The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 9: Arts in Columbus

ART downtown Columbus!

The Columbus College of Art & Design’s Art Sign will celebrate its 21st birthday this coming Thursday.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

The miniseries’ end is near! But first, the stuff we skipped and some stuff we didn’t get to yet. Mostly it’s about the birthday guy doing some self-indulgent geek sopping, chancing into a few flourishes of local art along the way, and a few loose ends that fit nowhere into the miniseries except here, the catchall chapter.

From the Center of Science and Industry we took a short hop south to German Village, a historic neighborhood with quite a few small businesses clustered within, as previously noted more than once. After we stocked up on artisan sugar forms at Pistacia Vera, our second stop was the Book Loft, a unique indie bookstore that crams 32 rooms’ worth of reading matter into a single 19th-century house meant to hold a fraction of that. This is not the sort of trendy spot with couches or coffee taking up valuable interior square footage that should’ve been filled with more books.

Imagine a labyrinth where all the walls are bookshelves, and what appears from street view like a three-story getaway feels more from the inside like multiple dimensions connected by wormholes of varying sizes and cockeyed angles. It’s not an ideal showplace for claustrophobes to linger, nor a comfy space for anyone who still dreads post-pandemic proximity to other potentially plagued persons, but for anyone who loves being surrounded on all sides by wit, wisdom, faraway places, pure imagination, storytime from myriad generations and cultures, and that unmistakable fragrance of paper seasoned with precisely typeset inks, the Book Loft just might be the library of your dreams. You’ll just need to bring along your personal Lucius or Lucienne as a browsing companion.

Book Loft!

The unassuming storefront.

Book Loft path!

The idyllic, flowered path that leads to the entrance in the back and your next book-buying spree.

collections and gift bags!

We didn’t take many interior pics because we’ve seen bookshelves before, but here’s evidence of some wares, including gift bags that you can fill with books for friends and family.

book T-shirts!

Book T-shirts!

One caveat: as with many a bookstore of any size, in-store selection is finite in some genres and sections. You can’t just walk in and buy anyone or anything that comes to mind. (My impromptu brainstorming session in their SF-novel room came up very nearly empty-handed.) In addition, some books enjoy far denser placement than others. We noticed certain titles repeating across many rooms like a Hanna-Barbera background no matter how deeply we tunneled. Some of those 32 rooms are more like doorless closets and narrow nooks. Navigating the cramped corners and truncated halls is easy if no one else is around, but get ready for awkwardness if you and a stranger have the same section in mind.

Splitting the party likewise poses a challenge. Anne and I were separated for several long minutes without seeing each other as we pursued our own twists and turns. Anne gave up before I did and knew exactly what to do — she found her way back to the graphic novel section and waited patiently until I emerged from wherever.

As it happens, they keeps the OGNs and trades at the front door, with signs prohibiting customers from carrying unpurchased items from that section beyond its perimeter OR ELSE. (I presume local kids have been a problem?) As a tradeoff, their selection of comics publishers isn’t just manga (though there’s that, which is fine), and rises above and beyond the standard Marvel/DC/Image choke-hold that our local Barnes & Noble is perfectly content to let ride. I’m always euphoric whenever I find a bookshop that carries graphic novels we never see in our local comic shops back home. I came away with a modest stack — Tillie Walden’s Are You Listening?, Dash Shaw’s Discipline, and, from the aforementioned non-illustrated SF section, China Miéville’s This Census Taker. I like to think I showed some self-control.

After dinner Friday, we adjourned to our hotel in Dublin, a suburb up on Columbus’ northwest side, where the proprietor was apparently having the kind of year that many businesses have had of late, as teeming hordes of Americans increasingly confuse “society” with “sociopathy”. We never had an excuse to test them on this, or a need to interact in any face-to-face way. We checked in and out online, and the room keys were handy in-app codes that let you unlock your door with your phone. I guess we could’ve simply walked up to the front desk and said “Hi! Thanks for having us!” and walked off, but I feared the unsolicited interruption of a random pleasantry might’ve made them even more skittish.

hotel sign!

I’ve done 34 years in customer service. I’ve never had to resort to proactive defensiveness, but I get the sentiment.

Dublin hotel window view!

We continue my preoccupation with unremarkable hotel window views. Behold yonder car dealerships.

Saturday brought one more opportunity to add to my collections as we wandered into their Short North Arts District along High Street, the city’s extra-length north-south meridian. My destination was a record shop, which is yet another thing I find myself looking for in our travels of late. I prefer CDs to vinyl for a few peculiar reasons of my own, but I can usually find albums I’m missing and/or have heard good things about somewhere in my online wanderings. The shop was called Magnolia Thunderpussy, which I’m sure is a reference to something cooler than me. My purchase came with free stickers featuring their feline mascot, which was generous of them.

Goody Boy Diner sign!

We parked next to this diner, which has nothing to do with anything except I dug their retro sign.

Magnolia Thunderpussy!

Record shop ho! I spent more here than I did at the Book Loft.

Magnolia Thunderpussy mural!

The mural on the side of their building.

Homes off Goodale Park!

Not far away, a touch of labeled street art: Homes off Goodale Park by Michael Secrest.

Chamber of Commerce mural!

This one’s on the side of the Chamber of Commerce.

whale fight mural!

Yet another mural shows the anarchy that befalls fish and whales when Aquaman isn’t around to police them.

sidewalk circle!

Happy sidewalk circles on the corner where we parked.

Columbus loot!

Total acquisitions from the bookshop and the music shop.

I’d also considered checking out one of their local comic shops before we left. As it happens, the good folks at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus had emailed a list of them on the eve of this year’s Free Comic Book Day. But in the moment and after all that driving, I changed my mind, content with my Book Loft haul, and tabled that idea for the next time we’re in town.

Later at home, I was chagrined to learn I already had the Raconteurs’ first album. Whoops. Blame an old man’s memory.

To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 1: The Merry Marvel Museum Menagerie
Part 2: Mighty Marvel Cinemania
Part 3: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way
Part 4: COSI All Around
Part 5: Schiller Park Intermezzo
Part 6: Lichtenstein Pre-Pop
Part 7: All Around the CMA
Part 8: The Columbus Cuisine Collection
Part 10: Sir, This is a Wendy’s
Coda: Happy Birthday, Captain Janeway

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