visits Yellow Springs, Ohio


Elliotte Bowerman

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NORTH AMERICA > USA > Ohio > Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs: Putting the “High” in Ohio

Elliotte Bowerman

Article & Pictures © 2005 Elliotte Bowerman

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After 12 hours in Yellow Springs, complete insanity seemed completely normal

Yellow Spring, in Glen Helen - click to enlarge'Yellow Spring' was discovered around 1800 and was quickly famed for its 'curative waters'. For more than 100 years the town that took its name was a popular attraction with hotels, spas, boarding houses and a tavern to serve travellers on the nearby stagecoach route. After completion of the Little Miami Railroad, in 1846, Yellow Springs became a centre of trade and recreation. The spring still exists but the spas, boarding houses and large hotels are gone and the railroad has been converted into miles of biking trails. Now people seek other forms of 'cure' around these parts. I think I figured out what that was quite quickly!

I don’t know how many random Santa spottings I had there - old hippies with long grey beards riding their bikes in a hazy daze on their way to the oldest head shop in Ohio. ('Head shops', for sober individuals who don’t use illegal drugs, are stores that sell drug paraphernalia like bongs and pipes. The materials are marked “for tobacco use” with mental finger quotes around “tobacco.”)

You need to know about head shops in these parts, you see. After 12 hours in Yellow Springs, complete insanity seemed completely normal, but at least you'll then know the reason why. Yellow Springs has more than its fair share of them and business seems to be booming. Well, you have to keep the locals happy, don't you? Whatever their condition, the hippies in Yellow Springs can all remember where to find “the oldest head shop in Ohio”. That’s what Greg Savage, aka “Paw Dingleberry”, of Dingleberry’s, told me. Apparently no one can remember a head shop from before 1974. I wonder why.

Owa might know, but he couldn’t tell you either. The owner of an herb store just down the street, he went and lived with the Hoppe Indians about 20 years ago. He still has the same curly mullet, only looooonger! Yeah! He might also still love the peyote, maybe with a side of bee pollen, his store product of choice.

It’s probably organic, too.

Almost everything in Yellow Springs is. There’s whole-wheat crust at Ha-Ha Pizza, and the Emporium sells state-controlled wine and soup. Current Cuisine is a veggie delight, until you see the prices, and then you wish there was a dollar menu within 15 miles of the place. The lunch box seemed the best deal.

Tom’s Market sells organic produce, has every shishi foodie item the yahoos ask for, and the woman at the counter can’t tell you how to find Glen Helen, the gorgeous 1,000-acre nature preserve just down the street - literally, around the corner on Corry Street. It’s free, has nice trails, a visitor center and museum. But I digress.

I was talking about all the kooky things found in Yellow Springs, the small village that houses uber-liberal Antioch College and is about 30 minutes south of Route 70 between Columbus and Dayton.

Need something from another country? How about Asian, Tibetan or South American wares? Not your style? Maybe you want some German Nuts. Wait, the nuts have closed the store and gone into the streets.

I saw them everywhere.

Gemini - click to enlargeGemini is a cool little gallery filled with musical instruments from around the world. Most of them I could touch and try to play. As I pounded a drum, I thought people who had purchased “tobacco” would lose their impulse control and actually buy one of the expensive toys, and that must be great for business. Considering the store was surviving, there’s either a secret band of African drummers or my hunch was right.

If I had been high like the rest of the town seemed to be, I could have spent hours in sensory overload. Then I could have gone and talked with my dead grandmother, had my dog psychoanalyzed and relaxed my chi. But I liked Gemini, even though I’m an Aquarius and we shouldn’t get along.

Ken Simon, who studied philosophy at the University of Rochester back in the 1960s, owns the joint (which type? Maybe both joints…), and he played a crystal bowl for me. Nice guy. We talked about Rochester – my hometown – and travelling. I told him about my trip (NOT that kind!) and he told me to be careful.

“I did the same thing once, and I got here and never left.” He doesn’t even travel the world buying instruments to play and sell. He gets them in the mail.

Dave Chapelle lives outside of Yellow Springs. Did you know that? I didn’t. But I shouldn’t be surprised.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think a lot of his jokes revolve around drugs. And there are plenty of those in Yellow Springs, if the number of dreadlocks and “tobacco” bongs is any indication.

That’s not to say you need to put the high in Ohio to have a good time in Yellow Springs.

I didn’t smoke, snort, sniff, huff or drop a single thing - other than a few dollars for a book at Dark Star Books on Xenia Avenue.

Steve and Cat at Dark Star Books - click to enlargeI talked with Dark Star Steve about the healing cat Bart - “We try to sell books here, but really people just come for the cat. I call it the world’s smallest petting zoo” - and about the old collection of Yellow Springs Police reports I couldn’t find a copy of but might be available to read at the library; “Man Bites Dog” and “Woman Pees in Mop Bucket” are two local favorites. They even list who gets a speeding ticket, so watch out.

'I Will Obey' badgeMy favorite thing about Steve was his nametag. I took a picture. It says “I WILL OBEY.” The world needs more people wearing that nametag. It’s better than just “Hi, my name is Id E. Oat.”

Anyway, I was ready to drop a few more dollars on another book of merit, so I entered Epic Books on Dayton Avenue to find it. Aptly named, but for all the wrong reasons.

A theme developed as I read the book titles. I shouldn’t have been surprised. The lavender paint, patchouli incense and pipe music should have tipped me off. I had seen it before in town… everywhere in town, actually. If you want more, check out Angelic Devas (I’m not kidding) on Xenia Avenue by The Little Art Theater. Those diva Devas will take care of your chakras in no time.

Back on Dayton Street the Epic Books were all epically ridiculous. I could create my own goddess, think without thinking or find out how Uranus meets my moons.

That last topic deserved a second look, I figured, but I still had to get some ice cream before leaving.

Uranus and my moons would have to meet later. It was time for me to go to Young’s Jersey Dairy, where I could play miniature golf at Udders and Putters, work through a corn maze or ride around the farm watching them milk cows and magically turn it into a screaming delight.

But I was shrieking in disgust. After spending about 15 minutes in a busy line of lactose-loving folks, I stepped up to the counter.

A purple concoction caught my eye. It looked like Barney vomiting a grape Popsicle. Actually, it was called something like vomit, or trash or garbage… I seem to have suppressed the exact name. But it was everything the name promised, and more.

Some Yellow Springs resident with a serious case of the munchies threw chocolate-covered rice crispy treats and pretzels into vanilla ice cream, then added purple food coloring and Pop Rocks. That’s right, I said Pop Rocks.

Now, I’ve had bubble gum and gummy bears in my ice cream as a kid, but never Pop Rocks. So, being the daring gastronomic adventurer I am (or maybe I just had a bad case of the munchies after spending too long in Dingleberry’s), I was willing to give it a try.

Flavors and textures clashed on my tongue and I struggled to cope with them. But as the first Pop Rock exploded in my mouth I screamed - no, I shrieked – in disgust. It taught me a valuable lesson: research before adventuring - especially down the gastronomic trail!
Gateway to the town.

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