Category Archives: Oh My Ohio

West Side Story

Features of our neighborhood:

• Mango and papaya are at the front of the produce section in every major grocery store.

Camp Chase. When we bought the house but were still waiting to move in, I had a dream in which people asked me “how’s the new house?” and I said “It’s great, except for all of these ghosts of Confederate soldiers. They make it hard to drive through the neighborhood at night.”

• A 24-hour jelly donut drive-thru.

Westland Mall has hosted at least two child pageants and a gun show since we arrived. This Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo celebration/garage sale may be the city’s most authentic.

•We actually know our state representative, and he has already taught us the secret West side handshake.

• An ice cream stand with over 25 flavors of soft serve (?) !

• The only Mexican/Filipino grocery store in town that I am aware of.

• Discount warehouse cheap liquidation factory outlet clearance everything. On sale now!

Taquieras everywhere. Dan is visiting a tortilla production line this weekend.

Plan B version 127 for our uncertain future: Dang if this side of town doesn’t need a decent bookstore and coffeeshop with WiFi.

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Believe the hype

There’s an interview with Dan about Little Brother’s history here.

Yesterday he was asked (by a different reporter) if the announcement of the club’s closure might be some elaborate media ruse designed to manipulate the landlord into letting him stay. If that were the case, it would have needed to have happened over a week ago.

Dan truly thought that if he could get the landlord to sit down and talk in a room, something could be ironed out, but the man and his lawyer flatly refused any negotiations. It was basically presented as “you can sign this document or be prepared to be asked to leave.” At that point – the one when a person you’ve maintained a working relationship with (however frayed) for several years won’t even look you in the eye – how do you fight to stay? I know people do it. I also know that there are those who can sleep well at night as they tell themselves that “business is business” as they make bloodless decisions that profoundly affect the lives of the people they are financially entangled with. My husband isn’t one of those people. And he’s definitely not a person who can deal with those sort of people.

I had fantasies where Declan and I stormed the landlord’s office (he has never met us so he wouldn’t know to hide the way he did when Dan showed up), and asked him, if he couldn’t face my husband, to face us – two people who count on Dan – and justify his actions. To look at us and tell us that he hadn’t worked out details with Dan before disappearing behind his glacial attorney. It would have been manipulative (not to mention very daytime TV drama). But if that harebrained scheme somehow miraculously worked, then where would we be?

We’d still be in a business where the owner of the building had clearly demonstrated that he has no understanding or regard for what the club is, was and has been. It has never simply served a small group of people from the neighborhood nightly – it has always drawn people to the area from all over the city, and sometimes even the state or region. (And obviously musicians from all over the world.) Unfortunately, it will be long gone before civic leaders and the landlord realize this. And I do believe that eventually, they will realize this. All of you Richard Florida groupies who research the reasons cities like Austin or Pittsburgh have an easier time attracting the “Creative Class,” put this one in the minus column.

So… anyone have a line on an ice cream truck?

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End of an era

We have had a rough couple of weeks. You can read about it here (my husband’s business).

There is too much to say about this. Closing looks basically inevitable at this point, it’s just a question of when. After many sleepless nights, I am working on at least trying to do something positive and focus on collecting and preserving the legacy of the place.

Within hours of putting out this notice through Internet channels on Friday, we received about 25 emails where people laid out some of their memories, and they keep coming in. There are some incredibly moving testimonials that aren’t just about particular shows, but the deep sense of personal loss people feel over the shutdown of their countercultural home – a place that helped to shape some part of their identity (for better or for worse), even if they haven’t come though its doors in some time.

We’ve had our moments where we’ve lamented the shows our son won’t get to see. And the fact that he won’t be old enough to remember running around on the stage where his parents got married. I cannot imagine ever wanting to lay eyes on it again after we have left. (This is assuming that whoever is signing the lease that is undermining and forcing Dan out might leave the stage standing. I almost hope they do not.) I definitely will not miss the stress Dan has endured under this landlord for years.

At any rate, these are going to be a long last couple of months.

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Mommies gone wild

My husband owns a live music nightclub.

