Tree Time

With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s time to start focusing on the next big holiday on the calendar. And St. Mary Church here in German Village stands ready to satisfy your evergreen needs with a traditional Christmas tree lot. This year the lot has been spread out so the trees can comply with social distancing requirements, and there’s an ample supply of additional trees stacked up and at the ready, too.

We haven’t had a Christmas tree in years, but I do love that fresh, clean pine tree smell. it’s a pleasure walking past the lot in the morning.

The Geese Patrol

The Schiller Park pond, like every small body of water in the central Ohio area, has a goose problem. Canadian geese, to be specific: loud, squawking, honking, aggressive, madly crapping creatures that carpet every surface around the pond, including the sidewalk, with rancid goose droppings. You will never hear anyone who lives around any kind of Ohio pond say a good word about the freaking Canadian geese, because inside their noble blck-and-white exterior is utter abomination.

This morning as Betty and I took our walk around the park we noticed this car parked on the street near the pond, and saw a person in a yellow day-glo vest and a border collie patrolling the perimeter of the pond, barking at the geese and scaring the crap out of them (at least, whatever crap remains in view of their standard crapping tendencies). Apparently someone decided it is time to do something about the goose problem at the park and called in Ohio Geese Control, which promises to be “safe, humane, and effective” in resolving geese issues. According to the company’s website, it will “identify[] the site characteristics most attractive to the geese (e.g., security, food, nesting sites, water)” and then “design a custom management program based on the potential for reducing these characteristics.” I’m guessing that the border collie addresses the “security” element of goose pond selection decision-making.

This is a bit of a NIMBY issue, because the Canadian geese exist in our area and are going to locate somewhere. But maybe Ohio Geese Control can get the geese to leave this little pond in the corner of a busy urban park that is frequented by children and dogs, and take their aggressive ways and mad crapping to a more remote rural location, or one of those corporate park ponds with a fountain in the middle that no one actually walks around. Getting rid of the geese at the Schiller Park pond would make 2020 a little bit better.

Hue Do

There’s still a lot of fall color out there to enjoy. Bright leaves are hanging on to many of the trees and bushes, and multi-hued pumpkins and gourds decorate many German Village doorsteps, but the mums are the stars of the color display right now. They give a strong incentive to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise — while continuing to maintain appropriate social distancing, of course.

We’ve had perfect autumn weather in Columbus over the past few days — cool and crisp in the morning, and sunny and warm in the afternoon before sunset. Enjoy it, and the brilliant colors, while they last!

The Random Restaurant Tour —XLI

Here’s some tangible evidence that the entrepreneurial spirit in America remains strong — a new restaurant has opened up in our neighborhood. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all of the extraordinary challenges it poses for food service establishments, some people had sufficient confidence in their food and their business model to give a new restaurant a go. It’s great to see, and naturally we had to check it out.

The new restaurant is called Chapman’s Eat Market. It’s open for business in the old Max & Erma’s location on Third Street in German Village. If you ever visited the place when it was Max & Erma’s, you won’t recognize the interior of Chapman’s. All of the kitschy Max & Erma’s bric a brac has been removed, leaving a very clean, spare look. The space never looked better, or felt roomier — which is a good thing when you’re setting up tables that are appropriately distanced for your diners.

Chapman’s serves a set tasting menu that is a nice change of pace from the normal “order off the menu” restaurant. When we went on Friday we received an eight-course meal that included two dessert courses. Every one of the dishes, from the smoked salmon fritters that began our culinary adventure to the yuzu key lime pie that ended our journey, was excellent. My favorites were the pork shoulder lettuce wrap, pictured above, which included grilled pork shoulder, nuoc cham, cucumbers, jicama, peanuts and mint, the khao soi, with yellow curry, shrimp, chicken, fried noodles, pea leaf salad, banana, tomato, and peanut, and the duck confit leg and mole rojo, with cowboy beans, Carolina Gold Rice, pickled chayote, and roasted squash. I ate it all with relish, even though the dishes included more vegetable matter than I would ever have ordered for myself.

Three things stood out from our Chapman’s experience. The first was flavor; this is not a restaurant that is fearful of adding a nice kick to its dishes and laying out some creative spice and seasoning combinations. The second was texture; most of the dishes featured a very interesting and enjoyable crunch as part of the package. And the third was variety. In one eight-course setting, the offerings touched the bases of classic American, Chinese, Italian, and Mexican cuisine, sometimes in delightful combination. And the key lime pie, pictured below, was a beautifully tart way to bring a fine meal to closure.

If you want to try a new place and get a meal that might just make 2020 a bit more palatable, put Chapman’s on your checklist. You may well see us there — from an appropriate distance, of course.

At-Home Halloween

The Halloween decorations in German Village this year are amazing, and elaborate. Colossal spider webs and giant spiders are especially popular, but so are skeletons, very creepy ghosts, bats, rats, gravestones, witches, Frankenstein monsters, Jack o’lanterns, and virtually every other haunted symbol you might think of. And more pumpkins and gourds thank you can imagine. It makes our walks around the ‘hood a lot of fun.

