Haus und Garten

Today is the 56th annual German Village Haus und Garten Tour.  Thousands of visitors will be trekking through German Village for the event, which raises money for the preservation and education programs of the German Village Society.  If you haven’t got your tickets yet, you can buy them today for $25.

IMG_5924The headquarters for the event, the German Village Meeting House, is less than a block from our new place.  The street next to the Meeting House is blocked off, lights have been strung up, and tents have been erected for the guests, and last night there was a kick-off event that sent music wafting over our neighborhood.

This will be the first Tour we’ve experienced since we moved to German Village.  Here’s an admittedly selfish thought:  will the Haus und Garten Tour be as personally disruptive as the various New Albany events, like the New Albany Walking Classic, that used to block off our North of Woods neighborhood and complicate our lives at our old house?  I’m hoping we can at least get in our car and drive away if we need to.  If so, we can live with the Tour.

Last Loop

This morning, for what will almost certainly be the last time, I took my morning walk around the Yantis Loop walking path.

IMG_4250For many years now — I’m not sure exactly how long, really — I’ve started my day with this walk.  I’ve taken it virtually every morning we’ve been home, rain or shine, save only days when we’ve been blitzed by freezing rain or I was laid up after foot surgery.  I’ve walked it with Dusty, Penny, and Kasey, or accompanied only by my trusty iPod, in darkness and in the golden rays of dawn depending on the season and the vagaries of Daylight Savings Time.

And every day, the path is precisely the same — something that Kish finds very amusing.  It’s left out of our house, left on Alpath Road, right on Ogden Woods Boulevard, and then right — always right — on the Yantis Loop itself, so that the familiar white fence is ever on my left.  Then, past the top of the Loop, over the boardwalk around the pond at number 5 North and following the curves of the Loop as it heads back due north, then veering from the Loop to head up Route 62 to join up with Alpath once again.  All told, it’s about a two-mile circuit.

The sameness of this early morning journey is part of its enormous appeal.  My feet know where to go, the walk clears my sleep-addled brain, and the quiet and peaceful surroundings of the stroll make for ideal thinking time.  I get a little exercise out of it, too.

I’m looking forward to our move to German Village, but my walk on the Yantis Loop is one of the things I’ll really miss about New Albany, so this morning’s final effort was a wistful experience.  I’m going to try to replicate the Loop — somewhat — by regularly walking to work from our new place, but moving through the streets of downtown Columbus can’t really fully substitute for the familiar, bucolic path along the white fence.

Leaving New Albany

This afternoon we close on the sale of our home in New Albany, Ohio.  We’ll move out later this week, hand the keys over to the new owners, and just like that our 19-year sojourn in the North of Woods neighborhood of New Albany will be ended.

IMG_6180Yesterday Kish and I were madly packing up clothing, books, dishes, and the contents of our cupboards in preparation for the move.  It’s one of those basic chores that fully occupies your lower brain function — you have to pay enough attention to make sure that the boxes are securely packed, after all — but leaves the upper brain free to roam.  In this instance, my mind naturally turned to the notion of chapters ending, and new chapters beginning.

I tend not to be sentimental about homes; people and experiences are far more meaningful to me than structures.  Even so, I’ll miss this tidy wooden house where we watched the boys grow up, where we have put down deep roots and have such a strong sense of place and belonging.  We’ll miss our neighbors and the annual Halloween celebrations, we’ll miss the white fences, we’ll miss our walks to the library and around the block with Penny and Kasey, and we’ll miss seeing the ‘hood  continue to grow and develop.

But, it’s time to move on.  Today is another step in the process.

Hanging At The Buck

When you have your house up for sale, you may have to exit the premises for a showing upon a moment’s notice.  And, because you never know whether you’ll get a call asking for a quick showing, you can’t really cook lavish meals at home.  And, because you never know whether they’ll need to reach you to set up another appointment, you can’t go to the movies or the workout facility where phones are verboten.

IMG_3520All of which explains why I became a regular at the neighborhood Rusty Bucket this past weekend.

Normally I’m not someone who hangs out in taverns, but the Buck has its advantages if you’re in the house sale scenario.  First, it’s within walking distance.  Second, it has a varied menu, which is a huge plus if you’re going to be there multiple times over a short period.  I had a cheeseburger, a bowl of Texas sirloin chili, and pork pot stickers in my three meals there over the weekend, and all of them were good.  Third, I met a local celebrity of sorts when I was there:  Candice Lee, a weekend anchor at a local TV station and the mother of an OSU football player.  We had a nice conversation about her story and the challenges faced by student athletes, which was a pleasant way to pass the time before it was time to head home after the latest showing ended.

