The Games People Play
Sometimes this city can be consumed by its sports, or so it seems. From high school to college to professional, Cincinnati loves a game. Football season flows into basketball, which runs right into baseball -- and all the while there's the dating game.
Dating provides great conversation among girlfriends, and this week I was among 425 women at the annual Christmas luncheon for the Neediest Kids of All. It would be interesting to know what the ratio of married women to single women was in this crowd. I'm betting I was definitely in the minority by the interest in my social life at our table of 12.
Sometimes it's fun to watch the horror on girlfriends' faces as I mention aspects of dating that have changed since high school. They can't imagine going to a singles event or online dating services, but the days of flirting at a locker have long passed. I share the juicy stuff and enjoy watching my married comrades drink and smoke in the afternoon. I think if they did it more often, perhaps more would wrap themselves in cellophane to greet husbands home from the office.
With a smile on my face, I ducked out to meet Richard for a quick cocktail at P.F. Chang's to discuss the game plan for Saturday. He had secured me for a double commitment weeks ago that I thought was a University of Cincinnati basketball game and a dinner party. My biggest concern was the attire required, but when I realized it was the Crosstown Shootout, I was more enthused. Turns out the dinner was a retirement event that secured my ticket to the game as Richard needed a "safe date" since it was work-related and all. It cheered me to think of myself as "safe," as many would consider me all too dangerous. But, hey, I'll play the role and enjoy the muscles on the court beforehand.
Leaving Chang's the snow had started to fall, and I had just enough time to duck into a store or two before my next social commitment. Christmas shopping is more palatable to me when spread over time and done after a cocktail anyway. One gift procured, I decided to duck in Victoria's Secret -- or Vicky's, as we call it -- as I had a gift certificate left over from last year burning a hole in my wallet. I was drawn immediately to delicate pink lacy stuff that was deliciously feminine. The question was do gentlemen prefer black lingerie, or do I really care? After a little debate with the salesgirls, we decided I needed it all. After all, my motto is "Be naughty, save Santa the trip!"
Rushing a bit after my indulgences at Vicky's, I made it to Tropicana at Newport on the Levee where I was meeting my 7 o'clock date a mere 10 minutes late. I was a tad apprehensive about my date, as I'd met him a couple of months prior but hadn't had the opportunity for much conversation. He was attractive, I recalled, and younger was my guess. How young was the debate at the luncheon, which Joan assured me didn't matter. He's legal, and beyond that who cares, she assured me. Turns out he's perfectly handsome and a great conversationalist to the point where I wouldn't care if he was a tadpole.
The crowd at Tropicana was a little sparse, as the weather was the one thing I should have been concerned about but chose to ignore. The snow continued to fall, but inside the drinks were half-price for ladies and the blackjack tables were full. The gaming here is just for fun, the scantily clad dealers assured us, but the original Tropicana in Newport had a checkered past complete with gambling and rumors of prostitution.
The men in the place didn't seem to mind as they were focused on the cleavage and the fringe hemlines that are omnipresent. My date said that even the men's room has hospitality in the form of another pretty young thing handing out towels. I was disappointed that the ladies room had no Adonis-in-waiting, but in a Jeff Ruby restaurant there are always plenty of men willing to make it up to us girls at the bar.
We lingered after a tasty dinner with an amazing chocolate tower complete with gold leaf on top that would make a great accompaniment to the pink and black lacy stuff stowed in my car. But I decided there was no need to rush with this one. Let's just enjoy the ride.
-- Wendy Robinson
Someone Old, Someone New, Something Found, Something Blue
Saturday night my friend Shawn and I drove to Carol's for the Art Aches show held upstairs at Plush. It was the opening of this event, a sale for local artists with nothing over $100. I was happy to make another go at Plush. The weekend before, I met my friend Kristine there and had an awful time.
A friend of Kristine's, with a wavering Australian accent, confessed (she really didn't need to) that she was bisexual (because I really could care less) and promptly spilled my beer. She might have picked up an accent spending legitimate time in the land down under, but she didn't pick up any manners there. Not only did the girl not offer to replace my drink, she didn't apologize or even help clean up the mess. She just walked away.
After the rolling of the Rolling Rock, an ex-boyfriend of mine appeared. It was like someone was pulling a splinter out of my heart. I was determined not to let the ordeal ruin Plush for me.
