Merrimar Circle N

This actually isn’t meant to be a predominantly personal blog. Nothing less than the entire history of Columbus Ohio will be attempted in these pages. Still, personal anecdotes provide the perfect entry point for attacking this stuff, so here goes.

I actually don’t remember the specific address for this apartment (I can find it in about five seconds on Google Maps, but they have it mislabeled as Governour’s Square, which is across the street), yet there are a ton of fondly recalled and very specific memories stemming from here. This is the residence which immediately followed 1990 1/2 Summit Street and while losing one roommate as a tradeoff – theoretically gaining a little suburban respectability in the process – Alan and I have plenty of adventures with the same old cast of characters. This is also the space I will eventually share with Jill, my first live-in girlfriend of the city and mother of my child.

The very night we move in, Alan and I and a friend of his nicknamed Snoop stumble upon a pair of attractive females skinny dipping in the pool. Somehow, Snoop knows one of the girls and somehow, incredibly enough, nobody else shows up outside the five of us, at least not that I can recall. These girls even wind up coming back to our apartment to change back into their clothes. We think we have our meal ticket punched with this episode, but, sadly enough, none of us ever see these chicks again and nothing  this sensational happens at the pool for the remainder of our residence here.

Still, colorful episodes abound, even as we are quote unquote growing up a little bit by moving away from campus. One of these involves a night where my microwave stops working, and somehow we get it into our heads that we will super glue it to the front door of our neighbor across the way, Nicole. As the only two apartments up here on this wing of the second floor, it kind of feels like we are hurtling through space and time together, Nicole and us. I mean, we are friendly enough up to this point and she hangs out at our place quite a bit. But yeah, she will wind up calling the cops this particular night and we never speak to her again:

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So okay, the first problem is that the microwave won’t stick to her door. I mean, the four of us – there are four guys actually involved with this prank, although only two show up in the photographic evidence – even leave to go get a bunch more super glue at Kroger at one point, and still it won’t hold. So we give up on that concept, and prop it up on something instead, as you can see in the picture above.

Feeling a bit miffed in this regard, we then get the bright idea to torch her Christmas wreath. The sunglasses Big Paul is wearing at like 1:30am are a nice touch:

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Okay, so this is turning out to be not such a hot idea. We eventually throw the entire project aside – quite literally, as you can see below – and medicate ourselves with some late night pizza at Hound Dog’s. The next morning, our downstairs neighbor Yu asks me in passing what I think might have caused such mayhem, and speculates that it could have been a stray dog.

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The Judas Cow

The Judas Cow began life in the early 2000s as a live trio hitting some of the more prominent rock clubs around Columbus. Their style, a distinctly Midwestern, mid-tempo blend that falls somewhere between Americana and Tom Petty, seems to lend itself just as much to quiet listening sessions around the house, however, and many of us eagerly await some official recorded output.

Led by singer-guitarist-songwriter Kevin Spain, formerly of beloved local group Silo The Huskie, they would at long last release an EP in 2006, Last Summer. Prior to this, the band had circulated some demos by hand, passing Sharpie labeled discs out around town, and it’s impressive to hear how polished these songs became in the finished product. Of course, playing out constantly does help with that process. But bass player Ryan Haye had only just picked up the instrument shortly before joining the group, and you would never guess that in listening to this EP.

 

Augmented by a fourth member, Chris Bair (also a Silo alumni), they would reconvene to crank out another self-titled disc in 2008.

Arlington Cafe

My jaw nearly hits the floor to see this place now. Can there possibly exist a more indelible message that nothing ever lasts? My friends were mostly never fans of this fabled club at 1975 West Henderson, whereas I was an early convert, yet what seemed immediately after ascending to its all-time apex and winning over even those staunch holdouts, doors began shuttering and cobwebs descended from the rafters.

Arlington Café was always a bit of an anomaly, but made its idiosyncrasies work. Situated at the end of a shopping center counting Kroger as its anchor tenant for eons, in front of a sleepy, upper middle class neighborhood populated with stuffy senior citizens, by day this bar was a dark dive which working class drunks were fond of slipping off to for their liquid lunches. Then come nightfall, shortly after the DJ slid into his glass lined booth and began cranking out modern dance mixes, it came alive with a completely different and still younger clientele, albeit one all the daytime regulars felt perfectly comfortable rubbing elbows against, having perhaps never left themselves even after the final happy hour bell finished ringing.

