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Archive for the ‘Stop’ Category

Nothing says “Thanks for visiting Columbus” better than Smackies Original Pit BBQ on the corner of Broad and James. The airlines seldom serve food on flights and some good ole BBQ might just make your trip more pleasant.

If you happen to transfer en-route to Port Columbus at the intersection of Main and James you might have enough time to run into BP and grab a soda and a bag of sunflower seeds.

Transferring at Livingston and James will offer no amenities for your flight.

But don’t despair, because if you happen to transfer at Fifth Avenue and James you’ll be able to get in your “greens” with something close to a fresh picked salad of sorts.

I bring these images to your attention because I still find it outrageous that getting to Port Columbus via public transportation from anywhere in town requires a transfer on James Road.

COTA route 92 is the only dedicated route serving Port Columbus, and while it runs from just before six o’clock in the morning until just before ten o’clock in the evening, it is perhaps the last place a visitor would be inclined to venture if they were leaving the city.

COTA routes 1, 2, 6 and 10 connect from downtown to James Road, which gives one plenty of options to get to James Road, but once there one finds themselves in a virtual “no man’s land”. James Road has no “branding” as a gateway to Port Columbus. Additionally, the 92 runs at about 30 minute headways, so if a traveler were to misconnect, they’re stuck there for a period of time that makes waiting a bit uncomfortable.

COTA’s route 52 offers service from OSU to Port Columbus on certain dates in January, March, June, August, September, November and December – likely coinciding with the university’s noteworthy dates (move in, spring break, etc..) but this service isn’t really dependable for the general population.

Port Columbus just opened up the Green parking lot on the corner of Stelzer and 17th touting $4 per day parking. It might have been a better investment had Port Columbus partnered with COTA to create reasonable and convenient bus service in and out of the airport. Another parking lot only encourages automobile use and thus, more congestion.

Considering downtown Columbus is less than ten miles from Port Columbus (Experience Columbus calls it “10 minutes from downtown”), there should be a more convenient public transit option. The current options of transferring at James Road require at least one hour – and take the rider to an environment that will make them think twice before ever using COTA to get to and from Port Columbus.

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Annexation and Taxation

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Next week the City of Columbus is asking me to vote to raise my income tax by a half percent.  That’s not a huge increase in the overall amount I’d pay annually, but it does represent a 25% increase.

Over the course of nine years my property taxes have more than doubled.  They’re still at a reasonable rate and I can afford them, but a 100%+ increase is a lot.

Paying for schools, teachers and basic city services is something I can support.  Even some of the extras are nice.  Clean parks, clean river (someday maybe), adequate recreational facilities – the amenities that make life enjoyable.  I’m willing to pay for those things.

The challenge I have with the city asking me to raise my own taxes is that part of the reason we need more money to run this city is because of sprawl.  In 1970 Columbus comprised 146 square miles.  By the year 2000 the city was comprised of 220 square miles (click the photo above to see the larger map). Logically speaking, my tax dollars are now being spent to provide infrastructure to outlying areas rather than supporting and improving the existing infrastructure.

Trash collection, fire protection, police patrols – all of which require covering hundreds of square miles would be less expensive if the city served the same population within more  confined boundaries.  Roadway expansion is expensive and expensive to maintain.  Miles and miles of new gas lines, water lines and sewer lines must be built to connect these outlying areas.  At the same time, inner city neighborhoods sit idle – such as the near-east and near-west side.  Annexation has led to core neglect.

The land grab, designed I suspect to create a larger geographic tax base may be akin to gluttony.  It’s a model based on scarcity rather than abundance.  “Hurry up and get what you can before someone else gets it” rather than “let’s live well within our means”.

Perhaps the city was simply following the population trends and attempting to capture the tax revenue as it moved out.  The city could have, however, used its tax revenues to improve the existing environment as a method of preventing urban flight.

Certainly Columbus is not the only city that has attempted to use annexation as a growth formula and we’re not the only city facing financial difficulties.  Going forward, however, Columbus should stop spreading city services “out” and focus its resources on providing city services to a more centralized core.  A growth model of ‘up’ needs to be put into place.

Walker Evans makes similar comments (and states them better than I have here) at his site, The Walker Evans Effect.

I’ll consider raising my income tax by 25% if the city of Columbus can guarantee that the  additional revenue will not go to further annexation.

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On April 19th Carrie Prejean, the California contestant in the Miss USA pageant, found herself in an awkward situation when she was asked about same-sex marriage by celebrity gossip columnist Perez Hilton.  Like a deer in the headlights, the ill-prepared Carrie Prejean stumbled with incoherent statements that mirrored the conservative views of her family, her ministers and supposedly Jesus Christ himself.  Many believe her answer led to her loss of the tiara.

Suddenly, however, Carrie Prejean has become the new-found spokesmodel for divisiveness, prejudice,hatred and intolerance.  I doubt however, that she’d ever considered a career in this as a student at the San Diego Christian College but she appears to have taken the reins and is leading the team down the streets of todays segregated media outlets.

