Some advice for President Obama on His Visit to Athens, Ohio

Hi, President Obama. I heard you’re coming to Athens, Ohio to give a speech. I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a little about Athens.

Hi, President Obama. American citizen Joe Donatelli here. I heard you’re coming to Athens, Ohio to give a campaign speech at Ohio University. My wife and I are living here this semester, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about Athens, from one non-college-student to another.

Athens, as you will discover when you fly in on Marine One, is a small city in Southeast Ohio. It is located along the Hocking River, which the Army Corps of Engineers moved four decades ago to 1.) Prevent the annual flooding that wreaked havoc on the campus  2.) Make space for an indoor recreational climbing wall. (I’m still not sure why anyone even came to school here before we got it.)

The rungs of the city are lined with residential houses, apartments, schools, businesses, churches and Beer Pong tables. Nature is on display here every fall with the changing of the leaves. A bike path provides an excellent view of surrounding area’s bucolic splendor, including the Hocking River, which occasionally contains water.

The pulse of Athens, though, is Court Street, which is known for its impressive 17:1 bar-to-Chipotle ratio. Court Street is one way, so make sure the motorcade is heading north or the Athens Police Department will be all over you. If you should decide to jaywalk (we all do — it’s a town of scofflaws, sir) then make sure you only look south, as looking both ways before crossing Court Street indicates to all passersby that you are freshman.

Should you decide to have lunch on Court Street, you will find that you have many options. Professors and townies tend to favor Jackie O’s, which serves craft beer and cheese plates, or Tony’s, a dive that has a drink called Hot Nuts, which Vice President Biden can probably tell you all about.

Last weekend was Homecoming, so my wife and a friend spent some time enjoying Athens’ Uptown (that’s what we call downtown Athens, and if you make reference to it in your stump speech by saying something like, “Mitt Romney, he wants to take our economy out-of-town. I want to take it Uptown!” then you can probably expect about 20 minutes of wild cheering and applause.) If I was you, I’d hit Lucky’s for cheese sticks (it’s a Steelers bar, so any photos taken there might resonate with Pennsylvania voters), The Union for a Schlitz (shore up the local working-class/hipster vote) and Casa Nueva for a sit-down meal. Now, I have to warn you, Casa is worker-owned, so the Republicans might use that against you, because it’s quasi-socialist. When they do, you are welcome to remind them, “Hey, they built that.”

College Green in Athens in the fall

Athens is best known around the state for its beautiful campus. Ohio University was founded here in 1804. The school has graduated successful politicians, business leaders, journalists and NFL punters. The Georgian architecture is consistent throughout most the campus, which is lined with trees and a squirrel population that, as long as it remains spread out over campus’s 2,000 acres, is in no way intimidating.

Baker Center, which is the student center, is the heart of Ohio University, and College Green, where you will speak, is its soul. College Green is used by students to walk to class, but is also popular for napping, eating, Frisbee, walking small dogs that you hope sophomore girls will notice, reading, photography and, of course, the Kissing Circle. Located near Chubb Hall (stop snickering, Mr. President) the Kissing Circle is a small space on College Green where any man used to be able to kiss any woman. (It was established before the advent of lawyers.)

Ohio’s rival is Miami. Paul Ryan went to school there. You know what to do with this information.

Normally I live in Los Angeles, which you visit often, so I understand how these presidential campaign stops work. You will probably only have time to arrive, shake hands with a few important locals and officials, give your speech and then take off for the big city (Chillicothe.) So if you only have time to do one thing in Athens before your speech, I would advise you to do this: buy a large burrito from The Burrito Buggy. It’s located right across the street from College Green.

You’re here to win votes. When Ohio University students go into the voting booth on November 6, they are going to have a choice: they can vote for Mitt Romney, a man whom America imagines eating a mayo-on-white-bread sandwich with water every day at lunch, or you, the guy who grabbed a burrito at The Burrito Buggy. Elections have been won and lost on stupider questions than, “Which candidate would I rather have an oversized burrito with?”

Good luck.

Enjoy your stay.

And remember to only look one way when (legally, wink-wink) crossing Court Street.

Joe Donatelli is a journalist who currently lives in Athens, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @joedonatelli.

UPDATE: Getting messages from people who have seen cars and bikes going the wrong way down Court Street. I have never seen this, but I’ll take their word for it. Mr. President, please do look both ways. Or have your people look both ways for you.

