In The Mosquito-Free Zone

The other day I was bitten by a mosquito.  No big deal in the Midwest, but then I realized it was one of the few mosquito bites I’ve gotten this summer — so few, in fact, that getting even one is a notable occasion.

That’s doubly weird, when you think about it, because we all know that mosquitoes thrive in rain — and this summer central Ohio has gotten far more than its fair share of wet weather.  With the repeated, soul-deadening drenchings we’ve endured, week after week, you would think that the Columbus area would be a mosquitoes’ paradise.

IMG_6347According to Orkin the pest control company, however, Columbus is far down the list on the peskiest cities in America — where hot, humid, mosquito-tormented Atlanta leads the way.  And in central Ohio itself, the only area with a mosquito problem significant enough to require spraying is Dublin.  In the north areas of Dublin, traps set this summer caught “abnormally high” numbers of mosquitoes, whereas traps in other parts of the central Ohio area caught substantially fewer of the blood-sucking fiends.

It’s logical, I think, that a more urban setting like German Village would have fewer mosquitoes, simply because there is less standing water and fewer of the desolate, boggy areas that mosquitoes crave.  And Kish and I aren’t going to many of the activities that make people prime targets for Anopheles and Aedes.  I’m convinced, for example, that you get more mosquito ear-buzzings and bites per minute at a kids’ night Little League game than any other venue, and with the boys out of the house we haven’t been to one in years.

Mosquitoes are a traditional part of a central Ohio summer, but they are one that I am happy to do without.

Strawberry Shortcake

IMG_6344I’m not a dessert person, for the most part — but I’ve always had a soft spot for strawberry shortcake.  It’s the first dessert I remember eating at a restaurant, on one of the many occasions when Grandma and Grandpa Neal took UJ and me out on a “Sunday drive” to one of the small towns in northern Ohio.

So, when I see strawberry shortcake on the menu, the memories kick in and I’m always tempted to try it.  I gave in to temptation last night at the Sycamore.  They do it right, with freshly baked, light, crumbly shortcake, succulent sliced strawberries, and a creamy topping.  It’s the perfect end to an excellent summer meal.

UJ’s Hat

IMG_6287Last weekend, on the father-son fishing trip to Hen Island, there was one dominant topic around the card table:  UJ’s hat.  It is pictured above, in all its glory.

When you’re drinking beer, smoking cigars, and playing cards, sophomoric humor tends to dominate, and usually there is one theme or target for the weekend,  This year, something about this humble hat provoked the onslaught of insult humor.  Some of the best lines:

Did you steal that hat from a homeless person?

How far down into the dumpster did you need to go to find that thing?

That hat looks like it’s ready to spontaneously combust.

Any readers so inclined are invited to share their jibes.

UJ explained, somewhat sheepishly, that he rescued the hat from the dustbin of history, when one of his friends was getting ready to pitch it — but now he wears it with a curious pride, knowing that he will suffer the slings and arrows of rude family humor.  It keeps the sun off his head, and the brim can be tugged and maneuvered into all kinds of shapes — which was one of the things that made the hat an apt target for our jokes.

Life Coaching

Every workday I walk past a storefront that offers yoga and exercise classes and “life coaching.”  That option makes me chuckle a bit and sticks with me as I walk, and I think of a guy wearing a plain gray t-shirt, seat pants, a ball cap, and a whistle, yelling at me to follow the “life playbook” and get my affairs in order.

What is a life coach, exactly?

IMG_6321After doing some internet research, the precise role of a “life coach” is still not entirely clear to me.  It looks like people with that title can offer advice on everything from financial affairs to marital problems to exercise and diet regimens to general decision-making and goal-setting.  Lifecoaching.com says:  “Life Coaching is a profession that is profoundly different from consulting, mentoring, advice, therapy, or counseling. The coaching process addresses specific personal projects, business successes, general conditions and transitions in the client’s personal life, relationships or profession by examining what is going on right now, discovering what your obstacles or challenges might be, and choosing a course of action to make your life be what you want it to be.