Less than a month after stepping into her own words while wearing pretty high-heels, she has hired a Christian public relations firm and recently announced that she would star in a $1.5 million ad campaign funded by the National Organization for Marriage, a group which hopes to continue to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

What I find remarkably sad about this entire debacle is that Carrie Prejean is making a social splash, profiting actually, from the business of discrimination.  She is not the only person in California to vote in favor of Proposition 8 but the others are not earning paychecks because of it.  Even more troubling is that there are “Christian” companies that claim to be acting in the name of Jesus while making profits from the business of intolerance.

History is repeating itself because a little more than thirty-years ago Anita Bryant stepped onto the stage espousing similar remarks filled with hatred and intolerance.  Anita herself was pageant queen.  She rose to fame as a singer and later as the spokes person for the Florida Citrus Commission.  It was when Anita Bryant chose to make the move into the politics of hatred that her career imploded.

Sadly Carrie Prejean doesn’t even have a career yet but the fame-seeking runner up appears to be building one on the very precepts that brought down her Sister of the
Tiara.  Anything that Carrie Prejean chooses to do with her life will now be mired in this controversy.

She may sign a $1.5 million ad campaign today, but how likely is it that audiences will flock to see her on the silver screen five years from now?  The paid-for breast augmentation by the Miss California USA organization may not be enough to salvage the career aspirations of Carrie Prejean – who is studying to be a teacher in Special Education.

Recently Carrie Prejean said she was praying for Perez Hilton.  And in 1977, the Anita Bryant camp said the same thing to the protesters, who at a news conference in Des Moines, gave her a pie in the face.  A pie in the face is a rare act, even today, but the proverbial pie in the face for Carrie Prejean has already been launched.

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Bar Exam

The thought had never crossed my mind, but when a friend stated that he felt we’d been raised by generations of dysfunctional men, I spent weeks pondering the comment.

“The behaviors we display towards one another and our expectations of one another have been taught to us by dysfunctional gay men.” The behaviors he claims, were learned, adapted and passed on by a marginalized and ghettoized culture that grew out of shame and self-loathing.

While gay men may no longer see themselves as a marginalized population, a ghetto mentality remains remarkably close to the surface. I had to look at my own experiences to make sense of the concept.

While I never really had to “come out” because I grew up in socially progressive Minneapolis, I didn’t participate in gay culture until I found myself in Los Angeles at the age of twenty. I befriended a colleague who lived there, and together we’d hit the bars in West Hollywood weekend after weekend.

Within the bars of West Hollywood I learned how to compliment a handsome man and I learned what to do when I was met with no response. I learned how to ask someone to dance, and then ignore him while I watched the video screens which hung over the dance floor. I learned how to send a drink to a stranger at the other end of the bar and to be thanked with only a nod of the head and then do the same myself when someone sent one to me.

I learned that a conversation I might strike up with someone was subject to interruption when someone better looking walked into the room. I learned that well-built shirtless men danced together in a specific corner of the dance floor. I also learned that the time frame immediately following closing was referred to as the “side walk sale” and I learned how not to be left out of that. I learned that if I had a couple of extra drinks these things didn’t bother me as much.

These lessons are not exclusive to gay men, but for most the bars were the only place to express oneself without overt ridicule. Ironically it is within the bars that we learned how to covertly ridicule one another. Pornography taught us how to physically respond to one another. Our movie stars didn’t teach us how to kiss.

For decades gay men have had few places to meet outside of the bars that were populated only in the cover of night. For the longest time these bars were tucked away in back alleys or in unpopulated areas of town. Gay men had to relegate themselves away from the general population for the sake of their personal safety. Its just the way things were. Take the concept of social isolation, persecution and degradation and “the bars” become the ideal place in which to commiserate and self-medicate. Multiply this by decades and imagine the effects on cultural identity.

It might have been Los Angeles in 1985 but the social lessons learned were taught by the veterans who’d fought before me. The four-star generals led the troops into battle with vodka-tonics in hand.

Regardless of whether I was in Los Angeles, Salt Lake, Billings, Berlin or Amsterdam, the behaviors were relatively similar. While the gay scene in Berlin may have been more progressive than the scene in Billings, the bars remained the primary place for socializing.

Fast forward to 2009 and gay men continue to use bars as a primary social location. We may have our own bowling leagues, softball leagues, rugby teams, choirs and fraternal organizations but when the game, concert or convention ends, it’s off to the bars. Granted, I’m speaking in general terms and there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. And yes, I have met some interesting people in the bars with whom I’m still in touch. My point is that perhaps, as we march towards social equality, our progress may be be limited by our cultural ties to the bars.

Columbus hosts one of the largest gay pride events in the mid-west. Its interesting that during the week-long celebration leading up to the festival itself, it is not our museums, concert halls or libraries that fill with out-of-town’ers. It is our bars. When the local “bear” group (referring to a once original sub-set of gay men that held its values outside of mainstream gay culture) hosts its annual event, men from around the country come here not to attend workshops hosted by established community leaders. Rather, they come here to eat, drink and get laid.

Could it be that this continued behavior is a case of arrested development? Think about the cultural implications of not being allowed to hold hands in public but having access to physical interaction in the dank little booths of New York’s 8th Avenue “theaters”. Think about having to remember to change the gender of your spouse when talking about them at work, but knowing that it’s okay to get a blow job from a stranger in a park. What happens when you see that guy at the Palace Theater with his wife two weeks later?

