Seeing The Way Clear

For the last year of so, every day on my walk to work and on the way home I’ve faced this same scene at the corner of Rich and Third Streets in downtown Columbus.  They’re putting up a new building called 80 on the Commons.  I’ve watched the construction of the building with interest, but walking past the site has been a royal pain.

They’ve closed the sidewalk and one lane of Third Street so construction workers and equipment have room to work.  As a result, we pedestrians have been shunted off to a narrow temporary walking lane with a chain-link fence to one side and a row of orange barriers to the other.  And just on the other side of the orange barriers, so close that walkers could easily reach out and touch them, are cars, trucks, and buses speeding down Third Street.  Third Street just happens to be one of the main ways out of downtown, and it’s always jammed with fast-moving traffic.

It’s unnerving to be so close to the traffic, and it became even more so when I was started walking down the channel one day this winter and discovered that some driver had smashed into the row of orange barriers, crushing a few of them and knocking the rest out of line — which made me have to climb over the helter-skelter barriers to get to work.  I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t walking down the lane when that incident occurred.  Interestingly, they didn’t appear to replace the crushed barriers, they just made the barrier row shorter — which means that when you emerge at the north end of the row the orange barrier row ends before the fencing does.

The temporary walking path has gotten pretty disgusting, too.  Trash gets blown into the channel or is dropped by thoughtless jerks and gets trapped there, so you’re always picking your way around the newest food wrapper or soft drink can to be added to the debris field.  You’d think that somebody on the construction crew or from the City of Columbus would be responsible for picking up and disposing of the trash, but the interests of downtown walkers apparently aren’t a high priority.

The signs on the chain link fence have been telling me that 80 on the Commons is coming in the summer of 2018.  Well, it’s the summer of 2018 already — and I’m still waiting.  It looks like they are finally getting ready to end construction and reopen the sidewalk.  I’ll be grateful to finally see the way clear to the office again.

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Tearing Down And Building Up

They’re in the process of demolishing the old Columbus Africentric School building along Livingston Avenue, adjacent to German Village.  As of yesterday, the site was home to mound of rubble, lots of heavy equipment, and one sad, lone section of the old school building yet to be torn down.

The Africentric School had been unused for a while, and it had become both an unkept eyesore and a weedy squatting ground for homeless people.  But then the property was bought by Nationwide Children’s Hospital from the Columbus City Schools at the end of 2017, and NCH has announced that after demolition is complete and the debris is removed, the property will be paved and turned into a parking lot.  Given the amount of construction currently underway for Nationwide Children’s Hospital — with multiple buildings and garages being built along Livingston Avenue in the area between the Columbus Africentric property and the original hospital complex — many people suspect that the former Africentric grounds won’t remain a parking lot for long.

With the old school building gone, walkers along Livingston Avenue will have a better view of the eastern part of downtown Columbus — for a while, at least. I’m generally not a fan of surface parking lots, but abandoned buildings are never welcome in a neighborhood.  I’ll take a well maintained parking lot over a crumbling magnet for vagrants, vandals and graffiti practitioners any day.

NASA Turns 60

Today NASA celebrates its 60th birthday.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 on July 29, 1958.

63a69251ab87b6532a23a84672c0bb66NASA replaced the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, and President Eisenhower viewed the creation of the agency as an historic step, “further equipping the United States for leadership in the space age” and allowing it to make “an effective national effort in the fields of aeronautics and space exploration.”  You can read the full text of President Eisenhower’s signing statement here.

It is not unusual for federal legislation to be hailed as historic when it is signed, but in the case of the National Aeronautics and Space Act that prediction was entirely accurate.  I think it is safe to say that NASA has met, and greatly exceeded, the goal of allowing the United States to make “an effective national effort in the field of aeronautics and space exploration.”  The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the space shuttle and international space station, and the many unmanned probes and devices that have allowed us to better understand our solar system all bear the indelible imprint of NASA.  NASA has taken human beings to the Moon and brought them safely back home and has given us up-close looks at Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons.  NASA’s efforts have also helped to push advancements in science, technology, and other areas that have now become part of our lives and culture.  By any measure, this still-sprightly 60-year-old has been a spectacular success.

Some people reflexively complain about the creation of any federal agency, but NASA is an example of how mobilizing an effort at the national level and entrusting it to knowledgeable people can accomplish great things.  With private space exploration and travel looming on the immediate horizon, and Congress currently considering how to regulate those private efforts going forward, it will be interesting to see what the next 60 years bring for NASA — the little agency that could.

Blue Bar

The Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan is probably the bluest bar in the world. With blue lights overhead, a blue backdrop, and tiny blue lights embedded in the bar itself, it has maxed out the blue decorating options. The results are truly over the top, and the only thing missing is blues for background music.

As I sat at the bar drinking a glass of wine on Friday night, though, I wondered — would this be a place you’d want to frequent if you had the blues?

Hamlet At The ‘Gonq

We ended up at the Algonquin Hotel last night. It’s known as the location of the Algonquin Roundtable, where Dorothy Parker and the American literati of the ’20s held forth. It’s also known as the home of Hamlet, the house cat. There’s been a house cat at the ‘Gonq for at least 90 years -and I think they’ve all been called Hamlet.

This morning, Hamlet was guarding the front desk when we left. I’m not a “cat person,” but I think a house cat is pretty cool.

Stranded In NYC

My flight out of LaGuardia got cancelled, no other flights home are available tonight, and we’re trying to find a hotel that can put us up for the night.

Oh, yeah — it’s raining, and apparently every other flight out is being cancelled too.

When that happens, the lobby of the Roosevelt hotel is as good a place as any to make some calls in order to find a room. They don’t have any rooms, but at least it’s dry.

LaGuardia is not my favorite airport.