Putting The “G” In Goodbye

The people of Columbus generally, and German Village specifically, got some bad news this week: G. Michael’s Bistro is closing after more than twenty years of operation. The news of the restaurant’s closing was abrupt and was a shock to those of us who were G. Michael’s “regulars.” Apparently, the end came because the proprietors of the restaurant could not reach agreement with the owner of their building about a new lease. You can read their farewell message here.

We went to G. Michael’s, over and over and over again, because we always knew we could count on it for a fine meal and excellent service. I’ve had so many terrific dishes there, and I’ve written about some of them–like the spectacular duck sausage and white bean cassoulet appetizer featured in this 2017 post and pictured below. (I can still taste its delicate and succulent flavors in my memory.) We loved that the menu changed every so often, always giving us a chance to try something new while preserving a few never-changing standbys, like the shrimp and grits. And we also loved that it was only a block away from our house.

The closing of our favorite restaurant is hard to swallow (bad pun intended), and we’re not alone in that sentiment, as the sign above indicates. That’s because the relationship between “regulars” and their go-to dining option transcends a mere business relationship. The people at G. Michael’s knew us, and we knew them; we were greeted as friends by the always cheerful parking attendant as we approached the door and happily greeted again when we entered and walked to the host’s stand. Since we moved to German Village in 2015, we probably have eaten there more than 100 times–by ourselves, with family members and friends, and hosting large groups. I inevitably took clients who were in town on business to G. Michael’s because I knew that it would impress my guests about the quality of Columbus dining, the excellent fare, and the cool, relaxed German Village setting.

Now I’ve have to find a new favorite restaurant, and that sucks. G. Michael’s will be sorely missed.

Thunderheads On The Horizon

Summer in the Midwest is a time of storms.

I’d forgotten the awesome majesty of a Midwestern summer storm. I’m not talking about a rain cloud or two that brings casual showers. No, I speak of the real golly whoppers, the kind that bring banks of huge, dark, enormous clouds rolling in from the west, piled on top of each of each other until the clouds seem the reach up to the very heavens, turning the sunny skies into an angry canvas streaked with black and charcoal and an ugly yellow. The kind of storms that filter the sunlight into a dim twilight and leave the air feeling heavy and almost electrically charged.

I’ve experienced these storms walking to and from work this week, and it’s brought back some of those Midwestern reflexes. You scan the skies and listen for the low rumble of thunder and try to figure out how far away the real storm and rain really is. You’re especially sensitive to the wind, knowing that an abrupt change in temperature or direction or velocity might be a harbinger of a drenching. You keep an eye out for places where you might seek shelter when the storm really hits, understanding that even the sturdiest umbrella is going to provide no meaningful protection when you are pelted with a blanket of raindrops the size of a baby’s fist, blown sideways by a gale. And above all, you watch for flashes of lightning and count until you hear the crack, knowing that lightning means you’d better seriously pick up the pace.

I’ve been splattered a few times this morning, and yesterday morning I was doused into drowned rat territory when the heavens opened and produced a gullywasher when I was a mere two blocks from the office. Even so, I’ve enjoyed being reintroduced to Midwestern summer storms. They really are quite a spectacle.

New Shoes

I needed some new walking shoes, so I went to the shoe store looking for something suitable. I’ve bought shoes on-line in the past, but I figured that in Columbus—unlike Stonington—actual brick and mortar shoe stores with sweeping selections are close at hand. And, when it comes to footwear, there’s a lot to be said for looking around at different options in person, grabbing a few boxes to make sure of sizing, sitting down on one of those communal padded stools, and trying shoes on. On-line shopping is convenient, but you’re never really sure about shoes until you’ve removed the paper wadding, laced them up, and taken those first few tentative steps.

My feet have taken a beating after 64 years of hard daily use, and I was aiming exclusively for comfort, rather than style. I opted for these Vans Deluxe Comfort Ortholite sneakers. it was an easy call, because when I put them on my feet immediately communicated to my brain: “Hey, these are comfortable. I mean, really comfortable!” So I bought them, and it turns out my feet were right.

A few days of morning walks hasn’t changed that opinion. The shoes have lots of padding on the sole, and it feels like walking on a cloud. I always enjoy my walks, but these new shoes just make the walks that much better.

The Color Of The Court

The basketball court at Schiller Park has been refurbished and painted. The backboards and hoops haven’t been installed yet, but the paint job is done.

I’m struck by the color scheme, and wonder about the reasoning behind the green and pale orange choices. Were the peaceful, pastel colors selected to try to encourage friendlier, less aggressive play? The color choices reminded me of the legendary visitors locker room at the University of Iowa football stadium, which for years was painted pink in hopes that it would sap the manly morale of whatever team was playing the Hawkeyes.

Whatever the reason for the colors, I think the court looks pretty cool.

The Random Restaurant Tour — XLII

Some locations seem like a revolving door for restaurants. A place will open, start offering its wares, and then before you know it a new restaurant has replaced it. The location at 72 Lynn Alley, in the heart of downtown Columbus, is one of those locations where dogged restauranteurs keep trying.

