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.