Category Ohio

This Didn’t Deserve Its Own Post: Ohio Edition

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Ohio. Six weeks of Ohio is long enough, right?

CINCINNATI

Spotted this cool book fountain outside of Cincinnati’s public library, the water flowing over the books symbolizing the free flow of information and ideas thanks to the printed word. Neat, huh?

Metrobot is back outside the Contemporary Arts Center after more than a five year absence, during which time it was refinished and beefed up to include a scrolling LED and a tummy screen. Even with the more modern upgrades it still feels charmingly retro, thanks to the 10¢ pay phone embedded in its leg. 

Near the metrobot, Cincinnati also features an outdoor chandelier, which is unfortunately outdone by…

CLEVELAND

Cleveland’s outdoor chandelier, which happens to be the largest outdoor chandelier in the world. 

If a city happens to build an even larger outdoor chandelier, Cleveland’s can be called The World’s Largest Outdoor Chandelier Adjacent To A Building That Looks Like The Headquarters Of A Batman Villain . 

Cleveland also has the world’s largest rubber stamp. It has the word “FREE” on it, embodying the desire of anyone in Cleveland. A large desire to be free. Free from this place, free from life, whatever. and it was commissioned  by Standard Oil of Ohio. Between commission and delivery, the company decided that, actually, they didn’t want this thing, so they dumped it on the city as a tax deductible gift of public art. The city demurred until the company, now Amoco, agreed to pay for all transportation, installation, and upkeep costs. That is how much they didn’t want it. Imagine listing something large and bulky in your home in the Craigslist “free” section and being so desperate to get rid of it that not only do you offer to deliver it, but also to pay for any future maintenance on it, forever. Cleveland knows that free stamps ain’t free. 

I got hollered at in Cleveland by a driver who told me I was gonna get run over — while I was crossing at a crosswalk with the pedestrian signal lit. Uh, are the laws different there? Or are we just to assume that anyone behind the wheel of a car in Cleveland is going to floor it through intersections and careen around corners regardless of traffic signals due to the sheer desperation of trying to be free of Cleveland? 

COLUMBUS

In Columbus’ brewery district, there’s a large statue of Gambrinus, the mythological king of beer. What I would have never guessed about it is that it’s actually been in Columbus for a hundred years. Gambrinus originally stood in front of the August Wagner brewery, and when the brewery closed, the statue was purchased and preserved by the local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch, and placed in its current location. Gambrinus survived Prohibition, he survived the brewery demolishing, no wonder he raises his glass in a perpetual toast!

We had lunch at Hot Chicken Takeover and it was great and I loved it. Sweet cheesus, the mac & cheese was awesome, the chicken sandwich made me weep tears of joy and tears of pain, and I couldn’t eat it all even though I really, really wanted to. Don’t forget to grab your free sweet tea and spice-combatting house made ranch to drizzle on that sandwich! What’s also super cool about this place is that they hire job seekers with criminal records, because American society often fails people who have had dealings with the justice system. If there’s no legitimate work available for those with criminal records, how can we be shocked by recidivism? I’m glad they’re helping give people opportunities to succeed, and this philosophy certainly seems to have not impeded Hot Chicken Takeover in any way, as they’ve rapidly expanded to three locations. None near me though. Bah!

I love Fiona the chunky lil hippo and I will do anything she tells me to, including buying her special limited edition ice cream. In this case, however, I’ve gotta say that not listening to her is the better option, because the supreme ice cream at Graeter’s is their black raspberry chocolate chip, with its thick soft hunks of shaved chocolate rippling through its rich black raspberry ice cream base. Especially in a pretzel cone. Yum. So good I’d consider having a case of it shipped to me but so good that I really, really don’t want a case of it shipped to me. I’m better off without the unholy knowledge of how fast I could rip through twelve pints of outstanding ice cream.

