The Anti Tourist on National Geographic: Columbus’ Local Food Scene

Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. We have not told you very many stories lately, have we? We have been eerily quiet over here on The Anti Tourist front. This you must know. But know this as well: our silence can be undeniably credited to our relocation. From New York City to Austin, our headquarters have traveled with us as we’ve migrated and sought a warmer winter for 2010/2011. And warmer, it is. We like it that way. Meanwhile, we’re brainstorming the makeovers for the site we have in mind and we’re making more thrift store shopping trips than Ikea ones in an effort to furnish our office space with more spirit and less cookie-cutter. In the meantime, I put together this piece for National Geographic recently on the local farm-to-table food scene in Columbus. Shockingly, Columbus has got it all over many other cities who try and fail to support each other. Amazed at the success Columbus is having with this movement, I wrote this piece.

Growing up in Marietta, Ohio, Columbus was the “big city.” My mom would force us all into the car on Saturdays and we’d head to the JCPenney outlet store on the outskirts of the town. I remember dozing off to the soothing voices of NPR storytellers on the drive to Columbus. I dozed off on the drive back home usually, too. But that was because my entire family had just binged at the nearest all-you-can-eat buffet. The freshness or origin of the food at these joints wasn’t ever really in question. We were a family of five on a budget and food was food.

As high school graduation neared, most of my peers had already chosen to stay in Columbus and attend Ohio State. I however went to New York City, in step with the “Midwestern Girl Follows Dreams” cliche, and dismissed Columbus as a slow-lane college town, cookie-cut from the same dough as every other town between New York City and Los Angeles. And of course I thought that. I was 18 and uninformed.

The unfortunate thing is that it took me the better part of a decade to blink an eye at the city of Columbus again. After a recent thorough touring of Columbus’ culinary delights, however, I now know there was plenty else to eat. Plenty.

Read the rest of the piece on the National Geographic blog. Read it, comment on it, let the folks over there know you like it when The Anti Tourist’s voice is heard.

Be back soon with content.

By: Elizabeth Seward

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9.22.10 West Virginia, Driving as far as we can.

The two hard-workin’ folks who bring you The Anti Tourist, Ben Britz and myself, are driving RIGHT NOW. We’re driving and hoping to get to Austin this weekend. We’re moving there. We’re experimenting with LIVE blogging. And I just wrote a blog on Facebook! I did it while… LIVE! LIVE from the 1996 Honda Accord with 268,000 miles on it! Keep up with our Facebook page for continued entries from this trip and check out the first chronicling of the journey here.

Elizabeth

The Anti Tourist goes to Costa Rica 2k10!

What follows is a series of photographs by Ben Britz and Elizabeth Seward which, we’re confident, perfectly capture the bon vivant essence of this beautiful country. And if not perfectly, then acceptably. Anyway, here are some pictures of Costa Rica.

Carara National Park, Costa Rica

Carara National Park, Costa Rica

Carara National Park, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

Elizabeth in our room, looking out…

at the view.

A restaurant. A Costa Rican restaurant…in Costa Rica.

Costa Rican Surf ‘n’ Turf in that restaurant.

On a mountaintop near the Pacific in Costa Rica.

Tropical storm’s a-brewin’.

Elizabeth Seward chillaxin’.

Outdoor massage huts, Los Sueños, Costa Rica.

Los Sueños Marina by night.

Costa Rica from above.

The Yellow Deli People – Great Deli, Controversial Religious Practices

After Bonnaroo, we were tired, footsore, and hungry. Chugging around in Chattanooga, Tennessee, late afternoon, right after we checked out Ruby Falls, we just wanted something relatively healthy to eat. I was sick of our makeshift peanut butter on dry rolls and banana chips, supplemented with my one or two Bonnaroo food stand foods I allowed myself each day. I just wanted something fresh, tasty, organic, if possible, and unaffiliated with any cult. Is that too much to ask?

“Go by the university, where the yuppies and foodies are,” offered my companion. Signs pointed uphill. I made a right and a left and another few rights and then an attractive building flashed by and a sign, The Yellow Deli. It seemed like the kind of place you’d find near a university, with branded organic foods and teas on the shelves, track lighting, varnished wooden tables, a hand-drawn menu covered in soy products. We walked upstairs to the mezzanine and were seated at a table near a tastefully lit lounge section with couches, lamps and a fireplace. I joked with Elizabeth about some spelling mistakes on the menu, trying to impress her with my overly pedantic sense of humor, but the waitress overheard me say “‘jalapeño’ is j-a-l-a, not j-a-l-e”.

“Oh, sorry” she laughed nervously. “There might be some typos in there.” I felt guilty about returning their politeness with criticism. Elizabeth said good-naturedly “You can ignore him, he’s an editor.” Everyone laughed politely. I felt like some pretentious New York asshole, sensitive to things like grammar but I couldn’t help but mutter “you can’t make ‘typos’ in something handwritten” to Elizabeth, who rolled her eyes. I turned my eyes to the pamphlet they pushed on me as I walked in the door, unnoticed till now. It was some editorial missive on the hippie, organic lifestyle, a similar agenda as many food coops and organic cafes.

