The Random Restaurant Tour (XIV)

Yesterday Dr. Science and I were supposed to have lunch at a restaurant on the south side of town.  When noon rolled around, however, the rain was absolutely pouring down, so we needed a central destination to minimize the downpour effect.  Let’s see — he’s just south of the Statehouse, and I’m just north of the Statehouse.  Hey, how about the Statehouse?  You can’t get more central than that!

Fortunately, there is in fact a place to eat at Ohio’s seat of government.  It’s located in the “basement” of the Statehouse, reachable through the Third Street entrance.  You walk past the map room and the shouts of schoolkids on a field trip, turn right at the main hallway, and then look for the place where the staffers are heading, tucked away in a few rooms on one side of the hallway.

The restaurant is a breakfast and lunch spot called GRAZE.  As the name suggests, GRAZE is all about farms and pastures — specifically, the “farm to table” concept in which Ohio eggs, dairy products, and proteins are featured.  The menu includes breakfast items, sandwiches, soups, salads, wraps, and bowls, and the goal is for customers to obtain “a protein packed and nutritious lunch for less than $10.”  You start in the room with the kitchen area, place your order at the counter, watch the food preparers go to work, move down to the cashier’s station, and settle up on your order, and by the time you get your tray and water cup your freshly made food has appeared.  You then head into one of the adjoining rooms to find a table and eat your lunch.

I went for the lamb gyro bowl — without the romaine, tomato, and cucumber, of course — and it was really quite good, with moist, shredded lamb, tasty pickled onions, brown rice, lots of feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce.  It definitely hit the spot, and at $9.50, it also met the “under $10” test.  I gladly consumed it all.

As I sat relishing my meal, I thought idly about the name “GRAZE,” its clear bovine connotations, and its suitability for a restaurant name — but then I realized that horses also graze, and I obviously needed fuel for the afternoon’s race.  I concluded that GRAZE was a pretty good place to tie on the old feedbag.

Happy Memorial Day!

The east side of the Ohio Statehouse features the Ohio veterans plaza.  It consists of two curved stone walls that face each other from opposite ends of the plaza, two fountains, and two grassy rectangles with room for flowers and plenty of Ohio flags that can be put in place for a holiday weekend.

The stone walls are adorned with snippets from letters written by Ohioans who were serving in the different wars in which America has fought.  It’s a simple yet elegant reminder of one unifying reality for all of the soldiers and sailors, regardless of when or where they fought:  they left home in service of their country, and as they put themselves in harm’s way they wanted to let the family back home that they were okay, that they accepted the cost of their service, and that they hoped to make it back home when their service was done.

This weekend they’ve also put up a simple wreath at the northern end of the plaza.  It’s a good place to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have served and to inwardly express our appreciation to them for making our current lives possible.

Profound thanks to all of our veterans, and happy Memorial Day to everyone!

Cold Rage

IMG_0461Today Columbus is having one of those brutal days, when the temperature is in the single digits and a hard, cold wind strikes you like a fist.  So when I walked home from work this afternoon, I was surprised to see a vigorous protest on the Broad Street sidewalk in front of the Ohio Statehouse, with still other protestors marching on the sidewalks circling Statehouse square.  The group of bundled-up protestors — men, mostly, from what I could see — were waving Don’t Tread on Me, Confederate, “III,” and American flags, handing out leaflets, and chanting at the behest of a guy holding a bullhorn.

What were they protesting?  Just about everything.  One handout had the Declaration of Independence on one side and the Bill of Rights on the other, and another encourages people to contribute to the “Ohio to Michigan:  Flint Water Drop,” which is described as “a multi-state effort to collect and deliver much-needed water to the residents of Flint, Michigan.”  One sign said “We Demand Justice” for the man shot by the authorities in connection with the Oregon public land protests.  The “III” flag is called the Nyberg three percent flag (purportedly because only three percent of the colonists fought the British during the American Revolutionary War) and apparently is a favorite of people who hold anti-government, anti-gun control views.   And when a city bus rolled up, the guy with the bullhorn started bellowing:  “Hands up!  Don’t shoot!” — which is a chant used by the protestors against the police in Ferguson, Missouri.