This is the photo I’m going to give to the landscape designer I desperately need to hire this year. If my back patio looked like this, I would spend so many more summer afternoons/evenings out reading. The Book Loft in Columbus is an excellent labyrinthine bookstore–they were having a Bruce Campbell signing the night I visited. I had a good time winding my way through the sections–in one of the rooms, I found a woman sitting on the floor lightheartedly groaning to her friend about how they never should’ve come because she’s going to spend far too much money. I bought a new title and took photos of the ones that I thought might make me face some scrutiny from my shopping companions so I’d remember to look them up later.

Not far from the Book Loft is this house featuring this teeny tiny door for the Littles family, complete with a doormat and teeny tiny topiaries. 

Neither of us were worthy to pull the sword from the stone in front of a dentist’s office in Columbus, which is fine, because if I’ve got to be queen of something, I’d rather it be something more exciting than a dentist’s office. Plus no matter how benevolently I ruled, I’d still be portrayed as an evil monarch because of all the black I wear and the fact that dental drills strike fear into the hearts of literally everyone. Nobody is ever going to call the queen of root canals a good gal. You see how much thought I gave this as I was approaching the sword, preparing to give my speech declining the monarchy. Freedom ain’t free.

 

 

And that’s it for Ohio! The stuff that didn’t make the cut really didn’t deserve its own post. 

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Ping Pong Paddle in Columbus, OH

No, it’s not right there on the roadside–you’ve got to go inside Pins Mechanical Company to see the world’s largest ping pong paddle, which is totally fine because Pins turns out to be an awesome bar where it doesn’t feel totally weird to get day drunk. In addition to this almost 12′ x7′ behemoth that could crush a smart car like a ping pong ball, Pins has a wide selection of pinball games, duckpin bowling, and has outdoor jenga games capable of reaching such heights that the shorter among us have to climb on a stool to take their turn. In brief, this place is totally cool and I’d definitely come here again. 

Spotted on US 33 in Columbus, OH

Newport, Ohio, the Basketiest Place In The World

I have never seen a basketier place than Newport, Ohio. I do not believe a basketier place exists in this entire world. Legend holds* that the basketweavers guild summoned the devil long ago to ensure that when the world goes to hell, it will be in a handbasket and not some other, more useful mode of transportation. If indeed that is the case, Newport is the place from whence those baskets will proceed before beginning their initial descent.

Allow me to make my case. Within a small radius, this portion of Ohio contains:

  • The world’s largest basket that is also a building
  • The world’s largest basket that’s an actual large basket
  • The world’s largest apple basket that’s an actual large basket but not as large as the world’s largest basket and also holds large fake apples 
  • Approximately one shitload of basket stores

All these landmarks stemmed from one company: Longaberger. Back in the days before the internet when you had to leave your house and put on pants to buy goods, companies found another way to sell: get suckers to host house parties where their product lines would be shown to the unsuspecting guests of the hosts who would then feel a sense of obligation to purchase something, anything before they left. And if they were really pliable, they’d be signed up to host a party themselves the following month so as to loop in a whole new set of unsuspecting social acquaintances. I have some familiarity with this model, as when I was a kid, all kinds of product parties were held in my home while my brother and I were forced upstairs and threatened not to make a single goddamn sound while my parents’ friends were coerced into purchasing tupperware, pampered chef, mary kay, and more. Longaberger also followed this model, though I don’t believe they ever made an appearance at my house**–I can’t be certain, because, again, I was upstairs trying to stay silent as the grave while fervently hoping my parents’ friends wouldn’t eat all the cheese puffs***. 

 

The World’s Largest Basket That Is Also A Building

This building was Longaberger’s former headquarters: 7 stories, 180,000 square feet, or 160 times larger than its “medium market basket” inspiration. This building was vacated in 2016 and very recently sold, though no plans have been specified as to the new buyer’s intentions with the property: to restore it, to raze it, or to stick some giant apples in it as a middle finger to that apple basket down the road, reducing it in stature to the world’s second largest apple basket. It would be a shame to raze it as the building is quite impressive/distinctive: instead of being just another building off in the distance somewhere, it’s a giant basket looming on the horizon, which is delightful. As no one was around, we engaged in some light front lawn trespassing, which I will justify as being way less egregious than the literal dozens of dog turds someone allowed to let lay from their pack of dogs I have to assume they let loose on the lawn.

