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The Secret Life of James Thurber: CMoA pays tribute to the Columbus humorist

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There’s a cartoon by James Thurber that sums up the work of author and 40-year Thurber historian, Michael J. Rosen. In the cartoon, a woman receives an eye exam while a doctor points to a line of letters on a classic eye chart. From several feet away, the woman replies, “Certainly I can make it out! It’s three seahorses and an ‘h.’ ”

“I love the woman’s benighted confidence, and how Thurber suggests that our perceptions are always a bit off,” Rosen explains. “Mine have always been, and I’ve harnessed that for much of my work.”

Perhaps you’re familiar with Columbus-born humorist James Thurber from the Thurber House—the home he rented for a period of time which is now a haven for writers-in-residence and literary programs for all ages. But for Rosen, it’s his second home. As former literary director of Thurber House, Rosen’s fascination with Thurber’s legacy is unwavering, to the point that he can recollect key drawings, stories and facts with episodic memory. In correlation with what would be Thurber’s 125th birthday, Rosen is prepping the book release of A Mile and a Half of Lines, an extensive look at Thurber’s artwork that rede ned American humor and cartooning. Thurber’s work will also be exhibited under the same title at the Columbus Museum of Art, reintroducing viewers to his twentieth-century influence.

Illustrations by James Thurber, care of the Columbus Museum of Art

With access to all of Thurber’s images, both published and unpublished, Rosen proposed the notion of the Mile and a Half exhibit in 2015. As Thurber was known to spontaneously draw on scraps of notebook paper, his art was never used with archival consideration.

“I wanted some plastic, inimitable, vintage Thurber that people would know, and I wanted to present a great deal of imagery that people didn’t know,” Rosen says. “So, 125 years after his birth, [Columbus Museum of Art] agreed it was high time to claim James Thurber as one of Ohio’s great artists and one of the nation’s most important creators of the cartoon. Here we are with nearly one hundred drawings appearing at the museum for six months.”

Some exhibit guests may discover that Thurber succeeded Mark Twain in terms of following the humorist pedigree, while others may learn that he was an artist who was almost rendered entirely blind (which prevented him from graduating from Ohio State University.) The crux of Thurber’s drawings evolved from 1927 to 1941, as he attempted to draw with a giant magnifier with white ink on black paper, while lacking some of his sight.

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Unlike many artists in the late period who works in watercolors and oils, “Thurber’s output is exclusively done as spontaneous. He in many ways invented the idea of an unstudied line in art,” Rosen says. “Before Thurber, [a] cartoon was a very well-drawn image, usually with two or three lines that provided to humor. Thurber was the first to draw not beautiful pictures, but the pictures were funny themselves, and the captions dropped to just one phrase or one line. When we think of Twain, we think novels, maybe some essays, things that are in the canon because they’re big. Thurber wrote an enormous variety of different forms in which his art take shape.”

As Thurber lived through Prohibition, the Great Depression and the Cold War, much of his work, while humorous, is based upon resilience. Politically active in the 50s when he was red listed as being a “communist sympathizer,” Thurber declined to accept an honorary degree from Ohio State, as the university prevented free speech on campus. Considering humor as a vital force of the human condition, Rosen regards works in A Mile and a Half of Lines as relevant and engaging, with all viewers approaching the exhibit with different motives.

“It’s both the fact that he was an astonishingly polished wordsmith as well as having the heart of humor at the center of his work, which is, ‘something’s wrong and humor is a mechanism of coping,’ ” Rosen says. “Art helps us translate our experience because it’s in a different medium. There’s appeal for families and then there are those who will look at the cartoons and recognize the poignancy.”