Having your house for sale is somewhat odd.  You’re in, you’re out, and you need to be on call at all times.  It’s nice to have a friendly, clean, well-lighted place to spend your down time when potential buyers are visiting.  Thanks to the New Albany Rusty Bucket!

Mellow Mushroom Moves In

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They’ve just finished a new building project in the Market Street area of New Albany, a short walk from our home. A Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers shop is moving in and will be opening soon.

For years, Eagles Pizza has dominated the New Albany dine-in pizza market, without any real competition for the crown. Now there will be competition. Does anyone know if Mellow Mushroom makes a good pie?

Up For A Sale

Last night, a “Coming Soon” sign went up in our front yard, announcing to the world that we will be listing our house for sale in a few days.  We put it out just in time for the trick-or-treat block party, so we could let all of our neighbors know at the same time.

IMG_3491We’ve had 19 wonderful years on our little cul-de-sac in New Albany.  They began when our kids were both little tow-headed tykes under 10, when most of the lots around us were unsold and undeveloped, and when the newly planted trees around our lot were scrawny little things.  The years rolled by, the boys grew up, the empty lots around us filled with houses, and the houses filled with families.  Now Richard and Russell are adults and our North of Woods development is a mature neighborhood with towering trees and the happy sounds of children playing.  It’s hard to believe, but Kish and I have now spent one-third of our lives here.  That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.

Through it all, this frame house has been the dependable physical center of our family.  We bought it when it was being built and we had the chance to add the features we wanted, and we’ve been the only family to live here.  It’s never given us a single problem.  As empty nesters, though, we don’t need a four-bedroom house any more, and we’ve concluded that it’s time to hand this happy home off to another family with young kids that is looking to become part of a terrific, family-friendly place with great neighbors.

As for Kish and me, we’re intrigued by the thought of returning to the more urban lifestyle we had when we lived on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. back in the 1980s, to a smaller place that better suits our two-person, two-dog group.  After 19 years, we’re ready for a new adventure.

Our Lone Political Sign

IMG_3490I don’t think we’ve ever — ever — put a political sign in our yard.  Usually, Kish and I agree to disagree about individual candidates in significant races, so we don’t have a strong consensus view that would support a bold move like a yard sign.  (Of course, the fact that we live on a cul-de-sac that doesn’t get through traffic probably means that omission hasn’t made a significant difference in the results of any major political races.)

But when the people supporting the fire department and EMS issue asked if we would put a sign out in support of those essential municipal services, it was a no-brainer.  Kish and I might disagree on some things, but supporting the Fire Department and emergency medical services aren’t on that list.

15 Minutes Early

Lately my standard commute to work has been torturous.  Whether it is random accidents, or increased congestion due to the new homes and apartments being built in New Albany and points east, I am consistently enduring traffic jams on my way to the office.

I’m not a happy camper about it.  There are few things more irritating than crawling along in stop-and-go traffic, trying to figure out which lane might have the accident or be most likely to start moving.  It’s intolerable, and I inevitably reach the office in a foul mood as a result.  It’s not good for my car, either.  The interior has been severely scorched and some of the plastic fixtures partially melted by my more heated traffic jam epithets.

So, it’s time for a change.  Living in the ‘burbs, that means I have two options:  take the other route (because there really are only two options) or leave early.  There are a bunch of homes being built on the other route, so I’m going to shoot for leaving 15 minutes early.

This is not as easy as it sounds, and there are risks.  As Kish would tell you, I’m a creature of habit, and I like to follow my morning routine of walk, coffee, blog posting, get dressed, drive.  I’m going to have to speed up the schedule.  And all those accidents I’m encountering obviously have to happen before I leave at my standard time.  Who knows?  Perhaps the early departure time will put me squarely into the bad driver/accident zone.

It’s a risk I’m willing to take, because the traffic jams just suck.

The Barn

IMG_3309Last night, the Carroll County Cousin, Kish, and I went to the newest restaurant in our neighborhood — The Barn at Rocky Fork Creek.  You’ll find it at the intersection of Route 62 and Morse Road, on the border between New Albany and Gahanna.

The Barn is located in a huge, barn-like structure that formerly was a Hoggy’s restaurant.  Hoggy’s, a barbecue joint, featured a large antique tractor hanging from the ceiling that I always assumed was designed to encourage table turnover by incentivizing diners to wolf down their food and get away from the presumed kill zone if the tractor ever were to fall.