The World’s Largest Basket That’s An Actual Large Basket

It’s hard to sell this basket as the World’s Largest Basket as its label proclaims, given that we already know that basket building down the road is significantly larger and vastly more impressive, but just remember that when playing the game of world’s largest anything, it’s all about semantics. It’s why there’s an endless debate for what “counts” when determining things like the world’s largest building, because it’s more polite for architects to argue about that than unzip their pants and whip it on the table. So this is the world’s largest basket, in that it’s an actual woven basket and not just made to look like a basket. It’s also the former former Longaberger headquarters, because I’m assuming each new headquarters is christened by smashing a bottle of champagne on an adjacent giant basket. No word on whether they use it to store the world’s largest picnic supplies, but I certainly hope so. 

This large basket, however, is not a monolith, for if you open your eyes and look around you,  you’ll see:

Approximately One Shitload Of Basket Stores

 

I spy with my little eye: The Basket Guy, Smore Baskets, Retired Baskets Etc., Baskets and More, The Retired Basket Shoppe, and Basket of Dreams. How many basket specific stores does one town need****? How much basket business can one giant basket bring to an area? I had spent the morning looking at and feeling good feelings about baskets (I am EXACTLY the sort of person drawn in by the World’s Largest Anything) and yet no part of me wanted to bring a basket home, so who are these hordes of basket buyers? Also, what’s up with all these retired baskets? Are they retired in that they will no longer be performing basket labors? Are they the stores where old basket designs go to when their makers can no longer care for them? Are they retired limited edition basket designs and if so should they be used exclusively to store retired limited edition beanie babies? How does a town have this many basket stores and not change its name to Basketville with a mandatory pet shop named The Hounds of Basketville? Confused and yearning for a simpler time, I popped back in the car and headed toward something that would make sense. 

The World’s Largest Apple Basket That’s An Actual Large Basket But Not As Large As The World’s Largest Basket And Also Holds Large Fake Apples

 

This 20 foot tall baskety behemoth (also woven) stands on the grounds of the NEW Longaberger headquarters, lending credence to my idea that each new headquarters must involve the construction of a world’s largest basket that somehow doesn’t also remove the others from world’s largest status. I’m personally hoping for The World’s Largest Basket of Puppies next.

How could anywhere possibly be basketier?

 

 

 

*No it doesn’t, I made that part up.

**They made an appearance at Jason’s childhood home, however. When we got back from our basket extravaganza, his mom pulled out a Longaberger basket that she had been coerced into buying at a party years ago.

***They almost always did. Nowadays,  you don’t even get the cheese puffs, just an invitation to a facebook “party” from someone you haven’t spoken to since high school asking you to buy their nail stickers, essential oils, and life-changing juice, and the supposed benefit is that you can shop from your living room. Yeah, it turns out that with the internet, I can buy pretty much any product I want from my living room, obligation free. If you want to twist my arm into buying something I don’t want, you’re going to have to  have an actual party.

****I know that the Gilmore Girls’ fictional home town of Star’s Hollow is located in Connecticut, but the town that Longaberger built feels like the real Star’s Hollow to me if only because it seems like exactly the sort of place where a significant number of the townspeople would go apeshit over a charity picnic basket auction.

Happy Dog in Cleveland, OH

All that complaining about how much Cleveland sucks somehow didn’t affect my appetite, and thus the entire family wound up at Happy Dog, a Cleveland dive bar that serves the finest American cuisine: hot dogs and tater tots, each loaded up with as many toppings and dipping sauces as you want for the same low price. God bless Cleveland.

