I didn’t like Ohio when I lived there. It always seemed either humid and sunless or completely fuck-slathered in shitty grey snow and sunless. There were a lot of Republicans, which isn’t inherently bad, but these Republicans were rather unlikeable, loving their mega churches way more than their gays. (And due to the stifling atmosphere, closeted gays could be found in alarming numbers.) Ohio is a tapestry of lots of terribly boring highways that you have to take to get anywhere. There’s bad food. Many people there have a penchant for shitty hair cuts, Crocs, and pantal wedgies, something I used to think was specific to the region. I now know that isn’t true (I have been to Florida), but it was still a traumatizing way to grow up.
My friend Monty loves Ohio. Although he eventually moved to New York City (and is now even farther, in Liberia), he believes it is a wonderful place with potential. So many presidents have been from Ohio! The art! The Underground Railroad! The Flats! The heart of it all! Those little chocolate-peanut butter Buckeye candies they sell in the airport! (Note to non-Ohesians: they don’t sell chocolate-peanut butter Buckeye candies anywhere else. We’re trying to make them “our thing” to visitors, but they’re actually not. It’s not like we religiously eat them for dinner or stuff them in our Children’s socks every night before bed in some sort of mock-Father Christmas tradition.) Monty thinks the secret is getting talented people (like Lebron James) to stay in Ohio, instead of moving to Miami or New York, or I guess, Liberia, to build it up from the inside. If everyone abandons it, it will die. But quite often, Ohesians leave Ohio for bigger cities, to places that, for all they are worth, don’t have pools, Hot Topics, Targets, or corn that gets Knee High By The Fourth Of July.
I moved to New York City and initially felt glad to be away from Ohio. But obviously, and here is where the story gets super fucking predictable, I appreciated it. Half of the awesome people I have met in New York City are from Ohio. My boyfriend is from Ohio. (I met him there.) An Ohio person’s eyes will light up when they exchange cell phone numbers with you and recognize a 330 or 216 area code. I see people I went to school with in Ohio moving to LA and Chicago to pursue really bombass careers and think, you started in Ohio. It’s in you good. Your grandma probably still lives there. You know the roads and have been trapped in its storms and have been the butt of one or two Ohio jokes, just like me. We aren’t more courteous, that Midwestern-politeness thing is bullshit. But we have a certain composure and friendliness that I am still trying to take apart to see how it works. I was at a comedy show last weekend chatting with strangers and for the fortieth fucking time, the guy said, “you’re not from Ohio, are you?” I don’t know what it is that gives me away. A smile? Openness? It probably has something to do with the fact that Ohio people are less likely to tell you to to fuck off in the middle of the street, I know that for damn sure. And that happens to me at least once a commute in New York City.
Ohio people are hard workers. They sweat and are do manual labor and are good football players. To make sweeping generalizations, it’s not like they don’t think that they’re better or worse than anyone else, they just don’t think about it. They are who they are, they’re unpretending. They don’t care about fucking New York City. And that’s a beautiful thing.
But when I do go back to Ohio, Cleveland in particular, it can be depressing. It seems like too many people are leaving. Businesses are gone and it’s kind of malnourished. Remember when the Browns left? We were one step away from Detroit! To quote Chrissie Hynde when she was with The Pretenders, in “My City Was Gone“,
“I went back to Ohio but my city was gone.
There was no train station. There was no downtown.
South Howard had disappeared. All my favorite places. My city had been pulled down, reduced to parking spaces.
I went back to Ohio but my family was gone.
I stood on the back porch, there was nobody home. I was stunned and amazed.
My childhood memories slowly swirled past like the wind through the trees.
I went back to Ohio but my pretty countryside had been paved down the middle by a government that had no pride.
The farms of Ohio had been replaced by shopping malls and Muzak filled the air from Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls.
Way to go, Ohio.”