The new eatery at that location is called Aroma, and Dr. Science and I went there yesterday to check it out. Aroma is a Mediterranean venue with an extensive menu of appetizers, entrees, sandwiches, and pizzas made with a cauliflower crust. The Doc and I opted for handheld lunches—no cauliflower for me, thank you very much!—and I got the braised lamb wrap. It was quite good, packed with tender and juicy lamb that was delicately seasoned, and came with a mound of crisp and crunchy fries that were a lot more than I could eat. All in all, it was a considerable lunch at a reasonable price point. The server was pleasant and professional and the seating area is spacious, allowing Dr. Science to gesture freely as he lectured me on the delta variant in authoritative tones.

In short, Aroma looks well-suited to giving it a go, undeterred by the ghosts of Si Senor and other former residents of the space. I’d definitely go back for another one of those lamb wraps.

Rain In The Forecast

The weather apps in our phones not only have changed the ways we check the weather, they also are a source of amusement—and amazement.

In the olden, pre-app days, you’d check the weather by looking out the window, or maybe watching the local news for tomorrow’s forecast. But the weather apps give you seven days of weather at a glance, with icons and scientific-seeming percentages about the chance of rain. And when you live in Columbus, or Stonington, or anywhere but Arizona, there’s always rain somewhere in the forecast.

The entertainment value comes from wondering how they develop those awesomely precise percentages, and then watching them change repeatedly. What distinguishes a 30 percent chance of rain five days from now from a 40, or 50, or 60 percent chance? What factors do the apps consider in assigning those values? And the frequency of change makes you wonder why you pay attention to the long-term forecasts in the first place. In the few hours since the screen shot above was taken, Thursday has gone from 50 percent chance of rain to the unblocked total sun icon. What titanic movement of massive weather fronts caused that abrupt change?

The weather apps, like some of our politicians, are frequently wrong—but never in doubt.

Faith In Signs

People in German Village put a lot of faith in signs. You see them all over the place, in random spots, appealing for opposition to proposed development projects or asking for help in preserving a community initiative or staking out some other position for all to see.

This sign, which has appeared at the Third Street entrance to Schiller Park, is a good example of the phenomenon. Its goal is laudable: speeding, especially on Third Street, is a chronic problem in German Village. Of course, it’s entirely debatable whether speeders are going to notice a sign—even a bright yellow one—or be deterred by it. A policeman stationed at that spot with a radar gun would undoubtedly have more of an impact.

Still, I’m glad I live in a neighborhood where people believe in the power of signs. It shows that people are engaged and believe that an individual’s efforts can make a difference. I’d rather have neighbors who are paying attention and trying to effect change. It’s when the signs disappear that there is cause for concern, because it indicates that people either don’t care anymore, or they have given up hope that their efforts can make a difference.

Duck, Duck, Goose

The waterfowl were out in force at Schiller Park today. Even though it was a steamy day, most of the ducks and Canadian geese had forsaken the cool waters of the pond and ventured out onto the grass, looking for food and using their bills to tug away at potential sustenance.

It was interesting to see the ducks and geese out of the water, but you can’t let yourself get too carried away by the sight of our waddling water pals. When geese are about, you’ve really got to watch where you step.

The New Mask Ask

In Columbus, at least, things seem to be moving back to more of a masked-up world, as businesses try to figure out what to do in view of the delta variant of COVID. You really need to pay attention to signs and notices when you go into commercial establishments.

Yesterday I went to grocery shop at the Giant Eagle in Grandview. There was a card table in front of the entrance with a sign that said that all patrons, vaccinated or not, had to wear a mask to enter the store; next to the sign was a box of those familiar white and blue masks that Giant Eagle was offering for free so customers could mask up. So I donned my mask and entered to do my shopping. It quickly became apparent that some people either hadn’t seen the sign or were ignoring it, as about half of the patrons I saw were unmasked. No one from Giant Eagle seemed to be enforcing this particular store’s “mask mandate,” either.

Then I went to another store where the sign on the door “strongly encouraged “ everyone to wear a mask in the interests of protecting everyone’s health. In deference to the proprietor’s wishes, I put my mask on again before entering. Most of the other patrons didn’t.

I’m not sure how widespread the masking requests and requirements are, although my very limited experience indicates that Columbus stores are definitely more mask-oriented than businesses in Stonington. So while I’m here, I’ll have to keep a mask at hand, just in case. And my rule will be to defer to the instructions of the business owners, who really are in a no-win situation in view of the scary stories in the media and the ever-changing CDC guidance. For many business owners, the path of least resistance will be to follow CDC instructions. Whether they will have employees tasked with the thankless job of trying to enforce the mask rules is another question.

After yesterday’s experience, I wonder if we aren’t sliding, slowly but surely, back into the masking and social distancing world, after an all-too-brief taste of the old maskless and carefree normal. I’m not looking forward to it.

Art Underfoot

A construction crew has been working on one of the access ramps to the underground garage under the Ohio Statehouse. I’m not sure exactly what they are doing, but it sure looks cool.

First they put down what looked exactly like yellow Legos, then they placed bright red wires over the yellow blocks. The combination was striking when I walked past yesterday morning, and produced what really looked like a modern art installation. It seems like a shame to cover it up with concrete.