As you can see, there’s a huge variety available, and I selected mine with a fairly restrained hand:

Jason, conversely, couldn’t see spaghetti-os, froot loops, and a fried egg on the same menu without ordering them all, which is how we ended up here:

I can’t speak to Jason’s, because I’ve got some kind of egg allergy and also because gross, but mine was decent. Fair to middling. The dog quality was fine (not great, but fine), the topping options are thorough and fun, and the tot sauces are easily the best part (and between us all, we  had about half the dipping sauce menu represented on the table, so I’m qualified to talk about it)–but a quick blog search reminds me of a lot of dogs I felt a lot more enthusiasm about: Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs, the kobe dog smothered in chili at Slim’s Last Chance Chili Shack, downing a coney on Coney Island from Nathan’s Famous, the world-famous Icelandic hot dog stand, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, hell, even the hot dogs I fed to gators at Gatorland USA, or the chopped up dog on the burger that was so rich it almost made me crap my dress at the ballet (for the record, again, that is an ALMOST and not an actual occurrence, so you need only be mildly repelled by me). ALL of those hot dogs were vastly more exciting than anything at Happy Dog, which is not an indictment of their dog so much as saying that it’s just OK. It’s not the kind of place that’s worth a special trip, but if you’re already in Cleveland, it might be the better part of your day.

Cleveland Rocks?

Sometimes I will arrive somewhere and think “Yeah, that fits in precisely with the stereotypes I hold about this area.” Cleveland, Ohio, is one such place. Cleveland looks like a city that someone forgot about and left in the rain to rust. Cleveland looks like it’s already living out a post-apocalyptic scenario where half the population is dead and the other half spends their time making bullets and then spraying them wildly. Cleveland looks like it could give your eyeballs tetanus. It comes as no surprise that their football team is called the Browns, because a compelling argument could be made that the entire city is a turd. Cleveland looks exactly like the kind of place where a river would accidentally light itself on fire. Repeatedly. The air in Cleveland in August feels as though one has somehow been trapped inside a jock strap that’s been worn for three straight days. I was already in a truly piss-poor mood when I arrived in Cleveland, and Cleveland did not improve it.

But The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…that’s an icon. It’s one of the few museums outside of the Louvre to come up routinely in the news*. Like the Louvre, its architecture prominently features a large glass pyramid. There are probably Illuminati conspiracies about both. But only one of these two is a world class museum…and unsurprisingly, it’s not the one in Cleveland.

Upon entry and ticket purchase, you descend into the basement of the pyramid, which is actually a little clever–starting in the basement like any number of bands. I also would have had a similar appreciation if the museum started in a garage adjacent to the pyramid.

At the start, there is a room dedicated to some artifacts from the most recent year’s inductees, which eventually get shuffled further back into the “Legends of Rock & Roll” area if they have room so if you’re a lesser-known legend I’m guessing your stuff is bound for a closet somewhere. There’s also some stuff from just about everyone you’d expect to see there: a room dedicated to Elvis, a room split between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and a number of special exhibits, including one on John Cougar Mellencamp.

There was also a bunch of stuff from musicians not inducted into the hall of fame, including an entire room on Cleveland musicians, which I found to be a curious choice. There are currently more than 300 inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and until an angry museum employee informs me otherwise, I am telling you that it doesn’t seem to me that all of those artists were represented on this, the main floor of the hall of fame in which they are supposedly being honored. Isn’t having to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to be included in it the entire point of the place?

They also had a horse with cannon turret titties.

Oooh, I have bad news for you, Ed.

According to their own rules, Katy shouldn’t be here until 2026 at the earliest.

Because the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is built in a giant pyramid, a lot of valuable real estate is lost on every floor ascended. And they made the least out of the space, with the second largest floor taken up entirely by ticket sales, a cafe, and an outrageously large gift shop.