I find myself wondering whether our prolonged COVID experience has contributed to to elaborateness of the decorations. If you’ve spent months trying to stay at home and keep your distance, finally getting the chance to decorate your house, express yourself, and have some fun on a ghoulish holiday may just be irresistible.

Street Walking

Since we’ve returned to Colimbus from Stonington, I’ve had to get my street walking reflexes back.

Not that kind of “streetwalking,” of course. I’m talking about literally walking in the street, with the traffic — exactly what your Mom told you not to do. In German Village, if you want to walk (and I do) and you want to maintain social distancing (and I do), you’re inevitably going to be veering out into the street from time to time to avoid approaching walkers and joggers on the sidewalks.

Street walking requires special awareness that wasn’t needed in Stonington. Up there, in our neighborhood, most streets don’t have sidewalks, so you walk in the street as a matter of course — but there’s really not all that much traffic, and not many parallel-parked cars (or joggers or bicycles, because of the abrupt steep inclines everywhere). In German Village, those are three of the things you’ve got to look out for when you venture into the street. You’ve got to be mindful of whether there are people who are in those parked cars you’re thinking of walking between in order to dodge those approaching walkers, because people in parked cars may be getting ready to pull out. And you need to be sure to look both ways, because you could have a cyclist or jogger approaching from either direction. And you’ve got to watch the cars, too, obviously— some of them are moving pretty fast, flouting the speed limit, and angry at the world. They don’t like sharing the street with us social distancers. And you need to be sure to wear white or other bright colors, to ensure you are seen by the drivers, cyclists, and joggers you’re trying to avoid.

I sometimes wonder whether walking in traffic to maintain social distancing is more dangerous than the coronavirus. It probably is, but it does keep you alert and on your toes first thing in the morning.

Between The Lines

They’ve started a new campaign in German Village. The aspirational goal: to bring order and regularity in on-street parking.

Since we’ve been here, parking has been — to put it mildly — chaotic. Most houses don’t have driveways or garages, so street parking is a necessity. To complicate things, there are a few zones where stickers are required and non-stickered cars can get ticketed, but other areas are open for parking by anyone. The result is that people park where they can, which often means precious street parking space is wasted by yawning gaps between cars that nevertheless aren’t quite big enough to accommodate a car. When you’re hunting for a nearby parking space late at night, the not-quite-big-enough gaps and wasted spaces can be frustrating.

The new approach seeks to conserve and fully employ the precious street parking space. The city has painted corners like the one shown above to define specific parking spaces, and has also posted signs like the one below explaining the program and noting that people who flout the spaces can be cited with a $47 ticket. I can’t speak to whether people are reading the signs — I did, at least— but they do seem to be honoring the new spaces and parking between the lines. That will mean more parking spaces for us all.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that painting indicated spots on streets would spur parking compliance and end the Wild West parking atmosphere. If the price of achieving more parking spaces is simply the cost of a few cans of white paint and the wages of whoever painted the corners, German Village residents can reasonably wonder why this simple solution wasn’t tried before. But let’s not be grudging, shall we? A delayed solution is still a solution, and the new program shows the city is paying attention to the unique needs of our community. That’s good to see.

Back To School

The building at the end of our block is completing a full circuit in the circle of life. It began as a school, then later was turned into the Golden Hobby shop that sold craft items made by seniors — and now it is being refitted to serve as a school again, as part of the St. Mary’s school complex in our neighborhood.

The Golden Hobby shop people were nice folks, and we certainly appreciated the parking lot there when street parking got tight, but I’m glad the building is going back to its original purpose. We’ll miss the overflow parking, to be sure, but having a school at the end of the block is bound to ramp up the hustle and bustle and make our neighborhood even more interesting. And an expanded St. Mary’s school will undoubtedly be appreciated as an available option by the many young couples with strollers you see around German Village.

If the building could talk, I bet it also would express its happiness about returning to service as a school and being filled with the voices of kids again. Carved over the main entrance is a quote attributed to Socrates: “Learning adorns riches and softens poverty.” With noble and lofty aspirations like that, no building is going to be content to live out its life as a sleepy senior citizens’ hobby shop.

Back To Ohio

We completed our trip back to Ohio yesterday, returning to the Buckeye State after an absence of four and a half months. As we rolled under the curious new Ohio border sign — offering its curt and cryptic instruction to “find it here,” without even a friendly “welcome” or “how do you do?” or the exclamation points and promises of excitement you see in other state border signs — the chords of The Pretenders’ Back to Ohio echoed in my head.

This last four months has easily been the longest continuous Ohio-free period I’ve experienced in at least 35 years, and maybe for my entire lifetime. As we rolled toward German Village, Kish and I wondered if we had been gone from Ohio for four months straight during the years we lived in Washington, D.C. — when we often came back to Ohio for holidays, family gatherings, or birthday, graduation, or anniversary celebrations. If we didn’t hit the four-month mark during our D.C. years, then we’ve just set personal records.