I feel pretty comfortable bringing my baby to its quieter acoustic shows. There’s a smoking ban in Columbus, so the air is clear, and Declan loves music. We have places where we can escape if the crowd seems too overwhelming.

But there is one peril I hadn’t anticipated: the drunken mommy factor.

At two recent shows – first, David Lindley and second, Jimmie Dale Gilmore – moms with the night off had already hit the tipsy point when they spotted us. In the first case, a woman I know who is a mom to two elementary school-aged kids started talking to Declan and instantly making him smile. I didn’t realize until after I’d agreed to let her hold him and released him into her arms that her balance wasn’t quite all it should be. Another friend and I kind of put our palms out and buttressed her in case she teetered too much, until I could extract my baby safely back into his sling.

On Saturday, my brother-in-law and nephew came to the Jimmie Dale show, as anxious to see Declan as the music. I handed him off to his Uncle Rob directly. Shortly thereafter, a woman started screaming “OH MY GOD, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL BABY! IS THIS DAN’S BABY? OH MY GOD!” and before I knew it, my son was again in the arms of an intoxicated mommy who clearly hadn’t held a baby in far too long. While Rob sort of ran after her to prevent a disaster, another woman ran up to me to tell me it was clear that it was clear that Declan had “a certain spark that draws people to him.”

For the sake of our son’s safety (as well as the peace and goodwill of his patrons), Dan came to the rescue. He practically had to pry Declan away from his captor and her friend, who was obnoxiously smushing her nose into his cheek. We stuffed him back into his sling and hung out at the sound board (off-limits to the general public) for a few minutes.

No sooner were we back with Declan’s uncle and cousin than old drunko had returned, forcing us into hiding again.

I guess I’m going to have to stay in hiding until May if I want to keep my baby protected from Bird Flu…

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The big stink, part 2

The house continued to smell of lethal stink-marker when we returned from one night at my mother’s.

Being a musician, my stepbrother did nothing about the stench except sleep at his girlfriend’s house. But he called the next day to tell us that our neighbor to the south now had the smell too.

Because our landlord owns all three of these properties, we finally called him from my husband’s cell phone when we were out to dinner. He immediately called the fire department and the fire marshals managed to arrive and leave before we got home.

According to my stepbrother, they didn’t even bother to fully apply the brake on their vehicle as they gave him the news – this smell was expected because the city sewer line was being worked on a block away. The vapors weren’t flammable or dangerous, they told him, in fact, they were “harmless.” If we just poured water down our basement drains, maybe even ran water for a while, certainly opened several windows (conveniently in October, when the weather was cooling off and natural gas bills are higher than ever) the smell would go away.

We went in and turned on faucets and dumped big pots of water in the basement trap drain, but the vapors were still unbearable and headache-producing 20 minutes later, so we returned to my mother’s for the night. My husband called the fire department and told them he defied anyone to actually come into the house and leave still calling the fumes “harmless,” but all they did was apologize and say that we should have been warned.

The next day the place still stunk. We kept dumping water, running water, turning on fans despite the crisp fall air and calling various Columbus city departments to find out what exactly the name of the chemical they were using in the sewer was. We were bounced from the fire department to the city water and sewer department to some other department called “new construction,” who finally told us that it was styrene, and they would be using it about one more week. Everyone also apologized that we weren’t warned, but they hadn’t expected it to travel a block up to us. They added that we could keep a rag in the trap drain to help stop the smell.

Styrene didn’t sound exactly “harmless” to me, so I made further calls to a national center on toxic substances, saying I was concerned for myself and my 4 and a half month old baby. I received a call from a man the next morning telling me to call the health department because they should be able to measure the amount of styrene in the air. I could take the baby to the doctor to see if there was any neurological damage, but styrene comes and goes from the human body so quickly it would be hard to measure. He also just said to document everything that happened for possible future liability and then told me I should worry about Bird Flu instead.

I talked to the health department and they brought us a fax with facts on styrene while we were out at the zoo to escape the lingering smell.

It’s now been two weeks since the original experience, and we’ve mostly gotten the smell under control, but I’m nervous about what the effects of this really were. There were three days in which just checking out the place gave me a headache, and we’ve all had sniffles for days.