As you proceed up the pyramid, you can wait for a booth to be available so you can listen to some one hit wonders (again, not Hall of Famer material), look at a genuine empty Rolling Stone office (Oh boy, I’ve never seen a real office before! Look, a chair!) and some covers of Rolling Stone magazines, and then, almost as an afterthought, the actual list of inductees on some half-assed plaques on one of the floors. It’s not like we have the technology available to give each visitor a broader look at the work of the inductees, the reasoning behind why they were chosen, and how they influenced music. Nope. We’re clearly still in the static list on paper phase of humanity. The inductees are such an afterthought that at the time of posting, their placement in the museum that, again, supposedly exists to honor them isn’t even mentioned in their online visitor’s exhibit guide.

The inductees actually get a better display on shit sold in the gift shop than they do in the actual museum, which is straight fucking ridiculous.

This may as well be another exhibit–hey kids, this is what a CD store used to look like back when physical media was a thing!

Our group split up on entering the hall of fame. We ran into Jason’s uncle halfway up the pyramid and asked him what he was taking photos of. “Crap, mostly.”

Couldn’t agree with you more, man.

 

 

 

*Now that I know how much this place sucks, going forward I could do without the yearly breathless discussions about the nominees/inductees/and why so and so continues to be slighted. It’s a subjective list, and literally anyone could start a new museum and call it The Musician’s Lodge of Awesome and set up their own arbitrary system of inclusion. But the glass pyramid thing is a little oversaturated, so maybe pick a different shape for your statement entrance. And if you’re gonna exist to mostly be a gift shop, do everyone a favor and just call it The Musician’s Lodge of Souvenirs.

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Gavel in Columbus, OH

 

I honestly don’t have a whole bunch to say about this 17,0000 pound stainless steel gavel save for the fact that I want a giant stainless steel Judge Judy to wield it and smash injustice throughout the world. Predatory financial centers whose sole purpose is to grind every cent out of the poor? SMASHED. People who get into public service to enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of everyone else? SMASHED. The dude who cuts the cake and distributes the pieces and he clearly saved the best one for himself even though it wasn’t his cake? SMASHED. Cancer “charities” who seem to exist to put their name on everything and use donated funds to aggressively sue other charities who dare to use the word “cure” anywhere in their branding and do fuckall for people with cancer? SMASHED. People who complain about other people posting spoilers but then post spoilers themselves the second after they’ve seen the thing in question? SMASHED. People who CLEARLY know the lane they’re driving in is going to turn into a right turn only lane and wait until the last second to cut in because they’re too good to wait in line like everyone else, now blocking TWO lanes of traffic and making loads more people wait? SMASOK, smashing is a little harsh and would only block the roads further, but you are on notice, buddy. Stainless Steel Judge Judy has her steely gaze on you.

Spotted on S Front St in Columbus, OH

Officially Too Old For This Shit: Cedar Point

OK, so I don’t *actually* know that I’m too old to enjoy the world’s largest rollercoasters. What I do know is that in the lead-up to going to the park, I did something stupid in the hopes of achieving something good. I was thinking about what a dumpster fire 2017 has been, and pondering a way for myself to take an action that was concrete good and landed on blood donation as a truly positive thing I could do to help the sick and vulnerable in my community. Unfortunately, this idea was coupled with some self delusion about my overall robustness and ability to regenerate blood cells, and my appointment was foolishly made very shortly before my trip to Ohio. I then proceeded to drag ass for the next week. On the morning I went to Cedar Point, I woke up with a scratchy throat and swollen lymph nodes. DAMN IT, BALTHAZAR! I will NOT get sick, I will NOT get sick, I will NOT get sick, I have been waiting and hoping for years for a chance to go to Cedar Point and I will NOT let this lack of blood and impending illness ruin my trip to Roller Coaster Nirvana.

So of course it fucking did. Because 2017.

