Category: City life

Baldwin Tower is imploded

Grant Hospital's Baldwin Tower (before implosion)

Grant Hospital’s Baldwin Tower (before implosion)

Even though I hate getting up early at weekends, I decided to drag myself out of bed so I could watch Baldwin Tower be imploded this morning.

My youthful pal A.J. and I biked up to the top story of the giant parking ramp on Capital Street. (It takes up an entire quarter-block and it’s about twelve stories tall. Quite a building itself.) There were about eighty people on the top floor of the garage with us, including two policemen with their cars.

A number of dorks with Yashica cameras showed up and attempted to set up their equipment in varying configurations.

It was a nice day, a little humid, and it was early enough that the sun slanted through the building in a pleasing way. You could see where the glass in certain parts of the stairwell had been cut away—afterward I read these were the floors with the explosives. The antennae on the roof seemed to waver lazily, maybe due to the humidity. I was surprised no one had taken those. Our view was great—because we were northwest of the building and it had been built diagonally to the street, we could see the entire building square on, almost down to the bottom.

Then, at ten seconds after nine, BANG BANG BANG BANG. The glass heaved and flexed, but didn’t seem to shatter. I saw the building turn red very briefly—I don’t know if this was explosives or some trick of the sun—and then it quickly fell into itself. It was like the building were a cereal box being crushed by a giant foot. Left to right, cell by cell, the windows and floors dumped down, down, like a good game of Connect Four when you pull the lever and all the checkers come clattering out the bottom of the game.

A cheer went up from the assembled crowd. The cameramen complained that it didn’t take the twelve seconds they were promised and they’d had no time to prepare. A huge cloud of dust more than twice the height of the building rushed up, nearly enveloping some people who’d somehow sneaked onto the roof of the neighboring building. The cloud slowly drifted north. (More than five minutes later, you could barely see Columbus State from where we were. It was a great deal of dust and who knows what was in it.)

I watched the cloud for some time. I thought about the insurance implications. I thought about how it’s sad to see any building go, even one that was apparently unloved enough to be pulled down.

What is it in human nature that brought all of us there on that early morning? A.J. said I just like destruction, but I’m not sure (I replied I would also come to watch a building get built in twelve seconds). Although there was indeed a cheer from the crowd, I was vaguely discomforted by hearing those bangs and seeing that thing fall on itself. It has been hard to think about any building imploding in a long time. And my conservative nature wants things to stay the same, not to die or to be destroyed. Maybe I needed to stand by and watch destruction in honor of creation itself. It’s futility, but I want there to be permanence in life.

Eventually, the dust dissipated, but I didn’t care to watch it settle completely. We biked down through the garage and headed away.

Now we can breathe

So, they arrested our highway shooter suspect. (I want to say “the sniper,” but I always felt like the sheriffs never really wanted us to use that term. Maybe some opportunist cop will have a book coming out with “highway shooter” in the title.) I personally never worried too much, except for one very recent trip back to the city on I-70. I hope that justice will be served and that we might be able to make some sense of this awful experience.

Now, for the usual round of complaints and cynicism! There was certainly some bad reporting coming out of this thing. In yet another Times slight to Ohio geography, repeated articles stated that I-270 carried 77,000 vehicles a day and “most truckers and suburban commuters must use it.” The traffic count is low; the statement is inaccurate. It makes us look like a piddly little town if we only have 77,000 vehicles on the “must-use” freeway. At least the Times didn’t identify it as “two and a half hours south of Cleveland” the way they referred to New Albany a few years ago.

I’d like to turn my attentions to the father of the alleged shooter. According to the papers, he took guns and ammunition away from his son in the middle of February, but didn’t show them to the police until March 12th. Let’s think about this… Your son is a “paranoid schizophrenic” who told you not to use electrical appliances because they allowed the government to spy on him. His girlfriend believed cameras were in the walls. There were at least 24 shootings, centered on the south side. You live on the south side. You took away four of his guns, for some reason, can’t imagine why that would be, and then you waited a month to tip off the cops? Thanks, dad! I don’t care how much you would want to protect your kid (and he definitely needs help — and will need protection from some of the victims): not sharing this evidence was grossly irresponsible.

