Living In A “Secondary City”

I ran across this article from the Washington Post about how people who live in places like New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are looking to relocate to “secondary cities.”  One of the “secondary cities” that these people are looking at is Columbus, Ohio; others on the list include Nashville, Atlanta, Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon.

207_german-1564_std-700x469You see, according to the article coastal big city dwellers are discovering, to their apparent astonishment, that you can actually live a pretty nice life in places like Columbus.  Hey — decent housing is actually affordable in Columbus and other “secondary cities”!  And you know what?  There are things to do in Columbus, too!  There are good jobs here!  There are actually some pretty decent restaurants in Columbus, and craft breweries, and parks, and cool neighborhoods, too!  And here’s the biggest surprise of all:  the people who live here aren’t like the filthy toothless hillbillies prowling the woods in Deliverance, either!

It seems like every few months there’s a news article in the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times, or one of the other big city newspapers about how places like Columbus and Nashville and Austin are unknown gems that New Yorkers and Angelenos are just starting to discover and appreciate.  We put up with the articles, but I have to object to the phrase “secondary city.”  Sure, it’s nicely alliterative, but of course it’s dismissive in that mildly sneering east coast/west coast way.

“Secondary cities”?  Secondary to what?  Cities where you have to fight through gridlocked traffic every day?  Cities where you have to pay thousands of dollars every month for an apartment the size of a broom closet?  Cities where legions of homeless people are camping out on city streets and flea-borne typhus outbreaks are occurring?  Cities where crime and murder rates are serious problems?  Cities where taxes are crushingly high?  Cities where the other residents have an arrogant attitude that resonates through everything they do?

No, I don’t think places like Columbus or Indianapolis or Nashville are “secondary cities.”  We’re right up there at the top in terms of economic growth, standard of living, and quality of life.  If people from the coasts haven’t realized that by now, that’s their problem — not ours.  And if they want to move to Columbus they’ll of course be welcomed, because that’s the kind of friendly, open place we are.  But please: leave the “secondary cities” ‘tude behind, will you?

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Grammar 101

Trinity Episcopal Church, at the corner of Broad and Third Streets in downtown Columbus, has a cool arched red entrance and a welcoming message for all just above its two front doors. But . . . “An House of Prayer”?

It violates one of the rules of grammar that were drilled into students back in grade school — namely, that you use “an” when the following word starts with a vowel sound and “a” when the following word starts with a consonant sound. It’s one of the many weird English grammar rules that trip people up precisely because of letters like h, which can be pronounced in some cases and silent in others — so you write “an honor” but “a house.”

So how did the friendly message above the front door at Trinity get bungled? I don’t know, but I may have to go inside to see whether there are violations of other key rules, like “I before E, except after C, or where sounded in A as in ‘neighbor’ or ‘weigh.'”

An Evening With Sir Elton

Last night Kish and I went to catch the Columbus performance of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. The singer-songwriter has been on the road performing for 50 years, and this is said to be his last tour ever.

It’s a show that’s well worth catching. Sir Elton performs with a group that features — in addition to a piano, of course — guitar, bass, synthesizer, and no fewer than three percussion set-ups. It pumped out a huge amount of sound. In fact, the volume was a bit too cranked up for my taste, and at times you could feel the bass and drums vibrating your seat and rattling the fillings in your teeth. But the band did a great job with the playlist, and Sir Elton himself was in good voice and can still tickle the ivory with the best of them.

As we enjoyed songs like Border Song, Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, and Someone Saved My Life Tonight, I thought about what a huge star Elton John was in the ’70s, and just how many hits he’s produced. Although he didn’t perform my favorite (Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters), the show was a powerful reminder of just how insanely talented this man is. By the time the band finished its encore with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Sir Elton rose into the backdrop and then stepped onto the yellow brick road on the jumbo video screen to walk into the distance, you realized that he occupies a level that has been reached by very few musical performers.

The guy is a living legend. How can you pass up the chance to see him one last time?

