Voting For The Mayor

I’ve worked in Columbus for 30 years, but I’ve never had a chance to vote for the Mayor of Columbus — until now.

Columbus is one of those communities where the central city is ringed by suburbs.  Our houses have been in the ‘burbs, rather than the city of Columbus itself, and when it comes to local government in central Ohio you vote where you sleep.  As a result, although for three decades I’ve spent most of my waking workday hours toiling away in downtown Columbus, paid Columbus income taxes, and enjoyed city activities and contributed to city coffers in countless ways, I’ve never cast a ballot for the Mayor and City Council members whose decisions have directly affected my daily activities.  Our move to German Village, which is in the city of Columbus, changed all that.

As I’ve noted before, Columbus is a reflexively non-partisan place, so it’s not surprising Columbus would have a non-partisan approach to electing a mayor.  The four candidates, from both political parties, have had four debates and will face off in a non-partisan primary on May 5, and the two top vote-getters will advance to the general election.  The candidates include current City Council president Andrew Ginther, who is seen as the favorite, Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, Terry Boyd, former President of the Columbus School Board and the only Republican in the race, and James Ragland, the development director at the Cristo Rey high school.

As a voter and now a Columbus resident, what do I care about?  Mostly, it’s continuing the culture and trajectory set by current Mayor Michael Coleman and his predecessors.  I want the city to stay a low-key, friendly, collaborative place that welcomes everyone regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.  I want more downtown development, and I’d like to see the wave spread to other neighborhoods, like Franklinton and the near east side.  I support tax policies, increasing school quality, and approaches to policing and physical security designed to reverse suburban sprawl and encourage businesses and people to locate in the city and its neighborhoods.  And I want to maintain the focus on spurring the things that are causing Columbus to be recognized nationally as a cool place to live — things like more and improved parks, community events and cultural activities, lots of good restaurants and places to spend an evening, and interesting and affordable neighborhoods where people are rehabbing and restoring old buildings rather than tearing them down.  Whether the mayoral candidates support legalized marijuana, which was a topic at one of the recent debates, is very far down my list of issues of importance.

In the period between now and the May 5 election I’ll be studying the candidates and their positions on issues of importance to me.  I’m excited about my first opportunity to vote for the mayor of Columbus, and I want my decision to be an educated one.

Thumbing It

The other day I inadvertently caught my thumb in a door I was closing.  My thumb throbbed, I cursed, and then I realized with a start that until my poor pollex was 100 percent again I was totally unable to fully participate in essential activities of modern life.

The development of an opposable thumb has long been viewed as a crucial step in the human evolutionary process.  The thumb is a simple body part, made up of bones and hinges.  Yet the fully opposable thumb is unique to humans, and its development allowed humans to become complex organisms.  The thumb permits us to grip items securely and throw them accurately.  The thumb is essential to the use of the fine motor skills that allow us to perform detail work.  It is what made humans into toolmakers and tool users.

In the modern world our thumbs are more important than ever before.  They are our principal texting digits.  Your thumb performs the swipe that unlocks your iPhone.  Your thumbs anchor your hands on a computer keyboard and pound the space bar when you type your report.  Your thumb is what empowers you to open a clutch purse, use a bottle opener, pry open a child-proof container, and take notes with a pen.  Of course, it also allows you to signal an interest in hitchhiking and indicate ready assent in a noisy place.  The list of activities that require a thumb is endless, and it will continue to grow as inventiveness moves our species toward even greater reliance upon handheld devices.

With the enormously increased use of our thumbs these days, you’d think that doctors, physical therapists, and surgeons would be besieged by people with thumb-related ailments — but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  The humble thumb abides.

Mature Muppets

It’s not like I was a huge fan of The Muppet Show or anything, but I’d watch it from time to time.  It was a corny, vaudeville-type variety show that had decent music and good guest stars who were willing to interact with puppets, and so long as you didn’t have to endure too much of Gonzo or the Swedish Chef it was perfectly good entertainment.

Now the Muppets apparently will be returning to network TV, in a show that will will have the mock-documentary format popularized in The Office and what is being described as a “more adult” approach to the characters.  Among other things, the new show apparently will get into the Muppets’ “personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, break-ups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires.”

Ugh.  Put aside the undisputed fact that the mockumentary format has been done to death.  Do we really have to get into mature themes with characters that have always been comic relief?  I’m all for puppets, claymation, and stop-motion characters in movies, but don’t ask me to believe that they are struggling with real-world problems.  I don’t want to know the sordid back story of the two insult-hurling old cranks in the balcony, or why Fozzie Bear wears a Yogi Bear hat and doesn’t recognize that he is offensively unfunny.  I can’t bear the thought of a sincere, romantic scene between Kermit and Miss Piggy, either.

Many great TV shows were ruined when they ran out of ideas and decided that the only plot device left was for a lead male and female characters to fall in love, get married, and have a kid.  The Muppets would be better advised to stick to the kid stuff.

 

The Ponytail Puller

Politicians are a weird and often unfathomable breed.  The weirdness isn’t just limited to American politicians, either.  Take John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Key is under fire because he repeatedly tugged on the ponytail of a waitress at a cafe he frequents in Auckland — even after she told Key’s security people, and later Key himself, that she didn’t like it.  When she finally went public with Key’s conduct, and he started to be criticized for it, he apologized, said his ponytail pulls were meant to be “light-hearted” and not intended to make the waitress uncomfortable, explained that the cafe was a place where had a “warm and friendly” relationship with the staff that involved “fun and games” and “practical jokes,” and gave the waitress two bottles of wine.

