Monday, October 10, 2005

Columbus Day

Public Service Announcement:
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so I was out doing my volunteer thing over this past weekend. I wrote about this subject last year, so I won't go into the details again. Anyone interested in donating can do so at the American Cancer Society website.

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Heartache:
While jogging last night I couldn't even make it two miles before the shortness of breath and chest pain made me stop. This morning, I got palpitations and found myself laboring to breathe properly as I walked up the escalator. Because this seems like more than the usual "I'm really out of shape" stuff, I called my doctor and he's scheduled me for yet another round of heart tests. The fun never ends.

By the way, please don't comment on the heart thing. Just a little nervous about it all and I felt the need to write about it.

Anyway, let's move on to today's topic...

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As our American readers know, today is the day we celebrate the grandest holiday in all the land - Columbus Day.1 Across this great nation of ours, people are participating in traditional Columbus Day festivities including department store sales2, parade watching, and...um...that's about it...in celebration of America's greatest city: Columbus, Ohio.3

I'm sure that, like me, you can recite what I'm about to write from memory - especially since these facts have been drilled into us since we were small children, but I just can't help myself.

Columbus, Ohio was founded in 1812 on the east banks of the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, and assumed the official distinction of state capital in 1816. Spreading out over 212.6 miles, the city - which goes by the nicknames of "Arch City" and "Discovery City" - consists of four counties: Franklin, Delaware, and Fairfield. According to the 2000 census, 711,470 citizens are lucky enough to call this vast metropolis home - making it the largest city in Ohio and the 15th largest in the United States!

Columbus earned its reputation as "The Arch City" because of the dozens of metal (formerly wooden) arches that spanned High Street at the turn of the 20th Century. The arches illuminated the thoroughfare and eventually became the means by which electric power was provided to the new streetcars.

Residents of Columbus include an eclectic mix of students, politicians, artists, and entrepreneurs who participate in a diverse economy supported by government agencies, educational institutions, and the white-collar service sector. This stands in stark contrast to the blue collar roots of the city that was once known as the "Buggy Capital of the World," thanks to the presence of some two dozen buggy factories, notably the Columbus Buggy Company, which was founded in 1875 by Harvey Firestone.4

These days, the city - which is dominated by a humid continental climate, characterized by hot, muggy summers and cold, dry winters - is home to several world class buildings, including the Greek-Revival State Capitol, and the Peter Eisenman-designed Wexner Center and Columbus Convention Center. There's also the Columbus Metropolitan Library - arguably the nation's top-ranked library system (HennenĂ‚’s American Public Library Ratings) - and the world-renowned Columbus Zoo, whose director emeritus, Jack Hanna, frequently appears on national television, including The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman. However, none of these compare to the natural beauty and majesty of the numerous deciduous trees including maple, oak, hickory, walnut, poplar, cottonwood, and of course, buckeye, that dot the landscape.

When you take all of this into account, you can see why explorer Christopher Columbus is said to have named himself after the city - which is particularly impressive when you consider that he was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451 - a full 361 years before the city was founded!

Here's to you, Columbus, Ohio!

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1 For some odd reason, our Canadian cousins have chosen the same day to celebrate their Thanksgiving. Click here to learn all kinds of fun and interesting facts about Canadian Thanksgiving history and traditions!

2 While nobody is quite sure how this tradition began, many believe that the sales are intended to honor Limited Brands (formerly known as The Limited, Inc.) which is located on the east side of the city and is the parent company of the retail stores The Limited, Express, Victoria's Secret, and Bath & Body Works, among others.

3 In honor of the industrious citizens of Columbus, most Americans refrain from taking the day off from work.

4 During this same period, the Columbus Consolidated Brewing Company also rose to prominence, and it may have achieved even greater success were it not for the influence of the Anti-Saloon League, based in neighboring Westerville