A small town (population about 9000) in northern Ohio, 45 miles SW of Cleveland. The town is the site of Oberlin College, a small liberal arts college founded in 1833. Oberlin was the 1st U.S. college to admit blacks, and to have coed dorms. Oberlin has activist gay community (which hosts a popular Drag Ball). Racial/class diversity are challenged by high tuition. It has an excellent art museum and music conservatory. Often compared to Williams and Swarthmore.

And right near the nickel and dime store, there's a sign that says "Downtown Oberlin". After all, it's only a block or two, so if you don't pause at the stoplight, you might miss it. But there's pizza, a noisy place with alcohol, tater tots, and hummus, a few vintage clothing stores, and the chinese resturant ain't bad neither. Downtown even has a movie theatre (which plays moving pictures with sound and in color).

Across the street from downtown is the Square. If I remember right, that's where the college used to be, but now the campus is adjacent to it, and it's just a nice place with lots of grass and a few trees and that sort of thing. In the middle of the square there's a plaque telling you about the town's most famous scientific achiever, the guy who made aluminium cheap to make and whose name I no longer remember. There are a number of superstitions among the student body associated with stepping on the plaque, so mind where you put your feet.

The Square also has a rock or two. Just rocks, a little bigger than you are and a helluvalot heavier. What makes 'em interesting is that they tend to get redecorated in the night, by anyone with a bit of paint and a message to send, be they political statements or "Happy Birthday"s.

You mentioned this was in Ohio, right? Well, if you didn't know it, Ohio is damned flat. "Mount Oberlin" is a mound of earth grown over with grass, perhaps as much as twenty feet tall. It's the highest point in town. It's out by the sports field, created when they cleared the space off and bulldozed all the lumps into a pile.

Oh -- one more thing before you go. You've got to go to the college library. A few floors up, on the front side of the building (facing Wilder Bowl), there are the most wonderfully comfortable womb chairs. Some say people study there too.

a small college town
with lots of Steinway pianos
fourty five minutes west of Cleveland,
slippery when covered in ice.

Oberlin, OH

Though the college that makes up almost half of the town's population is very liberal, it does not seem to have worn off on the townspeople. The town and the college have a bit of a love-hate relationship, each being dependent upon the other for various things, and so everyone puts up more or less humanely with each other.

Downtown Oberlin is sort of a joke. There are two bars (the Feve and Brewsters, the bar at the Oberlin Inn), three pizza joints (East of Chicago, a chain, Downtown Pizza, worst pizza in town but open real late, and Lorenzo's, a real Italian eatery), three Chinese places (Toǒo Chinoise, which no one knows how to pronounce; Weia Teia, more posh; and the Mandarin, which also has sushi and good lunch specials). An ice cream shop just opened underneath the tattoo place (252 Tattoo), and since one of the cafe-type eateries closed it got replaced by a Mexican place. There's a health-food cafe/store called the Oberlin Market that sells organic and other not-messed-with food and food products (great coffee, by the way: organic, fair trade and shade grown). The public library rents videos from their poor selection. Bead Paradise, commonly called "the hippie store" among college kids, sells a lot of beads (and bead-sized baggies), and has an imported stuff store upstairs and a vintage clothing shop downstairs.

Gibson's is one of the two general stores in town, and sells mostly food, alcohol (beer, wine, Carlo Rossi and half-proof liquor) and cigarettes (not rolling tobacco though). The other general store, Ben Franklin five-and-dime, sells everything else a general store should sell, and also has a book store, fabric department and a mini hardware store in the back. Oberlin does have a hardware store that, for a small town, isn't so bad. The Oberlin Bookstore is affiliated with the college and has a virtual monopoly on textbooks and more mainstream publications; it's owned by Barnes and Noble. The Apollo, your basic tiny movie theater, plays movies that have just left the big theaters but aren't on video yet; Tuesdays and Thursdays are only $2 and it's a cinch to sneak food or alcohol into the theater. Tappan Square, across the street from the main stretch of stores, has a gazebo that looks like it could be a cart pulled by small woolly mammoths (based on a temple chariot in India, I'm told) as well as a (controversial) monument to Oberlin missionaries killed in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. Three boulders are placed by the roads around the square, and every one is always painted with some sort of message — happy birthday wishes, some upcoming event, or random self-affirmations by college or high school kids. There's a plaque in the ground in the middle of the square with various college-kid-fueled superstitions surrounding it; the most popular seems to be that anyone who steps on it has to have sex on it that night or they won't graduate on time (or you won't pass the semester). There are a few albino squirrels that live in the square, but whether they're actually albino or just white-pigmented is up for debate. There's an arboretum with two ponds (frequently illegally swam in by college kids), called the Arb, and a resevoir called the Res, both located west of the College.

Oberlin has a couple claims to fame:

The College itself is notable as well:

  • The first co-educational college in the States
  • Mount Oberlin, the highest point around for miles (a man-made thirty-foot-tall pile of dirt with grass on it) is located near the sports fields
  • The College owns Frank Lloyd Wright's Weltzheimer/Johnson House
  • The Allen Memorial Art Museum, one of the most prestigious college art museums in the States, allows students to rent two original pieces of artwork (like from Warhol, Picasso or Toulouse-Lautrec) per semester and hang them up in their dorm rooms

The cops don't have much to do in Oberlin, since it's such a quiet place, so any police-involving event usually gets hyped up a bit. They'll yell at you for biking (or skateboarding, I've discovered) on the sidewalks downtown. Or walking down the street at night with a street sign, I also discovered. However they've learned not to get too excited about college parties; many parties will get two or three visits from cops telling them to shut up before they will actually bust up a party, despite the common knowledge that most partygoers are under 21. The police are also not allowed on the college's campus without prior permission from campus security.

All in all, a pleasant place to go to school in or live in, as long as you're prepared to deal with a close-knit community in a small town. If you'd like to talk to noders in the area, see who you can talk to at the Everything College Registry.

Stateguide.com: http://www.stateguide.com/
dRelocation.com: http://www.drelocation.com/
Wikipedia: http://www.wikipedia.org/
Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center: http://www2.faa.gov/ATS/aglzob/ATMoverview.htm
The GOSPEL TRUTH: http://www.gospeltruth.net/
Oberlin Online: http://www.oberlin.edu/

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