I’ve been living here in Columbus, Ohio since 2006 when I came here for grad school. “Why would you come to Columbus,” people ask, when they know I was raised in California. And the answer is, the math department here offered me good money and it has a lot of top-notch world-class researchers in stuff I’m interested in. But besides that, Columbus has grown on me over the years. The weather is not as nice as sunny San Diego, but I’ve definitely come to call cbus home.
Politicians like to talk about Wall Street vs. Main Street, and that always cracks up a Columbusan, because here the main street is actually High Street, and the pundits never say jack about High Street, so I guess we’re on our own! If you started driving high street in either direction indefinitely, its name would change and you’d eventually hit Canada or the Gulf of Mexico. But in the middle, you pass right through the center of Columbus. High street is the city’s main artery, supplying blood and oxygen to all the extremities. And along high street, like early settlements along the Nile, you’ll find all the civilization you need. You’ll find the Ohio State campus, largest campus in the U.S., where you’ll see plenty of people in red if it’s a game day (brotip: don’t wear Michigan colors if you can help it). All around the campus you’ll find campus bars and campus restaurants to your heart’s content, with never a shortage of young people hanging out. Five minutes further down High, you’ll find South Campus Gateway, which has a lot of bars and clubs. Beyond that, you reach the Short North, which again, has a lot of bars and clubs. Take a right turn and go down a block and you’re in Arena District with, you guessed it, lots of bars and clubs. And go just a bit further and you reach Downtown, with High Street passing right in front of the state capitol.
In practice, a San Diegan doesn’t actually hit the beach that often, and a Las Vegasan doesn’t hit the strip that often, and barely any Tokyoites have ascended Tokyo Tower. The point being, big tourist attractions don’t really add much to a city when you actually live there. Which is good since here in Columbus, there’s nothing like that. Well, maybe the zoo, I guess. We supposedly have a really good zoo. But like I said, people who live here seldom go. There’s no particular attraction in Columbus to which people gravitate, so for entertainment it’s a bit of a frontier: striking out into the wilderness and finding places, like Skully’s (with Ladies Eighties every Thursday) or BoMA (a nightclub built in what used to be a giant gothic Church), Bernie’s (the campus dive, where a few bucks will get you wasted and a few more will get you blacked out and either way you should take a good long shower afterwards) or the Big Bang Bar. Like the frontier, the gold is well-hidden, and a more ambitious expedition could lead you to a hidden gem like Therman Cafe (hope you like burgers the size of your face) or Akai Hana (where you can drink sake in an authentic wooden box-cup), or it could just as well lead you to the middle of freaking nowhere.
Sure, you could go online and look up where the best places to go are… but that’s like playing a game with a strategy guide. It’s what a visitor might do. When you live here, you should explore, and gradually gain levels in Columbus expertise.
Speaking of exploring, this city is great if you’re into Urban Exploration. Step off High Street in most any direction and you won’t have to go far before you find some sort of abandonment, beckoning for someone to sneak in and take hundreds of photos and post them anonymously online. You could go your whole life and never finish sampling the delicious, beautiful urban decay. And even if you did run out of old buildings to break into, Cleveland and Cincinnati are both within driving range.
I’ve sat down a few times now and tried to pen this article. I figure since I’m a world-class blogger and I live in Columbus, and somebody’s gotta write about the experience living here, it might as well be me. And I always gave up because I tried too hard to glamorize the city and transmute it into something it’s not. This ain’t no New York City and it ain’t no Las Vegas and it ain’t no San Francisco. But sometimes, you know, you just wanna lay back a bit, you want to hang out with regular guys, maybe have a barbecue, maybe smash some bottles on the street. And Columbus is that casual laid-back guy, in city form. It’s not a unique city. It’s just like any number of others, or maybe, just like almost all the others, except it’s hard for me to pull out any single example of a city like Columbus, because by their very nature they don’t stand out, just like you probably wouldn’t list Columbus if someone asked you to list twenty U.S. cities. And that’s just fine.
Well, there is one glamorous thing that makes the city stand out. It’s home to Sam Alexander, world’s most awesome guy. That’s me. I don’t know how much longer I’ll live here, so now’s the time to see the city at its peak.