Around dusk last night, Susie and I took the bus from our soon-to-be-ex neighborhood (Weinland Park) so I could give her a brief tour of the half-double in Old North Columbus (known more informally as Baja Clintonville). I was racing the sunset, and only expected her to see the exterior. I won’t have the keys in my possession until a week from tomorrow, and we don’t officially live there until October 1.
Our timing was excellent. We got off the bus and were walking westward on East Maynard, and the first thing I noticed was that our half double was blazing with light. I looked up and I saw Jerome, the leasing agent I’ve been emailing, speaking with, and meeting with since the word go, as he crossed the street from his truck, paintbrush in hand. I was glad to see him, and asked if I could give Susie a brief tour of her new home. He said sure, so we went in.
Normally, a house full of empty rooms doesn’t attract much interest, but Susie walked from room to room, quite enthralled. The fact that it’s not in Weinland Park is 95% of the charm, to be sure, but she was already mentally planning where her bedroom furniture will go in the new place. (She’s decided she doesn’t want to have the head of her bed under the windowsill, because she’s tired of hitting herself in the head upon awakening.) She took over the master bedroom when Steph moved out, but I’m reclaiming it in this new place. All of the rooms smell like fresh paint, and Jerome said the only major project remaining was to stain and varnish the floors. (I like hardwood floors, especially since I don’t own a vacuum cleaner at present. There was shag carpeting on the upper floors when I took the first tour of the place, but it’s gone now. That was mainly because the previous tenants had a big dog they let run wild–which may be okay if you live out in the country, but not in a half double in the big city. The shag carpeting smelled of dog urine, but when I came to hand over the check for the deposit, the carpet was gone and the second floor deodorized.)
Susie and I spent the next hour at Kafé Kerouac, using their computers. I thought about writing a blog entry last night, but I was using a computer that dropped its Internet connection whenever somebody sneezed, and a machine that was very slow to respond to anything I typed. I am a very fast typist, and using that computer last night reminded me of what I heard about Linotype operators back in the days of molten lead and hot type. The mark of a good linotypist was that he would have to stop and wait for the machine to catch up to him. For me it was just frustrating.
We walked south on Indianola most of the way home. The evening was young, and students are starting to return to Ohio State for the fall quarter, so there were students wandering around with cases of beer. It was barely 11 p.m., and already quite a few of them were under the influence.
We began to smell smoke around Indianola and E. 11th Ave. At first, it was a sooty smell, like someone had been barbequing and had removed the food from the grill. But the smell kept getting more intense the further south we walked, and before long I suspected there was probably a fire somewhere nearby. We were close enough to campus for me to think at first it was someone being careless with an impromptu bonfire or couch-burning, but as we walked further from campus, we began heading east toward our house.
It says a lot about Weinland Park and how unsafe we feel when I told Susie we should walk toward the fire. I knew we would be safe there, because a fire would have police officers and firefighters everywhere, so nothing could happen to us. We were walking past St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral at Indianola and E. 9th Ave. when I looked east and saw a column of black smoke rising up against the night sky. I knew the fire had to be pretty much under control, because I saw two fire engines leaving the scene at a rather leisurely pace. As we walked, I saw a few embers of flames glowing here and there on the roof of a building, and I guessed right away where the building was.
There was a 1969 comedy movie called If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. A similar phrase would be, “If it’s burning, this must be N. 5th St.” (I’ve explained it before, but to avoid confusion: The numbered streets in Columbus are the exact opposite of Manhattan’s. In Columbus, streets run north-south, avenues run east-west.)
And sure enough, a white frame duplex on N. 5th St. was on fire. To my untrained eye, it looked like a total loss. I’ve walked past it before, when headed toward OSU or anywhere else north of Weinland Park, and the doors were boarded up and the windows painted shut. Whether this was arson or not, I have no idea. Before I began typing this entry, I looked at The Columbus Dispatch‘s Website, and there was no story about it. Fires on N. 5th St. no longer count as news. My neighbor Rory’s blog hasn’t mentioned it yet, and he has had an ongoing series about Weinland Park fires.
|Weinland Park’s official flag.|
Last night’s fire made me more thankful than ever that we will be leaving this dismal neighborhood. During the year it has been home, I tried to reassure myself I was living there ahead of the curve. (I have vague memories of when the Short North was a neighborhood no sane person would venture into after dark, and now it’s the trendiest neighborhood in Central Ohio.) If anything, the neighborhood has deteriorated even further in the past year. The drug peddling, the mugging, and the burglaries have become more brazen.
Susie wants out of Weinland Park as much as I do, and it is two weeks before we officially live in the ‘Ville again. However, she did show a naivete about the neighborhood that almost made me laugh. I went ahead and ordered two new laptops, and asked that they be shipped c/o a friend’s house–he works at home a lot, and his wife is usually home during the day. I wondered about bringing them home to Weinland Park, and our neighbors seeing us bringing in new computers. “We can do it while everyone is at work and school,” Susie suggested.
Work? And school? Weinland Park residents?