In another disturbing story, the Dispatch commented on the fact that McCoy Jr.’s mental illness wouldn’t have prevented him from getting a gun. Not only did he not have a court finding against him, even if he did, Ohio is not one of the 17 states that electronically captures these judgments. The story failed to mention the gun-show loophole, which would have allowed McCoy to buy a used weapon with absolutely no background check. Now, having come through this experience as a community, with weeks and weeks of citizens worrying about being targets, with over four thousand leads coming in on the tip line, you would think we would be a little more interested in protecting ourselves from gun violence. Is it so much to ask that, at a minimum, we try not to give the mentally ill legal ways to buy weapons? I’d like to believe we’ll be a little more cautious in the future. I won’t wish too hard.

And finally, I’ll be checking up on that Wal-Mart from a previous entry, to see if they’re going to resume selling that scary video game, or if they’re still selling, you know, guns.

In other news: in my online poll on whether vacuumed ants can escape, there were three votes for “no,” one vote for “yes,” and one non-countable vote linking to a site recommending to vacuum the ants but to plug the hose afterward. (Sorry, but I can’t plug the hose, so that didn’t answer the question.) However, careful observation of my now only slightly infested kitchen shows that vacuuming was indeed a success.

Updated in 2016: Here is a 2013 news story on the shooter.

Shooting up

As if we didn’t have it bad enough, what with permanent war, the soured economy, secret trials being conducted on American soil, and John Ashcroft swearing he didn’t go through my library books, now we have a new threat. I mean I’m already terrified to take the elevator at work every day, I’m opening my mail with salad tongs*, and now I have to worry about my family and me being shot at as we go about our daily lives.

Yes, the 270 shooter is on the loose. And I thought making my cute 670 T-shirt would be the highway news of the year. I think it will turn out to be some local yahoo, nobody important, some skinny white boy. If he has any flair for the dramatic, he’ll move down to I-275 for a day or two and try his luck there. Nothing like a roving, statewide shooting spree. To get better press, this shooter wouldn’t even have to kill anyone (else).

On Saturday, the story had already made Washington, D.C., local news, and is now a national event. I don’t tell you the news here, so I’m not going to talk about the details. I want to make a couple of points.

First of all, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation than this one to highlight the impact of the Statehouse Republicans’ push for Ohio residents to get the right to carry concealed weapons. If you didn’t know, certain House members have been pushing a bill for months to allow most anyone who can get a permit to be able to carry a gun in a pocket or a purse, and countless patriotic Americans have openly paraded their weapons around the Statehouse and the governor’s mansion to show the folly of the current law. And I fully agree with them. By passing this new bill and putting more guns on the street, we will definitely reduce gun crimes. After all, if criminals don’t know who has a gun, then they don’t know whom they can safely attack. And if the drivers of those 11 motor vehicles had been driving around with loaded guns, they would have been able to roll down their windows, steer and aim at 70mph, shoot back at that sniper, and kill him dead. And poor Gail Knisley would be alive today.

Secondly, a co-worker of mine told me today that Wal-Mart has stopped selling a violent video game in response to this string of shootings. I looked it up and it’s true — out of respect for the dead, the good old Wal-Mart on US 23 (25 miles away) has pulled Grand Theft Auto: Vice City from its shelves. I guess this is the least they could do since the game features simulated shootings and carjackings. Still for sale at Wal-Marts nationwide: guns.

* I stole this line from a Tina Fey interview in the New Yorker.  :)

Updated in 2016: There was a 2013 news article updating this story. Moreover, Wal-Mart is back to selling Grand Theft Auto.

Labor Day weekend

First off, it really looks like the economy is picking up, despite the apparent firings of two of my friends. (Who knew.) How do I know? The newspapers are getting thicker again. Last year, I could carry around three, four days worth of papers in my little purse. I’d buy this skinny-ass little Times and think, “That’s all?” Back in 1999, 2000, man, the Times was so thick you couldn’t always fold it up! Well, these days, it’s getting to be heavier and harder to cram into the bag. I even ran across a copy of Wired (again, who knew?) and it had some decent heft to it also. So, I perceive this as a good sign for the economy (but bad for my back and shoulders).

