A Season of Stuff is a writing challenge that I will be doing for the length of Spring 2016. The plan – to pick some object from within my personal possessions each day and write about it – its history, its significance, etc. Come on in – check out my stuff.
Ethiopian food and I got off to a bad start. I blame a man named Scott (withholding last names).
The year was 1999 and some of us were heading to the first Allied Media Conference (or at the time it was called something just like Underground Zine Conference or something like that). I think it was Deanna, Eric the Red and I who had definite plans to go in my car. Somehow Scott, who lived in Philly, got in touch with me about catching a ride from Pittsburgh to Bowling Green, OH where the conference would be held. He said he was making his way from Philly to Pittsburgh by bus. I didn’t personally know Scott but knew him via projects he had done – zines, record label, etc. I knew he was a bit off but decided that it would be ok. He asked if it would be ok to bring some parts of his “bicycle orchestra” with him. I told him no as we had limited space in the Saturn wagon.
Come the day we are to leave, we go to pick him (and his partner) up from the bus station. No sight of them. This was pre-cellphone so I don’t even really remember how we tried to track him down, but we eventually did and found out he was with Dave Duncil. They showed up at the bus station shortly after. Scott then proceeds to pull out this huge bag that includes several bike wheels strapped to it. We cram it in the back of the car and get rolling. During the several hour trip he keeps just pulling random shit out of his bag, like original mockups for record label ads from 1994. Then he says that he has leftover ethiopion food in his bag and starts digging it out. At the time I knew nothing about ethiopian food, but knowing what I know now, I have no idea how he was transporting it or dealing with it. He was just reaching in and pulling out hunks of injera bread. I think the rest of us all politely declined.
After the awkwardness of the ride out, i’m kinda surprised I gave him a ride back to Pittsburgh but we did, during which he got mustard all over the back seat of the car. Fuckin’ hell. Anyway, this is why for quite awhile when someone would talk about ethiopian food, I was always hesitant.
But luckily somewhere before too long I got to actually try some Ethiopian food. It was in Philly, so it may very well have been the same restaurant where Scott’s travel food came from. I don’t know, but it was decent. Not mindblowing, but definitely opened me up to the idea of having more of it. I’ve come to have lots of amazing ethiopian over the years, mostly in DC (seriously, the last 3 times i’ve had ethiopian in DC have been legendary). But my main long-distance, long-term love was with a little place in Columbus, OH called Blue Nile.
I think a large part of Blue Niles charm was the company I normally kept while eating there. This was a period where we would go out to Columbus frequently to see or play shows. My old band He Taught Me Lies played in Columbus numerous times on our “tours” and each time we hit up Blue Nile, usually with some residents of Columbus in tow, such as the residents of the Legion of Doom (punk house extraordinaire where we often played). In more recent years, Emma’s little sister moved out to Columbus, which gave us more opportunities to eat there. Over the years it became the place that we would always try to eat at when we were in Columbus. It was a cozy little establishment with super friendly owners. Thank god I didn’t let that initial experience scar me for life or I would have missed out on some great meals in such a sweet little spot.
I haven’t been to Columbus now for almost a couple years but I’ve been told that Blue Nile has shut down. However, there is rumor of a new, better ethiopian restaurant now. Blue Nile – you live in my heart, but I look forward to checking out your replacement.
Sidebar: In the “restaurants to check out in Columbus” department, I will highly highly recommend Dosa Corner. In 2009 Emma took me to Columbus for my birthday for a getaway where we stayed in a really swank hotel. We decided we wanted to eat dosas, so we hunted this place down. We ordered a bunch of food, picked it up and took it back to the hotel, stripped down to our underwear and sat on our King-sized bed where we ate dosas and watched “Mean Girls”. A top notch way to spend an evening out of town.