enough publicity the first time around, like that giant, runaway inflatable piece of “art” in the shape of a mound of dog excrement.

The brainchild of American artist Paul McCarthy, the artwork, named “Complex Sh**,” was on exhibit at a Swiss museum this summer when it was blown loose of its moorings and went on a brief reign of terror. The house-sized display had a safety system in place designed to deflate it in inclement weather, but it failed to work as planned and the dog stuff made an escape.

First, it tore down a power line, then traveled about 700 feet before settling to the ground and breaking a window at a children’s home. Don’t you wish you could hear that 911 call? You know the police had to see this to believe it.

Unfortunately, none of my sources say if any children were in the yard at the time the excrement fell from the sky. I’m sure that was quite a sight for any eyewitnesses.

On a somewhat similar subject, the city of Seattle has ended its experiment in the world of high-tech toilets.

You may have heard of the incredibly expensive, self-cleaning toilets popping up in cities around the world. Seattle joined the trend four years ago when they bought five of the devices at slightly over one million dollars each.

The idea was to provide a clean, convenient rest room facility for tourists and the homeless in Seattle’s downtown. Instead, they became more infamous as handy hangouts for prostitutes and drug users. Further study indicated that they were less cost-efficient than regular public rest rooms as well.

Seattle’s city council finally voted to sell them on eBay, with a minimum of $89,000 each. That strategy failed to attract a single bid. Hoping to spark a bidding war among bargain hunters, the city relisted the toilets, this time with a bargain-basement opening bid of 99 cents per toilet. That move aroused some interest, but not as much as the city had hoped.

One toilet sold for $4,899 while the other four averaged about $1,900 each. The grand total for the five toilets was $12,549. After paying the company it hired to handle the auction, the city of Seattle netted a return of just over $10,400 on its initial investment of $5 million or so.

The buyer? Butch Behn, a Washington state businessman who owns a race car supply business and local race track was the winning bidder for all five units. He said he planned to use two of the toilets at his track and either sell the others or store them for future use.

“It’d probably be good to have a couple around for spares,” Behn told The Associated Press. “We get pretty busy at the track sometimes.” And if you live on a diet of racetrack food, there’s no such thing as too many toilets.

Closer to home, some residents in Columbus, Ohio, received some free salad dressing, courtesy of the T. Marzetti company. It just didn’t come quite the way they might have wished.

Heavy rains in late June combined with discharges from Marzetti’s Columbus facility to overwhelm the city’s storm sewer system, resulting in at least ten basements being flooded with a mixture of sewage, storm runoff and salad dressing.

An EPA spokesman suspected that the factory’s pipes merged with those of nearby homes and aren’t big enough to contain the additional water from a heavy storm. I’ll bet he’s at least a high school graduate to come up with such a reasonable explanation.

And you’re probably all wondering what flavor of salad dressing it was. I’m happy to report that the dressing in question was creamy ranch. 

Makes you hungry just reading about it, doesn’t it? Then go have a snack and join me back here next year. I’ll try to be even more tasteful.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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