I went to the OSU-Washington game last night. And oh my God, for the first time ever, I actually understand how the game works! My lovely friend Marc explained all about the downs and the ten-yard deal and even a couple of crazy topics like “safeties.” I felt so empowered. Why couldn’t anyone ever get this across before? I think my incomprehension of football was the last thing standing between me and becoming a man. Is there some kind of sports bar mitzvah I can hold for myself to commemorate the occasion? Everybody over to my place for buffalo wings.

Finally, if you happen to be reading this in the next couple of days, go over to COSI (T9: BORG) for the Supernova3 installation. It’s by Hiro Yamagata, of course, and it’s amazing. It was half like some crystal meth nightmare and half just really dangerous-seeming. (Rotating sharp pieces of glass, mirrors, hanging from the ceiling everywhere, while the lighting rapidly shifts and disorients you.) Yeah, don’t miss it.

Small thoughts

So, ah, let’s talk about this liquid yogurt business. Apparently Dannon has some kind of “Light ‘n’ Fit smoothie” they’re selling. There also appears to be a Yoplait entry (but since their website is Flash, I refuse to view it). But I saw some commercial for some other kind of liquid yogurt drink — it involved hundreds of beautiful women all waking up and drinking this crap on the way to work. They all back out of their driveways in their SUV’s at the same time, but because they are all drinking a delicious yogurt smoothie and they’re so nice, they all wave each other on and (apparently) nobody can leave her driveway. Yes, suburbia is populated with hundreds of identical SUV-driving women. But liquid yogurt? Come on. The only word coming to mind is “gloppy.” Do I really need a “whole new way” to be revolted?

I would also like to apologize to all those who commented on my outfit as I biked past the Coffee Table. Some guy called out, “Ooh, you got the complete look, baby!” That’s when I looked down and realized I was accidentally wearing an orange Adidas T-shirt, black Adidas soccer shorts, and my classic Adidas Sambas. Swear to God, it was accidental — I’m not a label freak.

Eat it

I’ve had it with grocery store discount cards.  They know.

I used to go to Kroger and sign up for a fresh “Kroger Plus Card” every time I bought something. This was great fun for me because it held up the line (which I feel, ultimately, punishes the store, somehow), and because I always fill in a fake name, like Jodie Zaragosa or Marko Nuckles. There was always a twinge of excitement and guilt when I’d realize (again) that I’d given a fake name while paying with a credit card that has my real name on it. They never called me on it, though, which was a little disappointing.

Kroger caught on to me this year and started making you have to go to the customer service desk to sign up for a new card. This really cut down on my card-signing-up activities, since I usually forget to sign up for the card until I have ice cream, and then it’s this boring race against time to get home.

My big beef is, since when did it become reasonable to jack up the average bill 18%, then make people use a card to get the prices back where they belong? I don’t want to give out my personal information, but I don’t want to pay $11 a pound for fish either. Is it really worth six bucks to them every time I go in there for them to find out what I’m buying? It’s the biggest hassle. And I refuse to carry the card or hang it on my keyring, because if there is one thing I am not it is some kind of corporate tool. Obviously.

The biggest excitement came tonight, when I sadly indicated I didn’t have my card — sometimes the cashiers will take pity on you and give you the discount anyway. Not this hardass. But she did say you could go to customer service and ask for the discount on your next visit. Isn’t that great? Kroger owes me hundreds.  Where are my receipts?

Driving woes

Today was the first day back to work and school for anyone affected by the big snowstorm. I just got back from San Francisco, where they don’t have snowstorms, they have whiny “peace rallies.” (It’s a different kind of disaster.)

OK, I am trivializing war here, but can’t help it. The Left Coast has never been my favorite locale for its radical positions on… everything.

Speaking of positions, I hope in-town readers manage to pick up a copy of The Other Paper this week and catch my letter to the editor on the new 315 ramps. The paper has done two major stories on the spat caused by city engineers who say the state has done an unsafe design for new ramps that provide better accessibility to OSU Hospitals.  Somebody else wrote in to say there shouldn’t be new ramps, there should be better transit. I say (in a rather amusing manner, I might add), that in an emergency I’d rather take an ambulance than a bus.

My other comment for today is on the “level three snow emergencies” that have been declared around the state.  I realize driving in some areas is to be avoided right now.  But can the state, by the level three emergency, legitimately make driving illegal? Under the policy (and I don’t know if it’s in a statute), counties can declare level 3, making driving on public highways entirely illegal (except in some cases of emergencies). I have several problems with this law. 

