Tuesday, March 18, 2014

No. 79 – Violet

Performer: Seal
Songwriters: Seal, Guy Sigworth
Original Release: Seal
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: MTV Unplugged, 1996.

Laurie was—and still is, I guess—big on changing things up, not doing the same thing over and over. I’m not completely the opposite, but routine suits me. In June 2005, Laurie and I decided to change it up in a big way. Instead of me coming to visit her in Chicago, she came to Columbus.

It was a big move, because now she would be on my turf. She’d never been to Columbus, or if she had, it had been so long that whatever information she had was useless. Everyone was at Torch Lake, so we had the house to ourselves. I set up a full slate of activities.

We picked a weekend where the Clippers were in town, so she’d be able to see a game, and she came down for the long weekend after work on Friday. I gave her immaculate directions—I’d made the drive enough by now to know every exit, let alone every route—but at about 11, I got a call. Laurie was lost.

Apparently I didn’t know my exits as well as I thought. There are two on I-70 near Dayton that are almost right on top of each other. Both have, or at least had, Shell stations, and I told Laurie she should gas up at the second one, which was south of the freeway, but I got the mile marker wrong and thus gave her the wrong exit number. Oops.

So I directed her back to the highway and then waited … and waited … and waited. I figured it should take her a little more than an hour to arrive from where she was, so when it hit an hour and a half, I was worried. I tried to keep myself occupied by working on things I could on Dad’s computer, so I could look out the office window to where she’d turn onto my street.

Finally, I saw a pair of headlights and figured it had to be her at this late hour. I felt myself exhale. I went outside to greet her, and Laurie presented me with a bouquet of sunflowers. She explained that, aside from sunflowers being Kansas’ state flower, I always brought her flowers when I came to visit her, so …

Laurie was pretty whipped, but I bought a few snacky treats from Pastaria, so we went in the living room, lit some candles and noshed on prosciutto and caprese. It wasn’t the first time I’d had a paramour at Dad & Laura’s home—Debbie had visited that particular place once—but it felt strange and new. Laurie visiting peeled back the curtain on my life. Before, it was me sharing hers.

Saturday was a night game. The plan was to do a few things during the day, then work the game and go out afterward. We took Dad’s Cruiser so we’d have AC. It was a good thing we did, because it was hotter than heck.

The day more or less revolved around German Village. Any first-time trip to Columbus had to include Schmidt’s, so that was the plan for lunch. However, considering how the Art Institute had been a key part of our first weekend together in Chicago, I took Laurie by the old Ohio School for the Deaf building next to the library downtown.

For those of you not in the know—and that would be anyone who hasn’t been to Columbus—behind the School for the Deaf is a park that has a topiary made to look like Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, my favorite painting, by Seurat. The painting, of course, is at the Art Institute. Laurie had no idea that the topiary existed, and she loved it. She loved Schmidt’s, too—how can you not?

At the ballpark, Laurie got in via a complimentary pass from Joe. We didn’t watch much baseball that night, however. A storm blew in during the seventh inning and halted play of the tied game. Laurie came up to the press box as it stormed, and a few players entertained what remained of the huddled masses by sliding over the tarp and sending water flying everywhere.

The game never resumed, which was a first and only experience for me. Sure, we had a bunch of rainouts, but it was always before the game was to take place, and any rain delays were completed. That was the only suspended game I saw.

Let loose early, Laurie and I headed back to German Village to hang out at a few old haunts. We started at the Round Bar, which is a famous old-school bar next to a more famous even older school joint, The Clarmont. From there, it was Plank’s Café, where I introduced Laurie to the world’s greatest thin-crust pizza. After that, we went to the Thurman, but the storm had blown out the power on that block, so it was closed. We went back to The Clarmont for a nightcap.

I had a more places in mind for Laurie on Sunday, but the rainout messed up our plans, because we had to be back at the ballpark around noon. The suspended game had to be made up before the scheduled game took place. Then the second game went 12 innings. All told, we got 15 innings of baseball, in 93-degree weather. It was a long day.

No matter. On the menu that night was redemption. My favorite Italian restaurant almost since I’d moved back to Columbus in 1994 was Trattoria Roma in Grandview. However, one of the last times I’d been there, in November 2000, was when Debbie and I for all intents and purposes broke up, although the deed wasn’t final for another five months.

I wanted to take Laurie there, not only because it was a great restaurant, but also I wanted what might be my last time there to be a good memory. It was. The food was excellent, and Trattoria Roma has been redeemed.

Laurie wanted to go out after, so I took her to campus and a longtime (and now unfortunately long-gone) bar called Larry’s. It was a hole in the wall that kept the preppies away by letting word get out that it was a gay bar, which it wasn’t.

Laurie and I loved it. The ceiling was lit up in white Christmas lights, some blinking, some not, and the booths were all high-back wood. They even had a few board games, like Guthrie’s in Chicago. Hardly anyone was there, so we dominated the juke and played Playboy pinball. We had a blast.

The last day started with City Barbecue followed by the grand tour, where I showed Laurie my history, everywhere where I’d lived—except my house—everywhere where I went to school, everywhere I worked, the whole 10 yards. After the game that night, we finally made it to the Thurman.

The next day, Laurie left before the game—I think she had enough of baseball to last her a while. It had been a great visit, and best of all, it was going to be less than a week before we would see each other again for a weeklong Wisconsin trip with her friends.

We got together maybe 15 times between the first time I visited Laurie in Chicago and when I moved there, but that weekend in June 2005 was the only time she came to Columbus during that time. We’ve been back many times since, but it was, in many ways, the last great weekend I spent at home. After that, I was always a guest in my hometown.

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