More OU stories:

What a 2012 Ohio University football game looks like to someone who watched OU lose 5-0 to Utah State in 1994

The Worst College House Ever

The Junction: A Eulogy

Bobcat Fans Brave Tornado to Witness First Bowl Game Since 1968


Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.

  • Guest

    Should we also warn him about HvZ that will be starting tonight? 

  • Maybe someone shout tell the Secret Service, definitely! (That’s Humans Vs. Zombies Tag, for those of you who do not live within a one-mile radios of 20,000 college students.)

  • Leslies

    Thanks for the Casa comment. Tonight we are celebrating 27 years of the “we built that” because we rule as job creators! Please stop by and bring your wife — the celebration begins at 5:30 pm. Leslie (founder/business director)

  • Thanks, Leslies. We would like to stop by. 

    Congrats on 27 years. Keep building that! :)

  • Marla Rutter

    Thanks for the S/O for Burrito Buggy, we’re still waiting to hear if we can even be open tomorrow.  Secret service may have Union Street closed and Burrito Buggy may not have a chance to get in on the political action…so much for supporting the small business owner and knocking 4 employees out of their paycheck!

  • RitaRude

    I would bet that the Secret Service already knows.  And some of them might stay to participate!

  • Hi, Marla. I hope they let you stay open, too. Tomorrow would be a great day for business. And I think the prez would like your burritos, provided the First Lady isn’t around, of course.

  • anonymous

    Don’t forget that he should swing by Pruitt field to see the band practice.

  • I hope it’s at the event. I hope it goes Gangnam Style. I hope…

  • Markie P

    Isn’t the essence of “You didn’t build that” the same as you may build a house but it’s not a home unless someone lives in it? You may have built and operate/own Casa but it’s still nothing without customers.

  • RoyalOU01

    I now want Burrito Buggy. Desperately. Jumbo chicken chili with everything please. 

  • Foriegn student

    Hi Joe,,, you didnt said anything about number of foriegn students living here,,,, and most of them interested to meet him … which ofcourse wont effect his campaign… but still will add to his promotion n votes…

  • Why didn’t we do that while we were students?! Sounds amazing!

  • anniebengali

    I just want to know where he’s going to put Ohio in his NCAA bracket this year, whether he’s president at that time or not.

  • Arlothewonderdog

    I gotta tell you, as a senior at OU, I’d seen enough people going the wrong way on Court that I, too, looked both ways. 

  • Some Guy

    Very cool. BTW, it’s not jay walking in Athens if you’re within 50′ of an intersection, and alleys count, so much of the time you’re not really jay walking. ;)

  • Tomorrow he will have them as a one-seed, no doubt.

  • I was told by a member of the 110 that 60 of its members will be playing on College Green for the event.

  • So…everywhere!

  • I risk it anyway. Don’t want to get picked on by the seniors.

  • Hi, Foreign student, I didn’t mean to leave anybody out. If you manage to meet him, please report back here with full details.

  • We were too busy throwing fake frat parties.

  • I … don’t … know …

  • Sarah K

    I love this article, but my favorite part is the confirmation that the Burrito Buggy still exists. I miss that and the Donkey every single day, and I graduated in ’07.

  • Sarah K – I can confirm they both still exist and are making me fat.

  • guest

    Hi Joe,
    Look both ways when crossing Court St.  I’ve seen cars & bicycles going South on Court St.

  • Mb389504

    Ask Frank Solich about how easy it is to go the wrong way down a one way street in Athens… He tried to attempt it passed out at the wheel!

  • Eac

    While you are there you might want to learn a little history… the activities of the Klu Klux Klan which was an active entity in the area run by “guess whose party”. Students who were Jewish or Black knew which places in town to stay out of…….
    Obviously you are not my favorite candidate so I am not sure why you are choosing OU to visit. Hoping our present OU President is a conservative like the other white, black, Hispanic, and Asian men and women I admire who are running for office.

  • Tmpar

    Joe, great sense of humor. -tony. “75”

  • Thanks, Tony. That’s really nice of you to say. I just write down what I see. Athens did all the work here.

  • JC

    What? Is O’Houlie’s gone?

  • It is now, along with Skipper’s, one huge microbrew bar called Jackie O’s.

  • Anna C.

    Great article Joe. I hope he read it and took your advice ;)

  • No, he didn’t, and not for the first time, I might add.