Columbus Ohio: City of Red Lights

I’ve lived in Columbus for almost 13 years. Driving here is different than around the New York area, where I grew up. There are some reasons why driving is easier, but there are a number of other factors that make it more difficult and aggravating.

While most of those reasons have to do with other drivers, there’s been one that’s annoyed me particularly lately: the fact that most of the city’s traffic lights are not synchronized. It’s a simple concept: if you’re driving one direction down a major street, the lights turn green one after the other so you don’t get stopped by red light after red light.

I work downtown, so I deal with this everyday. But yesterday afternoon it really got to me as we were driving home from COSI, a simple drive down Broad Street to Fourth Street to I-71. On that drive, we went through ten intersections with lights. We were stopped at red lights at seven of them. I’m not talking about drive to the light and come to a rolling stop and wait the two seconds for the next light to turn green. What happened with most of these lights was as soon as one light would turn green, the next would turn yellow, then red right as we got to the next light.

Downtown Columbus is not the most hopping place, especially on a weekend. There’s no reason for a quick ride to be punctuated by stops at seven red lights. There are small towns able to synchronize their stoplights. Why can’t Columbus?

Honoring the Yankee Flipper

This weekend, the family and I went to the Darby Creek Park outside of Columbus, a nice park with many trails and a small herd of bison. We noticed some construction at the park. It looked like they were building a new road and I spotted this sign:

The Jack McDowell? The former Cy Young award winner who flipped off a home crowd at Yankee Stadium after giving up nine runs in less than five innings? Personally, I think it’s about time. The city of Columbus has historical ties to the Yankees and this was one of the most memorable moments of the ’95 season.

It’s not like there’s another Jack McDowell out there, is there?

Beard the Fourth, December 2011 – April 2012

When it comes to shaving, I hate doing it and I hate not doing it.

Since Christmas, I had a beard (I stopped shaving the day before Christmas Eve), the fourth beard I’ve grown over the past few winters. While it’s not as impressive as the beard Harrison Ford sported in The Fugitive, my beard was quite formidable, a mix of blonde and red.

While it was quite useful over the past few months, I just got sick of it. So I’m clean shaven again. I feel comfortable with how I look either way, but now I’m actually wondering how Hope would react. She has quite a memory (the other day she mentioned drilling pumpkins at school for Halloween, something that hasn’t come up in at least six months), so she surely remembers me without a beard. At the same time, she says she likes it. And I have hinted that it may be going away to no response from her.

As for the other woman in my life, I’m not too worried about how The Civee will react. I’ve been sitting in the same room with her for at least 20 minutes (with her looking right at me four times so far (make that five)) without her saying anything. This is actually normal, as it always takes her some time (and some hinting) to realize the beard is gone.

So I’ll go back to shaving every few days, even considering how much I hate doing so. I just hope when she wakes up tomorrow my daughter knows who I am.

Staten Island, Home of the Turkeys

A few years ago, the makers of Grand Theft Auto said the fourth chapter of their game franchise would be set in a city that looked like New York.  True enough, GTA IV featured a pretty faithful re-creation of New York City, with the exception of Staten Island.  Rockstar Games said they would not include the forgotten borough because “it would not be fun to play there.”

As I’ve pointed out before, exciting things do happen on Staten Island.  The Island is home to the fourth-largest boardwalk in the world, the (now defunct) world’s largest garbage dump and the ninja burglar.  And now, just in time for Thanksgiving, a pack of wild turkeys now roams the Island:

The flock, numbering around a 100 birds, starting forming about a decade ago when a woman released a small number of the birds.

The birds cause major traffic headaches, according to residents.

Fox 5 saw one turkey playing chicken with a car.

Back when I lived on the Island, South Beach had a bunch of arcades and small-time amusement parks.  I leave and exciting things happen.

Supposedly, they can’t get rid of these turkeys because they’re a protected species.  I can offer a simple solution–the turkey cannon:

The Search for Seal

(This isn’t about the singer Seal, but rather a quest much like that taken during Kramer’s favorite Star Trek movie).

One of the elements of my job is incorporating the State Seal of Ohio into various documents and publications.  I’m familiar with its history and different forms.  Just for you, to help move this story along, here’s what the seal looks like:

Legend has it that the seal is the depiction of the sun rising over Mount Logan (in Southeastern Ohio) from outside the home of Thomas Worthington, one of the fathers of Ohio Statehood.  The river, bushel of wheat and sheaf of arrows all have their own meaning as well.

The Civee and I both took the day off today.  We wanted to go hiking in a state park, but ended up exploring the City of Chillicothe and Adena, the nearby state historic site which is also the aforementioned home of Governor Worthington.  I was looking forward to seeing the actual view that inspired the state seal.  One of the guides at the museum told us it wasn’t quite exact.  He was right:

Granted, I didn’t expect to get there early enough to see the sun rising between the mountains.  And I didn’t think there would be arrows or wheat laying around.  But there’s no river.  And while it is an incredible view, it just doesn’t feel like the seal.

This is more like it:


Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
-Ferris Bueller

People often ask me why and how I ended up in Columbus.  Having grown up in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, Columbus is a totally different place and experience than what I was used to.  I ended up here because nine months after graduating college, it was the location of the first place (in my then-career of broadcasting) that offered me a job (and I’ve stayed for other reasons).

I had interviewed at a few other television stations in the months following that walk down the aisle set to Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage’s theme song, but no luck.  So I had an interview with a station here in Columbus almost ten years ago (give or take a few months) provided I could get here on my own.  Not knowing the city, I booked a hotel room (in some online deal) and drove myself out here in my 1986 Buick Century Limited (which even then, was real old).  The hotel was located off of the intersection of Morse Road and Interstate 71,  which, upon my arrival, I found was not close at all to the location of my interview.