Anybody who’s ever been bullied recognizes this scenario.  The bully invades your personal space and does something physical that they think is funny, their sycophants dutifully laugh at the antics of their leader, and the bully keeps rubbing your head or punching your arm every time they see you even though you ask them to stop.  If they get caught in the act by a teacher, they insist it’s all simply joking between friends — one of whom just happens to be bigger and more powerful than the other, who always seems to be the butt of the “jokes.”

Key’s conduct doesn’t just reflect a bullying attitude, though — it also reveals the power relationships to which politicians the world over become accustomed.  Most of us would never dream of physically touching a waiter or waitress, much less doing something as painful, intrusive, and asinine as pulling a ponytail and continuing to do so even after being asked to quit it.  Key did it because, surrounded by security people and wearing the mantle of national leadership, he could.  It’s the same attitude of power and entitlement that makes American politicians unconcerned by the fact that their motorcades and security cordons inconvenience normal folks and makes them mad when an average person has the temerity to question what they’re doing, their motives, or where they are getting campaign contributions from.

In Key’s case the hair-yanking probably gave him a little thrill and direct sense of power, besides.  Anyone care to guess how many of the “practical jokes” at the cafe were pulled by Key on the unfortunate members of the staff and how many were directed at him?

Pots Forsaken

There’s been a game-changing development at the coffee station on my floor.  The old multi-pot coffee device — the kind that is directly linked to the water supply so that steaming tureens of joe can be prepared to sate the thirsty appetite of java junkies — has been ignominiously unplugged and cast aside.  Now we’ve got a Flavia machine instead.

IMG_5158Is this change a big deal, really?  I’ll say!  The old machine was my dependable morning friend.  Every day when I got to the office my inviolate routine was to head directly to the coffee station, turn the machine on, remove the basket, insert a fresh filter, cut open a coffee packet and dump it in, press the brew button, and then listen to the hot water and coffee grounds start to cluck and burble and work their caffeinated magic.  By the time I checked email and finished my first few chores of the day a fresh pot was there, black and fragrant and ready to fill my cup.

But coffee habits have changed.  Now when you walk around downtown Columbus you inevitably see throngs of people carefully gripping their coffee cups, taking a scalding sip now and then as they head to their workplaces.  Some of them won’t drink “office coffee” any more, so there is less need for multiple pots of coffee on the burner, and much of the coffee that is brewed goes unconsumed and ultimately gets poured down the drain.

Hence, the Flavia.  Rather than making a hearty, bubbling pot of coffee, it hisses out a solo cup prepared from pre-measured foil packets that slide into a slot that snaps out of the machine.  And it’s not really a full cup, either — as least not in my massive mug.  No, the Flavia machine fills to about the halfway point and stops.  It makes my morning coffee look a bit lost and overwhelmed and forlorn, but at least I’m not being wasteful.

The Champs And The Chief

The reigning college football champions visited the White House today, and President Obama made the Ohio State Buckeyes feel welcome and appreciated.  We may not agree with the President on all things, but he did a good job of spotlighting the defining qualities of this team of stalwarts:  they were a resilient bunch who didn’t back down after some initial adversity and showed true character in winning an improbable championship.

Kish wonders why Presidents spend their valuable time visiting with sports champions and similar cultural figures.  I don’t.  America is about a lot more than politicians and business leaders.  Our sports and sports heroes help to define us and illustrate many of the traits that we think have helped to make our country great — traits like competitiveness, grit, and drive, and a refusal to quit when the going gets tough.  The Buckeyes deserved a little recognition from the nation’s Chief Executive for their unforgettable season, and kudos to President Obama for deftly handling that small but nevertheless important task.

When I’m 65

Last week I was walking home from work when I saw the shoe shine guy outside the Key Bank building.  In the past he’s offered a shoe shine, in a very friendly way, and this time I made the spur of the moment decision to accept his offer.  Why not take a few minutes for an old-fashioned personal service and come home with some spit and polish?

He turned out to be a good guy who did a really fine job on my shoes, and I’d definitely recommend him and use him again.  As I sat in his chair and we talked, however, the conversation turned to our ages, and the shoe shine guy guessed that I was . . . 65.

IMG_5157“65?  Wait, seriously — 65?”  I was somewhat flummoxed.  “I’m only 57!” “Sorry.  I guessed wrong,” the shoe shine guy said, and then he went back to his work, flipping his brushes and applying his polish and snapping his towel as I stewed about the fact that I evidently look almost a decade older than my actual age. I gave him a good tip when he was finished and then headed home, trying not to walk with an old guy shuffle.

Kish gets a kick out of this story, and so do I.  I’ve never been vain about my appearance because there’s absolutely nothing to be vain about:  I’m about as average-looking as you can get.  I know that as I’ve put on mileage I’ve acquired grey hairs and creases and wrinkles I didn’t have before.  I’ve always thought, however, that you’re only as old as you feel and have tried to maintain a youthful attitude.  Now I know that rationalization doesn’t apply to the exterior me — the shoe shine guy has confirmed it.  If a guy who is working for a tip overshoots by eight years on his age estimate, you’ve got no room for argument or self-deception.  You’re squarely in AARP territory.

Today, as I celebrate birthday number 58, I’ve adopted a more nuanced perspective on the shoeshiner’s comment.  Who wants to look like a kid, anyway, and fret about whether their skin is smooth and their hair has the dewy sheen of youth?  Why not embrace with the Keith Richards alternative instead?  I apparently look like I’ve packed a full 65 years of living onto my 58-year-old frame.  That’s not a bad thing in my book.