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Archive for April, 2009

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Right from the start I knew which Columbus Corner I’d write about.  As I thought about why, I couldn’t determine if it was because the corner is something that I’ve come to expect, or if its because it contains the unexpected.

The corner of Thurman and Jaeger (43206) is just three blocks from my house and it’s an intersection with which I’ve been interacting for years.  Today it is somewhat of an anchor point for the south end of German Village and the north end of Merion Village.  Home to multiple businesses – Easy Street Cafe, the German Village Diner, Thurmans and The Dog Works – these businesses have been the anchors of the corner for years.

New arrivals include Bakery Gingham, Niko’s barber shop and All About the Dogs – a self-serve dog washing emporium.   The corner is active throughout the day as the businesses here cater to a wide variety of patrons.  Various types of residential housing units are included at this intersection.   Condos, apartments, row-houses and single-family homes are available in just about any price range.

The building that houses Easy Street Cafe and The Dog Works is my favorite because it represents a good example of low-density land use.  While only two businesses are currently housed within, the building was built to accommodate three or four, as is evident by the door/window placement on the ground level.  The second floor was laid out to accommodate the same number of residential units.

Its likely that the shop owners lived upstairs, as was common during the era when this building was erected.  Along Jaegar ran a streetcar line which stretched south to Hanford Street, then continued south down Fourth Street.  There is no off-street parking dedicated to this building because it wasn’t necessary at the time of construction.  Consequently, this building has a very small foot print (42’ x 70’), en masses 5,880 square feet and generates just under $10,000 a year in property taxes alone.

Though the building (and intersection) came about over 80 years ago, it remains an integral part of two neighborhoods.  The once standard combination of business/retail remains relevant today, attracting and complimenting a wide range of housing types, fulfills the needs of small businesses and allows residents to shop local.  It is a model such as this that should become, once again, a standard throughout Columbus.

This project brought to you by the Columbus Social Media Cafe

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“I promise you that we’ll meet Ira Glass before the year ends” I told him. Since Fish lives in Chicago, I figured this should be relatively easy. Someone we know must know someone who knows someone who knows Ira Glass.

When I heard about the This American Life simulcast, I rushed on-line to buy our tickets. And while we wouldn’t actually be meeting Ira Glass, it was at least a step in that right direction. Live via satellite is pretty close. If for some reason my initial promise failed to be executed, at least I could say that we saw him live via satellite.

A miscalculation on the time of the show caught me off guard. I’d heard about the show while in the Eastern time zone where the show would start at 8:00p. It never really dawns on me that Chicago is in a different time zone. When we’re not in the same dwelling, we’re interacting with one another on line – Fish in his time zone and I in mine.

So at 6:30pm when Fish said that we should get going, I figured that he was giving us enough time to find a decent parking spot and arrive with enough time to get good seats. “No,” he said. “It starts in thirty-minutes. Its live – and that’s seven o’clock Central.”

We found a parking spot on Diversey at 6:55p just two blocks from the cinema on Western Avenue and were in our seats by 7:03. The show had already started and on the giant screen, there he was – Ira Glass, live via satellite.

Minutes later Ira introduced Mike Birbiglia who told his story about being involved in a car accident and his struggle with legal processes involved. Inside, while we watched Mike tell his story, live via satellite, the car that we had parked outside was being smashed into other cars, live on the street.

As the show progressed we often commented to one another about the endearing impishness of Ira Glass. “He sounds so much younger, doesn’t he?”

An hour later and having left the theater, Fish and I were walking back to the car. From a block away I noticed that his parking job seemed less remarkable than I had remembered. “A man of such elocution would never parallel park that poorly,” I thought to myself. The flashing lights from the police car and tow trucks somehow escaped as clues to what may have happened.

It became obvious from about fifty-feet away that something had happened to the car after we had left it. “Honey, I think something has happened to your car.” Once there, we were met by a cop, two tow-truck drivers and a handful of residents from the building in front of which we parked.