1) The law obliges a driver to get the information about the emergency in some way, but doesn’t specify how. Usually you hear about it on the radio or TV. So can the law require someone to own and operate a radio? The law can’t even require a man to read and write. 

2) What if you are out driving when it’s still level 2, and then level 3 is declared? There is no exemption for heading home. You’re breaking the law through no fault (or perhaps knowledge) of your own. 

3) Under this policy, you can be ticketed for driving. Isn’t it pretty dangerous to pull someone over, demand to know if it’s a driving emergency, and then issue a ticket? In this kind of weather, pulling over can easily put you in the ditch.

4) Some police, knowing all of the above, may be reluctant to actually enforce the law. This could lead to uneven enforcement. And if that happens, the whole rule of law is weakened.

Finally, to round out this driving-related posting (and because I have been quiet for so long), I would like to have a rare link on my site, to a BBC news article on London’s congestion charging scheme. The government there has implemented a new requirement that any vehicle driving in central London between 7am and 6.30pm has to pay five pounds. Taxis are exempt and local residents can pay only 50p. To enforce the measure, there’s a big network of fixed and mobile cameras that read license plates at the entry points and at key intersections within the city. If you don’t pay, the fines are much higher. They say the point is to cause drivers to pay the actual cost of causing congestion; the fees go toward transportation improvements. I’ve been following this plan for a while, and if you’re curious, there is a great deal of British news and government information.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

The Dispatch takes a dive

I just opened my Monday paper and found this weird card tucked inside. Like the entire rest of the paper (thank you very much, carrier), the card was all curled up beyond smoothing. It was blank, but it included a strange, grainy note, printed in a mysterious font. The note reads, “I would like … to welcome you to my world.”

Shaken, and checking for white powder, I continued reading. Looks like my building is blessed with its third carrier in three months. Oh, God, I thought. I’ve become used to finding my paper right outside my door in the hallway… or on a table… or under a bench… or right on High Street. Once it was in High Street. Now, you would think, having been a subscriber to the Dispatch for seven years, and having longstanding family ties besides, that they would take note and put a good carrier on my route. But I guess they’re too busy shrinking the pages. I’m distressed to learn I’ll have to train a new one all over again.

“Please look for your Sunday aids to now come Saturday night.” Yeah, that’s when I was expecting to get aids.

This was discouraging: “Please keep in mind that there will be mornings that I’m running late. To inquire about your paper on those days, please call me 1st. Calls to the Dispatch will count against me, as well ass my manager.” When I read this, I was sneakily pleased to see that maybe all those calls to the Dispatch got the last carrier fired, which is why we have this new one. Then I was peeved: already, my carrier is planning to be late? And then it went on to say, “By doing so, you should even receive your paper more promptly.” Is that a threat? Don’t tell on me or you’ll never get your paper? For this I pay $41.60 a quarter?!

What are things coming to? Time was, the local paper boy or girl was an enterprising youngster with an undiagnosed sleeping disorder. This person lives nine miles away, as the pre-addressed tip envelope indicates. How will we ever build the bond that ensures I get the paper and that might persuade me to grudgingly part with a decent tip? I’ll keep my readers informed. But keep in mind there will be mornings when this column is late.

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.

The New Dispatch

Well, I just got my copy of the Sunday Dispatch, and it includes a six-page section on the changes we can all expect tomorrow in the Monday paper.

I was initially upset that the paper is being redesigned (are you surprised?), but it doesn’t look that bad. Other than the fact that the paper is getting two inches narrower, the changes should be OK. The Dispatch is so urban cool, because they suggested that it would be easier to manage during a morning bus commute — despite the fact that only about 12,000 people do that on a regular basis. Thank you, Dispatch!

Finally, I should like to use this space to settle an argument that has been raging for some time, and I’d like to do it by saying, “I win.” :) To explain, many people have said that a newspaper has no “cover,” only a “front page.” The first page of each section is also just called a “front page,” these people say. Well, if you’ll look throughout Section I today, you’ll note that the Dispatch calls it a “cover” again and again, thusly siding with me. Please don’t question my news-reading abilities.