IMG_3314Thankfully, The Barn has removed the Tractor of Damocles from the ceiling.  However, The Barn fortunately has kept the meatcentric orientation of the old Hoggy’s, with a few steps in the upscale direction.  It bills itself as a destination steakhouse, but it’s not the kind where the waiters wear black jackets.  Instead, it has a kind of rustic flair, with the servers sporting gingham shirts and the menu featuring some smokehouse and barbecue options as well as a fully array of steaks, seafood, salads, and sides.

I had a shrimp cocktail and the “king’s cut” of prime rib — a full 16 ounces — because sometimes only a red slab of beef with flavorful fat around the edges will do.  The shrimp cocktail was packed with shrimp and a sinus-clearing, horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce that let you know this restaurant isn’t afraid to offer bold flavors. The prime rib was great — a large, juicy, perfectly cooked cut that I savored bite by bite.  The prime rib is served with a large baked onion, and we got some very tasty creamed spinach for the table to complete a classic, old-line steakhouse meal.

The Barn just opened last weekend, and it’s still got some kinks to work out.  The place was packed when we were there, and it took too long for our food to arrive — which was a source of some concern because Kish and the Cousin were on their way to a show.  I’m hoping they iron out the kinks, because the food was quite good and we really need more restaurants — especially hearty, beef-oriented ones — in this neck of the woods.

The New Columbus Bus Line

The Bus Riding Conservative never misses a chance to lecture the rest of us, often in mind-numbing detail, about the joys of using the Central Ohio Transit Authority.  So I wasn’t surprised when the BRC sent me a clipping of a story about COTA establishing an express bus link between Columbus and New Albany.

IMG_3045When I read the article, I happily realized that it wasn’t the normal boring BRC fodder about the thrill of bus riding.  There actually was an interesting aspect to the story, namely this:  the newly established express bus route is for people who are commuting from downtown Columbus to New Albany, and not the other way around.  The express bus will leave downtown at five scheduled times between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., make a stop at Easton Town Center, the colossal shopping megaplex on the I-270 rim, and then will rumble on to the New Albany Business Park.  New Albany then will pay for a shuttle service to take people from the COTA stop to other locations within the business park.

That’s interesting for two reasons.  First, it shows that the efforts to bring businesses out to the suburbs are bearing fruit — so much so that COTA sees a market for an express bus that helps the workers at those business get out to their jobs.  It makes me wonder how much contracommuting is going on in the Columbus area.  Second, the fact that people are living downtown and needing a ride out to the ‘burbs to work suggests that we might be able to avoid the prospect of runaway suburban sprawl that was forecast by a recent study by a city planning firm.

The area around Columbus is mostly flat farmland, so it’s not exactly full of scenic wonders.  Still, I’d rather keep the fields of amber waves of grain (or, more accurately, corn and soybeans) than see more concrete, Home Depots, and Kohl’s outlets.  The city’s footprint doesn’t need to grow any larger.  Encouraging people to live downtown, and helping them get to jobs out in the suburbs, is one way of keeping that from happening.

The New Albany Walking Classic, 2014

IMG_3008In a few minutes, the New Albany Walking Classic will begin.  It’s a beautiful day for the walk — crisp and clear, with blue sky and a nice chill in the air.  The finish line is ready, a band is already playing, and the contestants are getting primed.

As usual, this latest New Albany event goes right through my North of Woods neighborhood.  This year, though, I’m talking a different tactic.  Rather than trying to go about my business and try to navigate the event, I’ll be staying home and enjoying a nice cup of coffee and conversation with my lovely wife.

It’s not quite if you can’t beat them, join them, though.  I’ve already taken my pleasant, solitary morning walk, and I won’t be joining the contestants. 

The New Circle Takes Shape

IMG_2949They’ve been working on the newest New Albany traffic circle, at the intersection of Market Street and Route 62, for several months now.  It’s been a pain for us because it removes one of the primary traffic corridors and routes everything through our neighborhood.  It’s a different feel to be riding your bike on suburban streets that are rumbling with lots of traffic.

Still, we think the sacrifice will be worth it.  The other traffic circles in our area — particularly the one in front of the Kroger and at the intersection of Route 62 and Morse Road — have a made a huge difference in traffic flow.  Long lines of idling cars that used to be found at those locations no longer exist.  Traffic circles also are more fun than a stop sign and a simple left turn.

We’ll be grateful when the construction is ended and the new circle is open, but it’s safe to say we won’t be the happiest recipient of that news:  the long-suffering CVS at the corner of 62 and Market Street has basically been marooned for months, stranded on a little island of commerce in a muddy sea of construction.