Iusually take this space to give ya’ll a little primer about what awaits on ensuing pages, but this month is going to be a little different. Not that there isn’t plenty to chew through as we round out an eventful year in the 614: we’ve got a giant list of local products to help you fill out your Cbus Xmas shopping list; a thorough tour inside an Olde Towne East manor that used to be the opulent bed and breakfast for the country’s jazz greats, and I’m especially keen on the long and winding history traveled by Joe Peppercorn and his epic Beatles Marathon.
All great pieces I’m excited for you to read and share. But this month, as we approach 2017, Columbus was given a lesson for the future, one that left me feeling inspired to talk about how our growing city rubbed their own faces in our swollen inferiority complex. We got our feathers ruffled over a damn pop-up chicken restaurant. For those who don’t know, filmmaker and known satirist/subversive Morgan Spurlock announced and delivered last month on his plan to bring a four-day pop-up concept to the city. “Holy Chicken” promised in its press release to be an “Authentic Mission-Driven, Farm-To-Table, All-Natural, TranspareLocaLicious “Chicken Experience.”
And boy did some people have different experiences. I don’t think too many people familiar with Spurlock’s previous ventures could say they didn’t think a twist was coming, but somehow when the doors opened on Day 1, despite the restaurant’s obvious skewering of the fast-food industry painting its walls, several folks thought Columbus to be the impugned party.
Duped! Hoax! Chicanery! It was a true Portlandia moment for our growing little creative hub of the Midwest, and it stuck in my gut much longer than my “Crispy Grilled Spicy Chicken Sandwich,” with its “Paint-Gryll”ed “Flavor-Char™” marks. While I stood in line at the former Wendy’s site (within the Free-Range zone that was painted on the floor), I overheard Spurlock tell another customer “this is the most honest chicken experience you’ll ever have.” Dressed as every fast food manager who ever lived (mimicking the cardboard cutout of himself looking on from the corner), his message was almost so unsubtle it was hard to see how people could be angry—especially when what they got was a nice, delicious sandwich made by a staff making $15/hour, and managed by a local chef.
Frankly, it made me proud that we got to be a part of something like this, a new twist on our test market demographics—whether it becomes part of a future film or not. (Which it almost certainly will.)
There is some pride in that irony. Or, rather, irony in our pride.
It seems with some that we become so staunchly proud of Columbus that it veers into defensiveness. Maybe our collective outrage is inflamed by living in a swing state during a historically volatile election cycle, but we kind of whiffed on the point. We couldn’t take a joke—for something that didn’t even turn out to be one. We still can’t decide whether we have an inferiority complex, which is a deeper complex in itself. From our deeply engrained insecurity that rest of the country sees us as yokels, we sometimes act like it. So, I see this as a lesson.
It’s time to just do Columbus—to not worry ourselves with the way the nation views us/be a little less thirsty for the approval and praise of our bigger city brethren. And more pointedly, not get so excited to eat a sandwich next to a celebrity that we obscure his message entirely. Oh, and about those big city people who are now our neighbors: those who’ve moved here by the thousands from larger metros aren’t looking for something exactly like NYC and L.A. and Austin. They’ve literally been there, done that. Maybe they really dig pumpkin patches, or ya know, are thrilled to own property.
At any rate, we bemoan outsiders coming in to “put our city on the map,” and with good reason in some cases. But, if we can’t tell when someone is trying to make us the vehicle for satire, and not the target, we’ve got some revaluating to do.
Plus, if eating fried chicken is going to help elevate a social cause, then I think I’ve finally found my true calling.
Travis Hoewischer, Editor-in-Chief