In 2017, I moved my family from San Diego, California to Pickerington, Ohio, a ho-hum city outside of Columbus where deer will eat your shrubs and shit in your yard. Why leave “America’s finest city”? We wanted a larger, more affordable house with space to hide from the kids, along with a lifestyle that would bring us closer to financial freedom. But the move hasn’t been perfect. Five years later, here are some aspects of life in Central Ohio that I can’t stand, along with a few things that keep us here.
Columbus has world-class medical facilities, so I guess there are worse places to get shot. But the chances of that happening here are higher than San Diego. When I talk to Ohioans, they think cities like New York and Los Angeles are more violent. Nah, man! They’re larger and attract more attention. When you account for murders per 100,000 people, we’re near the belly of the beast.
To be fair, I write this from the comfortable boredom of the ‘burbs. A world away from what’s only 15 minutes away. But by spending money and paying taxes, I’m indirectly supporting a state that’s indifferent about gun violence. A recent example: a bill just passed the Ohio Senate to allow concealed carry without a permit or training. (For the “What about Chicago and its strict gun laws!” crowd: Many guns used in Chicagoland crime come from neighboring states with basically no gun laws, like Indiana. See, they just mess it up for everybody. Yes, Chicago’s rough, but it’s not even a Top 10 most dangerous U.S. city.)
You may have heard the phrase “speak it into existence.” It’s a euphemism for “lie to yourself,” and it’s enabled me to tolerate Ohio’s winters. As long as it’s 25 degrees and dry, I carry on like it’s spring. I go for daily runs and hardly ever wear a coat, unless we’re going somewhere nice. In that case, I wear my camel-colored topcoat, as popularized by young men who celebrate half-birthdays with brunch. Funny…just recently a guy at Nordstrom complimented my top coat. While wearing the same one.
Anyway, when it’s snowing and in the 20s, as it is for maybe 15 to 30 days out of the year, I go into a depression. Well, it’s more of an extended fit of anger than depression. Symptoms include: mentally cursing neighbors who don’t shovel the sidewalk in front of their homes and searching Google Flights knowin’ I ain’t going nowhere.
Also, and this is my last beef with Columbus, drivers here are careless and dangerous. We’ve already been in three hit-and-runs. In the first, Amber was rear-ended and left with a concussion. A witness gave chase, but the culprit got away. In the second accident, my car was rammed while parked on campus. In the most recent accident, the five of us were rear-ended…on the same street where Amber got hit. I pulled over thinking the lady was going to do the same, but she sped away, nearly hitting oncoming cars. I chased her in our big ol’ minivan, but had to stop because the fam was getting scared. Man, maybe I should get a gun?
With all that said, I mostly enjoy living near “Cbus.” For one, it’s diverse. Just on my little street alone there are Salvadorans, Ethiopians, Indians, black folk and while folk, Vietnamese and a few #TeamSwirl families. Of course San Diego was diverse, too, but there weren’t many black people. Pretty much only my friend Will and his extended family.
And Columbus is growing. It now has a million residents. With that comes the benefits of big city living: tons of bars and restaurants and breweries, relatively easy access to marijuana, kind people who run up to your car at stoplights and ask to wash your windows, the country’s fourth largest university, a tech industry, and so on. There are lots of jobs. Even a slacker like me has managed to make and invest more money than ever. More importantly, we’re native Ohioans and it’s nice to be near our off-the-chain family.
Pickerington is our permanent homebase. I love our house, especially the basement. There’s enough room to jog or sit on the couch and watch sexy foreign thrillers on Netflix. Also, Amber and the kids have a lot of friends in town. I don’t, but I do feel close to the crew at Trader Joe’s. They say hello and ask how my day is going.
I’ll always have my issues with Central Ohio, but as the kids grow older and tire of my life lessons, I’ll parent remotely from somewhere sunny during the worst weeks of winter. I might even miss wearing a topcoat.