Let's admit that Sweetest Day is Hallmark's version of an autumn Valentine's Day, or at least it's an attempt to stimulate greeting card sales. I say there's always room for more love and affection in this world even if the retailers drive it; however, the floral delivery truck never materialized in my driveway on Saturday.
Even better than roses was the fact that my long lost girl pal, Anne, was in town from Boston for a wedding Friday night, which left Saturday for us to catch up. She drove her rental car down from Dayton for a late lunch, where we munched nachos and salsa at Don Pablo's.
Anne is like a breath of fresh air and her humor always gets me going. Her tales from the wedding stretched from the groom's men mooning at the reception to the bride's full-blown splits on the dance floor in her wedding gown. Only in Ohio, I assured her, do we do karaoke at receptions!
Our laughter subsided when our tacos and enchiladas showed up, and we talked about how relationships change with age. Friendships with a long history are great as long as there's still common ground on which to stand. In the case of Anne's friendship with the bride, Kristi, the ground is shaky indeed. People move on and sometimes friendship fades into a Christmas card correspondence, but thanks for the memories. Anne now has a new bridal trend to take back East, right?
We headed over to TJMaxx and HomeGoods to find a bargain or two, which is always fun. Anne assured me I needed some kick-ass black boots with spike heels for my fall wardrobe. I had to warn her that Cincinnati might not know what hit them when I strut my stuff in what looks like hooker hiking boots, but she's my buddy and I trust her. My feet might never forgive her, but these boots definitely had attitude.
After a fashion show from my closet to see if I own anything these boots could compliment, we relaxed and discussed work. Anne does in Boston what I used to do in Cincinnati before I got off the merry-go-round two years ago. I had enticed her to join the company I left, and she ended up leaving a year later. We don't miss the pressure cooker environment, but the bonuses were tremendous, as were the memories from conventions we worked. We both admitted that we'd never work again if we won the lottery and vowed to take care of each other financially.
Which led us right to who's taking care of us -- and I don't mean financially. This became the conversation that entertained us all the way through drinks and dinner at Bella. Of course, we took the time to look at the crowd going in to the Aronoff Center for the ballet and I told her all about the Contemporary Arts Center design by Zaha Hadid under construction. I promised to give her a view of the new football and baseball stadiums later along with a look see at Newport on the Levee.
Anne was impressed with Cincinnati in all its sparkling city lights, although she questioned where the single people were. Saturday night was couple's night and Sweetest Day, I remind her, but truth be told it seems like lots of nights are couples' nights or the crowd comes out after I'm ready to call it a day. Anne begged me to move to Boston, where the suits and singles mingle.
I veered the conversation back to who takes care of us and it became what works for us. Oh, the material of our fantasies was interesting stuff. Anne shared her visions of a hand here and a toe there. I disclosed my personal slide show that included a black pair of slacks and strong hands.
We both agreed that we go back instead of forward when we please ourselves. By this we meant we use lovers from the past, if not the present, to turn us on when we need inspiration. I questioned why not strangers or scenarios we imagine? Anne said it's too vague and there's no warmth in those for her, and I suppose I can agree.
I recalled a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross. The entire movie takes place in an office and the bar across the street where the sales guys hang out. The dialogue is terrific when the lead describes how it's the moments that you remember. He goes into how the light hit her hair or how she smelled in the crook of her neck and you can see it in his eyes that he's transferred back to that moment in time.
Isn't this the fabric of our lives? The time he looked at me and I felt the heat will work for me many a solo night. Anne has a recurring dream that she described in beautiful detail about the position of her leg over her fellow's shoulder
Who needs dessert? Give me a cigarette and a Sambuco with three coffee beans, please.
-- Wendy Robinson
The Proper Use of a Cigar
My friend Kristen was in town from Columbus this weekend for her friend Angie's wedding. Kristen's parents were going with her to the wedding, but she needed a plus-one for the rehearsal dinner on Friday. I used to hang out with Kristen and Angie and their friends, so she asked me to be her guest. I'd been looking forward to it because it would be my first trip to the Chart House on Riverboat Row.
Since I wasn't going to the wedding but still getting a free dinner out of the deal, I figured it was good manners to go to the actual rehearsal at the church. There I met up with Kristen, Angie and several acquaintances I hadn't seen since before Kristen moved. I could tell we were in for a fun evening just knowing who was in attendance.
You can listen to people talk about a wedding all you want, but not until you actually sit in the church and watch the bride and groom (even if it is just the rehearsal) do you realize the magnitude of the event. I've watched couples spend months picking out flowers, dresses, cakes, shoes and bridesmaids, sometimes changing their minds about all of them. But what it really comes down to is the moment when you realize that the lives of people close to you are changing in no small way. To a guest like me, it makes spending 30 minutes choosing a pair of pants that hug my ass and a shirt that doesn't balloon out at the sides seem a little insignificant.
Weddings make me reflect on what's really important to me: surrounding myself with people who have meaning in my life. And what better way to enjoy time with those people than to be sitting at the rowdy table at an upscale restaurant?
At the Chart House we were treated to a warm, ambient, inviting atmosphere, capped by one of the best views of the city I've ever seen. Kristen and I sat facing the river, with Angie's sister (always the comic relief) and other friends across the table.
After we learned the drinks were free, the evening only got better. The Cosmopolitans were strong and tasty, sort of like the tall waiter with the shaved head and goatee. I was let down, however, to find he was one whose attractiveness goes right out the window as soon as he opens his mouth. When he delivered my second Cosmo, he garnished it with an editorial, "Here you go. You want a nipple for that?"
