Anyone who has had the distinct honor of being featured on the stuck-on-jokes-from-2005 circle jerk of hate called DieHipster knows the No. 1 trope of rage the site spews is: “GO BACK TO OHIO!” Their idea of course is that all these “hipster” transplants bring Midwestern values of blandness, kickball leagues and trust funds while ruining the “real” Brooklyn for the rest of us. While it’s not accurate that everything terrible in BK has its origins in the Midwest (New Jersey is awful too, people), it is certainly true that there are plenty of Ohioans here in Kings County.
Stephen Slaybaugh, a Red Hook resident, Columbus native and music writer for The Village Voice, CMJ and more, decided to address this phenomenon when he launched OhioNYC.com in October. The site aims to let ex-pats know about Ohio-related events (music, movies, etc) culture (art, sports) and each other’s goings-on. He’s also an ardent defender of the idea that Ohioans add to the culture here, not detract from it. So will this site ease the anti-Ohio hate, or just throw more buckeyes onto the fire? We asked Slaybaugh to explain why he thinks no one should “go back to Ohio.”
What made you start the site?
First, I was asked to write a cover story for a newspaper in Columbus about Columbus musicians who had migrated to Brooklyn. I realized that there were many more Ohio ex-pats in my extended network than I knew. This just got me thinking that it would be nice to try to connect all these people.
Next, there was an article in L Magazine about social networks and clubs for ex-pats from other cities living in New York. I thought it would be nice to have something similar for people from Ohio, but I wasn’t about to try to organize some kind of organization.
Last, and least importantly, I had noticed that when people talked disparagingly about “hipsters” that I would hear (or read on Brooklyn Vegan comments) things like, “Go back to Ohio!” and so, part of the idea was to let non-Ohioans know that many of the artists, musicians, actors, athletes, etc. that they admired were from Ohio, and that chances are these hipsters, which I consider a sort of consumerist designation, probably aren’t.
So is it actually true that Ohioans come to NYC in droves?
I am personally friends with about 45 people in New York from Ohio, and there are many more with whom I have some loose connection. So yeah, I do think there are a lot of Ohioans in New York, which is probably why we hear “go back to Ohio.” Again, though, I suspect the people that are really the target of such derision aren’t actually from Ohio. Maybe it’s our Midwestern work ethic, but people from Ohio are usually the ones actually doing stuff and also not the kind of people who act too cool for school. Of those 45 Ohio ex-pats that I know, the vast majority are doing interesting things.
What kind of content is important to Ohio ex-pats?
We’ve covered books, sports, art, comedy, food and movies. My goal is to post every day, but there’s not always an Ohio-related event (though you’d probably be surprised by how frequently there is), so I’ve also been doing This Day in Ohio Birthdays. The goals I have right now are to start doing interviews with both well-known and “regular Joe” Ohioans (particularly those running their own businesses) and to start doing a regular event where Ohio ex-pats can actually meet face-to-face, connecting with old friends and making new ones.
Why leave Ohio for New York in the first place?
I think there is a long tradition of people moving from Ohio to New York, particularly creative types like The Cramps, The Dead Boys, and Jim Jarmusch, to name a few. That’s not surprising as, depending on where one lives in Ohio, it’s about a 10-hour car ride. It is difficult to make a living in any sort of creative capacity in Ohio. For example, in Columbus, where banking and insurance are the big industries, there is one company that owns nearly all the local periodicals. So since it’s not that hard to load up one’s car and drive to New York, it’s where creative people tend to go.
Are you worried that your site is just going to get the Ohio haters all whipped up into an even more intense frenzy?
I can’t say that I worry about my site being seen negatively. I am very proud of my Ohio heritage, and the site reflects that. If someone has a problem with that, it is not really my concern. Besides, having voted for Dinkins (ed note: Slaybaugh lived in New York from 1992-1997, then Portland and Columbus before moving back here in 2008), hung out in Times Square before it was Disneyfied, used tokens to ride the subway, and lived in Manhattan when it was affordable, I think I’m as much a New Yorker as anybody.