It also appears that the “life coach” field is a largely unregulated one, without any legal requirements as to training, licensing, or capabilities, although there are certain industry certifications that “life coaches” can obtain if they choose to.  If you run a Google search on life coach training, you’re likely to get results that tell you about the variety of training programs, on-line courses, or books you can read to become a “life coach” and then lots of results advertising the “life coaches” in your area.

So, as best I can figure it, a “life coach” is someone who a person can talk to in a structured way about what they’ve been doing and where they want to go, and get advice about how to get there.  Although lifecoaching.com apparently disagrees, it sounds a lot like what a trusted and knowledgeable mentor, friend, or family member might do.  And that seems to beg another question:  why would a person pay an unlicensed “life coach” to listen to their problems and offer advice rather than talking to an older, experienced, successful family member or colleague who knows them, cares about them, and won’t charge them a dime?  Is it because they want someone who they consider to be objective, even if they might not know a lot about the person, or because they don’t want to share their problems or personal goals with a friend or family member due to embarrassment?

I suppose there could be lots of rationales for why you would seek “life coaching” at a storefront location in your town, but it also seems like another way in which what used to be a significant, potentially enriching and strengthening part of family relationships and/or personal or workplace friendships is being replaced by paid services provided by strangers.  Maybe that’s a good thing — or maybe not.

 

Off The Griddle

IMG_6174The griddle is a pretty amazing invention, when you think about it.  Virtually everything worth eating can be cooked on a griddle — from eggs to burgers to hash browns to grilled cheese sandwiches.  When you’re done with one effort, you just scrape the griddle clean, towel it off as the steam rises, and then move on to the next dish.  And, in any true diner, customers get to sit at the counter and watch the griddlemaster working his magic.

Kish and I had heard that you can find that true diner experience at the German Village Coffee Shop, so yesterday we walked down to Thurman Avenue to check it out.  I’m pleased to report that the word-of-mouth is right on the money.  From the paper placemats touting tourist stops in New York City (of all places), to the piping hot mugs of coffee, to the savory sounds of all kinds of food cooking on the griddle, the GVCS has it all.  We grabbed seats at the counter to take it all in.

IMG_6169It was about 12:30 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten yet, so . . . what to get?  I’ve long had a passion for burgers cooked on a griddle, ever since Grandma and Grandpa Neal took UJ and me bowling at Riviera Lanes in Akron on Saturdays, and we would end our visit with cheeseburgers and crinkle-cut fries from Riviera’s in-house diner.  Griddle-cooked burgers have a wonderful taste and finish that you just can’t get with a grilled version.

But yesterday I resisted the burger temptation when I saw that the Coffee Shop had a corned beef hash special, because corned beef hash also is better cooked on a griddle.  Hash and pancakes sounded good.  Boy, was it ever!  The corned beef hash was delicious, and the pancakes were larger than a man’s head, with that perfect golden griddle crust.  I polished off the hash, slathered the pancakes in butter and syrup, relished every bite, and did my best — but standard stack of three was more than I could finish.

As we left, I thought that Grandma Neal would have said that my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  But my stomach was happy, anyway.

Detroit, On The (Cutting) Edge

Russell decided to stay in Detroit, in part, because he felt a certain energy there, and in part because it is so affordable.  After living for a few years in Brooklyn, he knew how ridiculously expensive living the New York City artists’ life had become.

IMG_5170As always, Russell has a pretty good set of antenna for a developing trend.  A few days ago the New York Times carried an article about how NYC artists are moving to Detroit for the same reasons Russell has long articulated.  Why not?  Detroit is a cosmopolitan city.  There is still a lot of art-buying wealth there, as well as space galore and buildings available at prices that New York City artists couldn’t even conceive.

There’s a certain vibe to Detroit, too.  The article linked above refers to “ruin porn” — an apt phrase that captures the kind of slack-jawed wonder at the decaying cityscapes that we have noticed in our visits there and reported from time to time on this blog.  The dereliction not only makes you ponder how a great city fell so far, but also what can be done to raise it back up again.  Part of the allure of Detroit for young artists and other risk-takers is the chance to be part of what could be a great story of urban renaissance.  For an artist, that sense of frontier-like opportunity not only is bound to stoke the creative fires, but it also gives the city’s art scene a certain cachet that may well attract attention — and art sales.

I’m rooting for Detroit.