Chrissie Hynde, who was born in Akron and went to Kent State University, knows that feeling of going back and and finding that your city is gone. She must be smoking the same crack as Monty, because Hynde went back to Ohio in 2007 to open a vegan restaurant in Akron, called The VegiTerranean (a name that nobody could possibly like or remember.) And in an unfortunate twist, it closed in 2011 because a vegan restaurant run by a rock star could not thrive. Fucking Ohio, man. You shot down Chrissie Hynde, the woman who tried so hard to give you another chance and love you and make you better from the inside. You threw her out, and made her go away. No more Chrissie Hynde, no more LeBron, no more Monty. Monty is right. Great people do need to stay there, to build it up from the inside. But the ones that do (thank you, guys, you know who you are) probably don’t think of it that way. They don’t think, like New Yorkers do, “I am here because I’m unique and exceptional and I’m going to change the world!” They’re just living their lives. (For much cheaper rent, too, so in a way they are smarter.)
My dad sends me daily text message photos of our home in Ohio. The vegetable garden and flowers, mostly, but also the leaves and dirt, the lush trees. The stuff I do not have in New York City. And I think it’s not so bad. It’s not that I’m going to move back or anything, but I will claim ownership. I will go back to Ohio, even if I stand there and feel that my city is gone. (I will not open a vegan restaurant.) I will flash my 330 with pride. And I am never, ever getting rid of the GOD BLESS OHIO tattoo I have inked across my buttcheeks. That’s the Ohio way.
These stories are about Ohio, the state that I left, proving that it’s not actually gone. We’re working on it from the inside and the outside. Enjoy Ohio. I’d Hit That. by Bianca Caampued, Love Letter by Alan Lane, It Happened In Ohio by Tom Kenneth, and Disappointed And Proud by Kevin Frasure.
Ohio. I’d Hit That.
Many people wonder what my fascination with Ohio is. I’m not from there, but I talk about Ohio and how much I love it enough that people think I am. I think it’s because in my first foray into singledom in NYC, it seemed as though all the cute boys I met were from Ohio. I met them independently, but their groups of friends consisted of other people from Ohio. It was like they were in a club, formed of different chapters. A club they were all in, where they talked about their lives in Ohio. All of these were stories to me, taunting me for not knowing or feeling the things that they knew and felt as they talked about these things, making me want to be a part of the club so badly.
Random things I’ve learned about Ohio: There are drummers there. Not like there aren’t drummers anywhere, but I’ve decided the cutest drummers are from Ohio. Also, Trent Reznor, Maynard James Keenan, and Marilyn Manson were all from Ohio, making up what is apparently known as the goth triangle. Um, I’m obsessively in love with Trent Reznor, my favorite band being NIN, and I’ve definitely been known to enjoy some Tool in my life. I draw the line before Marilyn Manson though—that, I will admit, I could just never get into. But two out of three ain’t bad, and that was enough reason for me to believe that Ohio was some sort of magical (goth-inspiring) place.
One of my best friends, Steve, is from Ohio and travels there pretty frequently, making the trip by driving and not flying. This to me seemed crazy. Really? Driving that distance every other week or so? I mean, Ohio seemed so far. Is it really that drivable?
On one of the occasions that he happened to be talking about a recent drive to and from Ohio, I casually suggested “Take me with you the next time you go.” I rationalized this request by thinking no airline miles or money on plane tickets had to be spent. This to me would be a fun and amazing vacation, for practically no money. By casually suggested I mean excitedly pleaded, so it came out more like this “OMG STEVE. I WANT TO GO TO OHIO, CAN I PLEASE GO WITH YOU NEXT TIME. SERIOUSLY. I’M COMING WITH YOU THE NEXT TIME YOU DRIVE THERE. I’M SERIOUS. I’M DOING IT.”
Apparently the next time he was going was a week and a half away for Thanksgiving. That was it. I had already committed myself. This was my chance to experience Ohio, and in my mind it may be my only chance, so I said “Done.” One would think, who would forego time with their own family or friends or anything else to drive to Ohio for however many hours it takes to drive there? By “one” I mean almost everyone, especially people from Ohio who seemed not so excited to have to go back to their own families due to traditional holiday obligations.