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The big stink, part 1

A week and a half ago, we woke up in the early hours of a Thursday morning with a strange and powerful stench wafting through the house. It wasn’t the rotten eggs smell they put into natural gas lines, or the nasty stink of sewer gas. The only thing I could compare it to was overpowering permanent marker, like the tip of a massive Scripto had been plunged over our house.

Our next door neighbor (who also happens to be my stepbrother and a musician) is reliably up at hours like 4 a.m. pretty much any night of the week. Dan went next door to see if he had the smell too. In the 10 minutes or so that he was gone, I had a panic attack as I imagined us spontaneously combusting. I grabbed the baby, his diaper bag and my purse and headed out the back door, leaving it open so our dogs and cat could escape as well.

Dan was visiting with a group of people at my stepbrother’s house. Basically, the entire closing-time crowd from a bar up the street had relocated to his living room, where the stench was nowhere to be found. People snuffed out cigarettes as I walked in with the baby and started doting on him immediately. Declan was full of sleepy smiles, so he attracted several drunken hippie chick satellites in a matter of minutes. He loves being the center of attention.

A couple of the guys went back over to our house to check things out and see if they could distinguish the smell. Mostly they said “huh, smells like permanent marker.” I called the gas company to ask questions. Not their department. They didn’t even have a suggestion about who to call. There was a chorus of hypotheses from the bar crowd: a dead raccoon under or around the house, some weird smell drifting up from the ravine, or the most popular; that the furnace had kicked back in after months of warm weather. Everyone agreed, including a tipsy electrician who was in attendance, that it was clearly not gas.

After an hour or so, the smell had abated a bit, so we went back home, lit some incense and went back to bed.

The next day, Dan found that a water pipe that had been shut off during a summer plumbing job was also connected to our heater (we have steam heat). He felt certain that this was the source of the smell – the heater trying to run without enough water. He got the water back on and one of the radiators started leaking. He tried to shut it off and it wouldn’t budge. He called the landlord and they decided to shut the heater off until someone could come on Monday. The smell wasn’t so bad, as long as we stayed upstairs.

But on Sunday night, the house was thick with the smell again – it was unbearable, no matter where you went. I called my mother and asked to stay at her house, and while I was gathering things for our overnight stay, my stepbrother called to say the stench was now in his house too. He was going to stay at his girlfriend’s house, but he would make some calls to see what else he could find out.

To be continued…

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The ghost of Frankie Avalon

Originally uploaded by tzt.

Last night, we went to bed to the sound of cries of “Oh my God, Oh my God! I can’t believe we fucking LOST!” all over the neighborhood. The neighborhood being on the perimeter of the Ohio State University campus and the timing being moments after the Buckeyes crashed in the ballyhooed football game against Texas.

Our neighbors change year-to-year, and sometimes quarter-to-quarter. The apartment building full of yutzes behind us has been transformed into a tolerable mix of quiet, foreign grad student families and one annoying hosebag who likes to ride around the parking lot on one of those pocket bikes nightly. (Look at me! I am a GIANT!)

The houses around us largely contain working folks, but there is one place where the highest form of humor is clearly Budwesier commercials. You know you’re in trouble when a house full of undergrads turns on a red and blue neon “Open” sign in its picture window every weekend night and has a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker stuck to a board that’s been nailed to a tree about 12 feet above the pavement.

But last night, they were mostly quieted by the outcome of the game, where the most hilarious sign in the crowd simply said “Austin is better than Columbus.” Riots only bust out when OSU wins.

Meanwhile, our year and a half old puppy, Arrow, barked incessantly in the living room as we were trying to fall asleep. I thought it was the endless parade of hangdog drunks who were stumbling down the street muttering “Why, God, WHY!?” that were bothering him. But my husband went to investigate and found that the arch-enemy of peace in our home was a Dora the Explorer beach ball that I roll Declan around on when he’s having gas pains. The inflatable toy was eerily moving in circles on the hardwood floor in the living room, spun by wind from a fan.

Here I was, still annoyed at him for eating a half a stick of butter off of the kitchen counter the night before – mainly because it transformed him into a butter-obsessed beggar. But incidents like that one mostly serve remind me that I live with two babies.

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