Written by Brandon Jones
Growing up in Columbus, I knew the downtown area to be intimidating. At the time, the intimidation factor came from perceived crime. As an adult, I look back and wonder if the crime was as bad as I thought, or if my young brain just really bought into the DARE sessions in my 5th grade class. Maybe it really was like a Tupac song come to life, or maybe I was just young and naïve. I mean, I definitely bought into the rumor that if you went to Columbus Square Mall after dark, someone would hide under your car waiting to do comic book levels of violence to you as part of a gang initiation. So, 10 year old Brandon clearly wasn’t a very shrewd fella.
Regardless, downtown has shifted to Uptown and yet, has become no less intimidating. Intimidating, because each and every time I go down there I am reminded of how uncool I am and how mundane my life is compared to people who spend their lives in the area.
People in Uptown just seem to know who they are.
College kids meander in and out of stores, looking like they just finished playing a show with Arcade Fire. I went to CSU a decade ago and my college experience already pales in comparison to what these kids are living. DMB just didn’t inspire as cool of a dress code as the new Coachella breed of music.
Groups of dudes bounce past with beards, collectively longer than Rip Van Winkle’s, regaling each other with stories of their latest rip down the bodacious Cut Bait (full disclosure, I have no idea how the guys/girls at Whitewater Express actually talk, but I can only assume it’s similar to Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure).
Businessmen speed walk past with a purpose I can only relate to when you finally see an open parking space on Broadway on a Friday night. GET OUT OF MY WAY! PEDESTRIAN RIGHTAWAY SHMITE-AWAY!
Bikes roll by with guys wearing the mustache of outfits. I can tell the outfit, much like a mustache, isn’t actually very cool. But the confidence they wear it with makes me stare in awe and recognize that somehow, this person knows a level of cool I can’t understand. Then I notice their gargantuan calves and am left wondering why my body looks like that of a 12 year old who found an unlocked Twinkie truck.
Farmers sit under tents with an array of fresh vegetables I’ve never heard of. I never knew chard could make me feel so uncool. My Publix bought broccoli suddenly makes me question my every life decision. Also, I’ve got to get overalls, because this farming lady is totally rocking them hard core. I bet my wife would see me in them and “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” would pop in her head, and that’s got to be a good thing, right? Right!?
Meanwhile, I can’t even keep up with everything that’s happening. I show up on Monday nights, oblivious to the fact that 90% of the restaurants are closed. I take my wife to the hot, new restaurant, totally unaware that it was yesterday’s news three months ago. I inaccurately refer to growlers as jugs. I am not cool enough for this place!
But, BUT, the best part of Uptown Columbus for us uncool people is that it is situated square in the heart of the South, instead of in Portland or Brooklyn. Uptown may be filled with the coolest kids on the block, but they are the coolest kids on the block from the South. They are kind. They are gracious. They are helpful. They will invite you to join their bike ride down the RiverWalk, and even slow their pace a bit to hang back and talk. They will explain the best items on the menu and why you shouldn’t just play it safe when you are eating at a local establishment. They don’t treat you like a mutant when you drop the word “bodacious” while shopping for outdoor gear. Uptown takes everything we love about the South and boils it down into a few blocks of hospitality, history, and fun.
Uptown might be especially great for the people that work and live there, but there is plenty of room for us suburbanites and rural people that just want to play the part once in a while.
This article is amusing and right on the mark. I moved downtown in 1979, started restoring a house, and waited on everything to take off. And waited, and waited. The craze for the downtown area, confidently predicted by folks in the seventies redoing houses with 3% HUD money, did not materialize until the 1990s, when downtown received love and attention from our city government for the Olympic softball games.
Then a few hardy souls opened restaurants, William Gantt restored a storefront and the Cannon was born. With the advent of college students and the eateries and bars that cater to them, downtown was at last ready for the last and final piece of the puzzle, the redevelopment of the Chattahoochee, and the creation of the bicycling community. I have lived here for all of it, when you couldn’t get anybody to come downtown, to the present when you can’t get a place to park because EVERYBODY is downtown. What an incredible transformation!
As a longtime employee of establishments downtown, that were in place long before the term “Uptown” was coined to attract a new era of business & customers, I can honestly say that I love all things downtown. The recent growth spurt with the addition of CSU & its amenities along with the Whitewater Express has taken me aback a bit, but I find myself getting more comfortable with each visit. I started working at the Goetchius House in 1999, then worked for the Olive Branch Cafe (how I miss that eatery), Houlihan’s & ultimately the Cannon. I recall when Bubba Wade opened the Tap & I was lucky enough to enjoy lots of live music there & in the courtyard for the Loft’s infamous “Backyard Boogies”… sigh, an era past now, but I have been a part of this scene spanning two decades now. It will be a lifelong affair for me, for I will always love downtown!
People are finally discovering what long-time residents of the Historic District have always known. The history, quirks and especially the people merge into this collage of laid-back hospitality that’s like no other, anywhere. We just returned from Chicago, Seattle, Victoria and Portland. They are special, but they’ve got nothing on Columbus, Georgia. Our “renaissance” is still in its infancy. The possibilities are limitless.
Proud to call Columbus home.