Five years ago, amid bursting fireworks of Red White and Boom, the sizzle of grilled meats and sparklers, and the unmistakable patriotic croons of J. Cougar Mellencamp, The Boss, and Jewish Elvis—Neil Diamond—a skinny, already washed-up twenty-something limped from New York City to Columbus.
I know what you’re thinking; ‘Neil Diamond’s Jewish?’
He is. (Outtakes from the Album ‘Hot August Night’ contain a little ditty called ‘Schvitzing in Blue Jeans’…Ho!)
I hear it all the time, “Mike, why would someone move from New York City to Columbus? Was it because you’re a terrible comedian?”
Yes. And because of it, I was fucking broke.
You see I’m what some people (two, my parents) would consider a “late bloomer”. One of those questioning types who always scoffed at the concept of going to “college”, getting a “degree”; getting “married” at 21, having babies named “Lipitor” and “Resentment” hitting a mid-life crisis by 30 signified only by using quotation marks for everything à la Matt Foley.
To side step this potential lifestyle, I packed up my van with Cleveland sports t-shirts and headed to shiny Manhattan to live off ramen noodles and grade-P dirt tacos, perpetuating the highly fashionable heroin chic. Got chewed up, gut-punched, money-bled by the Big Apple working as a bartender/promotional model under the guise of ‘actor’.
After five years, with nothing to show for but emaciated yet squishy skin from perpetual barrages of MSG in ramen packets, reality struck, then panic.
To quote the Talking Heads, “My god, what have I done?”
Then, “My god, what should I do?”
Then, “No, seriously, god. What should I do?
Move back to Cleveland? Back in with the parents? Impress the ladies with my parents’ sweet basement set-up?
I chose Columbus.
Or did it choose me…?
There were whispers from my Columbus friends (mostly Paul) who saw bands like Man Man, Fleet Foxes, Silver Jews in concert at the Wexner Center/Milo Arts (RIP)/ The Summit — ate at this sweet Ethiopian restaurant, and drank at this particular bluegrass bar. They said I should move here.
“You should move here.”
They promised diverse foods, cheap beer, and open arms for this failed actor.
I moved to Columbus July 4th weekend 2008, digging in, finishing-off a half-consumed English degree in two years, leaving heroin chic for micro-brews. After college, I was lucky enough to nab a legit writing job downtown.
Here I am, five years later—the same amount of time spent in New York— comfortable, moderately successful, formulating a proper way to communicate why Columbus is such a great place to live.
I could use the jaded peer approach:
Me: “It’s a great place! Cheap cost of living.”
Friends: “Sure. I’ve been through the Columbus airport; seen the ‘Cow-Tipping USA’ shirts.”
Me: “It’s not like that. Promise.”
Friends: “Why would they go through the trouble of making the shirts, then?”
Me: “Stupid cows.”
Then there’s the broken national marketing record approach, stuck on songs of ‘foodie destination’, ‘fancy drink holes’, and ‘our lovely patron-lady of delicious whipped cow juice’.
Which still sounds oh-so-smooth, but not this round.
Rarely do transient authors and bloggers penetrate the arterial spirit that drives Columbus.
And perhaps everyone knows this already and I’m just naïvely late to the pool of epiphanic rapture, but here it is: you can do anything you want in this town.
Really, you can.
You can hone your craft/excel within your designated creative arena.
You can have a day job, and a crazy artsy night job, like Batman, or a stripper, or a Batman Stripper.
You can multi-art, and live comfortably.
There’s no oppressive $2500/month rent hanging over your head, unless you purchased a gilded loft, to which I ask, “May I have a thousand dollars, please?”
There’s no soul crushing bottleneck of talent doing the same thing you’re trying to do in a place where success is in being a Coppala, scientologists, or knowing Bobby DeNiro.
Even in some of the more competitive fields, like the surging Tech industry, there’s a sense of camaraderie and collaboration and not violent, shiv-wielding hacker blockades.
You can do anything you want in Columbus and be successful at it because Columbus’ leaders and movers are accessible people. They’re out there, mingling, waiting to meet nice, artistic folks brimming with fresh ideas like you. Not in a creepy ‘you’d-pair-nicely-with-a-Chianti’ kind of way, but they will talk to you, co-inspire.
Sure, there are the detractors who bemoan: A. Columbus isn’t New York, or L.A. B. Opportunities are less available.
