Monday, September 30, 2013

Cincinnati Bomb Scare = Panera Detainee

I got a little more than I bargained for from our day trip to Cincinnati on Saturday.

I wanted to make the 90-minute drive in order to pick up some things from Ikea. Paul wanted to see a Reds game. He joined me while I picked out a couple of rugs, but I opted to skip the baseball game in favor of some much-needed alone time at a downtown Cincinnati Panera. Paul took Edith to the game.

Muffin and tea in hand, I set up my laptop at a nice window seat and started to get some work done. Before I knew it, a police officer came into the cafe and made an announcement: no one was to leave the premises.

Come to find out, an abandoned bag was sitting on the corner, directly across the street from my nice window seat. Before I knew it, the block was roped off and a robot was investigating the contents.

For something like two hours.

The bag!

The robot!

It looked like some news crews caught wind of the story, and the crowd got larger when the Reds game ended. Luckily we were able to leave Panera about 20 minutes after the final pitch. The robot didn't find much of anything, as far as I could tell -- a shoe or two, maybe some clothes.

One of the Panera workers said this wasn't even the first time this had happened on that corner. But if I had to be detained, at least it was in a place filled with cookies, brownies and muffins.

The contents!

Finally: Safe for law enforcement.

Friday, September 27, 2013

New Noises of the Night

In Brooklyn, night noises were everywhere. And they were so ubiquitous that it didn't take long for them to fade into the background before they disappeared altogether.

Now I have a new set of noises to get used to, although admittedly these are already so soft that little acclimatization was necessary.

The first noise I noticed at night were the insects -- luckily outside the house and not inside. We live in a decidedly urban area, so I was startled by the constant hum. But not disappointed. I like the sound.

Traffic is no bother here at night. You can just barely hear the cars rush by on a nearby highway. Garbage trucks here roll by once a week in the morning, not nearly every night in the middle of the night like in New York. The only giant truck I've seen after nightfall was the one delivering our furniture.

But for every noise that's been taken away, a new one has taken its place. Now we have old-house sounds. The worst are the squeaky floors. Although that obviously isn't an issue only at night, that is when it becomes a problem: Edith has been known to wake up as you unsuccessfully try to tip-toe out of her room.

The most surprising noise, however, are the trains. I didn't even know there were tracks within an audible distance. But I actually like listening to the chugga-chuggas and blasting horns, even in the middle of the night. They aren't so noisy that they wake me up, but just loud enough to remind me of the ship horns I used to hear blast in the bay in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Saturday Night Fever" vs. the Real Bay Ridge

There was one thing I longed to do before we left Brooklyn, and I did it just under the wire:

Watch "Saturday Night Fever."

I had seen it once, before we moved to New York. But this viewing would be different. Why? "Saturday Night Fever" was set in my very own Bay Ridge. I wanted to see how my neighborhood was portrayed.

"Bay Ridge ain't the worst part of Brooklyn," John Travolta as Tony says at one point. "It ain't a hellhole or nothin'."

OK, so it's not portrayed in the absolute best light, but it was interesting all the same.

The movie begins with a shot panning over Bay Ridge to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. I swear if you look closely, you probably could see our apartment building.

But then it cuts to an above-ground subway, which obviously isn't in Bay Ridge. The neighborhood has no trains above ground. It may have been in Bensonhurst, the next-door neighborhood where I understand a lot of the movie was filmed.

Later in the movie you see the characters looking at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from a bench on the Shore Road Promenade. And speaking of the bridge, at one point Tony mentions it, but the caption said "Brooklyn Bridge" when it was obviously the Verrazano. Brooklyn knowledge for the win!

A final point I found interesting was at the dance contest, when some of the characters said the Puerto Rican dancers were in the wrong neighborhood. I wonder what they would say about Bay Ridge's diversity now.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Two Months in Ohio, One Month in New Home

Babies love to move, even if their parents don't.

Saturday marked two major milestones -- it's been two months since we moved to Ohio and one month since we moved into our new home. Both still seem a little unreal.

It was only recently that I realized that this new house was starting to feel like home. For the first three weeks or so, it felt like I was just camping out. Of course, that may be because we practically were camping out our first 10 days here, before our furniture arrived so very, very late.

And even living in Ohio doesn't seem all that real yet. I still get a little "homesick" for New York at times. I'll think about my friends or the neighborhood -- heck, one night I suddenly got an image stuck in my head of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at night -- and I'll get sad. But all in all I'm happy with our house and I'm happy in Columbus.