Whatever. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Don’t you guys ever let curiosity drive your actions? We’re not cats. We won’t die. In fact, we might even find some crazy adventures and the best life experience in the world. Also, cats have 9 lives, so idk why that statement is so bad in the first place. #catwoman
And so I trekked with Steve, happily sitting in his two seater truck with his chihuahua fox terrier mix, Dobby, on my lap. I was driven by the desire to find and make an adventure! But let’s face it, I was also driven by my love for cute boys. I had resigned to believe all cute boys are from Ohio. That’s where they are from, and I was going there to meet them all… and make out with their faces. Woo!
I met no cute boys in Ohio. Night after night of going to the bar, there were not so many cute boys to be found, and the ones that seemed to be cute had gfs. Then out of nowhere, all of a sudden it made sense—“Of course! All the cute ones moved to NY! #DUH And I should know because I’ve probably met most of them.” Freeing myself from this pipe dream boy search actually enabled me to appreciate all of the other things that happened during the trip that made it awesome.
#2 Thrift store shopping outside of NYC, scoring such things as a Marc by Marc Jacobs denim jacket for $10, and a $15 pink tufted arm chair that perfectly matched a $140 Urban Outfitters ottoman that I owned. What?! Yes.
#3 Being an extra in I Razor, a film by Circus Devils, which my friend Steve was working on. I don’t know any other time I could’ve played a demonic child reading a children’s book in an abandoned house with (fake) blood all over my mouth. Steve, says it was the part in the movie that scared him the most. I’m into it.
#4 CHEAP DRINKS.
#5 Getting to know my friend Steve’s family and having a wonderful Thanksgiving with them.
I eventually did find cute boys when we made a trip into some bar in Akron. I may have even made out with one. I can’t really remember at this point.
I can’t really be bothered to remember, because as far as I’m concerned I found something better than cute boys, that I hadn’t actively been looking for. I was driving around with Steve, talking about how we wished there were places where you could get $20 tattoos, and as though it were fate (it was) we pass by a place with a sign saying “Tattoos- $20 Minimum.” We stopped the car immediately, and in a very whimsical last minute decision, decide to get matching Dark Knight tattoos. Everyone that knows me, knows that if there’s anything I’m more in love with than Trent Reznor, it’s Batman.
And so, this became the trip to Ohio that started with my search for cute boys and makeouts, and ended in finding Batman (forever, in my life, on my skin). But it’s like my roommate says—every great story ends with Batman in some way or another, right?
All in all I’d say A+, would do it again. I’m down to go the next time someone offers to take me (ahem, other people I know from Ohio).
by Alan Lane
I am currently in a committed relationship. It has it’s good times and bad times and sometimes the bad time are hard to get through. It’s during those times I think back fondly to my first relationship. What if things worked out between us? How different would my life be? At the time I left him I needed more, and I can still feel that now. When you are with someone for 22 years, it’s only natural to wonder what else is out there. Now you may be asking yourself, what happened between us in those years that led me to leave him? I think it’s best to start at the beginning.
His name is Ohio. We fell in love instantly. He helped me experience things I could never even dream of. Air, water, trees. He was good friends with my parents, and who was I to second guess their judgement? It wasn’t until around five or six years later I realized that all of these things that I loved about Ohio, weren’t as unique to him as I once thought. My sister was a member of an all-star softball team that traveled around the country and was hosted by various men and women, all quite similar to my beau: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky. I felt duped by the one that I loved. Everything I had come to love about him at this point in our relationship, the forests we would play in, the way you would step out side in the morning and he just smelled of spring, I at once realized I could find in others.
While we weathered that storm, it was always in the back of my mind. When I applied to colleges I longed to leave him behind. I dreamed of nights laying not by a lake, but an ocean. I wanted to be with someone whose main attraction wasn’t The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Cedar Point. Ultimately, he gave me an ultimatum. Stay with me, and pay less for college tuition, or go find someone else and be in debt. So I decided we would stay together, but I knew now it couldn’t last forever.