So would James Thurber detest modern technology at 125 years of age? Rosen doesn’t think so, in fact, the real-time social media age would make for good material. “Back in the sixties, he was writing about the culture going at such a fast pace, words were blurring that we couldn’t keep up with things. News was daunting, language was eroding at such a fast pace because of people skipping and being sloppy. I mean he would be writing about the fact that right now, no one does one thing at a time,” he says. “Our information overload has exceeded the capacity of the brain. As a jittery, jumpy person—as he often describes himself and his generation—he would need the tools of humor and the art of writing all the more.”

Throughout his life, Thurber’s influence ventured beyond Columbus, but as A Mile and a Half of Lines resides at the Columbus Museum of Art for six months, Rosen hopes that Thurber’s work finds its way home. “Perhaps his best known work was the autobiographical vignette of My Life and Hard Times, then during his more grim period, he returned to Columbus in his imagination, researched and wrote The Thurber Album, which are portraits of people that were dear to him,” Rosen says. “He’s famous for saying that the clocks that chime in his dreams are the clocks of Columbus.[…] Columbus remained very much the sketchbook on which he could draw.”

A Mile and a Half of Lines: The Art of James Thurber, will be on display at Columbus Museum of Art from August 24, 2019 through March 15, 2020. Visit columbusmuseum.org for information.

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BYO Baby: 4 places to take the kids without compromising adulthood

Linda Lee Baird

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Adulting is hard. And just when you think you’ve maybe got it figured out—with a semblance of stability in your life—you may (in a burst of confidence) decide to have a baby. Surprise! You will never feel like you have anything figured out again. Welcome to parenthood! Can I buy you a drink? But wait. Where can you even get a drink as a parent?

As it turns out, Columbus is a great city for raising kids without having to completely give up the life you had before. Here are a few places you can take your children that are fun for adults, that are welcoming for little ones, and where no one is going to judge you or bat an eye over a dreaded public kid meltdown. Take it from this mother of two: you deserve a break.

16-BIT SHORTY DAY

If you find yourself waking up early on a Sunday, mourning weekends of yore when you actually got to leave the house on Saturday night, 16-Bit’s weekly Shorty Day might be just what you need. Every Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., 16-Bit drops its “21+” requirement in favor of family fun. You can introduce your kids to classic arcade games like Ms. Pacman, Tron, and Centipede, while kids sip on slushies and grownups indulge in authentic adult beverages. Admission and arcade games are free, and pinball games cost a mere 50 cents. While I was there on a recent Sunday, I witnessed a mom in town from Seattle get the high score in Asteroids, proudly showing her teenage daughter the way it’s done.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

16-Bit Shorty Day: Sundays from 12-5 at the 254 S Fourth St. location. Kids are welcome daily until 8 p.m. at the Dublin location with adult supervision. Learn more at 16-bitbar.com.

RAMBLING HOUSE MUSIC BAR’S FAMILY FRIENDLY FIRST FRIDAYS

Rambling House Music Bar serves up zippy sodas with traditional and roots music six nights a week. Once a month, they relax their age requirements for Family Friendly First Fridays, where from 6-8 p.m., kids can enjoy age-appropriate craft beverages while dancing to the tunes. Eileen Wukusick has attended a few Family Friendly First Fridays with her three and six-year-old. She cautions first timers to be prepared for crowds, both in the search for parking and on the dance floor. Rambling House does not serve food, though cake has been known to appear during these events, so you may want to bring along some munchies to complement those sodas, and get ready to dance the sugar o before bedtime.

Rambling House Music Bar is located at 310 Hudson St. Family Friendly First Fridays take place on the first Friday of every month. For more information visit ramblinghousemusic.com.

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STUDIO 35

During many snow days this past winter, Studio 35 came through as a hero for Clintonville parents in search of last-minute entertainment when it offered free screenings of classic family movies. In addition to big- screen entertainment, the booths by the bar in the front room are stocked with board games that appeal to little brains; recently my kids played Operation while I drank a beer and watched the Women’s World Cup on the televisions—a true parenting win. In August, Studio 35 will screen the last two movies in its free summer kids series, The Secret of the Kells and A Long Way Home. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for more events, including last-minute ones. After all, school is just around the corner, which means heat days and parent scrambling can’t be far behind.

