Over the past 24 hours, my dreams have become incredibly vivid and increasingly strange.

Thursday, November 8 — Morning

It was about 15 years in the future. My boyfriend (husband?), my sister, and I were riding in a gold minivan with my sister’s 2.5 children. By “2.5 children”, I mean we all acted as if there were three children present but I only ever saw or interacted with two.

We were heading to a Target Greatland store that, in real life, closed in 2008. My boyfriend was driving and my sister was riding shotgun, so I sat in the back with my niece, who was about four. I told her we were going to go buy her some My Little Ponies, but this prospect genuinely seemed to excite me more than it excited her.

It was Christmastime, so parking was scarce. My boyfriend squeezed into a tight space, but even with the van’s sliding doors there wasn’t room to get out. The tight squeeze somehow unsettled me enough that I woke up.

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Central Avenue visits Pataskala, Ohio

My internet connection stopped working Monday morning. I was pretty irritated, so I decided to just sit around and watch cartoons for a couple hours until it was time for bed.

But I didn’t. Instead I acted on an impulse: I got in my car and drove out to a little town called Pataskala, Ohio. It was a beautiful autumn morning, so I parked right in the middle of Main Street and started walking around with my camera, shooting everything I thought looked interesting.

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Sometimes I get nostalgic for seemingly mundane times from only a few months ago.

It was this past winter break, a few days before Christmas. My grandmother’s car was broken down, but she needed to be at work by 7 a.m.,  so I offered to give her a ride. By this point I had already fallen back on my nocturnal sleep routine, so when I got up late in the afternoon I decided to just stay up to take her to work.

On the way to Grandma’s workplace, I made the mistake of riding in another driver’s blind spot on the freeway. He pulled into our lane, forcing me to swerve over into an “exit only” lane. Fortunately, because it was so early in the morning, there was no other traffic to interfere with, and I made it out of his way safely. Once he realized he’d cut me off, he waved to me in apology and let me back over before I was forced to exit.

Grandma works over in a huge retail development near a local mall. During the day, the place is overrun with people, especially during the holiday shopping season. But as we were driving through at 6 a.m., the place was deserted. All the businesses were closed, the parking lots were empty, and the traffic lights were even flashing yellow. Such a contrast to the madness I associated with the area…it was amazingly serene. I drove past a deserted Target store, with its parking lot empty and its Christmas lights gleaming, and I found myself wishing I’d had my camera with me.

By the time I got home, it was nearly 8 a.m., and I was wide awake. As I came in the house, Leroy Anderson’s original version of “Sleigh Ride” was looping itself in my head. I hummed it loudly to myself as I went around the house plugging in Christmas lights and watering the tree.

Soon after, my sister came downstairs to watch TV, so I retired to my bedroom in the basement. I watched an episode of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego—my fleeting obsession of the time—before finally relenting and going to bed.

Something about that morning felt good. It felt happy…the kind of happy that makes for bittersweet memories, because you know you’ll never be able to feel quite the same way again.

Sign Goofs

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Sometimes the government screws up.

Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. And sometimes, even the people who design and install our road signs make mistakes.

Road enthusiasts tend to call these mistakes “sign goofs”. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of pages of roadgeeks delightfully nitpicking their respective states’ highway signage. Over the years I’ve noticed a few of these goofs myself, so I thought I would take the time to share.

Sometimes errors arise when an old sign is replaced without updating the information. Consider this (correct) sign that once stood above Interstate 71 in Columbus:

A few months after I took that picture, the bridge was rebuilt as part of a construction project, and the sign was replaced with a shiny new one (apologies for the blurry photo). It had exactly the same information as the old one, so it must be correct, right?

Well, not quite. As it turns out, this very same construction project involved the closure of the Cleveland Avenue exit…permanently. This sign was out of date before it was even installed!

(I’ve been told ODOT realized their mistake and covered the third line of the sign with a blank green patch, but unfortunately I don’t yet have a photo of this.)

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In which Central Avenue riffs on Train lyrics

My mother and I were talking about Train the other day and we agreed that, well, their lyrics are very awkward. So why not make a post on the Internet in which I mock them? It’s not as if I’ve anything better to do with my time.

Let’s touch on their biggest hits, in chronological order:

"Meet Virginia" (1999)

Well she wants to be the Queen
Then she thinks about her scene
Pulls her hair back as she screams
"I don’t really wanna be the Queen"

Ok, go ahead and rhyme “queen” with “queen”.

Alright, alright, I see what you were going for; a poetic sort of repetition. It doesn’t quite do it for me, but I’ll give you points for effort.

Well she wants to live her life
Then she thinks about her life
Pulls her hair back, as she screams
"I don’t really wanna live this life"

Oh, come on, you’re not even trying! I refuse to believe that you could not think of a single word to rhyme with “life”!

The repetition doesn’t even save this one, for me. I mean, repetition can be done well, but here…it’s just bland.

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One side effect of my road obsession…

…is that when I drive around, I find myself noticing traffic control devices that don’t comply with the latest standards.

For example, consider an intersection with this setup—a fairly common one around here. It has a left turn lane, some striped-off pavement intended for a second turn lane in the future, and two straight-through lanes:

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Kroger - Blacklick, Ohio

I was hesitant to write about this store because it’s just so…vanilla. But I figure if I’m going to write posts about other, slightly more interesting Kroger stores, I’ll need to establish a point of comparison, so have a rather uninteresting Kroger store.

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A Royally Weird Store

First, a little background: Big Bear Stores was a chain of Columbus-area grocery stores. In 2004, Big Bear’s parent company, New York-based Penn Traffic, pulled the plug on Big Bear’s remaining stores, leaving dozens of vacant supermarkets across Ohio and West Virginia…including this former Big Bear Plus in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

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