IMG_0464There was a lot going on at this protest, a heady mix of what might be viewed as some liberal and some conservative issues that had energized this group, but the overall message was clear:  these guys were furious.  Angry enough to come out to the center of downtown Columbus on an appallingly cold day to vent their spleens in a public forum.  Incensed about the government that they think has let them down and failed the people.  Outraged that the people of Flint, Michigan can’t get safe drinking water and willing to organize their own, people-driven effort to help the people of Flint even when the local, state, and federal government seem to be unable to do so.  To these folks, Flint is not a conservative issue or a liberal issue, it’s an issue of basic governmental functioning and competence.  If a government can’t be trusted to do the basics like provide drinking water that doesn’t poison its own citizens, then what good is it, and what are all those taxes we pay being used for?

Many pundits wonder what is driving people to support “anti-establishment” candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  I think a lot of it is anger, like the rage that motivated the cold protestors in front of the Ohio Statehouse today.  It’s not political parties that have spurred them on, it’s their own perception of a country in a downward spiral.  They’re not going to put up with the direction in which they think their country is heading, and if the government isn’t going to recognize the problems and change of its own accord, then they’re just going to have to change the government.

The last two lines of the “Ohio to Michigan:  Flint Water Drop” leaflet read:  “We the People are uniting to assist and support communities in need.  No matter your race, religion, group or political affiliation, we all must come together.”  It’s really not hard to see how angry people at all points on the political spectrum might unite behind that kind of message.

Lame Flags

IMG_6360The flagpoles on the Third Street side of the Ohio Statehouse are displaying the flags of the Ohio counties this week.

That’s right — each Ohio county has an official flag.  Who knew?  But I do know this: Ohio’s 88 counties have adopted some of the cheesiest flags you can possibly imagine.  They are uninspired and seemingly random in terms of what they feature — with a favorite design being a geographic outline of the county itself.  Pretty creative!

If you want to see the full roster of Ohio flags, look here.  Champaign County, Hardin County, Knox County, and Washington County are all astoundingly awful — but the entire collection is pretty much lame from top to bottom.

Happy Independence Day!

As if in recognition of the bright meaning of independence, the sun has actually appeared in the skies of central Ohio on this Fourth of July.  After weeks of drab skies and rain, it is like a giant fireworks display.  Its warming presence will help all of us celebrate Independence Day with a positive spirit.

IMG_5967At some point during this day of parades, cookouts, sparklers, and ice cream cones, we should all pause for a moment and soberly recall that liberty and freedom have not been gained and secured without enormous cost.  Yesterday on my walk home from the office I stopped by the veterans memorial plaza in front of the Ohio Statehouse to read some of the letters that remind us starkly of the sacrifices so many have made on our behalf.

If you go to a Fourth of July parade today, be sure to give the veterans passing by a heartfelt salute and a standing ovation. After 239 years, we still need those dedicated men and women on the front lines, protecting our country and our freedom from those who wish to do us harm.  We owe them, and their families, more than we can properly express.

 

Statehouse Jolt

The other day I was walking past the Ohio Statehouse when I noticed a sign that I’d never noticed before — the green one, down there below the blue parking signs, that says “Electric Vehicle Charging Station.”

When I was a kid my mother often said “you learn something new every day,” and she was right.  I had no idea that the Ohio Statehouse had a charging station.

IMG_3391In fact, the Statehouse has six charging stations in its underground garage.  They were built and unveiled in 2011, at a total cost of $35,770.  No state funds were used; instead, the stations were built through grants from Clean Fuels Ohio and the U.S. Department of Energy and contributions from Honda of America, General Motors, Eaton Corporation, and Professional Supply, Inc.  Anyone using the stations pays 50 cents an hour for the electricity they draw, and the stations are supposed to be able to take an electric car battery from zero to full in six to eight hours.

I’m sure that there are electric cars in Columbus, but I don’t think there are very many.  I found myself wondering how often those six charging stations are used, and whether all six have ever been used at the same time.  I looked a report on the internet about usage of the stations, or how much has been paid for electricity, but I was unable to find anything.

Is the usage of the charging stations meeting the expectations that existed when they were announced, with some fanfare, three years ago?  I doubt it.  I wonder how many “green” initiatives end up not really panning out or producing the hoped-for results.  In the meantime, that little green sign looks kind of bent and lonely, doesn’t it?

At The Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Memorial

IMG_6154Earlier this month, the newest memorial on the Ohio Statehouse grounds was dedicated.  Located on the State Street side, it is a memorial to the millions who died during the Holocaust — and to the soldiers who helped to liberate them.