All Beers Are Not Created Equal

Deutsche Bank has performed a useful service for travelers who enjoy a fermented beverage now and then:  its latest Mapping The World’s Prices report includes a pint of beer as one of the cost items being surveyed.  As a result, beer fans (like me) can get a sense of the comparative cost of a glass of suds in 50 different cities around the world.

save-pubs-hed-page-2018According to this year’s report, the most expensive pint is in Dubai, in the Arab Emirates, where the average cost of a cold one is $12.  Oslo, Norway is the only other city to exceed the $10 barrier for a brewski.  The most expensive beers in the U.S. are found in New York City and San Francisco — no surprise there — where you’ll pay an average of $7.70 and $7.40, respectively, and Boston isn’t far behind at $6.70.  The cheapest pint can be found in Manila, in the Philippines, where beer afficionados can slake their thirst for only $1.50.  Columbus isn’t one of the 50 cities on the list, but in my experience the beer costs here are closer to the Manila end of the spectrum — which is one of the many nice things about living in Ohio’s capital city.

But while the Deutsche Bank report is useful for travelers who might want to factor in beer costs to their trip planning, it really doesn’t tell the whole story.  A beer isn’t always just a beer.  To me, at least, whether we’re talking about a lager, an ale, one of those infernal bitter IPAs that seem to dominate beer menus these days, or something else, would make a real difference.  Even $1.50 for an IPA would be more than I would pay.

And the setting is important, too.  I’m guessing that someone coming into a pub from the fiery heat of Dubai might consider $12 for a cold one to be a bargain.  And speaking as someone who particularly enjoys the dark, warm, woody ambiance of a real British pub like the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, I’ll gladly pay $7.20 that is the average cost of a beer in London.

Getting The Axe

Today I took a different route home and discovered that Columbus has a places where you can throw axes: Dueling Axes, in Fourth Street. And since Dueling Axes describes itself as Columbus’ premier axe-throwing venue, I’m guessing that means there’s at least one other, perhaps more low rent place in town where you can hurl axes and let off steam.

When did axe throwing become a thing? Is it really BYOB, as the sidewalk sign indicates? Does Ed Ames* know about this? And who decided that an axe-throwing location should be called a “venue,” anyway?

* Vintage Johnny Carson Tonight Show reference

The Random Restaurant Tour (XXI)

Sometimes, you just want something quick over the noon hour.  Yesterday, work demanded that the New Mentee and I get back to our desks promptly, so she suggested that we head to the Elia Athenian Grill.  It’s in one of the storefronts along High Street near the corner of Broad and High, where a lot of food places have come and gone in recent years.  Unlike some of its predecessors, Elia has shown some staying power.

Elia Athenian Grill is designed for the busy worker who is not going to be lingering over lunch.  You order at a counter, choosing from four base options — a pita, a salad, a grain bowl, or a “mixed bowl” — and then you identify toppings to be added as you move down the line.  By the time you reach the cashier and pay your food is ready and you grab your tray and head to one of the nearby tables.

I went the pita route, and had them assemble a pocket of “chicken yeero” — chopped chicken, helpfully presented on the menu in phonetic fashion for those of us who always wondered exactly how “gyro” is pronounced — with onions, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce.  And, because the preparer behind the counter said it was “traditional,” she added a few french fries on top.  I’m not sure that french fries are in fact traditional Greek fare, but the meat was good, the sauce added a pleasant zing, and adding a few fries meant that I got a reasonably limited exposure to french fries without have to deal with a mound of them.  In short, the pita was good, and filling.

The New Mentee went for something called a Power Green Mix salad, which featured kale, romaine, spinach, chards, and cabbage, hummus, olives, some kind of non-meat substance that looked like meatballs, and God knows what else.  There was a lot of leafy green stuff in that bowl, so I tried to avert my eyes and not give it too close an inspection.  Clearly, the New Mentee needs mentoring in the food department!  Nevertheless, I did observe that, after eating about half of the Power Green Mix, she walked back to the firm, clutching her carry-out bowl, with a demonstrably more powerful stride.

Elia obviously has a solid core of regulars; the Bus Riding Conservative came in when we were there and no doubt grabbed a Power Green Mix to consume at his desk.  And the New Mentee was right — we were in and out in 45 minutes, easy.  Elia Athenian Grill is a good option if you’re in downtown Columbus looking for something speedy . . . or a Power Green Mix.