The story of what happened was unclear, but the results were six smashed cars, five on one side of the street, and one on the other. The driver of the offending vehicle sat in the back of the police car, while his brother spoke to him through the window. Fish asked various people for an explanation of what had happened. One man showed us pictures he had taken from his cell phone. “Look,” he said, “I have an aerial view,” which proudly displayed. He’d taken it from his third-floor apartment.

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As the severity of the situation sank in, we had to come to grips with our options. Tow the car, but to where? What’s the cost of towing? Is the car totaled? Could it be driven at all? Of course, I had one selfish thought of my own; “This means I’ll have to take the bus to Union Station on Sunday night, and we’ll have to say our good-bye’s from Fish’s front door rather than from the curb on Canal Street.”

A series of events, some live, some live via satellite, including now two stories about smashed cars, and all of them a matter of precise timing, despite time zones and locations. A synchronistic fate, indeed.

We settled on having the car towed to a body shop across from Wrigley Field, then walked a couple blocks to share a pitcher of margaritas before taking the Red Line home. By the time we returned home, the night’s events felt far removed.

photo courtesey of S. Cornelis

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Last week I was notified via Twitter that one of my neighbors was considering turning to the use of public transportation when her car became unexpectedly unreliable. A friend recommended that we get in touch with one another.

Considering the fact that we live two blocks apart, we must have certainly crossed paths over the past few years, but we’ve never met. However, my newly discovered neighbor is weighing her options with regards to her daily commute.

Every time I think to get on the bus, I put it off until tomorrow. In the end I don’t know if I can do it. I used to take the bus when I first moved to Columbus (in fact I was completely convinced Columbus had great bus service until I realized I just moved to the right neighborhood!). The #5 route was convenient but being able to move faster than a snail’s pace is really nice.

I want to highlight this neighbor’s thoughts as she contemplates her own COTA Challenge. The conversation has already started on her blog, so have a look and feel free to weigh in on the topic.

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My sister lives in Minneapolis and I haven’t physically seen her in five years. Earlier this week we had a brief video conference so that I could help her with her computer.

On my flight home from Paris in February I saw my previous neighbor from Salt Lake City. Perry wasn’t physically on the flight. He was one of the flight attendants in the safety video.

Perry’s cousin Tom who lived in Germany knew my friend, Kabir, who grew up in Afghanistan. They’d met in Kenya. Kabir now resides in Canada.

My close friend Steve resides in rural Ontario in a town with a population of 700. There I met an artist whose partner works in Toronto. He knows my friend Kabir. They used to work in the same industry.

I used to work with a man by the name of David. After knowing one another for six years, we discovered that we grew up five miles apart. His uncle knows my mother. We no longer work for that company – and he now lives in Texas. We video conference when we want to talk.

One night many years ago when I was in Finland and couldn’t sleep I turned on the TV at 4:00 in the morning and saw a news report from Frankfurt. The reporter was interviewing a friend of mine, Jürgen, who lives in Germany.

On the subway platform in Helsinki I received a message from a friend in Columbus. He reminded me to stop by the office of a publisher. I’d have forgotten otherwise.

When I wake up at 1:30 in the morning in Columbus, I turn on my computer and talk with my friends in Finland. It’s 9:30 in the morning there.

My boyfriend (he prefers the term “inamorato”) lives in Chicago. We’d met on line nearly two years ago. When I was in Chicago last fall, before the relationship developed, I’d forgotten that he lived there and I didn’t know to reach him. We’d only ever talked on line. When I returned to Columbus, we reconnected via the Internet.

These days he and I ‘talk’ throughout the day via e-mail. My hand-held device lets me know when he’s sent me a message. When I visit him in Chicago, I text him from the bus and he meets me at Union Station. Last weekend we were roller blading together in Toledo. Today I sent him a photograph while I was in the Short North.

