Presidents Day is a weird holiday in the United States of America. Its celebration seems to be mostly centered around (1) Sales on mattresses and cars, and (2) the Closure of public schools and post offices. In our household, though, we take Presidents Day a step further. Partly because of the holiday’s position on the calendar and partly because of the way that the Monday holiday jives with other family priorities, we tend to have a lot of fun with Presidents Day in Northeast Ohio.
It starts with my facial hair. In the winter of 2015, I decided to grow out my beard from Christmas to my birthday at the end of February. It was really just as a way to break up the cold, monotonous drudgery of winter in Northeast Ohio. In 2016, I took it a step further by taking the beard away in pieces: doing a day with a goatee, followed by a day with a droopy cowboy mustache-plus-soul-patch, followed by a day with a classic mustache, followed by a day with a pencil mustache. In 2017, though, I struck upon the idea to couple my beard shaving tradition with the Presidents Day holiday. So, that year, I went from a “Benjamin Harrison” to a “Chester Arthur” to a “Theodore Roosevelt.”
In 2018, I continued the tradition with a gradual transformation borrowing facial hair inspiration from Rutherford Hayes, Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, and Jimmy Carter. And in 2019, I went from the beard of James Garfield to the mustache of William Howard Taft. 2020 featured a return to the stylings of Chester Arthur and Theodore Roosevelt. And last year, I went from the beard of Ulysses Grant to the mustache of Grover Cleveland, to the (slightly more tidied up) mustache of Theodore Roosevelt.
Now that I’ve worked through my “tributes” to all of the presidents with facial hair, though, I feel ready to try some new styles. I still like the idea of maintaining the coordination of my shaving with Presidents Day. But this year, I decided to go with the decidedly un-presidential “Monkey-Tail.”
It’s a completely ridiculous style of facial hair. The effect is muted, though, because any given angle of the face looks surprisingly reasonable. Kind of like a mustache with a chinstrap beard from one side, and a goatee from the other side. Most of the people I’ve seen since I shaved down to the Monkey-Tail haven’t seemed to notice. My own wife even took awhile to realize just what I’d done! Regardless, I’m entertaining myself with these silly facial hair modifications — and that’s worth something at this drab time of the year in Northeast Ohio.
Outside of the facial hair, there are a number of historical sites around Northeast Ohio that highlight connections to U.S. Presidents. So, this afternoon, my daughter Olivia and I took a road trip to visit a few of these sites. Nearby Hiram (right here in Portage County!) features a monument to James A. Garfield, who happened to be the president of Hiram College before he became the President of the United States.
And honestly, it was just nice to go for a drive in the sunshine. We listened to a lot of good music and enjoyed a lot of good conversation. The countryside around Hiram is beautiful. And again, it just felt good to mix up the day-to-day slog of late winter.
After checking out the Garfield site, we drove further east — passing through the Center of the World — before stopping at a diner in Warren called the Chat-n-Chew.
It was the quintessential American Diner Experience. Like something from a time capsule. Granted: their coffee was pretty average, and their apple pie was pretty bad. But Olivia and I were kind of geeking out about the whole vibe in the Chat-n-Chew.
We chatted. We chewed. And we took pictures of each other and our surroundings. It was a lot fun.
But our Presidents Day adventures weren’t finished until after our snack break, when we drove just a bit further east to the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles. President William McKinley was born in Niles, and he eventually settled in Canton. So there are monuments to him in both of these cities. However, Niles fit our itinerary better than Canton.
So we took some more pictures and looked around the library a little bit (it’s actually a really interesting structure). And then it was time for us to return to Kent: winding down another Presidents Day in Northeast Ohio.
Presidents Day isn’t the greatest holiday. The Northeastern-Ohioan Presidents are not generally considered to be among the greatest Presidents. Still, we had a happy Presidents Day. And I hope that you did, too.