When Shawn and I walked into the club, the room was brightly lit -- a change from the norm when you can't see who's across the room. It was only $2 to get in, and before I could rummage for money Shawn said, "You're going to buy me a beer."
Normally I don't like to be told what to do unless it's the "Get out of the building, there's a fire" type of order. I realized he'd just paid my way, so I swallowed my pride.
I recognized the bartender from the previous week. Probably the best bartender I've ever met. He's nice, but not sappy, and he's witty. "How are you guys doing?" he asked, a step up from the down-the-nose stare. I bought our beers and we went to check out the art. I immediately saw stuff I wanted but had little cash on me.
When we came across some cool scarves, I knew I wasn't leaving the place without one. Pretty soon my friend Kristine arrived with mutual friends Guy and Steven in tow. I was happy to see Steven especially. A friend of ours had died from cancer exactly one week before. He was the first person our age, in our group of friends, to die. I hadn't gone to the funeral, as I was only an acquaintance, but Steven had. While he relayed the bizarre events, I felt Shawn being neglected beside me.
There was nothing I could do, though, so I just listened.
"You're not going anywhere," I heard Kristine say from behind me. She was referring to Steven's habit of locking someone into a conversation. It was true -- the rest of the room with its artists and wannabes just disappeared. But I didn't care. I like Steven and could have stayed there for hours. He apologized for bringing me down, but it was the contrary. I was concerned and needed to talk about it.
Eventually, we turned our conversation to modern art and how much we hated the lack of attention to detail. How can someone (besides Warhol) get away with a bland image and expect someone to appreciate it as an "idea." I threw out the term "conceptual art," hoping I knew what the hell it meant. My knowledge of art history hits speed bumps after Magritte. Nevertheless, I was glad to have a compatriot. We exchanged numbers and promised to hang out some time.
It was rumored that our friend Mike had some art there at Plush. We broke away to search for it but never found it. Instead, I found myself back by the scarves, asking how to purchase with a credit card. Apparently, this was a point that hadn't been ironed out yet. I was supposed to find the artist, take her to the bar to verify the price and have the bartender ring me up.
At first I found this inconvenient. But as I stood there with Michelle, I got to know her and her work. I bought two of her Tim Burton-esque scarves, one with bells on it. The bartender feigned jealousy and threatened to steal them. It was genius to buy art from a local "starving artist," especially being a starving art lover. At a gallery, I couldn't have afforded it.
I caught up with the crew and we agreed to meet at The Comet. On the way into the bar, I found some credit cards in the street. The name "Joshua" sounded possibly familiar, so Shawn and I turned them in at the bar.
The Comet was packed as Ruby Vileos were playing. Kristine, Guy and Steven were already there. With a little luck, we scored the front table all to ourselves. And we needed it. Pretty soon, my friend Jim arrived and squeezed in with us.
After a while, I felt I was being watched. It was a guy I'd seen the previous week at Ali's Boutique. He'd done this staring thing where you keep looking at the person until they're forced to look back. Apparently, I fell for the trick again and caught him staring as he waited for a beer. Shawn informed me that the guy was in a local band.
"Oh, my god, what do I do?" I asked a girl sitting with us.
"Do something gross," she said, "Start picking your nose."
Unfortunately, I'm too modest for that. Even when you're attached, it's nice to know people still find you worth looking at. I guess he caught me staring and talking blatantly about him. When I looked again, he was gone. But I've a feeling we'll stare again.
Then a guy I'd just met a couple of weeks ago came in and stopped at our table. A new arrival from a very left-wing city, he was new on the scene and a little shy of friends. I remembered his name and a lightbulb went off.
"Joshua, what's your last name?"
It turned out that he hadn't been in the neighborhood since then. The coincidence was unbelievable to both of us. He even checked his wallet to make sure. I ordered him to go to the bar. Normally, I don't like to tell people what to do, but when you find someone's credit cards orders are in order.
Another wave of friends came in, and it began to feel like a reunion. My boyfriend was home sick and I felt a little guilty having a good time without him. Before I left, I savored the moment -- having so many people I cared about with me. It was hard to leave.
My single and non-single minds were battling. But, alas, the "taken" girl won and sent herself home.
-- Ilsa Venturni
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