So, is the Oval an oval? Or a triangle?

I’m now going to embarrass myself. And there is absolutely no need to smugly say, even to yourself, “It won’t be the first time.” Because it won’t, and I admit it, so there.

Of course, you know that the area in Milford in front of Town Hall and surrounded by stores is known as the Oval. And in the center of this area is a lovely park containing a bandstand and the World War I monument.

OK so far?

Well, last week, I wrote a little story for The Telegraph on the impending visit of Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential hopeful. I happened to be looking at that story on the Telegraph’s website and saw that someone had added a few words – words that described that little park are as being shaped like “a triangle.”

I knew immediately who had done it – David Brooks, The Telegraph’s science writer.

So, absolutely KNOWING how wrong he was, I wrote to one of the editors and …

A. Described Brooks – who is a friend, by the way – as an idiot because the park was in the Oval, thus it was an Oval. (I swear to you there’s some logic in there somewhere.)

B. Threatened, the next time I was in The Telegraph’s office, to crush all of Brooks’ saltines. He always has saltines; he loves saltines. Every time I am in The Telegraph’s offices, I take some of those saltines. Fortunately for Brooks and his saltines budget, I’m not there often. Crushing them would have been an act of cutting off my nose to spite my charming face, but it would have been necessary because in my family (especially regarding my mother), revenge is much more important than … well, than anything, really.

Brooks was, of course, the guilty party and cheerfully admitted it – if his response of “Cleveland is a moron,” or words to that effect, could be considered cheerful.

Then, he explained that if one went to Google Earth or Google Maps or something, one would clearly see, from some sort of magic satellite photo or something, the shape of the Oval park.

“I can’t believe Cleveland didn’t know that,” Brooks wrote.

Well … um … yeah. Actually, it is.

EXCEPT: The part that tapers to the triangle’s single point – the part nearest the Stone Bridge – is sort of roundish, i.e., it isn’t a sharp point, so I tried to argue that anything without a sharp point couldn’t be a triangle.

Brooks scoffed.

Then, he said, “How can you work in Milford all these years and not know that park is a triangle?”

And therein lies the cause of my embarrassment: How, indeed?

I don’t know, but I feel terrible about it. Brooks can barely find Milford – he lives in Mont Vernon and works in Hudson – and I’m there every day and have been, except for a few years in the ’90s, since 1988. And I mean EVERY day. I can’t even begin to imagine how often I have walked through the Oval park – the triangle park – without once thinking that it might be anything other than an oval.

I think it’s because when I think of the Oval, I think of the park, not the area of street and sidewalk that surrounds it. To me, the park IS the Oval; therefore, it’s an oval. Otherwise, why would it be called an oval? Right?


Wrong. It’s a flaming triangle.

The only thing that can save me from embarrassment – or more embarrassment than I am feeling at the moment (Sunday, watching Tiger Woods implode at the U.S. Open), is if I am not alone. Am I alone? Or is there anyone else out there who has fallen into the same trap – seeing the park as the Oval, ergo it’s an oval?

Help me, friends. Someone else please cop out on themselves, as in:

“Well, yeah, I thought it was an Oval, too.”

I suppose I should be happy to say that this isn’t my most embarrassing moment. On the other hand, that forces me to think of other embarrassing moments that are … well, too embarrassing to relate. Suffice it to say that if this were my most embarrassing moment, I would be a happier person.

Or maybe not. I think being clinically morose is just part of my Irish-English-German-Czech heritage as is the concept (again from my mother) of “Never forget, never forgive” – which, at least to her (deceased, by the way) and to me is not only a concept; it is a belief system. (Did I ever tell you about one of the Toolens – my grandmother Molly’s family – who was, the family legend goes, an IRA gunman who, after World War II went to Israel and joined either the Hagganah or the Irgun so he could kill more Brits? Yes, well, it explains a lot.)

You’re right: That’s another story. Let’s end this one by apologizing to all the residents of Milford, living and dead, for not knowing the park is a triangle.


Contact Michael Cleveland, and make fun of his idiocy, if you wish, at 673-3100, ext. 301, or at