We had chili and a salad, and while we ate we studied the elaborate wall mural. There was a kind of Christ figure or an Elijah, some prophet, leading a group of people. Written over the mural was the story and philosophical declaration of the flower children of the ’60s, and about their disillusionment with our vain earthly pursuit of peace. There was some more stuff about Timothy Leary, which is to be expected, but there was a distinctly Christian-ish bent. We began to feel slightly disquieted; usually the organic movement and the flower children are maligned by the religious as fanciful hippies, dedicated liberals who embrace lives of promiscuity. This oil/water mixture shouldn’t be allowed, I thought. And what’s this? Scripture on the check…I started reading the pamphlet they gave us upon walking in, skipping past the friendly, familiar hippy declarations at the beginning and getting to the part about some version of Christ and some leader we all should follow. Still, it was decent food and it’s tough to feel alarmed by those who feed you. To me, people take on a definite maternal quality as soon as they hand me a plate, which is as a proffered breast to my trusting, infantile eyes. And they were all so nice.


Each step on the varnished staircase was inscribed with the name of a tribe of Israel, written in transliterated Hebrew or Aramaic or something. “Maybe this is some kind of Jewish place,” I conjectured aloud to Elizabeth. A woman at the counter smiled.

Back in the car we did our research. It turns out The Yellow Deli People, or The Twelve Tribes, is a fundamentalist religious group with arcane practices and rigid, draconian rules—and a great deli. They also proselytize and compel each of their converts to give up their possessions to the community, including their children, who are raised communally and according to their strict religious practices. In other words, a cult!

“Oh my god we ate at a cult!” screamed Elizabeth, and we made the usual jokes about suicide kool-aid and sexual initiation rites, tantalizing to our overactive, alarmist imaginations.  She read an article about a former Yellow Deli member who escaped, and we loved the creepiness and the chills down our spines. You might too? For a good time, eat at the Yellow Deli in Chattanooga! The food is good, don’t drink the kool-aid, skip the pamphlets, enjoy the feeling of being stared at.

By: Ben Britz

Photos by: Ben Britz and Elizabeth Seward

Read about how one of our writers came to stay with them for a while!

Ghost Town in Pennsylvania – The Centralia Mine Fire

When I was first forwarded the Wikipedia page for Centralia, Pennsylvania, I was a little confused. The page cited Centralia as the town that inspired the horror movie, Silent Hill. But I thought Silent Hill was in West Virginia…isn’t there where all creepy horror films are set? Wrong. Centralia, PA is, in fact, the town that movie was based off of and surprise surprise, the movie was (kinda) based on a true story:

Centralia was a quaint little American town with thousands of residents not all that long ago. Then, in 1962, the coal mines in the town caught fire. People are still disputing how exactly this happened, but the most popular notion is that trash burned in abandoned strip mine caused a vein of coal to start burning. It has never stopped, in fact, it has only spread since then. Things started unwinding in Centralia from there. The families didn’t move out right away. But then dangerous gases from the fire started polluting the air, the amount of carbon monoxide spewing out of the mine began to reach dangerous levels, a kid fell into a HOT sinkhole (he survived!), and families generally started to worry about raising their families above raging mine fires. I can’t blame them. As cool as the idea of living directly above Hell is, I’d probably move out, too.

From a site devoted to the Centralia mine fire: “An engineering study concluded in 1983 that the fire could burn for another century or even more and ‘could conceivably spread over an area of approximately 3,700 acres.’” No one really knows how far it has spread, or how deep, or where new, hell-hot sinkholes could appear.

But not everyone wanted to go. SO what happened when good citizens didn’t want to leave a town deemed too dangerous to live in? The government stepped in and starting buying out families to relocate to a nearby town. Most families couldn’t turn down the money—in fact, almost all of them took it. There are only 5 families holding out in Centralia today, a town that, may I remind you, had thousands of citizens just a few decades ago. Their rationalization is the the gummint knows there’s rich coal deposits under there and is forcing them to move and give up their mineral rights.

This is all Scary Shit! Sinkholes swallowing up entire homes, steam and smoke billowing up from cracks in the earth; it is said that you can hear Satan joking around with Beezlebub just by putting your ear to the ground.

I just couldn’t resist that! I decided to go to Centralia myself. On the way to Centralia, I was already getting the feeling that I was being stared at. Maybe because the locals didn’t recognize my car. Or appreciate my giant Lyndsay Lohan sunglasses. There may have been zombies lurking in the shadows, too, I couldn’t really tell. I drove on anyway.

Imagine any suburban neighborhood you’ve ever been in. You make a left a Cherry Lane and a right at Oak Road and these small communities go on like this, with quaint streets squaring off the corners of the community, one evenly paved road at a time. I drove down roads that were once these roads, but they weren’t named. No homes existed in the overgrown lots of land. It was an empty grid of cracking, paved residential streets, sans houses. Nature had reclaimed the tar and plants burst out from the cracks in the streets. All that remains is a charred skeleton of a town.

