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The Adventures of Steve

Episode 18: Columbus Day Three

Saturday, February 28, 2004

I am not home. Not by a long shot. But what is "home," anyway? Columbus is many things that, traditionally, are not me. So it’s one of those opportunities to redefine what’s me. And that’s really what my adventure is all about.

Day three: I’m in a coffee shop deep in “German Village,” a tree-lined neighborhood of square brick homes real close to the straight brick streets. I’ve walked here from the Arena District, through downtown and across the freeway. The ethnic/wealth makeup of the crowd around me shifts frequently and dramatically as I walk. It’s a freakily warm sunny day, highs in the 60s, but there’s still piles of frozen snow hiding along shadowy crevices.

My hosts, Lisa and Gary, have been nothing but hospitable and accommodating. They’ve connected me with lots of folks in the Dean campaign and Democratic Party, they’ve driven me all around town and they actually seem glad to have me in their home… at least for now.

I had my interview on Thursday, and it went, as far as I know, well. It went for more than three hours, all told, which tells me one thing. It seems like a great job and a fairly decent fit for me, and they really seemed to like me, but perhaps I’m overconfident. They were concerned about my ability to be loyal, thinking I just arrived in town on a whim and might be drifting off on another soon hereafter.

And, thinking about it, maybe the job isn’t for me. Maybe, under the overarching theme of redefining myself, I need to find a career that doesn’t have much to do with what I’ve done. Maybe I need to find something that I don’t fit well into. Honestly, that feels a little intimidating.

But I’m just fretting. It’s been two days and no more. I’ll learn more on Monday, or when I check my e-mail.

This is a car-based town, no question about it. The transit service is very limited for such a metropolis, and I’ve seen only a few cyclists, mostly downtown messengers. I’ve been trying to find the pedestrian-friendly communities, and have had mild success. Lisa took me to a health foods co-op today, one of three in America’s fifteenth largest city, and it was a bit like going home.

So many people ask me why I’m moving to Columbus from Eugene, when Oregon is such a beautiful place and it’s so easy to live comfortably there. My responses are getting weaker: the more I’m here, the more I am missing my home. But there is something about Columbus that I’m picking up on.

I was racing to a bus stop on Cleveland Avenue on Thursday after my interview. I beat the bus, but then I had to scramble through my backpack to find five quarters. While I was frantically rummaging through my bag, a black teenager said quietly to me, “That bus ain’t going nowhere with me standing here.” In other words, I had no reason to panic, because she wouldn’t let the bus leave until I was ready.

It’s one of the many subtle, almost unnoticeable gestures of caring that I’ve experienced repeatedly over the last three days. It’s not something I’m really willing to push as a sure difference yet, but in my initial estimate, I find that people in Columbus, individually, are unusually friendly and helpful. In Eugene, the community was warm and inviting but individuals were, in general, too self-absorbed to be concerned about others. Here, community is too disparate and diluted to be of much help, so people have to count on people.

Well, it’s just a working theory, and it could all be attributed to luck at this point. But here’s an odd thing that happened out of the blue.

I received a call yesterday from Mark Notestine, who runs a coaching business when he’s not working at the OSU School of Medicine (that’s OHIO State University, not Oregon). He’s a business associate of Gary, and apparently he found my Web site and my story so intriguing, he asked me if I would participate in his Internet radio show on Monday night. The theme will be the necessity of change, and Mark thought that my personal embodiment of change in my life was fascinating enough to inspire business leaders everywhere.

(So the show will be at 5 p.m. Pacific Time Monday, March 1. To get to it, first go to then follow the link there to the broadcast-hosting site.)

It’s odd invitations like that that make me think that there’s something below the surface here. Where comfort and stability are not quite so coveted, perhaps because they’re too abundant. I don’t know, it’s just a vague concept right now but I’ll keep looking into it.


All of the Adventures of Steve

   Episode 1: In which Steve leaves Eugene and arrives in Rancho Cordova.
   Episode 2: In which Steve visits the Jelly Belly factory and gets a haircut.
   Episode 3: In which Steve gets a cold, a big box, and a seat on a train.
   Episode 4: In which Steve receives shiny new toys and loyal old friends.
   Episode 5: In which Steve departs for Iowa and rants a bit about why.
   Episode 6: In which Steve takes a trip to Des Moines.
   Episode 7: In which Steve gets really involved.
   Episode 8: In which Steve starts hobnobbing but is haunted by Arne Baker.
   Episode 9: In which Steve becomes a groupie and is informed that we all have love in our hearts.
   Episode 10: In which Steve becomes a media whore.
   Episode 11: In which Steve takes on Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine and Michigan.
   Episode 12: In which Steve is pitted against Fort Dodge, Iowa and seven vans of unruly Texans.
   Episode 13: In which Steve learns that all his hard work wasn't enough to put the candidate back together again.
   Episode 14: In which Steve does nothing.
   Episode 15: In which Steve reaches a decision and attempts to get virtually hired.
   Episode 16: In which we thank the good doctor for all he did.
   Episode 17: In which Steve suits up for a new life in the Cap City!
   Episode 18: In which Steve starts to realize he’s not in Eugene anymore.
   Episode 19: In which Steve switches from job seeking to home seeking.
   Episode 20: In which Steve starts to learn some things via the error side of trial and error.
   Episode 21: In which Steve experiences his first blizzard.
   Episode 22: In which Steve contemplates his next move.
   Episode 23: In which Steve prepares to switch gears... again.
   Episode 24: In which Steve spends a week in a hotel with four thousand teenagers and then gives his 30-day notice.
   Episode 25: In which Steve reminisces about his 10 weeks in Columbus while waiting in the wings.
   Episode 26: In which the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
   Episode 27: In which Steve changes everything.
   Episode 28: In which Steve finds Brood X, gets a teeny crush on a fellow trainee and learns where he's going, approximately.
   Episode 29: In which Steve starts to see how politics really works.
   Episode 30: In which Steve writes a letter to Kelly, executive director of the group that fired me.
   Episode 31: In which Steve spends a tentative week commuting to work in Maine.
   Episode 32: In which Steve learns he's just one piece on the board.
   Episode 33: In which Steve settles in for three months of intense campaigning.
   Episode 34: In which Steve is deep into the final countdown.
   Episode 35: In which Maine wins, the nation loses and Steve heads home.
   Episode 36: In which Steve doesn’t do much more than comb the classifieds and update his Web site.
   Episode 37: In which Steve slips into a normal life.

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