The memorial is The Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial.  It consists of two massive steel and bronze pieces that fit together to leave a symbolic empty space in the shape of the Star of David; the pieces are engraved with statements about the Holocaust.  A granite walkway leads up to the memorial, bordered by a low limestone wall that reads:  “Inspired by the Ohio Soldiers who were part of the American Liberation and Survivors who made Ohio their home” and adds, “If You Save One Life, It Is As If You Saved The World.”

The holocaust memorial is a worthy addition to the wide array of public art on the Statehouse grounds.  May we always be reminded, and may we never forget.

IMG_6150

In The Statehouse Basement

Tonight the Ohioana Library Association presented the annual Ohioana Awards.  This year the ceremony was in the vaulted basement of the Ohio Statehouse, an interesting old building that is full of nooks and crannies.  The backdrop to our ceremony was the darkened Statehouse Museum, with a very cool backlit depiction of the Great Seal of Ohio.

There was a great crop of Ohioana Award winners this year, and as usual it was particularly interesting to hear writers talk about their craft.  These days our state may be known to the nation as “Battleground Ohio,” but at its soul Ohio is a quirky, creative place that is home to many fine writers, poets, and artists.  It’s nice to see that reality affirmed every once in a while.

Congratulations to all of the winners of this years Ohioana Awards!

Savoring A Taste Of Indian Summer

When you’ve had a wet and cooler than normal autumn, a few days of Indian summer — and I recognize that is not a very politically correct term, but it’s the only one I know — is very much appreciated.  Yesterday and today, the good citizens of Columbus, Ohio enjoyed daytime temperatures that hovered around 80 degrees, nighttime temperatures in the 50s, and clear, sunny skies.

Of course, Indian summer never lasts long; you have to enjoy it while you can.  For us, it’s ending all too soon.  Tomorrow, showers and cooler temperatures are in the forecast, and then the weather is supposed to get worse as we move toward November.

An Update On “Occupy Columbus”

Yesterday was a beautiful, spring-like day, so after lunch The Bus-Riding Conservative and I decided to take an extended walk. To our surprise, when we walked past the Ohio Statehouse we learned that “Occupy Columbus” is still there.

To be sure, the tents have moved since I last visited Statehouse Square months ago.  They used to be right in front of the McKinley statue in the middle of the block; now they’ve been repositioned down the block to the south.

The “Occupiers” have a large white party tent, carefully taped to keep out the weather.  On the front is a big sign advertising their website, as well as an ersatz American flag in which the fifty stars have been cleverly replaced with corporate logos like McDonald’s and Chevron.  (Does that mean that corporations are taking the place of the fifty states, or that corporations are the true stars of the country?  The message could be misconstrued.)  I tried to check out the “Occupy Columbus” website shown on the large sign, but when I did Firefox sent me a warning saying that the website connection was untrusted and that I would be proceeding at my peril — so I decided the prudent course was to not satisfy my curiosity.

There were two people sitting behind the tents, enjoying the lovely weather.  Other than that, there seemed to be nobody there, and there was no other activity to be seen.  In short, “Occupy Columbus” is still there, occupying their little patch of Statehouse Square, but that appears to be about it.

Checking In On “Occupy Columbus”

This morning I walked over to the Statehouse to check out the “Occupy” protest, Columbus version.  It’s changed a little since my first visit.  Big doings were planned today for the Occupy Wall Street folks in NYC, so I thought the Columbus chapter might also be kicking into gear.  That turned out not to be the case.

As the photo I took indicates, the Columbus encampment is small and shabby — a few tents, a few wooden pallets, a cooler or two, a few garbage cans, and some stray signage fastened to steel fencing on the sidewalk in front of the Ohio Statehouse.  At least one of the tents was occupied, but no one was out chanting or doing anything else.  It was cold, so maybe the Occupy protesters decided that tapping on their laptop keyboards inside the tents was the smarter course.  The people waiting at the nearby bus stop, who far outnumbered anybody huddled in the tents, were trying to stay warm in a brisk wind and weren’t paying much attention to the Occupy folks, anyway.

The whole point of the Occupy protests still seems pretty obscure to me.  The signage at the Columbus camp didn’t provide much clarification, either.  Here were the signs that were visible this morning:  “The finest democracy money can buy,” “Monopolies kill off competition,” “Kill your TV and Do Your Research,” “Integrate the Federal Reserve,” and “Commercialized Culture TV, Radio, Music, Art, Religion.”  Is there a common, articulable theme in those signs, other than reflexive opposition to whatever might attract their attention?

