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Whirlygig: 64: Out on the Town

Alone time delivers self-reflection and insight

By Brandon Brady · February 12th, 2003 · Whirlygig

Love Notes
Sometimes it's quite OK to take in a meal or a movie on one's own. You get to eat what you want and watch the movie of your choice without criticism on the spiciness of the restaurant choice or the chick flick quotient. Plus there's no one reminding you of your New Year's vow to give up regular soda and junk food as you order both at the concession stand.

All in all, it's best to consider the lone night out an opportunity to put into practice the motto "Make yourself happy -- then you will know at least one person is happy."

This is exactly what I had in mind Tuesday evening as I grabbed my newspaper and headed in to Cumin on Erie Avenue. I'd been craving their Indian version of fried rice. It has chicken and shrimp along with a delicate curry flavor complete with raisins and possibly a nut or two. It's the type of dish you wish you could make at home but figure it's just better to go back to have it again.

Cumin has a style that's simple and elegant. The twist on Indian food equates to nouveau cuisine or is possibly best explained as chef-inspired. The place seems to hop with carry-out orders in addition to the steady stream of diners that come mostly in pairs. My only complaint is that the place is narrow and tiny with tables quite close together lining up along the walls. It leaves you feeling that you're almost dining with the table next to you or, at the very least, listening in on their conversation.

With the search for a thought-provoking movie (and a doable time to go with it), I was like a woman on a mission. I was oblivious to the surroundings, due, I suppose, to the fact that it wasn't my virgin trip to Cumin. The gentleman seated next to me, by virtue of the restaurant's layout, was also dining solo but seemed less interested in his newspaper than mine.

After the waiter talked to us like we were dining together, I gave up and succumbed to my dining neighbor's desire for light conversation. That is until he somehow ended up on tantra positions for couple's yoga and how that might improve a couple's sexual pleasure. He went on to tell me of a few Web sites to visit if I was in need. I'm not sure how the virtual stranger sitting next to me felt about discussing sexy yoga, but it seemed strangely odd to me. It might, however, explain why yoga has become the latest rage.

I wondered if there's a sensual component to Pilates as well. I decided not to mention it to my chatty diner or I'd never have escaped the conversation for the movie.

I bid him a kind farewell and left feeling like he really just wanted to talk. Somehow the conversation just drifted south, which sometimes it just does. He was harmless enough and really sweet when he talked about his college-age children.

I had just enough time to head out to Showcase Cinemas at Kenwood Towne Centre to see Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep in Adaptation. This movie being about writer's block and all, it seemed to be the perfect movie for a solo Tuesday and not everyone's cup of tea. I grabbed Raisinets and a Coke even though the Indian rice was scrumptious. It must have been the tantra talk that made me crave chocolate all of a sudden.

The movie was a little tough to get into. Finally it was revealed what the fascination was with orchids. While I won't spoil it for you, if you haven't seen it, it's a tad sexy as well. The take-away dialogue from the movie has to be the part where the brother played by Cage tells the writer played by Cage that it's about who you love and not what loves you. I know it sounds confusing, but it's endearing in the movie.

I suppose it's true in life as well. The power of love is in the emotion. Experiencing it is beautiful whether it's returned or not.

I think I'll hold onto that thought as the week approaches Friday and the frenzy of Valentine's Day. So what if Cupid didn't (or doesn't) strike this year. Maybe just the memory of what love feels like is OK. Perhaps I'll treat myself to a little pink lacey something this week. After all, if one person is to be made happy, it might as well be me.

-- Wendy Robinson

Sticky Sweet
Jessica invited me, via a group e-mail, to attend the "Marvelous Maple Syrup" class at Caldwell Nature Center last Saturday. I had responded weeks ago that I'd love to go and had assumed there would be a large group of our mutual friends joining us.

Even though I only live four miles from the Caldwell Nature Center, I still got lost. It's in Carthage between Vine Street and North Bend Road. Carthage has to be one of the few parts of Cincinnati, outside of the West side of town, that I've never visited.

The main room of the Caldwell Nature Center has a large, two-sided, stone fireplace in the middle of the room that makes the whole building smell like you were living in a log cabin. I was a little freaked out by the stuffed animals displayed around the room. There were foxes, squirrels, possums and other animals I could do without in various action poses. I knew they were dead and stuffed, but it still felt like their little beady eyes were following me around.

Jessica showed up right when the class was beginning. I quickly realized that I was the only person she invited who showed up. The other class participants were either families with small children or high school kids getting extra credit for a biology class.

The class started with our instructor asking the question, "What three things does a tree need for the photosynthesis process?" There was a 7-year-old kid in front of me who raised his hand quicker than I did and answered the first two (sun and water). We were both stumped on the third one, though. Fortunately, Jessica's a chemist and knew the last ingredient was carbon dioxide.

There was even a quick audience-participation play showing the magic of photosynthesis on a fake tree in the front of the room. The smart kid and Jessica were asked to play the cool parts. I had to watch from the back of the room.

We went outside after the play and learned how to tap a maple tree and collect the sap. We even got to taste pure maple sap out of the tree. It was as clear as pure water and tasted like a cup of water with just a little sugar added. We then moved over to an outdoor wood-burning stove. Our instructor showed us how the sap was boiled down to make maple syrup. I had no idea that it takes 39 gallons of maple sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup.

We were then treated to maple tea, which is maple sap that's been boiled down only half the way to make syrup. Tasting the tea reminded me of my sugar addiction days when I was in college. Instead of ordering a soda with dinner or lunch, I'd get a glass of water and dump five or six packets of sugar in it.

Since it's been so cold this year, the sap wasn't flowing particularly well, so we didn't get to sample full maple syrup. We did learn about the "Pancake in the Woods" event held at California Woods on March 9, where they'll celebrate the end of the maple season with a $5 pancake-and-sausage breakfast. Hopefully I'll stop drooling about maple-syrup-drenched pancakes before the then, or I might die of dehydration.

-- R.L. Newman

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