I already felt cruddy when we arrived at the park: tired, achy, sweating and low energy, slightly nauseated and dizzy, which is just a spectacular combination of physical health characteristics when you’re looking to ride the most extreme roller coasters in the world. In addition to all those things, I was really angry with myself for doing this TO myself. Because this was ostensibly my one opportunity, and I screwed it up with my poor schedule management. Oh yeah, and I was also fraught with nerves about how I was actually going to get home as my flight routed through Houston which at the time was being slammed by Hurricane Harvey. Even though the airport was closed, my airline had yet to cancel the flight and I didn’t quite know what my options were. By the end of the day on that score, we’d decided that if an alternate flight wasn’t available, we’d cut the Ohio trip a day short and shoot for a one way car rental and drive home.  It would have been a hassle but I consoled myself with the idea that we could swing through my hometown and grab a sandwich from that baller italian deli, and maybe even see some some new sights along the way, since my last drive from Wisconsin to Seattle was done in one shot* which meant a lot of driving in the dead of night. That whole plan was later rendered moot because we were able to get on a new flight, but I wanted to paint the entire picture of what my day at Cedar Point looked like: exhausted, borderline sick, and anxiety sapping the last of my reserves. I’d look at some of those giant screaming coasters and think “Nope. That might kill me.” which was SO FRUSTRATING because I wanted to want to ride the rides. All of them. I guess at least I didn’t splurge on the rollercoaster fast pass or I might have blown a vessel fighting with myself about whether it was worth risking actual death in order to get my money’s worth. (The answer is: maybe, which Jason finds frustrating, as he’s firmly on team “waste ALL the money rather than risk death”.)

But that’s really all OK, because as it turns out, in addition to the world’s most insane rollercoasters, Cedar Point has a lot of things that the other amusement parks I’ve visited haven’t. Things like fine china shops.

 

 

I’m not sure what it is about about being hydraulically launched from zero to 120mph in seconds with all the corresponding g-force that entails which encourages the immediate acquisition of fine crockery which you’ll then need to pay to store in a locker for the rest of the day, but I can tell you for a fact that this shop makes money or it wouldn’t be there. 

Cedar Point also has a petting/feeding zoo where a variety of adorable fuzzy-faced animals will beg and plead and stretch out their fuzzy little lips for whatever nominal-additional-charge food you might have to feed them. The food is sold packed into a plastic cup, and there ended up being a bunch of tiny bits in the bottom that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable feeding bare-handed (I need these hands, they are my livelihoodthey are important to me, OK?), but the sheep felt very comfortable “drinking” them out of a tipped cup. And bonus, seeing them eating out of that tipped cup was also adorable.

They also had dippin’ dots, the ice cream of the future. While that is not unique (dippin’ dots maintaining its long term reign as the ubiquitous ice cream of the theme park present), the opportunity to consume said dippin’ dots in stocks is.

They also had animatronic dinosaurs and signs made that seemed to have had me specifically in mind.  

Oh, and some rides, I guess. Which I did ride! ..some of them, anyway. About a third of the roller coasters, which is pretty good considering that whole “nauseated, feel like I’m gonna die” thing. While waiting for one of the non-coaster rides, a kid who was ~9 years old joined the line by herself and started chatting with us, telling me matter-of-factly that she’s riding this ride by herself because her mom got sick and threw up on the last one. She was also very specific about which color she wanted to ride on, so I let her go in front of us in line so she could get the one she wanted because I was so glad she had shared that barf story with me, as it made me feel a lot better, having ridden that exact coaster and NOT thrown up. 

At one point, I got scolded by the teenage operator of a ride to put away my phone (my pockets are not large enough to accommodate it, friend! My hands can barely do the job!), and after the ride I was going to apologize to him for making his job harder but as I walked up, I saw he was picking his nose and decided it would be better if I just walked away lest the apology end with a hearty handshake. 

We didn’t quite make it the whole day from park open til close–if we were going to have to get an early driving start the next day, I wanted to get back at a decent hour and have an opportunity to rest up and maybe shake off the threat of looming illness, but we still managed to get in a full day of fun even if it wasn’t the rip-roaring rollercoaster experience I had dreamed about. And I still don’t know if I’m officially too old for extreme thrills, but what I do know is that whether I’m old and feeble or acting like an infant because I’m feeling old and feeble, it’s time for a nap.