Not to have my masculinity brought into question over the type of beverage I choose to drink, I replied, "They may look sissy, but they work fast." He regained a few points when he nodded in agreement. But give me a break; kidding or not, the lime slice is sour enough, honey.
That aside, the evening was wonderful. Of course, being at the rowdy table, only I could have warned the server to make my third Cosmo a little weaker than the first two, otherwise I'd "be under the table in five minutes" -- just as the room was quieting for a toast.
For dinner I briefly considered having chicken before coming to my senses and realizing that I could have chicken at home and that filet mignon was the way to go. Top it off with a slice of New York Cheesecake and three more Cosmos and I couldn't have asked for more.
Which is not to say I didn't get it. After dinner the groom's father placed in front of me a wooden box containing a stack of cigars. Loath to pass up another opportunity for something new, I snapped one up. Outside, not wanting to look like a first-time cigar smoker, I remembered the cardinal rule -- don't inhale -- which made me think perhaps Bill Clinton was just a well-trained cigar smoker.
Not to be flawless, I proceeded to cut off the wrong end of the cigar and try to light it. Upon realizing I needed air to flow through the cigar to actually burn it, I snipped a slice off the mouth end and lit up. (Way to use that college degree.)
I have to say the cigar-smoking experience was more pleasant on the smoking end, though I also attribute that to a high-quality cigar. Normally I think cigars smell awful, but this one was pretty mild. Bill told me the burning sensation on my tongue when drawing in the smoke indicated a cigar dipped in cognac, which is apparently another sign of a quality stogey.
I smoked the whole thing, mostly because I wanted to get the most out of the experience, but also because when a man you've just met offers you a cigar that probably cost him 10 bucks, you don't leave half of it lying in an ashtray -- especially right in front of him.
It was also an exercise in the experience of traditional male bonding, with which I have limited experience. The menu of conversation included golf, favorite humor (which gravitated toward outstanding Saturday Night Live skits), "what the women are probably talking about right now" and what the hell that vertical searchlight is over on the east edge of downtown (the Gilbert Avenue Gateway). I found myself actually participating a few times, though I'm usually more interested in talking with the women about what they actually are talking about. But, hey, it was a cigar. And I was promptly quizzed by the women when I went back inside anyway as to what the men were talking about. Fascinating.
I went home a little sad that I wasn't going to the wedding and wouldn't get to tack on another day of celebration, another half-dozen martinis and another two pounds from my weakness for culinary temptation. But I got to share great food with great people, I was made to feel totally welcome even by those I didn't know and I got to eat enough bread and drink enough water to avoid a hangover on Saturday.
Feel the night was an absolute blast? I do.
-- Tim Ruffner
Last week, my friend Cathy scored two free tickets to see Jon Stewart perform at the Taft Theater. The tickets even came with a pre-show pass for a meet-and-greet session with Stewart himself.
Since the pre-show passes didn't say what time to show up, we decided to play it safe and arrive an hour before show time. With our cool pre-show passes hanging around our necks, we headed downstairs at the Taft, only to find out that we were half an hour early.
After a few minutes of waiting around, I decided to use the facilities. The urinals in the downstairs area of the Taft are amazing. Most urinals I've used in my lifetime are your standard tall and not very deep porcelain variety. These urinals were made out of amazing 3-inch-thick porcelain. But the best part was that it was a short urinal, shaped kind of like a pear lying horizontally, coming about 3 feet out of the wall. It was just wide enough to straddle while you were doing your business. When it flushed, it just made a "shhhhhh" sound. Almost like it was saying, "Don't worry, you can always come back and use me again."
After washing my hands, I went out to tell Cathy about my urinal experience. She just gave me a polite smile that you normally give only to crazy people to keep them from talking. So I just sat back and waited for the meet-and-greet session to begin.
Once Mr. Stewart arrived, the pre-show consisted of waiting in line for a quick handshake with him and having my picture taken with him in front of a hideous cardboard backdrop with "Diet Coke with Lemon" painted all over it. After our photographs were taken, Cathy and I grabbed all the free Coke and bottled water we could discretely carry off and headed for our seats.
The show was even funnier than I thought it would be. Afterwards, Cathy and I decided to go to Shanghai Mama's for a late dinner. It's definitely my favorite weekend late night place to have dinner -- the prices are cheap, the service is reliable and the food is good. The only problem I've ever had with the place are the hard wooden chairs that are even more uncomfortable than church pews. As soon as we placed our appetizer and entrée orders, the two Cokes and bottled water I had during the show were screaming to be released, so I excused myself to the restroom.
The first thing I saw when I opened the door of the restroom was a young college-age fellow who was throwing up in the bathroom sink. "Excuse me, but I really need to pee" was the only thing I said, but what I really wanted to know was if he was puking up something he ate there earlier.
After I zipped up, I instinctively turned to wash my hands in the sink, but the young puker was in the middle of dry heaves and I fortunately -- or unfortunately, depending on your frame of mind -- saw the contents in the sink. This verified that he hadn't eaten any dinner at all that night.
Based on how ill-received my past vomit-related stories have gone over during dinner conversation, I decided against telling Cathy about my latest bathroom adventure. I just sat back and wished all of my bathroom experiences could be as nearly religious as the one at the Taft Theater.
-- R.L. Newman