Independents’ Day On Gay

I had to work today and I’m glad I did, because today was “Independents’ Day” on Gay Street, where the firm has its offices.  As I was working this morning I heard Independents’ Day organizers setting up the Gay Street sound stage and tents right outside my window.  They blocked off the street and had mapped out squares of the street for use by chalk artists, who began to work their magic.  Soon thereafter street vendors and stands for various artists, radio stations, newspapers, community organizations, and groups set up.  It was a beautiful day, and the atmosphere was loose and festive.

The view from my office window, looking down and west on Gay

The view from my office window, looking down and west on Gay

By the time I was wrapping up my work for the day the first acts began to perform on the Gay Street stage, and the chalk art on the street below began to take shape.  I listened to some fine sets from the Andy Shaw Band and Bush League All Stars — who did an excellent rendition of the Beatles’ I Dig A Pony — and then was struck by a band called Burglar which featured a stand up bass, fine guitar, keyboard, and drum work, a female horn player, and a lead singer wearing hot pants.  They were pretty good if I don’t say so myself, and provided some very enjoyable music to keep me company.

Chalk artists and stands outside the venerable entrance to VSSP at 52 East Gay

Chalk artists and stands outside the venerable entrance to VSSP at 52 East Gay

After I finished with work I went down and walked around.  I admired the work of the chalk artists (who included Richard’s friend Roland and his girlfriend, whose name I unfortunately have forgotten), listened to some more music, and browsed around some of the stands.  There was a dunking tank for members of the Ohio Roller Girls roller derby team and a group called “Art Squatters” had taken over the vacant bank building at the corner of Gay and High and set up some interesting artwork there.  The folks whose apartment is directly across the street from my office had the windows wide open and were loudly proclaiming their efforts to break a hula hoop endurance record.  The crappy photos accompanying this posting, taken with my Blackberry, are a dim attempt to capture the almost ’60s-type atmosphere.

Sunlit chalk art on Gay Street

Sunlit chalk art on Gay Street

What is Independents’ Day?  One of the people I talked to said it is simply a way for the various independent organizations in Columbus to get out into the community, bring people together, and hopefully get some attention.  Whatever it was supposed to be, it was a lot of fun, and the kind of thing it is important for downtown areas in cities like Columbus.  Cities need periodic festivals and gatherings where people can congregate, mingle, and enjoy the cityscape.  Gay Street is the perfect street for such an event because it is centrally located one block from the Ohio Statehouse and has an interesting variety of turn of the century-type buildings (i.e., no building more than 10 stories or so), wide sidewalks, and readily available parking.

If you read this on September 19, consider going down there and supporting a new event that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Apparently they are going to be showing movies by local filmmakers this evening, projecting them right on Gay Street.  Pretty cool!  Next year I might just make a full day of it.

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Organic Odyssey

First Lady Michelle Obama apparently is a big fan of vegetable gardens, organic food, and healthy eating.  She encouraged a group that runs farmers markets in the D.C. metropolitan area to set up a market near the White House, and on Thursday she decided to visit the market to buy some “organic Tuscan kale.”  This story — which emphasized how her one visit inconvenienced workers and residents in the area, the “carbon footprint” of her one block drive to the market accompanied by Secret Service agents and staff, and how much the hoity toity offerings at the market cost — was the result.  

Mrs. Obama thinks that organic foods are important to healthy eating.  Although a recent study in the United Kingdom disputes that conclusion — and although I personally wouldn’t recognize “organic Tuscan kale,” much less eat it, under any circumstances — supporting healthy eating seems like as good a “First Lady cause” as any.  Her experience with the farmers’ market just confirms that the First Family lives in a fishbowl, where legitimate security concerns make it impossible for the President, or the First Lady, to do simple everyday things without great dislocation and expense.  Articles like the linked piece inevitably will result.

A bigger concern for the Obamas, I think, is that emphasizing much more expensive organic kale, or free range animals, or eggs laid by chickens in the wild, is going to strike many Americans who are going through tough economic times as weird and totally out of touch.  A home vegetable garden, which Mrs. Obama planted at the White House earlier this year, is just fine.  A visit to an upscale market that features “organic dandelion greens” for $12 a pound, when many Americans are dining on the cheapest box of Kraft macaroni and cheese to save a few bucks, sends a message that probably isn’t helpful to the President.  Talking about her discussions about vegetables with “kings” and “queens,” as she did on Thursday, doesn’t seem like a good message, either.