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Back in Time

Scott Mulhollen stared at the screen in silent disbelief. With only an hour notice, he’d received a tip on an eBay auction too good to be true. As the clock ticked away with only seconds to spare, he made his first and only bid. He took a moment to let the win sink in, then [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Scott Mulhollen stared at the screen in silent disbelief. With only an hour notice, he’d received a tip on an eBay auction too good to be true. As the clock ticked away with only seconds to spare, he made his first and only bid.

He took a moment to let the win sink in, then he picked up the phone to confirm it was all really happening. The stranger who answered seemed somber, then his wife got on the line and was clearly confused. She didn’t even know her husband was selling it.

“Who is this?” she asked again, to which he politely replied, “I’m Scott, the guy who just bought your DeLorean.”
Graciously offering to back out of the sale, Mulhollen learned the car was the couple’s first purchase together when they were wed in 1982 and had been meticulously maintained ever since. But now retired and downsizing, it was time to move on.

“I didn’t have the heart to tell them what I was going to do to their car. You never know how someone is going to react,” he recalled. “So I chose to respect their memories, assuring them I was going to take care of it as lovingly as they had, that it wasn’t going to a chop shop or flipper.”

Mulhollen wasn’t kidding. He loves the car, and has his whole life. But he’s no classic car aficionado or broker of automotive ephemera intent on turning a quick buck.

“You rarely find a car this pristine and well preserved, and never at this price,” Mulhollen explained, whose bid was well above the $28,500 he actually paid. “The guy who owned it before me was an electrical engineer and stripped the entire car and rewired it, because DeLoreans were known for sometimes catching on fire. Collectors want everything original, so I was the only bidder.”

That was hardly the end of the upgrades. It’s taken nearly 30 years and a small fortune to realize the vision of his adolescence. But after months of delays and painstaking modifications, Scott Mulhollen is now the owner of a bona fide time machine.

“I remember sitting in the theater as a kid watching Back to the Future and dreaming about someday owning ‘that car,’” he confessed.

Mulhollen now runs his own self-defense school, which often requires connecting with kids who aren’t always easy to reach. A long-time collector of iconic ’80s memorabilia, his office is more of a museum dedicated to his childhood, from Garfield to Ghostbusters. Not just trinkets either—evertything from autographed animation cells to a legit proton pack. Even his martial arts background and enthusiasm for teaching grew out of his own experience with bullying. He was an actual Karate Kid who defied more than a few naysayers and turned a calling into a career. “When kids come here, it helps to let them know I was just like them,” he explained. “But there was still that one big dream that remained out of reach.”

For those of a certain age, it’s almost impossible to overstate how beloved Back to the Future is as both a personal and pop cultural milestone. I was an exchange student to Japan in the summer of ’86 and my host brother had a bootleg recording of just the audio from Back to the Future he’d played on his Walkman nearly nonstop for a year before I arrived. It’s essentially how he learned English. We’re still in touch, and can still exchange every line of dialogue even decades later.

“When I was initially considering all of this, I knew it had to be a business to make sense, but one that enabled me to share this passion with others and make a positive impact,” he recalled. “With the right combination of private rentals and charity events, I knew I could make it work.”

It cost nearly twice as much to convert the car as he’d paid for it, and it shows. It looks handmade, which it is and as it should. There’s a delicate balance to creating cinematic replicas. Too stingy and it feels cheap. Too polished and it feels mass-produced. Perhaps only the Batmobile is as indelible down to the most exacting detail. Complete with lighting and sound effects, diodes and doodads, Marty McFly himself couldn’t tell the difference.

“When the film’s prop makers were designing the car, they wanted it to look like something Doc Brown could have made in his garage,” he explained. “It took the builder seven months, and even then, he’d have taken another month or two if I let him.”

Once you get past the heavy price tag, the sticker shock gives way to immediate envy.  Plenty of people spend as much or more on a midlife crisis car that no one wants to have over for their birthday party or private gathering. You could have just another Tesla, or you could have a time machine and folks will gladly pay you to come hang out for a few hours.

“My goal is three years to pay off the car, a few big gigs and we’ll get there,” he noted. “The car isn’t really an expense; it’s an investment that holds its value. I could sell it tomorrow and still make money on the deal.”

Delays in the conversion pushed the debut until just after Ready Player One’s premiere—which was unfortunate, but not tragic. Summer commitments like Ohio Comic Con and a recent al fresco screening of Back to the Future at the Gateway Film Center were already booked, and events to raise funds for children’s charities and Parkinson’s research were also in the works. But blockbuster blowouts aren’t the only option to get up close and personal with a piece of the past, or the future.

