Columbus, Ohio USA
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Attack of the Alien Invaders
It happens every year from June through early July
By Joel Knepp
July/August 2014 Issue

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By the time you read this, the Short North will be breathing a collective sigh of relief at having once again survived the festival-season invasion in which aliens by the thousands arrive in their shiny metal exoskeletons and swarm through our neighborhoods. It happens every year from June through early July. The invaders come heavily equipped with a variety of unpowered rolling conveyances, predominantly red and blue in color, to hold their special liquid and solid provisions as well as chemical concoctions and outerwear to protect them from our atmosphere. Some of these conveyances are elaborately engineered to transport their often-blonde offspring who appear surprisingly cute to us (for aliens). This might be attributable to our dearth of native young.

Despite having exchanged Earth currency for vehicle navigation training in preparation for the assault, many of these invaders find parallel parking a bizarre and unmanageable concept and seem to have a major challenge getting into a space we locals could park a Mack truck in. And their pre-invasion education in our customs and written language perennially seems to fall short when it comes to avoidance of bus stops, tight alleys, and fire hydrants. However, most have mastered locally understood queries such as, “Which way to High Street?” and “How many blocks to Goodale Park?”

Like any serious mass invasion, this one comes in waves, the first coinciding with the Victorian Village Yard Sale. Think of this as the advance scouting party, gathering intelligence, collectables, and used Tupperware in preparation for the shock and awe campaign to come. Once we’ve packed off the last boxes of our leftover yard-sale junk to Goodwill or Volunteers of America, recycled the last cardboard “Free Stuff” signs, and deposited the gems these rustic signs were touting in our trash dumpsters, we get an all-too-brief respite. The wise property owners among us employ this time to rest, gird our loins, and batten down the hatches in preparation for the jackhammer punches of Pride Weekend; Comfest; Red, White, and Boom; and Doo-Dah. Woe be unto the local who fails to post a large “Do Not Block Driveway” sign or festoon a pair of sawhorses with yellow caution tape around vulnerable flower beds. Those of us with on-street parking only drive away once during these invasions; thereafter we learn to leave home on foot or bicycle, lest we be forced to park in Grandview upon our return.

From all over the galaxy come the alien invaders: Upper Arlington, Westerville, Worthington, Grove City, Valley View, Whitehall, even Delaware and yes, Obetz. They seek what most can never have on their home worlds: a full-service, inclusive community well suited to bipedal ambulation with interesting shops, bars, and eateries; a spacious urban park filled with mature trees and a scenic pond with a quirky fountain; a beautiful skyline and riverside promenade; dwellings built for living inhabitants rather than as rooms tacked as an afterthought onto a giant garage; and handsome commercial structures that shame the cheap, utilitarian boxes surrounded by parking lots the invaders are accustomed to.

Prisoners in our own homes, we smile amiably but helplessly as the invaders march by day after day like intergalactic zombies. We pick up their discarded feather boas, Star Trek insignia stickers (Thank you, George Takei!), empty provision packages, and crumpled lung-weed containers. But after enduring so many of these invasions, we know that these aliens will, in the end, finally defeat themselves. Their powerful need for gigantic shopping malls, vast stretches of paved highway, and hours spent on riding mowers will turn then back to their home planets more surely than the most powerful blasts from Doo-Dah Parade Super Soakers.

Finally, exhausted and depleted, the invaders stagger and lurch back through our neighborhoods dragging their whining offspring and their dazed and dehydrated fur-bearing attack creatures. They search, sometimes for hours, for their metal exoskeletons, confused by the simple grid of tree-lined brick streets that to them all look the same. But a very few, who either by accident or cosmic design have had their biosystems infected by local DNA, harbor the thought that perhaps one day, when the offspring units have matured and left the pod, they might consider an interplanetary relocation to this strange and wonderful world we call the city.

© 2014 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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