I was on a flight home from New York when a businesswoman sitting a couple rows back loudly voiced her displeasure about our destination.
The man beside her said it was his first trip to Columbus.
"Oh, you've never been to Columbus? It's great," she exclaimed, feigning excitement. "They've got Bob Evans, and Bob Evans. And then, a couple exits down, they've got Bob Evans."
As she babbled, my ire grew. I tried desperately to dig up precisely what I wanted to say, but in my frustrated moment of defensiveness, couldn't conjure the perfect words.
Now, Columbus leaders find themselves in that same position-struggling with how to aptly describe our fabulousness to the rest of the world. The bottom line is, we need an identity. Who, exactly, are we? And what makes us great?
While reading about their efforts, I began contemplating those questions myself. Clearly, I like living here. I've visited several stunning locales and lived in a couple different states-including the oft-lusted-after Colorado-but chose to make Columbus my home. Why?
Having had ample time to think since that plane ride, I may finally have found the right words for my friend in flight. (And to our fine city leaders, consider this my respectful two cents.)
Columbus is like the girl next door-smart, friendly and warm as ever, but suddenly sexy, too.
It's teeming with talented artists (CCAD, anyone?), businesses whizzes (Wendy's, Victoria's Secret, Nationwide Insurance) and culinary geniuses (I'd put The Refectory, M and Lindey's up against any restaurants I've enjoyed in Europe).
It has Downtown, with luxe lofts for urban living and stunning venues that bring in dazzling shows. It has German Village, where Schiller Park boasts an outdoor theater, Katzinger's sells sandwiches as big as your head and jovial neighborhood bars abound.
And it has the Short North-a vibrant, evolved, fresh stretch of happy in the form of chic eateries, brilliant galleries and exceptional boutiques.
Plus, all of that goodness is surrounded by a bevy of suburbs that are charming in their own distinct ways. They offer genial neighborhoods where kids can walk to high-performing schools and ride bikes to community pools. And in those pleasant 'burbs,
Mom and Dad can afford to own good-sized homes and still have enough cash to pay a babysitter on Friday night so they can hop Downtown for a dinner soiree at-can't forget this one-one of the more glorious art museums in the country.
Also, the city's zoo has been crowned the best in the nation, and COSI the top science museum.
Want to party? Watch a Blue Jackets or Clippers game Downtown, then hit Arena District bars. Want to shop? Try Easton, Polaris, Tuttle and the myriad gems between. Want to help? Pick a cause and get to work; options are plenty, as the people here are heralded for our generous spirit. Want to learn? The Ohio State University is only the first of several praised educational institutions. Want to drive? You can-without getting stuck in traffic.
Walk High Street during Gallery Hop with an ice cream cone in your hand, popping in and out of boutiques, enjoying sidewalk musicians, and then find me an event somewhere else-anywhere else-that is as smile-inducingly cool. Hike along the hilly trails at Highbanks, or sip wine at one of The Conservatory's posh fundraisers, and show me a city that puts more care into its parks. Then stand amid the sea of red in Ohio Stadium on an autumn Saturday, singing "Hang on Sloopy" while praying for a touchdown, and tell me we're not The Best Damn City in the Land.
New York, I appreciate your fast pace, your bright lights, your Broadway shows. Chicago, I like your splendid Michigan Avenue, your lively Navy Pier and your delightful hot dogs. And San Francisco, I adore your bay, your bridge and your distinctively laid-back West Coast vibe. But I can't leave my heart on a cable car, in Wrigley Field or amid Times Square.
Because I'm already in love with Columbus.
In this magazine, I hope we do what we strive to with each new issue: Introduce you to several more things-and people-that make our city worth celebrating. And one of those is most certainly Jeni Britton Bauer, who is building a national-attention-getting ice cream empire with a work ethic and friendliness that should make us proud. I'm not sure I've met anyone who embraces-and promotes-Ohio more than her.
People may not, as the naysayers scoff, want to vacation here.
But they do want to live here.
And I can think of no greater compliment.
Here, after all, we can have our blessedly delicious Bob Evans pancakes-and eat them too.