Columbus, Ohio: Morning Sun
Before starting my Columbus duties, I stopped for a cup of coffee in the artsy section: German Village. It was red brick buildings as far as the eye can see. By 1865, Columbus's population was one-third German, and this South Side neighborhood had become a thriving working class community. After the immigrants moved to the suburbs, artists took over. As I sipped coffee on the brick sidewalk in front of Cup O' Joe at Third Avenue and Sycamore, the bells of St. Mary's across the street rang the hour.
A man at the far end puffed on a pipe with a gnarled wooden bowl. His flexible pipe cleaner and tamp lay on the table beside him, secured in a twice-folded pouch wrapped by a rubber band. He sipped coffee from a black plastic cup, onto which he had stuck blue tape with stamped letters that spelled "Paul" and listed a phone number. His chin receded into his wattled neck between the wide lapels of his frumpy brown shirt. His faded jeans hung beltless off of his paunch. Large blue eyes stared out from behind two thick-lensed square-framed glasses, giving the effect of looking at two separate blue eyeballs on side-by-side television sets.
In response to my question about isolation in Columbus, he said, "No, this is probably a very friendly city. It has grown large in numbers but has maintained it's small-town atmosphere. In fact, it's referred to a lot as the biggest small town in the country. Then you have Ohio State University, which has a student population (to my knowledge) around 40,000. It's basically a small city in and of itself."
"But see now we're only talking about the very core here. Once you get just outside of the confines, then you end up back with the traditional family. We no longer have like ethnic neighborhoods, even though we have an area called German Village, and an area called Italian Village. The Italians have long since parted from there, and the Germans long since parted from here.
"Columbus is pretty much a white-collar town. There are more insurance companies home-officed in Columbus than in any other city. We also have the State Capitol. Other cities in recent years have vied to try to decentralize State government. Toledo for one, said, 'Move some of the government operations up here so we can have some of the jobs.'
"About forty or fifty years ago, we had a very high influx of Appalachians that moved into the city: whole families. And they felt rich here; they found work here. You go down there, and the only options were working in the coal mines. You're probably aware of the black lung disease that so many of those people suffered. Basically, it was an opportunity to get away from that. And even though they came here to manufacturing jobs, they just stayed here.
"Columbus keeps a lot of people. I've actually no desire to go elsewhere. I go to San Francisco a lot. When you're first in San Francisco and you cross the Golden Gate Bridge and look out over the Bay there at Sausalito and the sailboats and what have you, you say, 'you know, I could live out here.' And then about five days later you say, 'I want to go home,' you know? I really wouldn't like to live on either coast. The Midwest is kind of where it's at.
"Columbus, we're nothing that I can think of that's extraordinary about us. We're just a common, typical Midwestern, middle-of-the-state, middle-of-the-country, middle-of-the-road city. That, basically, to me, is Columbus in a nutshell."
Columbus, Ohio: Morning Sun