Studio 35 is located at 3055 Indianola Ave. Free summer Kids’ Series movies screen on Saturdays at 11 a.m. through August 10. Visit studio35.com for more information.

FRANKLIN PARK CONSERVATORY CHILDREN’S GARDEN

Franklin Park Conservatory has always been an awesome place to take kids—mine never tire of walking through the rainforest and desert, especially in the middle of gray Ohio winters. When the two-acre Children’s Garden opened last summer, however, the conservatory jumped from a “nice place to visit” to an “absolutely must do” on my list of family-friendly Columbus attractions. From the second kids enter the garden through a special tunnel that’s just their size, it takes on a magical aura. As they explore, they’ll find everything from fairies to musical instruments to giant hammocks to, yes, all kinds of native-Ohio plants. If that’s not enough, the Learning Pavillion hosts regular activities and special guests, so all of you can get even more out of your visit.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory is open year-round. Admission to the garden is included in the conservatory’s ticket price: $19 for adults and

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Ultimate Columbus Summer Bucket List

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Hello and welcome to summertime! Today is the longest day of the year—plenty of time for you to sit down with your family and/or friends to map out your bucket list for this summer. Or…you could get a start on ours!

We’ve put together the ultimate list of summer activities in Columbus to ensure you have a summer full of fun. Just remember to wear sunscreen!

Go berry picking

Nothing tastes better than something you’ve worked for. And nothing tastes sweeter than something picked right from the dirt. Don the sun hats and sturdy shoes because we’re about to put you to work for your fruit! Here are more than 20 farms offering U-pick berry programs for strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and peaches in central Ohio.

Support local growers at neighborhood farmers’ markets

Do you know where your produce is from? Odd are if you don’t purchase them straight from a farmer, you’ve got no clue. Fuel your summer with goods pulled right from central Ohio dirt at local farmers’ markets!

Score a beer mug at ComFest

Besides epic memories, the best takeaway from ComFest is always the brightly-color plastic beer mug. Just remember to drink responsibly! Click here to read about the recent drama that went down with ComFest.

Celebrate freedom at Red White & Boom

Columbus’ biggest Fourth of July celebration will be returning to downtown on July 3 for the largest fireworks display in the Buckeye State. Arrive early for the parade and stay late for the party!

Spend a day at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

This one is an absolute must. There’s nothing like a warm summer day spent taking in the amazing animals at one of the best zoos in the country. Make sure to wave at the polar bears for us!

Gaze at the stars at John Glenn Astronomy Park

The John Glenn Astronomy Park is dedicated to sparking an interest in science, learning, and exploration by sharing with visitors the wonders of the sky, both day and night. Make sure to plan a trip to JGAP on a clear night to gaze at the wonderment of our universe.

Take in an outdoor movie

NightLight 614, a 21+ social outdoor film series on the banks of the Scioto featuring some of Columbus’s Best local food trucks, and craft beer & wine. Easton’s Movies by Moonlight series is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a lineup bigger and better than ever!

NightLight 614

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Spend a day at the drive-in

Since the 1950s, the South Drive-In at 3050 S. High St. has been Columbus premier destination for late night, big screen movie showings under the stars. And since the 1970s, it’s been the largest central Ohio location for…flea markets? Yes, indeed. Click here to read more!

Eat as much ice cream as humanly possible

Ice Cream is a pillar of summer. But where to begin? We think this list of the best alt ice cream shops in Columbus would be a sweet place to start.

Chow down at the Jazz & Rib Festival

If you’re not elbow-deep in BBQ sauce at least one time this summer, you’re not eating correctly. There is absolutely no better place to put your manners aside and let your carnivorous nature shine than at the Jazz & Rib Festival. Hot ribs, cool jazz.

