So The Wife and I are in Athens over the weekend, celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary (which falls on Sept. 25, so y’all can remember the cards and gifts in the future). On Friday night, after the first of three meals at Casa Nueva, and several pints of Great Lakes’ Nosfaratu (a kick-ass hoppy red ale that, well, kicked my ass), we head to The Union, which is where I lost most of my brain cells during college. There, as the nostalgia washes over us, we commence to drunk-dial several of our friends who lost nearly as many brain cells at The Union as we did.
And here’s where the busted part comes in: Our first call was to Joe and Mindy Mahr, Joe being the Pulitzer-Prize winner of the group who is referenced a few months ago in these very pages. I never successfully reached Joe on the phone in the days after he won, so this was the first opportunity I had to actually speak to him. And the first thing that rat bastard says to me when he gets on the phone?
“Is this Uncle Crappy?”
Now, I wasn’t so drunk that I didn’t come up with a decent comeback, something along the lines of “Exactly how much time do you spend Googling yourself, Mr. Pulitzer?” And then we had a nice talk, the substance of which I don’t completely recall.
We made a couple of other calls, one to B., whom we did not reach, and one to another friend who lives in Columbus and seemed less than pleased to hear that we were having fun in Athens and she, at home with what sounded like a major cold, was not. The dangers of drunk dialing, right there in a nutshell. Sorry, Tricia.
The rest of the weekend went like this:
We drove through Marietta on the way to Athens, and much of that town is closed down as everyone cleans up after last week’s flooding. We drove through the commercial district on Route 7, and the water marks on the buildings hovered around six or seven feet high. Yikes.
As I mentioned before, we had three meals at Casa – outstanding foodwise, but a bit rough on the old gastro-intestinal tract. Denholm Elliott, from “Trading Places”: “It gives me the winds something awful…”
We took a 20-mile bike ride along the Hockhocking-Adena Bikeway, a beautiful paved rails-to-trails stretch that runs from East State Street in Athens all the way to Hocking College in Nelsonville. We didn’t make it that far because our asses hurt too much.
There are still people in Athens who know us. We ran into Cindy, perpetually of the Burrito Buggy, and Bob, formerly of Casa who now owns a hot dog shop on West State Street, in the newly expanded bar at Casa prior to Friday’s dinner. They’re both good friends with Fred and Ethel so we spent a little time filling them in on their activities.
(A side note: Cindy once paid me about the highest complement I’ve ever received in journalism. Just before I finished my second senior year, I wrote a column challenging students at OU to take some chances while they were in Athens, in an environment that accepts and even encourages freaks. Cindy said it was the best thing she’d ever read in The Post.)
Did the alumni thing, which is our code for buying OU shit in the bookstores.
Actually attended an OU football game. Even more startling, attended an OU football win. We found, however, that the faithful in Athens has absolutely no idea about supporting the home team, at least not compared to the folks in Columbus. No crowd noise, and when we yelled, people looked genuinely surprised.
As we left the game (OK, we only stayed through the third quarter), we came across Maya Lin’s “Input,” the installation that serves as the centerpiece of OU’s new Bicentennial Park. It’s probably a couple acres of grass and concrete rectangles, some sunk into the turf and some that rise about two feet above it. Lin, who grew up in Athens, has said the overall installation is modeled after those old IBM computer punch cards, the rectangular ones with seemingly random spaces punched out. But the piece is also a non-linear map of Lin’s memories of Southeast Ohio, and those words, which she wrote with her brother, are little snippets that people who spent any time in Athens are bound to recall, stuff like the band and farms outside of town. Our favorite? “Beer at The Union,” naturally.
(Another side note: There is a ton of new public art around campus and the town. We didn’t come close to seeing everything, but it would be worth a weekend there to check it all out.)
The night before we left for Athens, we checked out the tributes to the late Frank Henderson, a political science professor at OU who died in December, in the university’s alumni magazine. We had it in our minds to stop at Lucky’s, one of Dr. Henderson’s Uptown haunts, to have a memorial toast, but when we stopped in on Saturday, we found, to our horror, that the bar had been re-done and was overrun with frat boys. So we were tickled to death later on when we finally got two seats at the bar in Tony’s and discovered that we sat down exactly where they had placed a small plaque, engraved into the bar, in Dr. Henderson’s honor. We did the toast, right then and there.
- We attend OU football games with the exact same frequency as Aaron Marshall.
- There’s at least one cool person working at the Columbus Dispatch.
- We stopped at Redneck Heaven – the new Cabela’s Monster Store outside Wheeling – on the way home. Wow, is about all I can say. Being in such close proximity to that many West Virginians and that many guns all at one time gave me a hellacious case of the heebie-jeebies.
- We discovered that although we are still capable of pulling off a college-style weekend bender, it now takes a lot longer to recover. Check back, say, on Wednesday, and I’ll tell you if I’m feeling any better.