Some nights, I just don’t get a good night’s sleep. I’ll doze off for small, fitful chunks of time, have an unsettled dream, wake up with the wisps of the dream already fading, a racing heartbeat, and a dose of heartburn, look at the clock with a groan, and then try again. Usually in the 4 a.m. time frame I jolt awake, give up on trying any more, and decide I might as well start the day.
When that happens, as it unfortunately did this morning, I like to open the windows, let the cool morning air wash in, look out the windows at the street light and empty sidewalks, and listen to the crickets against the blanketing backdrop of silence. 4 a.m. may be an out-of-joint time for us humans, but it seems to be prime time for the crickets.
It’s odd, but we seem to have far more cricket sound in our new semi-urban house in German Village, with its tiny gardens and yards separating buildings that are only a few feet apart, than we ever had in our suburban home in the rolling, white-fenced countryside of New Albany. Perhaps the cricket noise is just more noticeable in the pre-dawn quiet in this place and setting, where we expect to hear people walking past and the sounds of cars rattling down the brick-paved streets.
I’d always prefer a sound sleep, of course, but when it just doesn’t happen it makes no sense to fight the reality, tossing and turning and becoming snarled in twisted sheets and blankets. Far better to get up, enjoy the skin-tingling gusts of cool air that waft through the opened windows, appreciate the darkness and solitude, and try to develop a zen-like attitude and reflect on the world during a time of great calm. The cricket symphony in the background helps.
Grandma Webner always said that she wanted to have a doctor in the family. Alas, none of her sons or grandsons were able to fulfill her wishes — and the lawyers in the family just didn’t have the same cachet as an honest-to-goodness M.D.
Today Grandma Webner would be happy camper because our family has added the next best thing to a doctor — a nurse. Our niece Brittany Hartnett learned that she has passed all of her boards and is now officially a nurse.
It’s great news for Brittany and her family, and it’s also nice to see the good things that can happen when someone follows their dream and works very hard to see that dream realized. Becoming a nurse takes a lot of effort and dedication and stamina, to say nothing of a strong stomach and an enormous reservoir of patience and goodwill toward humanity. There’s a chronic shortage of nurses in the United States, and it’s reassuring to know that talented young people like Brittany are stepping up to answer the call and fill that important need.
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: the same brands of cars, equipped in precisely the same way, are sold in both the Midwest and New York City. Even more surprising, there is no difference whatsoever in the configuration, design, or volume of horns in the cars sold in those two areas of the United States.
This seems impossible to believe, given the difference in honking practices between those two areas. In Columbus, Ohio, you almost never hear a car horn. Even in the face of the most egregious, selfish driving maneuvers imaginable — such as making a tardy left turn, blocking an intersection in heavy traffic, and stopping all movement on the crossing street — Columbusites will never, ever hit the horn. It’s as if some prissy Miss Manners long ago declared that the rules of driving etiquette prohibited honking: it just isn’t done. And when Midwesterners, in moments of extreme angst, do lightly tap their horns, they will blush and look around to see if anyone they knew saw them commit such an appalling faux pas. They obviously feel a deep sense of shame at their lack of personal control, like they just farted in an elevator.
In New York City, on the other hand, it’s as if drivers were actively looking for excuses to honk. I suspect that Manhattan drivers’ training classes teach you to drive with one hand at 10 o’clock and the other positioned directly over the horn at all times. In fact, I imagine that one full day of instruction is devoted to understanding the different levels of honking responses. An NYC honk is never a single beep; the mildest option is a full-throated, goose-like triple honk and the scale ranges up to the ear-crushing continuous blast that can only be produced by an enraged, snarling driver who is leaning his entire body weight into hitting the horn to the maximum extent. There doesn’t seem to be any relationship between the degree of traffic transgression and the appropriate honking response, either: it all seems to depend on the stress levels of the driver. If your day has sucked and you’ve been inhaling exhaust fumes forever in those concrete canyons without making much progress, you might just welcome a mild violation of road rules that lets you unload some of that stress.
If you don’t believe me, take this test. Go to the intersection of Broad and High Streets in the center of downtown Columbus and listen for a car horn. You won’t hear one, even in the distance. Go to any part of Manhattan and do the same thing and you will realize that the honking is so prevalent that it just blends into the cacophony of background noise.