After emptying a good three-quarters of the boxes the first two or three days after our stuff was delivered, we've majorly procrastinated in putting away the last quarter. Our bedroom and Edith's are tidy, and the living room is mostly done. The dining room isn't quite usable yet, and the kitchen isn't completely organized. And please, whatever you do, don't think about going into the basement. So we still have work to do.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Stereotypical Midwestern Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Some people like to exaggerate the type and amount of food we Midwesterners eat. We don't douse everything in oil or slather it in frosting. Once in a while, we'll even eat a veggie or two.

But my order at Michael's Goody Boy Diner in the Short North a few weeks ago played into every bad stereotype anyone has ever had about Midwestern food: a five-cheese triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich.

Not only did it have five cheeses --American, Swiss, provolone, pepper jack, and feta -- it was also topped with ham, bacon, cole slaw and (to make it healthy, I guess?) a grilled tomato.

Truth be told, it wasn't that good. Perhaps one, maybe two cheeses are all that should be included on a sandwich. But tasty or not, it sure did make me feel like I was in Ohio again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Short Visits Make for Easy Packing

It took me a second last Thursday to realize why it felt so strange to pack for a weekend in Defiance. After all, I'd packed for visits to my parents dozens of times in the last 14 years.

The difference, I realized, is that I was packing so much less. When we moved to New York, we never made visits to either of our families that were less than three or four days, at a minimum. At Christmastime, those Ohio visits often lasted more than a week.

We hadn't had an overnight visit to family of less than 48 hours since sometime in 2007.

I barely had to think. A few shirts, a couple of pairs of jeans, zip, zap, zooey. I even fit Edith's stuff in my suitcase.

This visit had a real reason: My nephew was baptized on Saturday, so I did have to double-check to make sure his present was packed. But even with that, it was the easiest packing job I've had in more than six years.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Biking of All Kinds in Columbus

I need a bike.

I now live about a 5-minute walk from one of the city's best trails, and I can see only a fraction of it since I don't run and don't have a bicycle. But until the day comes when I can pedal on my own set of wheels, I'll have to be content looking at other types of bicycles in Columbus.

First, I was shocked to find out that Columbus recently started its own bike share program, called CoGo. New York, after all, started its own bike program only this year. Who said Ohio is behind the curve? Unfortunately the bikes here in Columbus aren't available in our neighborhood, but instead only in and near the downtown area. Still, pretty cool.

Second, Cycle Tavern. This is pretty much what you would expect it to be: A 16-person bicycle that pedals from bar to bar in Columbus. You can't actually drink on the bike, although I heard that it was totally allowed when it first started. It's essentially a pub crawl by bike, rentable by the hour -- $190/hour on Fridays and Saturdays, $160/hour any other day of the week.

So even though I don't have my own bicycle yet, plenty of people in Columbus are, in fact, biking for one reason or another.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11, Away from New York

I was so surrounded by 9/11 in New York that paradoxically it would have been easy to forget about the attacks if I wasn't careful. Yes, there were constant reminders, but they were so prevalent that they almost became a part of the scenery.

That's especially true in my case, since I didn't move to New York until 2007, more than six years after the attacks. By the time I got to really know the city, I could only imagine what the World Trade Center area must have looked like with the towers dwarfing the surrounding buildings.

The Freedom Tower climbed higher and higher on Ground Zero while we were there, but I'll largely remember the site as a construction zone. Not only that, but a construction zone that impacted my daily life, since I worked only a couple of blocks away and constantly saw the progress being made -- and the tourists who came to measure it.

Here I am back in Columbus, where I was during the 2001 attacks. But my thoughts are with my New York friends, friends of friends and former coworkers who have first-hand memories of this day 12 years ago. May Ground Zero never become just a part of New York City's backdrop.

Monday, September 9, 2013

From the Roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visiting the roof of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art was one of those things I had vaguely heard about doing but had never actually done.

Paul and I had visited the museum several times but had never actually come across the entrance to the roof. But on our last trip there, I made it a point to seek it out.

Turns out, we'd come very close to the special elevator before; I don't know how we missed it. Unfortunately, however, strollers weren't allowed. I'm not sure if that's standard or because of the special paintings on the rooftop, but it meant that Paul and I would have to take turns.

A fraction of the rooftop exhibit.

Paul stayed behind as I got on the elevator. But as the doors were closing, I learned it would be the last trip up -- it was starting to rain. My trip would be hurried, but Paul's would be nonexistent.

I didn't spend much time looking at the art. Instead I concentrated on the view. And mostly I deeply regretted not having visited the Met's rooftop on a nice, cool, sunny day to take more iconic photos of the city from one of the city's most iconic buildings. One day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Short North Gallery Hop Saturday Night

The Short North Gallery Hop is one of my favorite events in all of Columbus.