Stay afloat at Trapper John’s

Leash up the pooch and buckle up your life jacket for an afternoon at Trapper John’s Canoe Livery! Enjoy canoeing, kayaking and tubing on the State and National Scenic Big Darby Creek.

Chill on some patios

Ditch the AC for once and take advantage of these few fleeting months when Ohio offers a tolerable climate. We’ve got dog-friendly patios, High Street patios, NW Columbus patios, seven perfect patio pairings, and, of course, the best drinking patio as voted on by you!

Grab the perfect pic at a rooftop bar

Columbus is quickly becoming a rooftop bar city. With the recent additions from Lincoln Social, Juniper, and VASO, we’ve got eight high-up drinking establishments you need to patronize this summer.

Bonus: All The Way Up: My experience at Lincoln Social rooftop

Lincoln Social

Have the perfect picnic

The grass is lush, the butterflies are flying, and the sun is shining—the perfect al fresco dining experience. We’ve put together pairings of the city’s top places to fill up your basket accompanied by the best nearby park for the picnic of your dreams!

Sing along to a free show at Columbus Commons

Each summer, the Columbus Commons is your destination for free live music. From local bands like Doc Robinson, to national acts like Boyz II Men, the outdoor amphitheater is where you need to be.

Pitch a tent

The campers, RVS, and pop-up tents will be returning to the outdoors this summer, serving as a home away from home for those looking to escape the city for a few days. It’s time to get outdoors, enjoy nature, roast some marshmallows over the fire, and get off the grid if not for a couple moments of bliss.

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Cannonball into a pool

Leave your layers and insecurities at home, because it’s time to give the pool whatever body you’ve got! Just remember to pack the good snacks, okay? Click here for 30 Columbus pools to beat the heat.

Let the kids loose at splash pads around town

Splashpads: Free and fun water spraygrounds without the worry of deep bottoms or high dives. We don’t know about you but to us, that seems like a home run, nay, grand slam. This summer, diversify your cool down routine by hanging at one of Columbus’ many exciting splashpads.

Awe at the beauty of Franklin Park Conservatory

Did you know Admission to Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is FREE to all residents of Franklin County, the first Sunday of every month, before 5 pm. And did you know FPC has a farmers’ market? Plan your trip now!

Stop and smell the roses at the Whetstone Park of Roses

The Whetstone Park of Roses is just begging for you to stop and smell. It’s the perfect place to pitch your hammock, take photos, and to enjoy the beauty of one of the largest public rose gardens in the U.S.

Sunbathe at Alum Creek Beach

It may not be the white sand beaches of Mexico, but we’ll take what we can get. This public beach can be your seaside vacation if you have an imagination and tons of salty pretzels. A beach is a beach, right?!

Take your dog for a dip

We can’t be sure what dogs dream, but we’d imagine it’s a lot of neon yellow tennis balls, frisbees, bones, and playing fetch in ice cold water. Make your pup’s dream come true this summer with these awesome places to take your dog for a dip.

Walnut Woods Metro Park

Eat 10 cent hot dogs at a Clippers Dime-a-Dog Night

Dime-a-Dog Nights are an important staple of summer, especially on the firework nights. But you can’t go into this eating excursion without a game plan! Check out our Columbus Clippers Dime-a-Dog Night Survival Guide to expertly navigate your hot dog hay day.

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614 Summer Road Trip: Camping, canoes, and crockpots in Mohican State Park

Regina Fox

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Labor Day is approaching, which will quickly be followed by Christmas shopping. So now is the time to plan your last vacation before your calendar fills with holidays. No need to empty out your wallet, though. “The Heart of It All” has plenty of fun on the cheap, whether you’re looking for relaxation or excitement. So buckle your seat belt for a quick Ohio tour and everything the season has to offer.