 

*I used to have blog posts about this trip, but evidently at some point I thought they sucked enough to delete them, otherwise I’d link you back to those sucky, sucky posts. It’s probably for the best for everyone that they’re gone.

The Topiary Park in Columbus, OH

Have you ever wished you could step inside a piece of artwork? To move about the people portrayed, smell the luscious ripe fruit gently warmed by the sun on a rich wooden table, see the horses’s muscles ripple under their shining coats? Well, you can’t go quite that far, but you can walk among the topiary version of Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

Located in the downtown of Columbus, Ohio, the Topiary Park (also known as Old Deaf School Park) was dedicated in 1992 and contains some 67 yew topiaries: 54 humans, 8 boats, three dogs, a monkey, and a cat. I didn’t count them all, but I trust none have scurried away in the night since its inception. It’s a “landscape of a painting of a landscape”, a work of art that references and celebrates art, a living painting. What’s especially striking about recreating this particular art style in topiary is that needles of the yew tree perform a similar function: disparate points of greenery, they come together en masse and provide shape and depth in the same way the distinct dots of color create a pointillist scene.

The rest of the park is no slouch, either, with its careful landscaping, cicadas buzzing from the branches. I was excited to see my first ever cicada exoskeleton here (although the live ones still eluded me), and I got all up in its business. It’s impressive how tightly this discarded casing clings to the bark of a tree, even with no visible leverage. I’m sure I’d feel a little differently about it if I lived in one of those places that sees massive swarms every thirteen years, no one likes a “swarm” unless it’s a “swarm of the world’s cutest puppies” or a “swarm of pizza delivery people each with a pizza more delicious than the last” or a “swarm of money being pumped into your house through the mail slot, turning your living room into a giant cash cage”. Sadly, that kind of swarm has yet to materialize.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Dancing Hares of Dublin, OH

Commissioned by Peter Edwards, “Dancing Hares” was created by London artist Sophie Ryder in 2001; she was inspired by the courtship rituals of hares, in which they stand erect and “box” one another. Originally exhibited at The Hague, the rabbits were later shipped to Dublin and installed in a park for the public to admire as they frolic similarly in the dancing waters of the fountain below. On closer inspection, all of the hares are embedded with dozens (hundreds?) of ordinary objects–coins, toys, tools, and a number of things I couldn’t begin to identify.

Pro tip: After you’re done admiring the art, roll down the grassy hill upon which these hares eternally battle…because why not?

Spotted on Woerner Temple Road in Dublin, OH

Melt Bar & Grilled in Dayton, OH

Melt was one of those places that was on my radar long before I decided to take a trip to Ohio. I first stumbled across them on instagram, where they’d post these insane grilled cheeses loaded with all kinds of things you might not necessarily expect to find on a grilled cheese: kimchi, mozzarella sticks, waffles, ribs, jalapeno poppers, wedges of deep fried mac and cheese…Basically, take a chain restaurant’s entire appetizer menu and shove it inside a grilled cheese. I WILL HAVE THIS GRILLED CHEESE AND I WILL HAVE IT NOW AT A CONVENIENT TIME WHEN I AM PHYSICALLY LOCATED IN THE AREA. Months of anticipation built up, watching specials come and go on the ‘gram, waiting.

As it just so happened, I was near (enough) to a Melt when while my 3D print job was still going over at Proto BuildBar, so we headed over. And promptly had to wait some more. Luckily, this location was right outside a mall, so I was able to cross something else off my list: renting one of those ride-around-the-mall animal shaped scooters in a place where no one in the position of offering me a line of credit might see me. Verdict? FUN. SUPER FUN. Finally, I’m one of those cool older kids at the mall.

“I assure you that is my credit card, sir.”