It's not because I love the galleries so much. In fact, they are almost an afterthought. What I do love, however, are the people, the shops and the excitement.

Gallery Hop takes place the first Saturday of every month in the Short North arts district near downtown. The shops and galleries are open late. The restaurants and bars are as crowded as the sidewalks outside of them. All corners of Columbus come out, from the quirky and weird to the sleek and sophisticated.

I fall in neither category. That was especially true in August, when Paul and I attended our first Gallery Hop since returning to Ohio, this time pushing a stroller. We weren't the only ones there with a baby, but the addition did make browsing more difficult. One of us would stay with Edith on the sidewalk while the other went into the shop.

Nevertheless, it was fun. I was especially impressed by the number of new bars and restaurants that have opened in the Short North. I had only a passing thought about how long it will take to try everything now that we have a kid. No regrets, but the sight did accentuate our changing circumstances.

But maybe I'll get to start on the to-do list this weekend. On Saturday, Paul's staying home with Edith while I attend Gallery Hop with a friend. It's as close to old times as I'm going to get for a while, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our Moving Saga

When you're in the middle of a move, the last thing you want to hear is that your mover is going out of business.

We officially moved into our new house two weeks ago, but the movers didn't deliver our stuff until late Saturday night. Thankfully we had bought a new bed, so we did have something to sleep on. Besides that and Edith's pack and play, we had little furniture besides a butterfly chair, an old uncomfortable rocker left behind by the previous owners and the porch furniture. We lived in an empty house for about 10 days.

It wasn't supposed to be like that. The day we found out that our closing was scheduled for Aug. 20, I called the movers to say we could accept delivery of our shipment as early as Wednesday, Aug. 21. I was told it would be delivered that Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

When I called about the status on that Thursday, I was told that whoever told me that was wrong. A truck would be going out possibly that weekend. Our stuff would be delivered the next week.

I was upset. Paul was less so. Movers, after all, are notoriously late. He predicted this.

But we couldn't predict what happened over the next week. I called the moving company on Monday to check on the status. The woman who answered the phone asked if we received the email. What email? The one stating the company was going out of business on Sept. 1 and that our shipment would be delivered by another company.

All questions were to be answered by this new company. However, the contact details didn't inspire confidence: Two first names, no last names, a cell phone number and a Yahoo email address. And they didn't answer multiple phone messages, texts or emails. Eventually their voice mailbox wouldn't even accept new messages.

At this point, I wondered if we would ever see our stuff again.

We never did receive this email -- the company misspelled Paul's email address during the original send, and we have no idea why the subsequent attempts weren't successful. Finally, however, the new company replied to an email. There was a mistake. They didn't agree to deliver residential shipments. Call the original company.

That email came late Tuesday, Aug. 27. On Wednesday I voiced my extreme concerns to a man who appeared to head up the reservation center, based in Florida. He hadn't heard about this twist, and when we spoke several hours later, he gave me the cell phone number of the owner of the company we originally contracted with.

Of course, I called immediately. He said our shipment would be delivered Friday.

This was already a week late, so I wasn't happy. Still, Paul took the day off work, and my parents planned to come to watch Edith while we went out for our anniversary that night.

I confirmed on Thursday, and a woman in the office said our shipment should arrive about noon Friday, and the driver would call when he was an hour away. Paul and I anxiously waited, and when we still hadn't heard from the driver by 1 or 2, we got nervous. The office woman couldn't or wouldn't help, so we called the owner.

The shipment never left.

What followed was a shouting match. Why hadn't the truck left that day? (Truck broke down, supposedly.) Why weren't we told? (Never got the answer to that.) When would we get our stuff? (Sunday.)

Nope, not Sunday, we said. It would be delivered on Saturday. Make it happen.

And for good measure, I called the owner at 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning to confirm everything was on schedule. We had understood they were to get the truck at 4 a.m.,  it would be loaded and then delivered by 4 p.m.

It didn't come until 10 p.m.

To give them credit, the two deliverymen were extremely nice and very efficient. Still, they didn't leave until 12:30 a.m., and that was with Paul, my dad  and I unwrapping the blankets that protected the furniture and generally helping to move things. Mom watched an exhausted Edith, who cried and didn't fall asleep until about the time the movers left.

We were lucky my parents arrived that morning and decided to take a chance that the movers would actually come that day. We might still be unloading if they hadn't been there.

I would say stay away from this company, but it's already out of business. Lucky everyone else.

Monday, September 2, 2013


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