I’ve been going to Mohican State Park on Memorial Day weekend for all 24 years of my life. This tradition of my hometown, err…village long predates my existence, even. For one weekend every year, a convoy of trucks and trailers carries nearly half of Arcadia, Ohio’s population (590 in total according to the 2010 census) 100 miles southeast to an oasis deep in the Mohican wilderness. And the best part besides the great outdoors, hot dogs, and excuse to not wash your hair all weekend? You get your kicks for cheap! Here’s how you can stretch $100 to have a truly memorable weekend getaway out in the sticks.

From Columbus, the park is only about 80 miles, so you’ll only have about $20 in gas. Your GPS will wind you through the Amish countryside, down old dirt roads, and through amber waves of grain before you will completely lose cell service—an unsuspecting perk of the trip before you even arrive. There are many campgrounds within Mohican State Park, but over the last several years, we’ve set anchor at Wilderness. (What I actually mean is that the Arcadia group has been kicked out of every other campground over the years. We run a little rowdy, to say the least). Campsites there cost anywhere from $25 to $44, depending on electricity hookup and time of year. So, once you pitch the tent or park the trailer, it’s time to crack open your first adult beverage and let the good times roll.

With traveling and setting up camp, the first day has the potential to bring on some stress or anxiety. Let your problems drift away with a tubing trip down the mighty Mohican River. If you forgot to pack a tube or means to in ate one, don’t worry! Rip off the sheet you just stretched across your air mattress and prepare for the most comfortable float this side of Put-in-Bay’s Jet Express. Climbing up the muddy riverbank to your campsite is probably the closest you’ve come to fulfilling your New Year’s fitness resolution, so you’ll need to eat. Staying with the theme of simplicity on the first night, don your pie irons and make pizza sandwiches! Want to class it up a notch? Swap out Kroger brand shredded mozzarella for smoked gouda and trade pepperoni for Soppressata. Wash it down with an ice cold Busch Light and you’ve got yourself a tasty meal way on the south side of $10. Round out the evening with a friendly game of beersbie, cornhole, or thumper around the fire. You’ll fall asleep to the soothing sound of crickets and tree frogs. Just remember to pack away all your food before calling it a night—the local raccoons are not shy.

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On day two, you’ll wake up with a slight backache from your lumpy mattress, but eager to get the fun started. Head up to the front office and reserve a spot on the 5-mile canoe ride. You may be enticed by the 10-mile trip, or maybe even the 20-mile one, but between stopping off to explore the woods, picking up the wreckage from a tip, and bathroom breaks, you’re still in for a long day on the river with the 5-miler, trust me. Make sure you bring a couple bucks because turning down a Drumstick at a river-side ice cream stand is something you should never put yourself through. If you split the $20 cost of the canoe with your boat mate and factor in $2.25 for treats, you’ve got yourself a 6-hour activity that’ll only bust you $12.25.

Once you’ve finally washed ashore, it’s time for dinner. Rather than wasting precious Mohican time hunched over a cutting board or cooktop, we like to throw a crockpot potluck where each camp brings a dish to share, buffet-style. So far, you’ve enjoyed $92.25 worth of fun. That means you’ve got a whole $7.75 left in your budget to splurge on ingredients for your contribution! So give the people what they want: a dip. Buffalo chicken, Mexican street corn dip, spinach artichoke—it truly doesn’t matter, just as long as the main ingredient is cheese. And just like the melted goodness you scoop out of the crockpot, the evening will slowly stretch into night.

They say the best things in life are free and this is especially true with camping. On your last night in Mohican Wilderness, do absolutely nothing. Sit around the fire with your fellow campers, embrace the sounds of your laughter bouncing off the tall trees lining the riverbank, and really soak up each other’s company; it is then that you will truly embrace the spirit of Mohican camping. You may not come away with the next greatest Instagram photo, or a wildly unique souvenir (although you can dip your own wax candle at the Mohican Wilderness craft cabin), but there’s a reason I’ve visited the park for 24 consecutive years. I hope you find your reason, too.

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