To which I say:
A. So what?
The opportunities are HERE for the taking.
This is a universal sentiment, but everyone who moves to/is born in Columbus has a blank dry-erase board to draw upon.
Even if some of the ideas or thoughts aren’t taking off right away, you can re-shift in pursuance of passion(s) without instantaneously hitting rock bottom i.e. moving back in with the parents, drinking 40oz King Cobras, crying yourself to sleep every night on a ‘Return of the Jedi’ pillowcase from childhood. Stupid Ewoks.
The question now becomes, not why I moved here, but why I’ve stayed.
It’s easy: Columbus has inspired me. I’m just realizing my potential in a city apprehending its own place as a ‘top-spot’ domestically. The city—like an old friend—accepted me as a person, positively reinforcing exploration with little pockets of innovative goodness from the proverbial artery (and subsequent capillaries).
It’s not often people are afforded such an opportunity to grow with a city they love.
Take advantage; it’s a rewarding, pride-inducing feeling. So get on that creativity mule, finish up that screenplay, dust off that camera, warm up those throat pipes, or just keep doin’ what yer doing, and get yer ya ya’s out.
This Independence Day, as I stand barefoot in my backyard grilling salty meats whilst jamming out to the three wise men of American patriotism below the boom of awe-inspiring firework displays, I’ll raise a frosty beverage to celebrate year five, but mostly, to our fair city of rapid ascension.
Here’s to you, Columbus. Thanks for all you do.
Happy 4th of Canadinco de Murica, everyone.
34 comments on “Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, Columbus”
Be prepared for an influx of new-comers. You may want to start flipping houses in Kettering just to get ahead of the demand. Happy grilling!!
I’m ready! Flipping houses already – hope the new comers like chocolate fountains in their foyers.
Thanks, Honie. You too!
Oh man. I gotta cash in my flight to Europe and roadtrip to Columbus! There is nothing like the Midwest. The happiest people live there, I swear!
If you tweet this with #Columbus #Ohio #Travel and their Chamber of Commerce twitter handle, this post will go viral! ….in Columbus…
Columbus is the new Venice. Truth!
Amazing – totally doing that, hopefully all 100 people who live here will retweet. 🙂
It could explode…
I wish this was written a month ago when we were on Cape Cod being quizzed and questioned by locals about Columbus. Scratch beneath the surface just teeny bit and a fantastic city comes pouring out. Well done!
Thanks very much, Shawnie. How was Cape Cod?
When I moved from the Promised Land of Silicon Valley to the rainfest of Portland, Oregon, people thought I was losing my marbles. “You live in California you dumbshit, people spend their whole lives trying to get here, and you’re trying to leave?”
Your post pretty much enumerated why I left. At times I thought I made a huge mistake in being here, but I also thought I was making a mistake in being in CA. It’s cheaper here, people love their lives, they are also late bloomers, you have a chance to be who they really want instead of who they have to be to pay rent. It’s my Columbus.
We’re kindred spirits, Jen. I’m guessing people don’t ask you why you moved to Portland now that your there.
And I think our shared cities may be half-sisters. Though, your city is surrounded by beautiful wilderness, Columbus is surrounded by glacial flattening, and cow poop.
Love this Mike! I’m glad the late bloomer found a good place to thrive, be appreciated, and spread the love around! Between this and your piece on Cleveland sports fanatics, I think you could be hired as new PR guy for for the city. I could’ve written a similar piece about my move from California to Chicago — not that I was a comedian or model, more like following an ex-boyfriend — extolling the praises of a friendly mid-West city over over-crowded and pretentious LA. Sometimes I wish I’d stayed in Chicago a bit longer but ah, the high desert called. And it’s nice here too. Frosty beverage raised to you!
Thanks, Laura. I’m hoping the state of Ohio will pay me hundreds of dollars to be the spokesperson for the mid-to-northern hemisphere of the state
I didn’t know you lived in CA. You don’t seem like a LA type. 🙂
Chicago is also a great town, but you definitely made the right choice in NM.
You’re preaching to the choir. I also ran full speed towards the bright lights of Manhattan in my early 20s. I was going to make it! I was going to conquer the city! I was it!
