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.”
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?”
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.
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