Monthly Archive: November 2002

Books to explore

Well, I’m reading this book called Empire Express, which is about the building of the transcontinental railway.  This is turning out to be a quick read for me — the historian uses easy words and the subject matter is not difficult to comprehend.  Also, you know that in the end, the boy wins the girl, I mean, the railway does get built.  This stands in contrast to Six Days of War, a new book I read recently (critically acclaimed!), which took ages to finish; it was about the infidel Arab aggression committed against fair Israel in 1967 (not that I have an opinion on it).  In that case, I spent all this time looking places up and trying to play Jumble with all of the acronyms, and I didn’t know about the great suspense item of the book: whether Israel or Egypt would start the war.  (Spoiler: it was both.)  Still a great read, however — I recommend it, and if any of my readers know a good book on the 1973 war, I’d like to hear about that.

Anyway, Empire Express, long story short: good book so far, check it out if you care about the building of the American West.  I thought I would shut up now and share a small gem of a quote from the book with you.  The original source is identified as J. H. Beadle in a work called The Undeveloped West, or, Five Years in the Territories (1873), and he is describing Nebraska’s Platte River, which the railwaymen are building alongside.

…a dirty and uninviting lagoon, only differing from a slough in having a current from half a mile to two miles wide, and with barely water enough to fill an average canal; six inches of fluid water running over another stream of six feet or more of treacherous sand; too thin to walk on, too thick to drink, too shallow for navigation, too deep for safe fording, too yellow to wash in, too pale to paint with — the most disappointing and least useful stream in America.

Election night update 2

Chris Matthews: Congressman Bob Barr, let’s talk about Republicans in these toss-up races, how is it that Republicans are picking up these seats so well these days?

Bob Barr (R-GA): Well, I think the big news is Republicans are starting to pay attention to the local politics in the area and I want to say something that Tip O’Neill once said, and he didn’t say it as a Democrat, he said it as a political leader and that is all politics is local and the Republicans are learning to pay attention to what is going on locally.

Matthews: Congressman, let’s try it with one word.

Barr: Local.

Election night update

You just missed it on CNN: George McGovern telling Alan Simpson that since Mondale and Lautenberg are back, maybe THEY should also run for office again.  And Simpson goes, “Hey, we’re tanned and toned, ready to go!”

Columbus gets her arches back

Well, I had the pleasure of attending a rather unusual party last night.  As you might have heard, Columbus used to be famous for its lighted metal arches over High Street.  (According to the legend, Columbus was known as Arch City into the fifties.)  These arches were downtown and probably made a walk through the city rather attractive, and I think they must have nicely complemented the linearity of what was a great shopping and business street.  The arches were taken down, and I don’t know why.

Now Downtown has declined, but my neighborhood has been resurgent for twenty years.  Local business leaders and politicians have talked forever about getting new arches on High Street in the Short North to bring back that cool landscape and feel.  Last night, they finally put one up.

I was annoyed on my walk home to find that the street was being closed.  How many construction projects must I endure?  This counts as the sixth in a year and a half, with that disastrous fiber-optic project as the worst.  I went upstairs and made some dinner.  I kept looking out the window, though, and realized that the first arch was going to go up right outside my building.  Then my buddy Marc called and we talked about it.  Eventually, he wheedled me into agreeing to meet him so we could watch it go up.

I noticed the mayor out on the street holding champagne glasses, so I decided it was a good time to uncork a nice Australian red, which I dumped into a couple of plastic cups.  (If the mayor can violate the open-container law, so can I, right?)  Then I headed downstairs to stand in the street like everybody else.

“Everyone” was there.  By everyone, I mean a good chunk of the local shop owners, city politicians, and urban design/planner types.  Dorothy Teater was there, and she chatted amiably with Mayor Coleman.  (I was one of the six people who voted for Dot when she was up for mayor in ’99.  I’ve always felt sorry for her since she had to be county commissioner with Arlene Shoemaker for so long.)  I recognized the Rigsby’s owner, the guy who owns my building, some of my mom’s clients, a real estate agent, and a lot of others, and I got to meet some new people who I’m sure I’ll never remember.  There were also a lot of construction workers, contractor/suits, Rigsby’s diners, local residents, and half-drunk yahoos from the Short North Tavern.

It was cool.  The thing looks more round than I expected.  The arches have to be tall enough for semis and buses to pass under, even at the curbside lanes.  (Let’s hope they’re big enough for trains, too, eh?)  I figured it would look like some jungle-gym crossbar, but it was elegant.  The “light bulbs” are actually unbreakable plastic knobs that let light out via fiber optics.  They say they can do any colors except red, amber, and green, since these are the traffic light colors.  So for Independence Day we can have purple, white, and blue!

The mayor cried “photo op!” and gathered round a lot of workers and contractor types for photos and videos.  Then he said, “Let’s have the city people up here!”, by which he meant City government workers but which the half-drunk yahoos interpreted as themselves.  Coleman made a toast to “the future of Columbus, which is exemplified by the dynamism of this neighborhood!”  OK, Mr. Mayor, you never were a great speechifier, but you got a lot of “woos” and applause.  (“Take it to the next level!”)  Then a crane lifted the arch slowly into position.  Then the mayor stared at it for a while and then announced “I’ll be back in ten minutes!” and ambled off in the direction of the Tavern.  He never came back.  I toyed with the idea of being the first civilian to pass under the arch but, fearing further pedestrian challenges to the police, decided to content myself with being one of the first.

The rest of the evening I spent finishing the wine and complaining with all of the Short North Democrats about tomorrow’s election.  It made me feel good to live in a real community, which has civic leaders, business boosters, and a lot of residents.

It was a little anticlimactic actually, since they never turned the first arch on.  I thought it would be awesome to see it snapped into position and then illuminated, but that didn’t happen.  In fact, Marc said he noticed later they’d taken it back down.  No matter.  This morning two were up and they looked great.