The day before the interview, I pulled into Columbus, with plenty of time and energy to waste.  The hotel clerk mentioned a nearby mall, so I headed a few miles down Morse to Northland Mall.  It wasn’t the most modern mall, nor the most lively, but it wasn’t a horrible place to pass some time (however, had I known Easton was a few more miles down the road, I may have skipped Northland entirely).

Did well in the interview, drove back home (at 2 in the morning), and a month later, got the job.  Moved out to Ohio, packing the Limited full, and drove out with King Classic, who helped me look for an apartment.  I found something on the other side of town, much closer to the station.

Even now, I live on the same side of town, and while I’ll go to the eastern side of town for some things, I really haven’t spent much time in that Morse Rd./Northland area.  I was aware that a few years ago, they tore Northland down, because after Easton (and Polaris), business just dried up.

Earlier today, I had to attend a meeting at the Department of Taxation, based in a new building located on the spot of the former Northland Mall.  It was weird going back to this place where even though I spent only a few hours, I had so many vivid memories.  The nervousness, boldness, loneliness and hope I felt that night before the interview all came back to me.  I don’t want to say Northland was a special place (although to some, I’m sure it was), but the memories just hit me again.

Here was this brand spanking new building taking up space on the lot on which, nine years and ten months ago, I had parked the Limited while looking for a way to waste a few hours.  The only remnants of a mall was a lone anchor store, standing vacant without any identity, resigned to an unknown fate.

The last time I was there, I was full of emotion, uncertain of the future.  Today, I went back, just another day.

In some ways, the past ten years have gone by quickly.  It’s striking that I’ve been here this long to notice changes like this.  I think the me back then would have been happy to know that things ended up the way they did.  But then again, I think I expected it.

100 Percent Chance of A Parade In Chicago

Up until this weekend, most of my knowledge of the City of Chicago came from two sources: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Fugitive.

Well, this weekend The Civee and I had a chance to expand that knowledge- we were invited to a birthday party for her sister Saturday held on one of the rooftops across the street from Wrigley Field.

We decided to head up there Saturday morning and return this (Sunday morning).  With the game starting at noon (Chicago time) we figured we’d have enough time to get to Chicago, park at the hotel and take “The L” up to Wrigley in time for the first pitch.  We hit Chicago at 11, and seemingly, our plan was looking pretty damn good.

We got off the highway and on to Columbus (the street our hotel was located on) and all of a sudden, we were greeted by hundreds of cars not moving.  Columbus, it turns out, was closed.

In the great tradition of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Fugitive, there was a parade in Chicago yesterday.  Not only did we have to seperate from the conglomeration of cars turning downtown Chi-town into a parking lot, we had to navigate to our hotel before we could carry out the rest of our plan.

Eventually, we managed to make our way to the hotel, but we pulled in the parking lot at 12:05 and our plan was shot to sunshine.  We did make it to Wrigley by the top of the third, which wasn’t that bad, considering we were set back an hour.

Still, I couldn’t get upset–the parade goers all had Polish flags, scarves, t-shirts and other paraphernalia.  Turns out it was the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade. As we sat in traffic, I actually considered ditching the ball game and joining my bretheren in celebration of the ratification of the world’s second-oldest democratic constitution.

But we had a ball game to go to.

The rooftop experience was fun. I wasn’t surprised that most of the people on the rooftop weren’t there to watch the game (especially with the free food and drinks).  It was nice to see former Yankees Ted Lilly (8 IP, 1ER, 10K) and Alfonso Soriano (2-5) have a good day.  It was even nicer to not get hassled for wearing a Yankees cap.

After the game, the Civee and I got back on the L and walked around the city a bit.  It was fun and we’d like to go back sometime for more than just a day.

If we do, our experience (and the movies) have taught us there will be a parade that day.

If You're Going to the Ohio State Fair

Do yourselves a favor and get a porkburger (or as they call it, “The Other Burger”).  Easily beats the pants off of corn dogs, turkey legs, ears of corn, funnel cakes or any other type of fair food.

Had to work there again for a few days this year, and it was a bit underwhelming.  There wasn’t a governor going down the giant slide, nor was a woman asking me to get her dying husband into the free Grand Funk concert.

But considering it’s been hot and is supposed to get hotter, I’m glad my fair days are over for this year.

Come for the Furniture, Stay for the Meatballs

For the past few months, The Civee has been bugging me to go to the new IKEA store that opened up in Cincinnati.

IKEA meatballsShe had gone there a few times on her own, but wanted me to go along in case we wanted to make any furniture purchases. Last weekend, we were in Cincinnati visiting relatives and had some extra time, so we stopped by Ikea.

I have to say the place actually made furniture buying interesting. The prices were decent, and the furniture was actually nice. But what made the place totally worth the trip was the meatballs.  The Civee had told me that while shopping, we could get some metaballs, which I envisioned as getting two Swedish Meatballs with a toothpick off a tray somewhere.  But no, this was much more.  Not some toothpick-stuck meatballs on a greasy napkin, but the promise of a full meal.

There’s a full-scale cafeteria in the middle of the store, with plenty of menu options.  I got the meatballs, with a side of mashed potatoes and jam.  For like five bucks. And it was damn good. There were a bunch of other items on the menu (Gravlax, half-chicken, Prime Rib) that I intend to try on future trips to Ikea.

For the first time in my life, I’m actually looking forward to going furniture shopping.  The Swedish are really on to something there with this food-in-the-middle-of-the-store concept.  Who knows, if IKEA had been around when my parents took the younger King Tom furniture shopping, I might not have been such a bratty kid.