Much of this was attributable to at least four distinct moods to be found within its cavernous interior, and perhaps as many as six. Achieved effortlessly, I might add, a natural extension of its contour, flowing with contrivance. Contrast this against busted downtown experiments like Long Street, a much ballyhooed dance club which hit everyone over the head with all their themed rooms, tallied some staggering crowds in the early going, and soon bit the dust. Meanwhile, Arlington Café thrived, expanded, even, as it annexed the shops in front and added a second, massive dance floor.

There was even this cool, long, almost impossible to believe and semi-secret tunnel which had for some reason been carved in between the Kroger and the cafe’s western wall, leading interested seekers from the shopping center’s front parking lot around to the bar’s rear entrance. That side of the club, once indoors, also featured a vaulted glass ceiling – various people through the years told me this was retractable, even, though I never witnessed such and doubt that tidbit’s veracity – towering above a smaller dance floor or two, a horseshoe shaped bar, and seating on a couple of different levels, while the eastern, more spacious room beyond featured all of the same, pretty much (minus the vaulted ceilings) but with a larger dance floor where the DJ plied his wares from a walled in nerve center, and there were also scores of pool tables, along with the juke for non-disc jockey curated nights. And in later years, after the businesses in front were annexed, still larger dancing regions existed for would be booty shakers, in front of those pool tables. Giants TVs mounted everywhere, of course, and the lighting I recall as being colorful, neither too bright nor too dark regardless of the hour or day. But mostly what I remember are the forever changing vibes, dependent upon whatever moment you chose to show up.

 

 

Love Letter To Columbus

The first job I ever held was at a McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Mansfield, Ohio. At the time, whether it is still there or not, there was one of those familiar green highway signs directly in front of this establishment, announcing the mileage from here to two nearby cities:

Cleveland 73

Columbus 73

Which is itself an interesting piece of visual stimuli. But if I were to ask any random stranger from any other state (and possibly any random stranger from Ohio, as well), which of these two cities he/she is most familiar with – as in, not necessarily visited, but has heard the most about – he/she would without fail cite Cleveland. Yet Columbus is in fact the largest and most populous city in the state, it has been for decades. Columbus is the 15th largest city in the entire United States. Upon graduation from high school, if I had to handicap the skewed percentages, I would say that 20 of my classmates (at the bare minimum) moved to C-bus for every one that ended up in Cleveland, mostly because we considered the state capital a slam dunk far more interesting place to be. Serious folks with access to statistics debate whether Columbus is larger than Boston, Massachusetts, because it is just this close.

And yet no one has ever heard of Columbus, Ohio. The purpose of this blog shall be to investigate why. Also to shed a light on why I find this city so immensely compelling, nearly a decade after I last lived there, having been born nowhere near here. To this day I cannot wrap my mind around the intricate social experience that living in Columbus represented. Having grown up in such a countrified extreme that our postal address at one time read RR8 – as in, rural route eight, more useful a designation to the poor soul delivering our mail than either town name or zip code could have been – it would be easy for me to fall back on the tired shtick that I am a small town guy, always will be. Yet moving to C-bus at the age of 21 forever changed this; I will forevermore be a big city person, and nothing else will ever compare.

And I mean this quite literally, that nothing else can compare. The cultural experience, and the way your mind gets working in such complicated mechanisms, these are experiences you will never have living in the middle of nowhere. Anyone clinging to that dreary dogma about small town life has simply not experienced day-to-day existence in a major city. And possibly not even the right major city – for six years now, I have lived withing driving distance of and worked five days a week in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yet try though I might, it has proven virtually impossible for me to become seriously interested in the meta-story of Charlotte. I just can’t bring myself to really care about and dissect this place in quite the same way. More outsiders have probably heard of Charlotte than they have of Columbus, it even has the edge in major professional sports by a 2-1 margin, but I am here to tell you that these two cities are worlds apart. And the cultural hub of Cackalacki, or whatever you choose to call it, if I may spoil the trailer here, it suffers bigtime by comparison.

Let us begin this primer course, then (at least for as long as it is able to exist online, without being taken down for copyright infringement) by considering the following piece:

Dumb Century Cropped

Can you read this? If not I will find a way to upload in a better format. But basically my objective with this blog is to a) dig deeply into each of these stories, and many more, b) dissect how Columbus has managed to remained the country’s best kept secret thus far, c) divulge the inside tales I have, the personal histories as related by those I know, that will hopefully help to connect some of this material. I want the reader to eventually be able to, say, understand fully what is going on in this city from one end to the other in, like, the month of April 1979, or January 1994, or December 2006, in a way that would prove impossible via any other source.

So dig in, and enjoy! This is sure to be one wild yet informative ride.