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Whirlygig: 25

Out on the Town

By · May 9th, 2002 · Whirlygig
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Edited by Rebecca Lomax

Raw Material
I don't know why, but I always get so excited when I see local celebrities around the city. I guess it's because, growing up, I lived about an hour outside of Pittsburgh. Since I didn't spend much time in the city, the people I saw on TV always seemed very distant and inaccessible. Today I live and work in the epicenter of Cincinnati, but the sighting of people of local notoriety is still a notable event for me.

A good example would be my sighting of Marge Schott at a garage sale in Mount Lookout last summer. That's the last thing anyone is prepared for while sifting through junk on a sunny Saturday morning. It was one of those situations where you almost don't know how to react, though you inherently know the only appropriate reaction is to mind your own business and hold your breath to evade the cloud of cigarette smoke.

A less precarious and exponentially more welcome sighting happened on Monday. I was walking up Vine Street past Fountain Square on the way to catch the bus after work. Lo and behold, standing right in my path with a camera guy in tow was Channel 9 news anchor Shawn Ley.

Bill and I love watching the news because we get to salivate over at least one news personality on each station. But Ley is our favorite, hands down. Not about to forfeit this opportunity, I gave him the once-over several times as I passed by.

I couldn't wait to get home and tell Bill whom I'd seen downtown.

"Did you speak to him?" Bill asked.

"Of course not," I replied, slightly disappointed in myself. "I did make eye contact, though."

"You should have said 'Hi, Shawn,' " Bill persisted.

That's the difference between Bill and me. He's bold as brass, whereas I'm terribly shy and self-conscious around people I find so attractive. It's like a trip straight back to junior high. All sense of maturity goes right out the window.

I think part of it is my being out of the dating pool. When you're out and about shopping for top-quality men, you have to hold tight to your place in line, pay close attention and step to the counter when your number is up. Once you stop going to the market and start doing all your "shopping" at home, however, you become accustomed to having whatever you want delivered. You no longer have to worry about jockeying for a good spot in line, so you get out of practice.

Still, seeing my favorite local hunk on the street was big fun. Think about it: All you ever get to see on the news is above the news desk. Seeing these guys in person gives you the whole picture -- height, proportion, butt, etc. For me, that's enough raw material; the imagination does the rest.

Who needs pleasantries? Conversation is secondary in the realm of fantasy!

-- Tim Ruffner

Team Playing
As we speed into May, the sun is brilliant and the flowers abundant. The Reds find themselves in a surprising first place and the Bengals are starting spring camp. The marathoners are on the streets and the horses down in Kentucky are wondering what all the fuss is about. There's a fever in the air!

I head downtown on Tuesday early in the day for a meeting with the man who manages the finances that keep my household ship afloat. As I trip out of the darkness of Fountain Square's parking garage and onto the street, people are everywhere. The water sparkles on our bronze lady and the reflection on sunglasses is positive. Even though my financial institution can't promise market stability or security, I take it in stride. We make some decisions with mutual agreement that will keep me off the streets.

It doesn't even bother me that work is still a necessary part of my existence since I'm playing career at this point with only part-time employment. Money doesn't keep you warm at night anyway, plus the sun is shining.

After an hour of sandal prepping at Identity Spa and Salon in Kenwood, I join friends outside at The Vineyard Cafe.

Talk turns to the racing down south and quickly a plan is spawned for a Friday hookie play at The Oaks in Louisville. After two bottles of chardonnay and lots of plotting and planning, it's settled. Lori would secure tickets, Kate would be in charge of hors d'oeuvres, Dick the wine and me the car. A team effort and lots of cheering ensues. Time to move on to Beluga for more wine and a little food.

The next morning we reach our senses after trying the Advil, Diet Coke and whatever other hangover remedy we each subscribe to. The phone lines burn as we all realize work is in the vocabulary on Friday.

Most of the time camaraderie is key, and a little tender loving care in the mix never hurts. My date would fall into this category that evening.

I figure chocolate chip cookies, Icy Hot gel and a back rub can help ease the fatigue and aches of overworking. He adds chardonnay and music. When we finally make it out the door, downtown restaurants have all but closed up shop within walking distance. Luckily, a cab appears, which is almost a mirage on a weeknight in Cincinnati, and carries us to Nicola's.

Nicola graciously offers to serve our whim for pasta this time with a Spanish red in the never empty wineglass. Our server, Brian, shows absolute discretion and diverts his glaze when we lack absolute discretion. It makes for the illusion that we're alone in our world, and while it's a hazy world by then, it's a very pleasant place.

Back to reality, the focus shifts to the thoroughbreds and who would win the run for the roses. Enter team Wood and Dick. They filter 10 pages of analysis down to an e-mail. I look at the names Saarland and Blueburner, but the media story of McPeek's wife wins my heart for Harlan's Holiday.