“I have a woman coming down today from Toledo with her husband to see the car, and he has no idea. Those are the reactions that are priceless,” Mulhollen said. “People get emotional, they get overwhelmed. I’ve had people cry before. Whether you’re a CEO or the guy who operates the forklift. They may be in their forties, but when they sit in this car, suddenly they’re 10 again. It really is a time machine.” •

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Elijah Banks brings his worldview back to Columbus through new album

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Near the end of “Tunes in My Room,” a song by local rapper Elijah Banks, samples of a affirmations from social media personality Amber Wagner kick in. “You are still surrounded by an abundance of love, you have joy around you, God is with you,” Wagner passionately evokes. “You gon’ be alright.” Though Banks proclaims sophomore album Spin as a love story, much like Wagner’s declaration, through nine tracks filled with soulful aptitude, Banks finds that self-love is the ultimate destination.

“On my first album [Progress, Not Perfection], I wanted to show people all the different routes that I could take,” Banks said. “Over time, I’ve realized that my true roots lie in what makes people feel good, [which is] self-love; that’s what this album is about. When you start loving yourself, you are forced to recognize and notice what isn’t for you.”

Born into a military family, Banks drew different perspectives of music through his upbringing in Germany, New Jersey and Atlanta before ultimately settling in Ohio. Being in the midst of trap-rap culture during his time in Atlanta, he says that if you’re looking for hollow autotuned rap, Spin probably won’t be the ideal soundscape. In fact, not fitting into mainstream standards is helping Banks weed out who his music isn’t for.

“At first, I wanted to aim for a more pop-driven record that could get lots of spins on radio and push myself out more in a regional manner,” he said. “Each song showcases a situation right before it spins out of control.”

Yet, Spin doesn’t sound as chaotic as Banks seems to lead on. In fact, it’s quite relatable, with intricate spoken word amidst a gentle piano (“Kev’s Interlude”), the all-too- common frustrations of working a full-time gig (“4 AM”), and anxiously wading through mall crowds (“Zooming Thru”). With an emotive songwriting process, Banks shares that his ideas are often spur-of-the-moment and generally based on production.

“Sometimes I’ll roll through 20 to 30 beats a day until I find one that matches my mood. Once I choose the beat that I like, I generally work on the rhythm and tones that I want to get across. Then, the focus on the lyrics comes,” Banks says. “I try to talk through relatable subjects with a pop culture modern twist. If you listen to “Zooming Thru,” the song is about my card getting declined at a high fashion store. I like to play with eye catching themes and turn them into great songs.”

While a remainder of songs that didn’t make the cut on Spin will be featured on an impending project titled Elijah Banks & Friends, the rapper values collaborating with fellow Columbus-based artists to stay grounded. Part of 14-member collective Rawest4mation, a group of artists that uplift community arts culture, Banks aspires to one day run an indie label.

With a structural team in place, Banks credits Spin executive producer Kevin Kesicki with piano instrumentation and the cohesive flow of the album, alongside DJ B Redi, Banks’ official DJ. With plans of one day throwing niche cultural events, Banks hopes to eventually test his walk on the runway, having previously modeled for local streetwear brand Good Behavior. Nearly two years after making a splash at Breakaway Festival, Banks is preparing to showcase his diverse instrumentation and creative material at his next show on Valentine’s Day in New York City, backed by his band The Balance. Though his music is leading Banks to spaces outside of Columbus, he says that these performances would be nearly impossible without hometown support.

“I asked myself at the end of last year what [2020] holds for me,” he said. “Many people say [Columbus doesn’t] have talent but honestly, I truly believe you have everything you need for the things to bubble, minus one thing: We need to cross support and take our consumers seriously.”

Though 2020 has just started, with an intentional feel-good sound on Spin, Banks has his sights set on finishing the year more consistent than he’s begun. It’ll be exciting to hear.

Elijah Banks’ music is available on Spotify. Follow him on Twitter @elijahwonbanks and Instagram @elijahbanksmusic.

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Christine Abbott: Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative

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In the art world, there’s a commonly held misconception that the best work deals exclusively with the biggest and most define able topics: love, death, and thought.

Printmaker Christine Abbott debunks this idea with her recent work in “Visible Ink”, a group show featuring members of the Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative, now on display at the OSU Faculty Club. Abbott’s quiet, often formal work depicts lush, flattened interior scenes without people. While they depict everyday scenes, they somehow keep us coming back for more, to explore the delicate coloring and formal layers of each piece, or to ruminate on the idea of house and home.


CHRISTINE D’EPIRO ABBOTT WOVEN SILKSCREEN (Photos by Amy Glass)

Phoenix Rising, which has been active in Columbus for more than 20 years, offers members printmaking materials and equipment to create with. The non-profit organization also holds printmaking workshops for the Columbus community, as well as one-on-one lessons, making it a resource for artists of all skill levels

(614) sat down with Abbott to discuss her recent work and what it’s like as an active member of a printmaking co-op.