Help Needed In Showcasing Columbus

We’re being visited for the weekend by a friend who is new to Columbus.  They are from an urban, East Coast location and have never been to the Midwest, so they already are enjoying the charms of backyards, green grass, white fences, and rolling countryside.

But what distinguishes Columbus from other Midwestern towns that have those same features?  How do we showcase our fair city?  Having never been to Columbus as a tourist, I don’t have the slightest idea of what tourists do when they visit.  We’ve suggested Easton Town Center, the Wexner Center, the Short North, and German Village.  It’s not football season, so an OSU game is out.  The Ohio State Fair hasn’t started yet.  What else?  The Ohio Statehouse?  The Arena District?  The Park of Roses?  It makes me realize that so much of what I really like about Columbus is not showy landmarks, but instead the people and the pace.

Am I missing anything?  I’d appreciate any suggestions!

Senate Bill 5 Moves On

By a one-vote margin, the Ohio Senate today passed Senate Bill 5, the controversial legislation to modify the collective bargaining rights of public employees.  The vote came as pro-union demonstrators again flooded the Ohio Statehouse and its grounds to try to stir up opposition to the measure.  The union protesters manage to get six Republicans to break ranks with leadership and vote against the bill — but they needed seven defections to kill the bill.  The measure now moves to the Ohio House, where it is expected to pass.  Governor John Kasich supports the bill and would sign it if it makes it to his desk.

I respect the public employees who came to Columbus to exercise their free speech rights and oppose Senate Bill 5, but I believe it is a necessary measure.  Ohio is facing a huge budget deficit, and many Ohio municipalities also are facing budget shortfalls.  A significant part of the state and local governmental budgets are devoted to public employees compensation and benefits.  Senate Bill 5 seems like a reasonable step to deal with those costs.  Public employees could still bargain about wages, hours, and working conditions, but not health care, pension benefits, or sick time.  Public employees also would not be able to strike.  The move should allow Ohio state and local governmental entities to bring public employee health care and pension benefit contributions in line with the prevailing approaches in the private sector, and the savings produced as a result will help to make up the budget shortfalls.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves, however.  Senate Bill 5 is not going to fix Ohio’s budget gap by itself.  Our legislators need to roll up their sleeve and continue to look carefully, and skeptically, at state programs, state departments, and state agencies and decide whether they truly are needed, and if so at what funding level.  What services are critical, and which provide non-essential services that we simply cannot afford any longer?  Public employees in Ohio should not be the only group that bears the brunt of necessary budget cuts.

 

At The Ohio Statehouse Union Rally

A view from the Statehouse steps onto the northwest lawn

Today, after lunch, Richard and I walked over to the Ohio Statehouse to check out the big union rally against Senate Bill 5, the bill that would affect the ability of public employees to engage in collective bargaining rights.  I had been hearing the hubbub outside my office window and was eager to see the turnout.

We got to the Statehouse about 12:45 and entered at the Third Street entrance.  There were some union folks out on Third Street and milling around the entrance.  We saw people wearing public employee union t-shirts, jackets and buttons in the map room and in the Atrium above.  Rows of chairs had been set up in the Atrium, facing each other across a center aisle, and as we walked through a large, leather-lunged woman was leading the crowd in “We want respect” chants.  I would estimate that several hundred people were in the Atrium, and they were in good spirits.

Signs at today's Statehouse rally

We crossed through the Statehouse Rotunda and exited out the Broad Street entrance, which was where the real action was.  A temporary stage had been erected and two singers with guitars were singing union songs.  The crowd covered about two-thirds of the west lawn and sidewalk, with people sitting on the benches and standing on parts of the McKinley memorial.  There were lots of union t-shirts, hats, and some very creative signs criticizing Governor Kasich.  Some of the signs seemed to be generated by outside forces.  For example, we saw several signs referring to Governor Kasich and Wisconsin Governor Walker as “Koch-heads” or “Koch addicts,” and I’m not sure most union workers would focus on the Koch brothers as sign material without some kind of prompting.

The people at the rally were pleasant and friendly, and the whole gathering had an upbeat open-air feel.  The Ohio Highway Patrol had officers at points in the Statehouse, and they were professional and friendly as always.  We later heard an estimate that 8,500 people were at the rally.  I’m not sure it was that large when we were there, but there definitely were thousands of people in attendance.  We did not see any counter-protest.

Regardless of your politics, if you are downtown restauranteur you have to like these protests.  We saw lots of protestors crowding into the Tip Top, Dunkin Donuts, and other restaurants in the core downtown Columbus area.