Three years later I met my current lover, New York, for the first time. He gave me his number. Nothing happened, but he could tell I was impressed. That summer, I cheated on Ohio with a foreign boy named London. For six blissful weeks, I was in love with someone else. Everything he had to offer me trumped Ohio in every way. The sheer amount of things to do past 7PM (when Ohio would usually go to sleep) were astounding. I knew I had to plan an escape. I needed to leave him for someone else. That’s when I started calling New York. Over the summer after graduation, I had agreed to come meet him a few times. Overlooking all his obvious flaws, I fell in love and planed to leave Ohio for him. When I told Ohio, he seemed okay with it, but I could tell he was devastated. He understood because I wasn’t the first one to leave him for New York. He said if that’s what I wanted, I was free to go, but he would always be there for me if I needed him.
It’s been four years now, and sometimes I miss Ohio more than ever. I’ve seen him a few times over the past couple of years and nothing has changed. I don’t expect it to, either. New York is a filthy lover, and while I love him with all my heart, sometimes I think it would be nice to be to drive a car, or lay in your backyard, or see 100 cornfields within a ten mile radius. New York lifts me to higher heights than Ohio ever did, but has also let me fall much father. Ohio was always the steady one, always there for you, even if a little bit boring. There are many times where New York and I would get into a fight and I’ll think, “Ohio would never treat me this way.” I don’t know how things will end up with New York and myself. I’m cautiously optimistic. If there is one thing I do know, it’s that if things don’t work out, Ohio will always be there for me.
Disappointed and Proud
by Kevin Frasure
Being born and raised in Ohio is something I am remarkably proud of and extremely disappointed in. There may not be another state in the entire country where the feelings of regret and overwhelming pride contradict one another in the same moment. Everyone loves to make fun of Ohio, but Ohio follows the rule of “your mama jokes.” I can make fun of Ohio, but if you do, them’s fightin’ words.
When I think of Ohio, I think of disappointment. I like to think of it as “a place where dreams go to die.” I also say the same things about trailer parks, where I grew up, so this might be the reason why. Ohio to me is cyclical poverty surrounded by one depressing “I missed my chance” story after the next.
When I think of Ohio, I think of winning. Not in the Charlie Sheen kind of way, but it’s what we do. We win. Whether it is politics or corn hole, we take care of business in a way that no one can. If Ohio supports it, it’s going to be the law of the land. We have had 7 US presidents born in Ohio and no Republican has ever won the White House without us. Like it or not, Ohio is important.
Then there are sports, which are almost too depressing for me to get into. The Ohio State University, to many people, is like a religion. Losing to Michigan makes you cry when you are 5 years old (I know because it happened to me). But there is something special about Ohio sports fans. We always think we are going to win. To the last second, we believe there is hope even though we know deep down it’s not going to happen. Mention Cincinnati and you think Reds and Bengals. Sure the Reds had some good years in the 70s but they are mostly a disappointment. The Bengals have been the easiest thing to laugh at in the NFL for most of their history. Then there is Cleveland: Cavaliers, Browns, and Indians. When is the last time they ever won anything? The only good thing that ever happened to Cleveland was Lebron, and we all know how that turned out. He had to leave to be a winner.
People like Neil Armstrong, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Clooney, and even the Naked Cowboy all at one time called Ohio home. This list could go on and on. Even Roger Clemens is from Ohio. He probably learned how to cheat in the streets of Dayton. The biggest difference is most of these people left. They went on to bigger and better things all over the world. It only took leaving to do it. I guess that’s the same reason I left too.
Is this really a surprise that people leave? One of Ohio’s nicknames Is the “Gateway State.” Just like how Marijuana is the gateway drug that introduces people to bigger and better drugs, Ohio is the state that introduces people to bigger and better places. You can’t have one without the other. It creates character to grow up in harsh winters and shitty summers with nothing to look forward to but roller coasters and snow days.
Every time I think back to Ohio, I still think “god damn that place sucks.” But then don’t you dare let me see someone wearing a shirt with Ohio on it because I will go up to them immediately ask them where they are from, if they know so and so, and thank them for leaving. It’s a weird place to be from, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Disappointed and Proud.
It Happened In Ohio
by Tom Kenneth
This story isn’t about Ohio in the classic sense of a story being about a place. To me, if a story is genuinely about a place, the place plays a significant role in the story that could not easily be replaced by another place. It is a character in the story just like any other. It is central, material, and relevant.