Can you start by talking about your own work in the show?

2017 marked a return to printmaking for me, but the imagery for this series, the interior scenes that are in “Visible Ink” actually started in St. Louis [after Abbott completed an MFA program at Washington University].

The year that I lived in St. Louis, I lived in a carriage house and cleaned [the owner’s] home in exchange for living over their garage in a nice part of town. So I got to know the family pretty well, and obviously cleaned their house frequently. I found that being in the same space daily inspired me to explore those spaces in my own work. And so when I had kids and was at home all the time, your home is a metaphor in a lot of ways; there are so many layers of meaning.

What do you want people to take from your work in the show?

My goal as an artist when I make work is to create an entry point where anyone can connect with it. The cookies are kind of on the shelf, if you will, but the more time you spend with the imagery and the body of work, the more you discover and engage with.

For me, I want an immediate entry point, I want something to grab me right away, but then I also want there to be more compiled than that. It’s a balancing act, but it’s an intuitive one.

You use silk-screen for one of your pieces in the show. What attracted you to working in that format?

First of all, it’s great for color, and the formal qualities of my work are really important to me.

Also, there’s a physicality to screen printing that I love. With silk- screening you’re working with a squeegee, and the paint is thick. It’s like yogurt. The whole time you’ve got this goopy ink and you’re trying to get something that’s slick and at to even out. But what that means is that the bigger the piece you’re working on, the bigger the squeegee you use, and the more physical it becomes.

Screen printing has this incredibly rich history as well, but it’s not something people always understand is a part of their everyday life as well. It creates the shirts we wear, the signage we see all the time.

Visible Ink is a group show, which is a pretty unique format. How does that work?

There are just over 30 pieces from 17 different artists. Part of the advantage of being a Phoenix Rising member is that you’re working side by side with great artists like Anne Cushman, and you can pitch a group show. Before I became a member they had a show at the Zanesville Museum of Art, and it’s really great for that as a part of what you’re doing professionally.

How else has being part of a co-op benefitted your work and practice?

First of all, there’s a natural flow of ideas between co-op members. You can get feedback on your work and technical help too. Plus, you’re exhibiting your work with other people, so you’re naturally developing relationships as you show together and work together. I think it’s very organic.

If I were to move to another city, it’s definitely something I would do. I used to rent a studio space and while that was helpful, it’s not as relationship building as being part of a cooperative. I tell this to my students; I encourage them if they ever move to a city, I’d join a co-op for the professional association and the opportunity to exhibit under the group name as well.

Another reason why I like print- making co-op is the fact that you work with shared gear and equipment. Most people don’t own their own printmaking press; they’re heavy and costly. That collaboration is part of image making; it’s part of printmaking.

Visible Ink, the Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative’s group exhibition, is on display at the OSU Faculty Club, 181 S Oval Drive, through February 21. To learn more, visit phoenixrisingprintmaking.org.

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The Interview Issue: Author Saeed Jones

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Each January, we feature the movers and shakers of the city in in-depth, in-person interviews that dig into their backgrounds, their plans, and what ties them to the capital city. While our interview issue subjects are all Columbus-based, their stories are universal. So settle in, cozy up, and give yourself some you-time. You’ll want to read every word.

Saeed Jones has traveled across the country promoting his new memoir and chosen Columbus for his own next chapter.

Author and new Columbus transplant Saeed Jones finally has a break after wrapping up his 16-city tour to promote his new memoir How We Fight for Our Lives. It’s a book that isn’t solely about his past, but is designed as an earnest conversation with readers. The book succeeds Jones’ previous poetry collections and a stint as Executive Editor of Culture at BuzzFeed, and is already receiving numerous honors and highly- publicized acclaim.

“It took a long time to write the book, almost a decade. So, I had a lot of time to think about writing it [being] one thing, but when you publish it, it becomes something different. I tried not to think so much about other people and the audience, but I think I trusted that if I could write to myself sincerely [and] candidly, that would be a bridge for other people,” he said. “It’s like you’re encountering someone when they just had a transformative experience. Something that’s really important for me in my writing is the cost of silence and the ways we silence ourselves. I think it’s powerful—as a writer, with the fortune I’ve had in my career—for people to be like, ‘I’m going through it’, and for me to be one more person who goes, ‘Me too.’”

Though some authors intend to tell their stories later in life, Jones wanted to focus his story on the time period from his upbringing in Texas through his mid-twenties to capture a specific ethos that informed his narrative. Concerned that segments of his life would become deemed irrelevant to readers, he found the immediacy of the news sparked him to publish the book sooner than later. Soon after Jones considered writing in detail about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, which shifted the LGBTQ+ conversation, the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting occurred.