Do drivers in Manhattan have to take their cars in for servicing on their horns? When people go to buy a used car in the New York City area, do they always test the horn to make sure that it works?
I wanted to write about the Browns’ improbable — in fact, impossible — come-from-behind overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens today as soon as the game ended, but I was so stunned by the result that my fingers refused to function.
Let’s face it — no one expected the Browns to beat the Ravens in Baltimore. The last time it happened, George W. Bush was President. And for the Browns, it was probably 1,000 head coaches and 1,000 starting quarterbacks ago. But today, they did it.
Russell informs me that the Browns defense has the highest payroll in the NFL. You couldn’t tell that by today’s game, when the Browns got gashed on the ground and made Joe Flacco and his second-string receivers look like studs. But the Ravens inexplicably became conservative when they had the chance to score the clinching touchdown in regulation, the Browns D made a stop to get the game to overtime, and then it forced a three-and-out to get the offense the ball and a chance for the winning field goal. I’ve never seen a defense so soft against the run and so incapable of sacking the quarterback or forcing turnovers — but the Browns won, anyway.
And how about Browns’ quarterback Josh McCown (or, as UJ has called him in moments of weakness, “McClown”)? He’s put up big numbers in the past three games, he threw for more than 400 yards today, he led the offense on several key drives, he didn’t throw an interception, and he spreads the ball around to skill players who can actually make plays. The notion that the Browns would score more than 30 against the vaunted Ravens defense is absurd — but with McCown at the helm they did so, anyway.
Of course, Browns fans everywhere are pumped about the victory and are looking forward to more offensive fireworks to come. I’m going up to the game next weekend, for a matchup against Denver that is perfectly set up to be a horrible disappointment. Don’t blame me for my pessimisn . . . I’m just a world-weary Browns fan who’s seen the little sparks of hope in seasons past die horrible, soul-crushing deaths before.
So I’m not even going to think about next week’s game. For now, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.
Kasey came to the office with me today and decided that the little nook right underneath my desk was a good place to camp out. She doesn’t particularly care for the elevator ride up to my fifth-floor workplace, but she likes the walk to the downtown area and the feel of my office carpeting just fine.
It’s always interesting when a new restaurant opens in your neighborhood. And the initial visit is often the crucial one — when first impressions that could become lasting habits are formed. Friday night Kish and I went to Copious, a new restaurant and entertainment venue on High Street in German Village, and it passed the crucial “first taste” test.
First, a note about the ambiance. Copious has a very bright feel and open floor plan, with colorful artwork and not much in the way of interior walls, especially in the dining area. The design creates a kind of bustling sensation, with plenty of background murmuring from nearby tables, that you often find in big-city bistros. In short, it’s not the kind of dim, quiet place, with secluded nooks and crannies, that you would want to frequent if, say, you were one of those Ashley Madison schmucks having an affair. When we were there the place was crowded with the younger set and codgerdom alike, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
The food was also very much to my liking, and for that matter, so were the prices. I ordered the smoked Ohio brisket, which our waiter advised is one of Copious’ most popular dishes. Having consumed it with relish, I can see why. The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth moist and well-seasoned, and I particularly liked the “smoked walnut and mayfield road creamery bleu cheese cake” that accompanied the dish, which was a sharp, tart counterpoint to the savory meat. Kish had the shrimp and grits and reported that it also was excellent.
Kudos, too, to Copious for the reasonable portion size, which was just right for me. I’m tired of being served plates covered end-to-end with groaning portions of food that couldn’t possibly be eaten by a normal person, and it’s nice to see a restaurant that is moving in the direction of portion control sanity. Perhaps for that reason, the prices were quite affordable, and even with before-dinner drinks and a shared dessert — a moist piece of blueberry maple milk cake that was very tasty — our bill was below $60.
Copious has a companion venue, called Notes, that is under the restaurant and offers a full calendar of live music. We didn’t drop in on Friday, but I’m glad to see a live music venue in the ‘hood. I have no doubt that we’ll be checking out Notes in the near future.