Mischief managed, it was back to Melt for what I expected to be a life-altering grilled cheese. They were out of the special (damn it!). In its stead, we ordered a number of sandwiches so we could try more of the menu since it was possible we’ll never eat there again. We ordered: The Dude Abides (homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella wedges, basil marinara, roasted garlic, provolone & romano), Cuban War Pig (honey ham, mojo glazed pulled pork, fried pickle spears, honey mustard, swiss), Big Popper (fresh jalapeño peppers, cheddar & herb cream cheese, crispy battered & deep fried, powdered sugar, berry preserves for dipping), and Chicken & Waffles (crispy battered chicken, belgian waffle, sriracha butter, pepper-jack cheese & maple syrup for dipping). Bon choix! 

Honestly, none of them were that great. I’ve been thinking about it, wondering if the anticipation of eating here raised my expectations too high, because I want to be fair. And having thought about it, I think it’s fully fair to say that the food at Melt is not great.

I get pumped about eating a lot of things before I actually try them. Fully half of my trip planning is devoted to where we might like to eat if we found ourselves hungry in X neighborhood, I won’t lie. So it’s not like the case of the 40 Year Old Virgin when I saw it a year after it came out and literally everyone said “You have to see this movie, it’s the funniest movie I’ve ever seen, I wet myself eight times and would’ve gone back to see it again but I got banned from that movie theater  and all the other ones in a thirty mile radius owing to my refusal to pay to replace their seats. YOU HAVE TO SEE IT.” Literally everyone said exactly that. And then when I finally saw it, I thought it was just OK, probably because I’d heard all the references for a year and the gushing (ewww) recommendations and it would take a movie funny enough to make me black out laughing to live up to those expectations and the 40 Year Old Virgin wasn’t that movie.

This restaurant was nothing like the 40 Year Old Virgin, being only a Six Month Anticipated Dinner: I expected a delicious sandwich and they served me a merely OK sandwich. The sandwiches at Melt are consistently too tall to fit an entire bite in your mouth, top to bottom, which means you’re not getting all the components in every bite. That kind of sandwich height also makes it hard on the jaw because of having to open so wide–we’re not snakes, Melt, don’t make us unhinge.  The bread is too thick and crusty, so it competes too much with the insides while it abrades your mouth.

But all that is still not my main criticism: a grilled cheese should be first and foremost cheesy. Equal parts grill and cheese.  Everything else that you add to it should be in a supporting role to the main character, the star, the cheese. Otherwise, it’s just a sandwich, not a cheese sandwich.

There’s not nearly enough cheese in the sandwiches I had at Melt to qualify them as cheese sandwiches, with the exception of the Big Popper, which was straight up disgusting: fried outside surrounding mushy bread filled with jalapeno and a mound of slippery cheese. It’s like someone took a bite out of a brick of cream cheese, chewed it up into a paste with a little bread and jalapeno and then spit that paste in blobs directly into a deep fryer. But in case it wasn’t wet enough, it’s got raspberry dipping sauce so it slides right down your gullet like an alien baby going to nest. Ahem.

In all the other sandwiches, the cheese consistently got lost against the other components. And I guess that would be one thing if it was just a regular cuban sandwich or meatball sandwich or, uh, chicken & waffle sandwich, but they’re supposed to be grilled cheese sandwiches. And because they’re making a “grilled cheese”, they also apply sauce with a very restrained hand, which meant that overall, each sandwich was much too dry for a sandwich that size. Without enough cheese or sauce to lube up the works, it’s less pleasant to eat, especially when you take into account the aforementioned height of the sandwich. And then when you add fried items to the sandwich, it adds yet another layer of breading and the overall effect is just…dry. Slap a waffle in between two dry pieces of bread and a piece of dry breaded chicken and you might as well be biting straight into a loaf of bread. Maple syrup on the side isn’t enough to make this sandwich work. Don’t get me wrong: I was hungry, and the sandwiches were decent (the flavors were fine), they just weren’t mindblowing grilled cheese. Not great.

None of us finished anything. None of us brought home leftovers. I guess Instagram beauty is only skin deep.