08.17.09

Not so fa(s)t

Posted in Travel at 16:09 by RjZ

According to local Colorado lore, the midwest is filled with fat people. Statistics tell a similar story, with Colorado trailing the nation in weight and places like Ohio achieving much more impressive numbers in the obesity category. I think the news was getting to the open mic comics one Thursday night, at Surly Girl in Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus is likely not representative of the rest of Ohio. It’s a college town with one of the nation’s largest universities and young men and women in bright red shirts are a common sight. Most of them haven’t yet had the years to put on the pounds. Home of Nationwide Insurance, the downtown was populated with rather average, reasonably attractive business people who might be all too aware of the statistics on obesity and life expectancy. They beat a hasty retreat once evening had arrived, leaving the downtown slightly deserted. The remaining patrons of the local eateries were, most likely, like myself, visiting vagabonds on business.

A short walk to the “Short North,” the ritzy/hipster stretch of High Street leading from downtown to the heart of Buckeye Nation, or Ohio State University, was attended by a more local crowd. The mostly wealthy, gay, or, perhaps both rich and gay, clientele were definitely no thicker around the middle than in similar neighborhoods in Denver.

The Short North is an amusing area with a wide range of choices for eat and drink. The music/dive bar called Skully’s was no longer serving food by the time I arrived and after a friendly beer, la camarera recommended I head across the street to Surly Girl. It’s impossible to skip a place called Surly Girl, so off I went for another (tasty) local beer and a vegetarian version (!) of the Cincinnati chili. This classic Ohio meal consists of spaghetti topped with chili (and cheese and onions, if you get it “three ways,” or is that four…). It’s not the height of cuisine and might explain why it’s not travelled  very far from Ohio, but it’s satisfying.

Other meals I had during my visit to Columbus made it easy to understand where the rumors of spreading midwestern waistbands might be coming from. At Barley’s Brewery across from the convention center in downtown, I had a grilled cheese with perogies. The grilled cheese was uninteresting, the perogies delicious, but the whole meal ran the color gamut from off white to beige. The happy hour menu was a tempting array of brats, dogs, and wings, and the rest of the folks holding up the bar were enthusiastically tucking in.

Back at Surly Girl, I learned that tonight was open mic comedy night. Free comedy in small bites from anyone wanting to try out their material in front of a welcoming crowd. Comics are characteristically a self deprecating lot, and the nights comics spent a significant portion of their material blaming Ohio for boredom, small mindedness, and expanding girth. Thing is, one comic, actually a formerly obese man whose act mocks the reactions to folks at his journey to lose hundreds of pounds, wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t look out of place in the thinnest state. It seems the legends of the midwest were made without bothering to look around Columbus; they weren’t fat at all! Boulder, Colorado is sometimes known as the little town surrounded on all sides by reality. For all I know, Columbus, Ohio is surrounded on all sides by plus-sizes and big bones.

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