The Good, The Bad, And The Muggy

I’m a born and bred Midwesterner, and the hardy survivor of dozens and dozens of Ohio summers. And yet, it didn’t take many COVID-caused summer days in Maine for me to forget just how that brutal combination of heat and moisture made the Midwestern air feel—until I came back to Columbus a few days ago and was smacked in the face by July.

In a Stonington summer, the temperature rarely exceeds 70 degrees, and if it touches 80 it’s a heat wave for the ages. It’s always cool at night, and a gentle, crisp breeze is usually blowing. It makes a walk on a summer morning a pleasant and invigorating experience.

But in the Midwest the steamy summer air descends on you as soon as you leave your air-conditioned space and clings to you like a living thing. It makes even a predawn walk a sweaty, sapping experience, and there’s really nothing you can do about it. Even a severe thunderstorm won’t cool off the air for more than a few moments.

Some refined Midwesterners say things like “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” when complaining about this kind of broiling summer weather. I always thought the word “muggy” was more apt, though, because the weather is akin to a mugging, where combination of heat and moisture are like a physical assault and rob you of your cool and calm demeanor, leaving you damp and bedraggled.

Midwestern summers are the reason air conditioning was invented.

Three Days In A Row

What do you do if you haven’t had a chance to have your favorite meal for weeks?

Me? I get my favorite meal—lamb korma, medium-plus on the spice scale, served by the friendly folks at Indian Oven—three days in a row.

It’s tough to do without your favorite meal for weeks at a time—that’s how you know they’re your favorite—and when I came back to Columbus I wanted to be sure to scratch that itch. So I scheduled lunches at IO for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Each lunch was at IO as part of a separate tradition involving summer clerk meals, thank-you recognitions, or mentoring catch-ups, so by going to IO I not only was getting my lamb korma fix, I was furthering the important role of tradition in our culture and supporting a great Columbus restaurant. Admittedly, though, the main reason to go three days in a row was to thoroughly reacquaint myself with the delectable combination of lamb, curry sauce, chopped egg and nuts, and basmati rice, all carefully mixed to make sure every grain of rice has been coated before lifting forkfuls to my mouth and relishing every bite.

I like trying different dishes and experimenting with new venues, but it’s important to stay in touch with those tried-and-true classics that always deliver a great meal. Is three straight days enough to serve that function? We’ll see, because today I’m having lunch somewhere else.

But I’ll be back at IO on Friday for lamb korma, round four.

The Great Unmasking (Cont.)

It was a hot, sunny weekend in Columbus, and lots of German Village residents and visitors were out and about. I did a lot of walking around the Village and around Schiller Park. With the temperature touching the 90s, it’s not surprising that nobody was masked up; wearing any kind of mask in that heat would have been unbearable. And one other change in behavior was readily apparent, too: people were sharing the sidewalks and walking past each other, shoulder to shoulder, without veering.

It was incredibly refreshing to walk the pretty streets of German Village without having to veer around parked cars or use the roadway to achieve at least six feet of social distancing. No one was consciously trying to maintain the buffer zone, and no one seemed to mind being in close proximity with other people, either. It struck me as another good sign of returning normalcy.

We’ll all carry our own memories of what it was like for us, personally, during the COVID shutdown period. One of my memories will be dodging traffic and other pedestrians and getting annoyed with people who hogged the sidewalk without yielding or moving over to help achieve social distancing recommendations. I’m glad they are just memories now.

Scooter Wars

The people of Columbus must really like riding scooters. Or, at least, that must be true of people hanging out in German Village. Schiller Park, in particular, is a magnet for scooters. Every morning on my walk around the park I see scooters at every point of the compass—some neatly arranged in appealing groups, like the ones above, some scattered willy-nilly, and some casually discarded and lying on their sides , like scooter litter.

By my count, there are at least four companies vying for the business of Cbus scooter users. And it must be a rule that scooter companies have four letters in their names—no more, no less—because that’s true of every Columbus competitor. We’ve got Bird, Link, Spin, and Lime.

What’s next? Sync, maybe? Given the ‘tude of the scooter riders, I’m surprised that Cool and Pose haven’t been used already.

Spring Snow At Schiller

Much as I hate the idea of snow on the ground on April 21–and more snow falling, even now–I have to admit that the snow gave a pretty new look to Schiller Park during my walk this morning. You could still see some of the color of the flowering trees beneath the layer of snow, and the heavy, wet snow on the leaves brought many of the limbs of the trees over the sidewalks down low, requiring you to duck and steer between low-hanging branches as you walked. And snow bombs, with clumps of snow being shaken off the trees and falling on we pedestrians below, were a constant hazard.

As I walked, I thought the park looked different in this snowfall than it does during the winter months. It took me a while to figure it out, until the bright green, grassy circles that surrounded every leafed-out tree clued me in. The canopies of leaves were shielding the grass from the snow and holding it above. Unlike their skeletal look after a winter snowfall, the trees looked full and bright, almost as if the snow were flowering buds. That thought almost made the falling snow and the cold tolerable.