Just beyond a graveyard, I climbed over a rock and dirt pile that had been built to keep people out of the area just beyond it. Not surprisingly, as I walked on past this dirt pile, the air started to smell funny.  Noxious, even. There was an attempt to prevent sinkholes from form by relieving the pressure of  the gasses building up underground by placing pipes in the ground for ventilation. A couple pictures later and I had enough of that.

Curious about the giant crack in old Route 61 that I’d seen pictures of online, I climbed over another barrier and ventured down the now feral highway, complete with graffiti from the local teens. Some disturbing graffiti at that. I left my car, which had just been inspected by my  mechanic days ago and which was, he said, in “perfect condition”, on the side of the road in the care of the recently ankle-sprained fellow TAT editor and photographer Ben Britz.

I arrived at the crack in the road. Not seeing any smoke or smelling any gas, I leaned in closer, and: Heat. I felt heat on my face. “What the hell,” I said. “This town certainly is on fire!” Sweating now, freaked out, I headed back the mile or so to my car to find a bloody scene. Ben had died at the hands of zombies.

But also, transmission oil was everywhere! The car would start, but it would not go. “Great”, I thought. “Frickin’ zombies in in frickin’ Zombietowne USA gnawed through the transmission line!” And I wish I could say that with another attempt to start the car that all was fine…but all was not fine.

Not that I had to battle zombies or anything. A tow truck from the nearest town (SHOCKER:  Centralia does not have a tow service or mechanic) came to my rescue, towed my cursed car away, and dropped me off at a Holiday Inn Express. The driver was a little funny, but probably not a zombie, I think. The mechanic ate Ben, though.

I don’t regret going to Centralia—it’s spooky as Hell (haha!). But I do kind of think Silent Hill was at least partially responsible for my car troubles. Be warned. The spirits of fire-demon town may not want you there. Go anyway. But maybe ride your bike.

By: Ben Britz and Elizabeth Seward

New York Spa – Graceful Services

There are spas all over New York. When I decided to embark on a little spa series for The Anti Tourist (have you read about Ayurveda?), I figured that much out quickly. So. Many. Spas. Pick a block, pick a corner, throw a stone. They’re all jammed in here, all claiming to heal. I had to scour through internet review after internet review before finally deciding which spas I’d try out myself for this project. I chose the ones I chose all for different reasons. Graceful Services, however, hits a certain Anti Tourist spot for me.

Hidden on the second floor of a building right next to a deli (what isn’t right next to a deli in NYC? Look at all of ‘em!), Graceful is a teeny tiny space, even for New York standards. And here’s something I like about them:  they get right to the point, in every way.

When I called beforehand in an effort to figure out exactly what I wanted to try, the receptionist was more than patient with me, explaining each treatment in detail. We both decided on the House Massage for me. She warned me beforehand that my masseuse might be a little rough on me unless I asked her to go easy. I didn’t ask her to go easy. I wanted it rough.

The charming short-haired Asian woman was kind in her approach to me:  she stopped in intervals to ask me if I wanted her to go easier. I told her I didn’t. “The harder the better” I said. “You’ll regret it tomorrow” she said.

It did hurt the next day. I never doubted that it would. But she got kinks out of my muscles that I didn’t even know were there.

She followed my massage treatment with a facial, which was also satisfyingly painful. I tried not to open my eyes as she extracted all of the shit I was embarrassed to have under my skin. In fact, I didn’t open my eyes the entire time. But you know what? My boyfriend couldn’t stop commenting on my skin the entire week after that facial. I call that a job well done. A job well done in a hard-to-find spa that you’ll now find, hopefully, the next time you’re in New York.

By: Elizabeth Seward

Other NYC Spas on TAT:

Faina European Spa

Fine Living Ayurveda Spa

Help us launch a new site!!!

Hi travelers! For the last 26 months or so, we have been bringing you travel stories from across the globe from people just like you–people who like to dig into the culture of a place and discover destinations really worth your time and money. We’ve done all of this for absolutely no payment (we don’t even have advertising yet)! Eager to take everything with the site to the next level, we’ve sketched out, drafted, and thought up a new website–one that will be easier for you to navigate, on our own server, and better all around. But we gotta pay the talented designers and programmers to work their magic. If you’re a fan of TAT and can donate to this cause, please do! $1? $100? Anything and everything will help us take this site to the next level and help it to become more of a community for all you travelers who aren’t tourists. Thank you in advance. We’ve poured countless hours into this website and we’re counting on our fans to help us take it up a notch. And if you can’t donate anything? It’s all good. We’ll keep traveling, keep writing, keep posting, and eventually, we’ll have a way better website. -Elizabeth Seward/THE ANTI TOURIST

Want to donate and help us tackle this monster? Click on the Donate Button on our Tumblr site. And thank you!