“Whenever I would get a little hard on myself about the book’s intentions, it felt like America would go, ‘We gotta do this now,’” Jones said. ”Everything’s not perfect but a lot has changed from 1998. [While writing,] I was like, ‘I don’t know if it’ll be a perfect book, but it’s gonna be the book that I want and need now.’”

Photos: Brian Kaiser

After his mother’s passing in 2011, Jones is attentive to their relationship in How We Fight for Our Lives, endearingly dedicating the book to her even after a moment of uncertainty that occurred when he came out. In spite of having a vibrant relationship with his mother, Jones jokes that the two weren’t able to naturally discuss sexuality. Promoting the memoir before Thanksgiving, Jones mentions that some LGBTQ+ readers confided in him about their own awkward conversations with family.

“Sure, it’s important for us to write about clear and present danger, whether that’s police brutality, homophobic or racially-driven violence, [but] I think that it’s also important for us to pay attention to the more subtle hurts that come to define us. Sometimes those hurts are a result of failings; loved ones who just can’t support us because they’re like ‘I don’t get it’ and they kind of give up,” he said. “My mom was working two jobs, so a lot of times she was just tired. She was like, ‘Sorry, we can’t have a heartfelt conversation today, I gotta go to my second job.’ That had an impact on me, and I know that has an impact on a lot of other people in those moments. In any meaningful, long-lasting relationships—certainly family relationships—it is going to be complicated. If you don’t have multiple colors in how you’re thinking about that relationship, the truth is that something is being deadened, something is being intentionally or unintentionally ignored or silenced.”

An avid reader of works by Margaret Atwood and Audre Lorde, Jones recognizes a similar urgency from his memoir through his influence James Baldwin, admitting to reading his 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room repeatedly, revisiting it at different points of his life to gain a new perspective. Identifying with different characters each time, Jones focused essentially on Baldwin’s deconstruction of queerness and social dynamics, which intersected American politics with racial identity. “[Baldwin] wasn’t going to pretend that there was this monolithic Blackness. He wasn’t just going to pretend that there weren’t Black men—who he was advocating for in terms of civil rights— who weren’t homophobic. He was like ‘We’re gonna do all this together’” Jones said. “He’s drawing from his background in Christianity, but he’s changed; he’s not practicing his faith in the same way. He [was] just doing a very good job of showing how we’re in flux and that it’s natural and better to embrace that. I feel like that set me up to start paying attention.”

Habitually enthusiastic about settling in Columbus (or what he calls “the promised land”), Jones speaks gleefully about The Great Migration and Ohio boasting essential Black authors—Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jacqueline Woodson, Hanif Abdurraqib and Toni Morrison. While he notes that Black authors have thrived

in Ohio through a formidable writing scene, in How We Fight for Our Lives, Jones touches keenly on the fragility of Black life. Days prior to our conversation marked the one-year anniversary of the death of 16-year-old Julius Tate, who was shot by Columbus police during a sting operation.

“If we’re able to villainize people we have wronged—and Julius was certainly wronged—it eases the rhetoric of brushing the wrong aside,” Jones said. “It happens so often and so much of our culture grooms all of us to move on. I’m not the one to say what justice for Julius and for Black people impacted by that violence looks like, but I would love to hear it. I have no interest in telling people to be quiet. I’m a writer, so I think a lot about editing and revision, and how you polish and the drafts you don’t want people to see. Cities are text, too.”

While Columbus continues to be a work in progress through systematic tensions, Jones is embracing the city’s tangible LGBTQ+ scene after residing in New York City, Atlanta, and San Francisco. In support of the Black Queer & Intersectional Collective, he attended the Columbus March for Black Trans Women in November, where he felt a sense of cohesiveness within the city. “I feel like the march was a great example of waking me up—unsurprisingly, it’s easier for cisgender gay men to live and feel embraced here than Black trans women in Columbus,” Jones said. “The stakes are high, but it feels possible. Here it feels like, ‘start reading up, go to that march, talk to people,’ as opposed to ‘here’s the finished story.’”

With a story far from over, Jones reveals that his next life work is to write about joy to balance the scales with his past struggle within How We Fight for Our Lives. Avidly writing about pain and loss, he vows to dabble into more written frameworks outside of his comfort zone. “I feel like I’ve written about myself so damn much, maybe learning to write in other forms—fiction—would be fun. I want to learn more, I feel that’s when I’m most alive, when I’m learning and realizing that I’m learning,” he said. “That’s when I feel fully present as a person, not when I think I know the beginning, middle and end.”

Follow Saeed Jones on Twitter and Instagram at @theferocity.

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