One of the things that makes me so endearing to dogs and the insane is the fact that I not only get the NY Times delivered to my home, but in a fit of quirky OCD, I feel the need to read pretty much everything in every paper. The front section (section A for the uninitiated) is generally full of so much bad news that by the time you get to the obituaries toward the back of that section, it’s like some sort of relief to read about people succumbing to the relative innocence of old age or a stroke. This past Saturday, however, relief came a few pages early in the form of a story about the capital of my home state of Ohio and its feeble attempt at acquiring a snappy slogan. The first option, ‘Discover Columbus’ was bad enough, but I nearly choked on my waffle when I saw that the other was ‘Surprise, It’s Columbus’. No exclamation point. No implied irony. No shame of any kind. They actually threw that out there for other people to see and read. And the picture accompanying the article included a ship that the city boasts as being the most accurate replica of the Santa Maria in existence.
Holy shit, Columbus.
Having grown up in the northwest part of the state, I can assure those of you who have been deprived of the charm of Ohio’s landscape that with one possible exception, there are precious few locations in the state that ‘surprise’ you. That exception might be the way Cincinnati leaps into view as you round a bend going north on I-75 on the south side of the Ohio River, but that feeling might just be the result of one’s zeal to get out of Kentucky. In my little hamlet, it was possible to see the steeples of the surrounding churches that dominated each of the county’s towns, providing the moral sun around which people’s lives revolved. Climb into the hay loft of some barns and it was possible to see most of the individual ‘suns’ that constituted the solar system of my part of the state. The landscape hides nothing; there are no secrets where I grew up.
So, aside from the inherent ridiculousness of a slogan declaring, ‘Boo! We’re the state capital!’, there’s also the topographical impossibility of such a thing. Driving from nearly every direction, you can pretty much see the city from miles away. Actually, the only part of the state whose populations might be able to get away with such things are in the southeast where hills begin to roll, possibly as a gift from West Virgina who felt sorry for its flat neighbor and agreed to lend us some topology. There are plenty of lovely little places hidden within the southeastern hills that might surprise a wary traveler, but even then, ‘Surprise, it’s Athens’ would probably be vetoed by the faculty of Ohio University purely on principle and, ‘Surprise, it’s Washington Court House’ is just too clunky to even consider.
Ohio needs its capital city to try a little harder than this a for slogan. The recent heartbreak for a state already with fate’s boot firmly on its neck (including the dark night of the soul initiated by the fiery demise of our polystyrene Lord and Savior) was the departure of Lebron James from Cleveland, which, seriously….Miami or a few more years in Cleveland? Duh, anyone? After eight years of carrying a franchise, a guy’s shoulder’s are going to be tired. And I have nothing against Cleveland, either. I’m a huge Browns fan because I’m loyal and full of self hate, but we’re talking about a decision between being near a large, warm body of water and another whose primary accomplishment is that it’s been over a quarter century since the last time it was ON FIRE. And the winters. When was the last time south beach experienced lake-effect snow or frigid soul-crushing wind?
So, in an effort to give back to a state that I’ve always loved to appreciate from somewhere else, I was considering submitting ‘Congratulations, It’s Not Toledo’ or ‘Columbus: Michigan Sucks’ as possible replacements. Or maybe the direct approach of, ‘Buckeyes Are Poisonous Nuts’.
P.S. Also in this paper was a quote that described Diego Maradona, the flamboyant and recently-ousted coach of Argentina’s national soccer team, as ‘a stone in the shoe of power’, because he refused to simply fold and agree to do whatever he was told. I love that imagery: A stone in the shoe of power; a fly in the ointment of oppression; a battle ax in the hands of a guy named Lou. All forces to be reckoned with.
Sir @ August 2, 2010