Like in Dayton, Columbus's tourist-board-marketed "neighborhoods" were actually just blocks. Italian Village and Short North were one and the same, just as Marion Village and German Village were right next to each other. Similarly, many "galleries" in Short North were just antique places and knickknack stores.
I eventually found a shop with art and asked the girl behind the counter whether Columbus residents were isolated like Hopper characters. "Definitely not," she pursed together her bright red lips and nodded at me, to make sure that I "got" what she was saying. "Because you can't stereotype people." She wore a lightweight, hip-hugging black-and-white skirt, and a long silver pendant rested on her collarbone between the two tiny straps that barely held on her pink top. Her brown eyes were awash in a sea of glittery pink-purple mascara.
"I love Hopper's work. I like his style, but I'm more into abstract. I do watercolor, but it's more of a hobby. People want me to sell, and I'm like, 'But it's work [selling is]; I don't wanna do it!' I've lived in Seattle; I've lived in Phoenix, Canada, and here. And Columbus, being the size it is, has an awesome art scene. I've been here four months. I've never seen anything like it.
"I work in a gallery though, so I see the whole thing. And we have gallery hops here. And no less than thousands of people come through the doors that night."
At a coffee shop just down the way, I interviewed the woman barista. She was short with big blue eyes, a bevy of freckles, and close-cropped red hair. She sang along to 1970s music in her tattered T-shirt with "Oz" written on it.
I asked for a mocha latte with only one shot of espresso because I was already wired from caffeine. She was, too, because she rattled back, "Well, a latte would automatically have two shots with it, but when you order a mocha, you'll just get one. So the next time remember that."
"Um, I'm just visiting," I replied. "I'm asking: Do you think people in Columbus are isolated like the people in Hopper's paintings?"
"Well," she shrugged, "I think we are not as savvy here. People go to Cleveland for their ethnic foods. We have culture and stuff, but it's more like children's museums and the science institute: COSI. But you know, I don't go to COSI," she laughed.
"I am from Indianapolis. People say the two towns are the same, but they're not at all. Indianapolis is totally about business, sports, and heavy metal heads." She wrinkled her nose. "Columbus is not like that at all. It's got intelligentsia because of the university. It's much more about art, culture. Also, you're halfway between Cincinnati and Cleveland. And there's a recognizable gay community in Columbus, which there's not in Indianapolis. The layout here helps. High Street goes right up to the University, it goes down through the main part of town. It makes it much easier for Columbus to have a coherent community."