Two years later, I was working approximately 20 hours a day, living in a shared 400 square foot “garden” apartment, and was just one of a million people exactly like me. One morning Country Boy and I looked at each other, simultaneously asked “what are we doing?”, and immediately began packing our stuff up. We headed as far south as I-95 would take us and have settled into a more manageable city. We work jobs with normal hours, we feel successful, we have time to exercise and travel, we can actually live in a nice place and go out regularly, and everyone is so friendly and supportive of our hare-brained schemes. It truly feels like we stumbled upon the promised land.
I wouldn’t trade those years in NYC for anything. They made me tough, resourceful, and showed me that I could find a way to survive anywhere. And, I had a hell of a good time on the nights where I could scrape together enough cash to go out on the town. But that doesn’t mean that I want to go back.
Man, that’s pretty much exact, PinotNinja.
Where did you two live in NYC, cause my 400 square foot east village apt. was pretty much the most miserable place I’ve ever lived.
Favorite amenity? The bathroom kitchen combo. awesome!
Glad you found your groove, and I agree 100% on some of the traits picked up in Manhattan. Wouldn’t give up those days for anything, but will never go back (to live, visiting is fine 🙂 ).
My subterranean 400 square foot hovel was in Carroll Gardens. That’s right, I didn’t even make it into Manhattan. I had to take the F train if I wanted to loiter around in front of Prunce and Momofuku (because smelling is almost as good as eating, right?).
While I didn’t have the bathroom-kitchen (which is really a special item), my apartment sported a leprechaun-sized refrigerator and oven that the landlord SWORE was “standard” size. Last I checked, one take-out container and a six pack of beer should not fill an entire refrigerator. I suppose it was a good thing I couldn’t actually afford food.
Oooo subterranean – very impressive! The F and G trains were everyone’s favorite. I feel for ya.
Haha! I too had a mini-fridge – hearing your 1 take-out/1 six pack dilemma brought back some terrible memories. Those landlords sure knew how to spin some BS.
We’ll be there in a week! Can we crash on your couch? We can crash on your couch, right?
Do you have any video from your stand-up days? I’d love to see them.
Are you really coming to C-bus?!
I was more involved in the improv scene, but there are some random recorded tv appearances buried somewhere.
Not really going, no. I was just excited about your sales pitch.
If you find any of those recordings, seriously, post those. That’s so cool that you even did that sort of thing.
Damn, your perfectly placed dry wit whooshed over my decaffeinated head this morn.
Will dig around, see if I can find them. Was a pretty cool time – didn’t get to enjoy the “fame” because I was too poor to own a tv, but no regrets.
From one roaming Mike to another, thanks for getting gushy over a city you clearly love. Fuck New York. May everyone find their own Columbus.
I don’t know you yet, but i really dig your style.
Thanks for reading, friend.
Also, Christopher Columbus landed there when he first came to the New World. How could you not love that?
He did. He also subdued the Germans, AND pillaged the Ohio/Philippine scourge. CC (we’re tight) really is a hell of a guy.
Little know fact: Columbus is named after famous director Chris Columbus. Scout’s honor.
I have nominated you (given you) blogging awards. Claim your awards on my blog, please. Just check my most recent post. Thanks!
Awesome – thanks so much Lorraine!
You are most welcome! Here is the link where you can claim your award http://lorrainemariereguly.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/my-wordpress-family-award-23-blogs-not-10-to-add-to-the-wordpress-family-awardee-list/
I grew up just outside of Columbus–love it! PLUS it is the birthplace of Jeni’s icecream, so . . . (if you haven’t been yet, GO. GO NOW.)
Nice! Where, exactly?
I am all too familiar with Jeni’s. Her shop is like a four minute walk from my house – always there, mocking, goading.
Sunbury–pretty small town 25 minutes northeast of Cbus. And Jeni’s ohmgahhhh. LIMITLESS samples. Samples WITHOUT A LIMIT, PEOPLE. Of the best ice cream ever . . . elitist ice cream maybe, but damn it is tasty.
Have some good friends up in Sunbury. Totally elitist ice cream – and it’s nationwide now. People across the US can enjoy $10 pints of deliciousness. 🙂
Wow man. I gotta trade in for cold hard currency my flight to Europe and roadtrip to Columbus! There is not at all like the Midwest.
Yes! Tell ’em I sent you when you arrive at the Cbus airport, maybe they’ll give me a referral fee. Then I can fly to europe. 🙂