On Saturday we opt out of the drive and complications of being at Churchill Downs and instead drive over to River Downs. The mood is festive, and it's obvious that sentiment has influence in attendance as well. T-shirts with Harlan's Holiday on the front are raffled and tossed by the jockeys to an eager audience. An Ohio-bred favorite makes him a hometown favorite. Others like Perfect Drift for the Turfway connection.

In the end, War Emblem goes wire to wire. Trainer Bob Baffert makes favorable comments for his jockey and the owner's faith in him, plus he splits the million-dollar bonus with the prior trainer of War Emblem. I never really thought Baffert was a team player, but that's team spirit.

When the alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. Sunday, I could have skipped any event but, hey, I'm a team player too! The Flying Pig Marathon starts in pain at 6 a.m. for walkers, wheelchairs, marathons and 5-milers and ends in pain hours later, but glory is in the midst.

This event is my favorite because it's absolutely positive. The volunteers, or "grunts" as their T-shirts say, are amazing; the neighborhoods are astonishing in their support; the organization is top-notch; and the participants are committed. It warms your heart.

The family and friends of the event participants cheer, chant and drive like maniacs to get to the next point on the route. Then the worry sets in. What happened? Where's my runner? Did I miss him/her? Ultimately, the pain isn't as great as experienced by the participants, but antacids are needed.

My runner suffered a bloody nipple, strained hamstring, diarrhea, sore knee, blacked toenails and bloody nose all before I join him at mile 23 and the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge. No telling what Monday will bring, but as I jog along fresh as a daisy for the last three miles of the journey I realize the effort is the glory.

No one runs alone. We all need the strength we get from each other. Sometimes it's along the way with 60,000 people watching and cheering. Other times it's across a crowded room knowing someone is there just for you or maybe at a table of friends dreaming up a scheme.

This is life at its best.

-- Wendy Robinson

The Year of Change
A few months ago, my Manfriend predicted 2002 to be the year of change. He was referring to relationships, among other things. That was prior to us happening upon Splitsville for good, so he was right in a couple of ways.

My current boyfriend, being nagged by his family members to take me out to dinner, decided this was something we had to do. Normally, though, he misses me for that mealtime. I rush home from work and heat up a sausage with a quickness. Then he usually calls, chastises me and the wienie jokes ensue. But one evening he caught me before wienie indulgence and we set out to Cactus Pear.

Cactus Pear isn't one of my favorite places to eat, but I figured since I always draw a blank when it comes to non-fast food dining experiences I'd let him have his way. If it's not Burger King, it's mystery meat to me. My man loves spicy food. In fact, like Mikey, he'll eat anything. One reason for Cactus Pear's failure is that -- no offense to the opposite sex -- the majority of the wait staff is male. One time I went there, rather than boxing it up, the server threw out the half-uneaten portion of my meal. It's more like the Prickly Pear, but I digress.

This time, my food was cold. But rather than pout about a frigid portobella mushroom sandwich, I glanced around and noticed the black and white photos of rocky terrain displayed on the walls. A couple of them looked strikingly like the lower part of the female anatomy, which I pointed out to my boyfriend, before offering him a bite of my sandwich. Do I, like Prince, just have a dirty mind?

I decided this was to be our official "dinner" so his brother would get off his back, but should we have a better meal elsewhere, I will adjust that honor.

Friday night, his band was playing a little-publicized show at The Overflow. It was a slow night on Main Street, so few stragglers came in to observe. I threw darts with an accuracy I didn't know I had and read CityBeat. I was practically the only girl there besides the one tending bar. The first band's drummer set his kit on fire, but no such theatrics were planned for my boyfriend's set, so the teetering crowd began to toddle out. Instead of The Overflow, it felt more like The Undertow.

"Is your boyfriend in the band?" a guy asked. I nodded.

"That explains why you're sitting alone," he said. What a great non-pickup line.

After the show, I felt my boyfriend's disappointment in the turnout. It takes a lot for Cincinnatians to get off their bums and see something different. Unless you're doing Top 40 covers or your band sounds like Dave Matthews, you better be setting fire to your drum kit.

Luckily, I don't seek out sources of limelight.

He and I were recently upstaged by my roommate when she announced her engagement to the Limey. There must be a pressing desperation when you live in another country than the one you love. But to me, it feels like the dating Olympics. It's like a mad rush to an invisible finish line, white dress flapping in the wind.

Throwing down the gauntlet, I hastened to The Comet, where she was sharing bottles of wine with the other patrons. Against my will, I agreed to be her maid of honor. My problem with the deal is the title, especially the emphasis on the words "maid of." I envision being told to "fetch that veil" or something.

I'd been professing all along that, should she get married, I wouldn't succumb to this dishonor. But in front of the urging bartender and an audience of Comet regulars, what can one do? I swallowed some wine and all sense of pride. Especially after she embarrassingly promised, "You won't have to do anything and you can pick out a cheap dress." Unfortunately, I left The Comet before she fell off her barstool.

I reserve the right to change my mind, acquire a new identity and move to another neighborhood. The year of change it is certainly becoming.

-- Ilsa Venturini


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