This is a story about Columbus, Ohio, and to it, Ohio is none of those things.
I have a brother that is seven years my junior. He’s a great kid; he’s really smart, a hard worker, runs marathons, cares about our family’s golden retriever like most people care … shit, actually, like most people would care about a really sweet, nine year-old golden retriever, but he’s a fucking nice kid, okay? Anyway, about six months ago, he decided to leave the Northeast and take a shot at being a journalist in Los Angeles. He moved out to Santa Clarita (northeast of LA) with a friend of his from college, they got a place together, and he went about applying to just about anything even remotely related to writing within a 50 mile radius. Long story short, it didn’t work out, and a few weeks ago, I flew to LA to pick him up and drive him back to the East Coast. Specifically to South Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. I bring this up because it is important.
My brother, for all his good qualities, is a diehard Philly sports fan. I don’t know if you know any Philly sports fans. It’s a little bit like knowing a Buffalo sports fan, or a Cleveland sports fan, but even worse because, y’know, we still have hope in our teams. He is a fan of Philly sports the way a fish is a fan of water. And when the Philly sports gods are being cruel, he wears it on his sleeve. Several years ago, on the weekend that my fiancee first met my brother, a late-inning Phillies collapse prompted my brother to full-force SLAM his fist down onto our dinner table and yell, in a relatively quiet, albeit outdoor restaurant, “FUCKING GUY SHOULD HAVE BEEN A BLOWJOB!” The fiancee and I like to reminisce about that one. Okay, I like to, anyway.
So, we’re driving across the country, booking it because I’m unemployed and need to get back to NYC to find a job (can’t live off these Loop checks forever), and we decide to make Columbus our last stop along the way. My fiancee’s brother lives in Columbus, and my brother had yet to meet him. This felt like a perfect opportunity. Just one catch: The Eagles were going to play the Giants on the Sunday that we got there.
Now, I wasn’t really too worried about The Meeting of the Brothers. They’re both pretty chill guys, and I was nearly positive it would all go smoothly. But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about the volcano of Philly sports anger inside my brother that could erupt at any time.
One last point: I’m a huge fantasy football guy. I love it. And at times, I have been guilty of rooting for my fantasy team over the consistently disappointing Eagles. I’m such an avid fantasy football player that Jen (my fiancee) has actually gotten into it and has a team of her own. On that particular week, Jen was locked in a fierce battle, and she needed every possible point to win. She has Victor Cruz on her team, and of course I know this. So as my brother, Jen’s brother, and I are watching the game, whenever Cruz caught a pass, I’d give a little fist pump, maybe a nod, a “Yeah!”, whatever. We watched the game at Jen’s brother’s house. At halftime, Jen’s brother went upstairs to go to bed, as unlike my brother and I, he had a job that he actually had to go to in the morning. So for the entire second half, my brother and I are whisper-cheering, being as quiet as we can, but still super-tuned in to the game.
I don’t know if you saw the game, but it was really one of the better games this season. With about a minute or so to go, the Giants are trailing the Eagles by 2 and driving down the field. At one point, Cruz caught a 20ish yard pass, and … and I made a mistake. I still felt like the Eagles were in good shape, but I was excited for Jen’s team to do well, so… I gave it a pretty big fist pump. Might have even added the “Yeah!” to go with it. My brother looks at me and yells, “FUCK. FANTASY. FOOTBALL!! THIS IS REALITY FOOTBALL!! GET YOUR HEAD RIGHT!”
The game literally came down to the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Lawrence Tynes, the Giant’s kicker, had a chance to give the Giants the win with a 54 yard field goal. Andy Reid (the Eagles’ coach) even gave him two cracks at it by calling a time-out right before Tynes took his first whack at it. Fortunately, he missed on the second kick as well (it was straight down the middle, but a couple yards short), and all was well with the world. My brother and I killed a couple more beers and were able to go to bed peacefully. Jen ended up winning her fantasy football game by one-tenth of a point. Somehow Jen’s brother and his wife didn’t hear us.
Could this story have happened anywhere? Sure. But it didn’t. It happened in Columbus, Ohio.