And, it being 2020, the four months we’ve been gone from Columbus has been a pretty momentous period, too. We missed a downtown riot and periods of unrest, the closure of favorite restaurants, the sale of the Golden Hobby building down the block, and continuing struggles to deal with the coronavirus. Stonington, Maine is pretty removed from all of that — that’s kind of the goal when you go to Maine — and I wondered what, exactly, we would find when we got back to Columbus.

When we reached German Village, we found that our normal entrance way was torn up due to the ongoing construction projects at Children’s Hospital, and our street was partially closed thanks to a Columbia Gas rerouting effort. I had to parallel park for the first time in a long while, but we were glad to find our place still standing and were also pleased to see that, pandemic or not, our neighbors in the Village have made some improvements. After we unpacked, made the beds, wiped the dust off the counters, and settled in to watch some TV, I realized that Ohio still felt very much like home to me. Maybe that’s the “it” the sign was telling me to find.

Reopening . . . One Step At A Time (Cont.)

Today another German Village business opened its doors to walk-in business after the prolonged coronavirus shutdown.  This time, it’s the Hausfrau Haven, a great wine (and beer) shop that has been a German Village mainstay for decades.  The HH had been open for carryout business — which we gladly took advantage of — but now you can walk in to make your wine selections.  As we spring back from the shutdown period, increased access to adult beverages can only be a good thing.

My guess is that the Hausfrau Haven sign is (no pun intended) a sign of things to come in Columbus and Ohio as other businesses open up.  That is, masks will be required, and the requirement will be enforced by the business itself, out of concern for its employees and its other patrons.  I think most people will happily comply with that.

Next up for Ohio and German Village — a restaurant or bar open for foot traffic and in-restaurant dining.  When G. Michael’s and Lindey’s and Ambrose and Eve and the High-Beck open up to dining and drinking patrons, that will seem like a very big deal.

 

HMD

Some well-wishers left flowers for the statues of the two mothers who inhabit the “Garden of Peace” at St. Mary’s Church in our neighborhood. It’s a nice way to remember Mothers’ Day.

Those of us who have been fortunate to be shaped by great mothers and grandmothers, and to be married to great mothers, can’t really express just how important those women have been in our lives. All we can do is says thanks, enjoy the happy memories, and wish all mothers a happy Mothers’ Day.

Reopening . . . One Step At A Time

Some Ohio businesses reopened today.  The sign in the photograph above was on the finely carved door of Winan’s, a chocolate and coffee emporium here in German Village that is reputed to sell some of the finest candy, and coffee, you can find anywhere in Columbus.  

Winan’s reopened, subject to the limitations stated on the sign, just in time for Mothers’ Day.  I took the picture above shortly before the store opened, with new hours, and when I passed by the store later in the day it was at its maximum capacity of four customers, and another patron was waiting patiently outside for the chance to go in.  Interestingly, although the Winan’s shop was open, the Starbucks near our house was still closed.  I imagine businesses are making individualized decisions about the reopening process.

I’m inclined to patronize as many German Village businesses as possible now that they are reopening to help get the economy back in gear, and I was encouraged to see that Winan’s was getting some traffic on its first day back.  Some chocolate and coffee sounds pretty good, too, don’t you think?     

Seemingly Designed For Social Distancing

How many times has this scenario happened to you over the past few weeks?  You’re out of the house on a walk, enjoying some fresh air and a much-needed change of scenery.  But in the distance, at the end of the block, you are acutely aware of a couple walking their dog heading your way and seemingly committed to hogging the sidewalk.  So you’ve got to make a decision — do you pop out onto the street and circle around them, or do you jaywalk to the sidewalk on the other side of the street where you hope you won’t run into other pedestrians?

In German Village, there’s often a third option:  many blocks have a little alley positioned at about mid-block, providing you with a new route to avoid the dog-walkers.  Sure, the alleys are quaint and picturesque and interesting, but more importantly right now they have turned out to be very handy walking alternatives that permit you to maintain that six feet of clearance from the other potential virus vectors that might be out for a stroll.  And our neighborhood is honeycombed with them, all ready to accept turn-ins by pedestrians who are trying to follow governmental guidelines and avoid unnecessary exposure.  It’s almost as if German Village was designed with pandemic social distancing in mind — or the need to occasionally dodge a process server or veer around that incredibly talkative neighbor.  

As a result of these weird times, Kish and I have been spending as much time walking in alleys as we have walking on main streets.  We’re not going anywhere as the crow flies anymore, and if you mapped out our walks they would look as indirect and rambling as the roaming of a loose dog who is easily distracted by squirrels.  And we’re getting to know every inch of the neighborhood a lot better.    

Who knows?  In the future, savvy realtors who are always eager to find something positive to say might just build pandemic preparation into their set speeches, and tell  potential buyers that German Village is an ideal place to keep that social distance.