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Tonight I met his sister who lives in Columbus. She and I are in the video you’ve just watched. She and her husband had planned to join us in Toledo for Easter weekend, but discovered that she had to remain in Columbus. I sent her a link to the photos I took over the weekend which I uploaded to a web site. We’ve been e-mailing one another, planning for the event that we attended this evening at the Wexner Center.

Next week while I’m in Chicago I’ll be meeting with a transportation engineer who also lives there. I’ve not met him, but he’s a regular reader of this blog. I sent him a message via Facebook. He suggested that we meet for lunch.

Doug lives in Columbus and we’ve never met, but we know him from Twitter. I passed him one night in German Village while he was having dinner at the Mohawk. We share our travel itineraries on Dopplr. He’ll be arriving in Chicago just as I’m leaving.

The Wexner Center event, known as Continuous City, is about exactly what I’ve just described. It is a one hour and twenty minute multi-media on-stage installation that demonstrates how we are now ‘present’ in multiple locations at almost any given time. Time, in fact, is almost irrelevant in the current structure of our lives. Time is no longer equated with distance and distance no longer with time.

The concept is fascinating – and it can also be alienating. The human animal requires human interaction and new technology helps bridge the gaps. As much as it tries, however, our electronic interactions cannot replace the true presence of those we know. It does, however, allow us to meet those we would have never met without it.

Continuous City plays in Columbus for two more nights, Friday and Saturday, before moving on to Spain.

Experience it and then think about your life and those with whom you have relationships.

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Airs and Dances
an evening of live music and dance

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Friday April 17th at 8:00pm
Saturday, April 18th at 8:00pm
Sunday, April 19th at 2:00pm
Friday, April 24th at 8:00pm
Saturday, April 25th at 8:00pm

The Fisher Theatre at
Columbus Dance Theatre
592 E. Main Street
Columbus, OH

Hixon Dance will be presenting four new works in our upcoming show “Airs and Dances” with all live musical accompaniment! Featured music includes works by Debussy, Poulenc, and local composer Jacob Reed.

Performers include: Jeff Fouch (dancer), Matthew Gardner (clarinet), Elizabeth Goodrich (dancer), Molly Hogan (dancer), Gregory Mack (dancer), Sean Milliff (tenor), Melissa Muse (dancer), Maggie Page (dancer), Emily Patronik (bassoon), Jill Wright (cello), Stanley Wolfersberger (piano), and Zoe Rabinowitz (dancer).

Tickets are $15 adults, $10 students and seniors.
Sold at the door, or in advance.

For more information, please visit www.hixondance.org

You have five chances to see the show, so don’t miss it!

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It’s time for a quick COTA Challenge update.

Year to date (first quarter, 2009) I have spent $81.25 for 48.27 gallons of gas for the car (there’s still a quarter-tank left). This includes one round-trip drive to Indianapolis.

In a somewhat related story…

Last weekend I ran into Columbus realtor who had just listed a condo a block away from my house, which is on the bus line. I asked if the listing included information about the bus line.
“No, no, no”, the realtor said shaking their head back and forth.
“Why not?” I asked.
“People who are willing to spend $214k don’t want a bus running in front of their house,” I was told.
“Really?”, I replied. “I’m willing to spend that amount on a place in Chicago and it damn well better be the first thing out of the realtor’s mouth,” I replied.
“Well, Chicago – yes. But not here,” replied the realtor.

Interesting isn’t it. That somehow people in Columbus expect less, or have lower expectations than do, say people in Chicago.

Is it that people in Columbus expect less, or that we don’t know what to ask for? Could it be that traditional realtors are actually short-selling themselves by not asking the questions? Is the information being withheld or could the information be used to start a dialogue?

It got me thinking about expectations – and now that I’m driving less, I have time to actually use my brain for more productive functions. But given the chance to spend $214k on a condo/flat/townhouse, wouldn’t you rather spend it in a city that comes with a full-fledged transit system?

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