The vast array of psycho-social-sexual possibilities become so complicated that its no wonder gay men continue, well into middle age, to choose the bars as a preferred method of socializing. It may not be the ideal setting in which to act out a life, but it is at least a place where a disjointed culture can be mitigated with various levels of merriment and/or intoxication. And so the cycle continues.

The bar culture sends coded messages to its next generation even today. Straight adolescents do not see their role models hanging out in bars. They certainly participate in their own bar culture but typically move away from that culture as they take on more responsibilities, such as a spouse, career and family. Young gay men, however, see their progenitors running around to bars at age fifty and beyond. Could it be that the underlying message is that, socially, the bars are the only thing we have to aspire to?

Understand that I’m not opposed to enjoying a couple martinis every now and then and a PBR on a summer afternoon can really hit the spot. The challenge I face when wishing to meet an interesting man with whom I can converse is that it almost always requires participation in the culture of the bars.

Access to a wide range of personalities can now be accomplished via the Internet and that is an option that many men now prefer. As they were designed to do, computers allow for the faster processing and sorting of data. Thus, meeting and interacting with men with similar interests has accelerated such that I can communicate with men in London and Los Angeles at the same time from the comfort of my own home.

Long distance friendships are easy to acquire and far easier to maintain because of the new electronic medium but they are not adequate replacements for human interaction. Essentially the gay ghetto is now available as an on-line action game. In response, some of the gay on-line chat rooms now sponsor ‘bar nights’ where those who socialize on line can socialize face to face – in the same cultural setting that is seemingly inescapable.

When we tell our out-of-state gay friends that Columbus has twenty-six bars could it be that we are telling more of a story that we care to admit?

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Park-o-Lot

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The big square box in the photo above is the Kroger on Parsons Avenue, with a large parking lot in front. It’s never full, even when the first week of the month rolls around.

Now, look at the two yellow [school buses] parked in the lot just north of the Kroger store. That area is also part of Kroger’s parking lot. A “land mass” equivalent to six single-family home sites, sits vacant, with the exception, as one can see here, of four parked cars.

The “empty lots” contribute $2,027 in property taxes. Perhaps a reasonable amount, considering they are producing nothing. But that’s just it. Those lots are doing nothing.

Likely part of a parking-to-retail ratio when the Kroger store was built (1998), these empty lots create urban blight. A collection point for litter and ad-hoc car repair, this is another example of poor land use.

Even with a modest level of property taxes, six new homes on this “should-be” in-fill site, would generate $104,000+ in taxes and create an opportunity to provide new housing, as well as bolster the adjoining properties value. With a land value of over $100,000, I can’t imagine why Kroger hasn’t filed for rezoning so that they could be sold off. Worse still, is why the City hasn’t offered to rezone the lots for the sake of creating more revenue for itself.

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24/7

The twenty-four hour grocery store. Kinko’s is open all night. Most every service company has call centers open around the clock. I delighted in knowing that I could pick up fish sticks at one o’clock in the morning on those sleepless nights.

As a former transatlantic flight attendant who lived in Salt Lake and worked in New York, my schedule was a mess. Merchants who catered to my hectic life would be the beneficiaries. “Hooray for the brilliance of the American retailers”, I told myself.

This was not my feeling when I’d find myself in Germany on the weekend. I cursed the labor unions that gave workers Sunday off. I’d rush around Wiesbaden late Saturday evening, stocking up on the essentials, such as bread, cheese and fruit, (and beer) just like everyone else.

Rogue convenience-store owners in Finland stayed open longer than labor unions desired, creating a massive public dialogue over such greed. I supported their efforts because salt and vinegar chips sustained my dietary needs.

Now, as one of those seven-day-work-week guys, I’m finding that I’ve lost connections to friends because we simply can’t find common times to socialize.

Instant messages and text messages allow me to “bump” into friends and acquaintances at any give hour of the day or night. “Are you going out?” “We should get together soon”, being so common that I can now type them faster than ever. My social life, outside of work, has been relegated to two-dimensional static images of people with whom I used to speak.

With one common day off for everyone, our lives could return to the third dimension. Americans could return to personal dialogue, physical {hugs} and the exchange of ideas that are the root of democracy.

Might not America be a better place if, for one day a week, we were to stop filling our personal voids with a trip to the mall? We measure our nations wealth with the amount of good consumed, but we’re doing little to fuel our emotional livelihoods.

I agree, it’s a tough proposition. It takes two incomes to support one home. A generation ago, it was one income, one home. A generation be for that, one income often supported a home and a summer cabin. Maybe, however, it’s because we’re placing value on the wrong things.

France has reduced working hours to 35 per week, with the recommended day off being Sunday. Finland has experimented with a 6-hour workday. Finland also pays workers 13 months of pay, annually. Sweden mandates a minimum 5-week vacation. (Interesting note is that these countries have far less crime than does the United States).

While we chase money to fund our American dream, perhaps we’re lost the very time needed to capture them.

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