Columbus is popularly called "Cow-Town," and lives up to that title to a great degree. It is home to some of the most spectacular industrialist "half-assery" in the midwestern United States, most notably: the 'new' Center of Science & Industry (COSI) building, which looks like some sort of giant, distended purple gumdrop....the Santa Maria recreation, now crumbling and falling apart and nearly condemned because nobody wants to pay to walk around a thirty-seven foot boat in the Scioto River..."Ameriflora," which was partly a celebration of the cintecentennial of Columbus discovering America, and partly a celebration of a bunch of rich investors' idea of a good time (an overhyped flower show), and a host of other smaller and lesser-known flops (anybody remember the Ohio Glories, or the Horizons? Or the Quest?).

Columbus has recently achieved some note for its expansion team in the NHL, the BlueJackets (though I personally don't know anybody that walks around wearing those jackets, do you? Makes people look like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). It's not really a pro-sports town--most of the fervor and madness is dedicated to our old standard, Ohio State University and its mad, mad, man Buckeyes college football team. We've hosted the illustrious Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce, and....uh....I guess John Cooper, too. I'll be fair--Cooper got a lot of slack in the wrong areas and not enough in the right ones....but we'll digress away from that....

Columbus' "Old Pen," the Columbus Penitentiary, was torn down a few years ago to make way for the 'new and improved' Arena District and Nationwide Arena for the BlueJackets to call home. In its day, the Old Pen was home to some famous murderers and criminals for almost a century--including the famed short-story author O. Henry, who was incarcerated there for a year on minor charges (the nature of which I have yet to find out about).

Columbus is also seen by some to be the Midwestern San Francisco to its gay/lebsian/alternative lifestyles community--the Stonewall Union has strong presence in the city and in its Short North arts/retail district as well. If you want to dress like it, lick it, taste it, stroke it, feel it, see it, film it, or listen to it, it's available to you. However, in a paradoxical fashion true to the city's nature, it also has a bizarrely strong right-wing fundamentalist streak (across the street from the Stonewall Union, rainbow banners flying, is the new Christian Community Center, taking up space in a former adult movie theatre). As Midwestern cities go, however, you could do a lot worse than Columbus when seeking an open-minded, artistically-friendly community to explore your identity.

Ohio State University, aside from football and law really big. That's about it. Say what you will about the campus' facilities and size, which are both tremendous(-ly frustrating, that is), OSU is pretty much its sports department, Archie Griffith (two-time Heisman trophy winner) and...that's all. Go to a smaller school if you want to feel like a human being.

Columbus' outer 'boroughs,' (Bexley, Upper Arlington, Hilliard, New Albany, Reynoldsburg, Pickerington, Groveport/Grove City, Westerville, Gahanna, Dublin, Worthington, and in some cases Obetz) are like tight-closed satellites that are being absorbed by their parent planet. Columbus was never really founded as a single city--instead, it was originally an annex to the small town of Franklinton (founded by surveyor Lucas Sullivant). When the time came to select a capital city for Ohio, Franklinton wanted the job, being centrally located and right on the banks of the Scioto River.

Unfortunately, Franklinton had a major shortcoming--flooding. So it decided, to improve its chances of winning the title, to build an annex on the upper-north shore end of the Scioto, across the river from town proper. It decided to arbitrarily name this annex after Christopher Columbus....thus "Columbus" came into being. Over the years, its expansion of city and population limits came to engulf the outer towns who had actually existed either before or concurrently with "Columbus." So now they're more like neighborhoods than towns on their own, though some like Westerville still retain their own city councils and neighborhood organizations.

Columbus is too metropolitan to be hick, too rural to be a metropolis. Too artsy to be crude, too plain to be aesthetic. It's the single largest per-capita restaurant-hosting town; every chain has at least one location there for testing and demographic purposes. It has some of the most interesting historical entries in its past: from public electrocutions that went on on Mound Street until the late 1920's to the single largest State Fair in the midwest--but yet it seems like nothing happens on a day-to-day basis around here.

From a living standpoint, it ranks better than a lot of others--relatively low violent crime, good job markets, and a variable cross-section of influences, cultures, races, and living conditions that you could go from the fetidly squalid to the beautifully quaint in about two left turns, depending on where on the city map you're located.