You Say Hello And I Say Good-Bye
After being an official couple for an entire year, my boyfriend and I decided to introduce our families. Since he'd recently finished a job painting at Cactus Pear, we arranged for dinner there.
My grandparents and his father, roughly the same age, were more than just contemporaries. (Which tells, I guess, about the age gap between my boyfriend and me.) The older men had the armed forces in common, which I hoped wouldn't lead to a right-wing discussion on the war. In such a case, I knew where the bar was and I was willing to use it.
After introductions, we looked at the paint job, which included the coppery, textured ceiling and some faux finishing. I was very impressed. Finally, we found a table, perused the menu and ordered our food. I ordered steak fajitas but was a little turned off when I bit into something not quite the consistency of steak. My boyfriend pointed out that it was a plantain (an imposter fruit posing as a banana). When you're expecting one thing and it ends up being another, your taste buds go into hibernation.
During dinner, my boyfriend and his father talked about food a lot. My boyfriend is the only "cook" in our house, and he's certainly the main eater of that food. When dessert (two huge servings of bread pudding) arrived, he was shoveling it away like some people drive on the Autobahn.
"Slow down," I said, a little embarrassed. He rolled his eyes and dropped down to 35 mph.
After dinner, we headed back to my grandparents' house for coffee. I was checking my watch, as I'd been invited to a bon voyage party at 7:30 for a work friend. It was already 8, but I didn't want to rush this momentous occasion. As it turned out, it wouldn't have mattered if we'd been there at all as the old folks had so much in common we ended up doing more listening than talking. So I leisurely drank almost an entire pot of coffee before we decided to have dinner again and parted ways.
I left alone for the bon voyage party. It wasn't so much that the co-worker was leaving as getting laid off from the company. I arrived at Miss Kitty's in Western Hills after getting lost and breaking a couple of laws. I saw familiar cars in the parking lot and breathed a sigh of relief. There were at least 10 of us, most with significant others. The rest of the bar was filled with blue-jeans-clad joes and girls with big hair. Ah, the West side. Nothing reminds me of home more than the smell of AquaNet.
Since my co-workers had been there a while, I missed out on a few games of pool and some cornhole (aw, shucks). For those of you who don't know what the latter is, just be happy you don't.
I chatted with a few girls at the table, including my friend's wife who's a mortician. I had a couple of questions for her, especially after reading the latest issue of Maxim. Morticians are a rare breed of people you can actually make smile by talking about death. And they're really not acting when they say, "I see dead people."
I won't share with readers the discussion, just this tidbit from a petite brunette who spends more time with the deceased than the living: Dirty fingernails and dirty noses are more disgusting than the embalming process.
The party was moving to my co-worker's house in Price Hill. I hadn't eaten all day (thanks partly to the rogue plantain) and I'd practically embalmed myself with caffeine, so I thought it best to head home. Plus I'm afraid if I stick around the West side too long, my hair will grow this huge claw on top and my pants waist will rise. Luckily, I made it home in time.
Bringing Along The Middle East
I was all set for a big night out last Saturday. There were good shows at the Southgate House, The Comet and Northside Tavern. I decided to watch a little NCAA basketball tournament action before I went out. Unfortunately, I fell asleep on my couch during half time of one of the games and didn't wake up until 6:52 a.m.
If I'm awake at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, it normally means I'm still drinking from the night before. I turned on the TV and quickly realized that there's nothing worth watching that early on a Sunday. After an hour of flipping through war coverage and TV ministries, I decided to go off to Sugar 'n' Spice in Paddock Hills for brunch.
I love going there, especially during the off-peak hours on the weekend (7-9 a.m. and 2-3 p.m.). It's at those times that you really get a feel for how folks who live in our little community think about the world we live in -- without all of the smoke and beer wisdom you get in a bar.
I sat down at the counter, where my favorite server Mona was working, and opened up the book I've been reading over the past couple of weeks, The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years by Bernard Lewis. I always read when I go out to lunch during the work week or when I go out for brunch by myself on the weekend. It's just a left-over habit from taking regular business trips out of town and country with my previous jobs.
Mona came over, taking my order for sausage and cheese omelet with hash browns and a cup of coffee. After she took my order back to the kitchen, she came back and asked, of course, what I thought of my book. I told her my opinion, and we discussed our thoughts on media coverage of the war before she went to take care of a couple of other customers who'd just walked in.
People normally just leave me alone when I'm reading at a restaurant or bar. But nearly every time I whip out this book, I have a server or bartender ask me either what I think about the book or to tell them something interesting I've recently read in it. I've haven't had this many people ask me what I'm reading since The Brothers Karamazov, and that was mostly because that book was so massive.
While I was eating my breakfast, I remembered what happened when I took The Middle East with me to the Sleater-Kinney show at the Southgate House a few weeks ago. I got there at 8 p.m. so I could get a seat in the balcony, even though the show didn't start until 10. During my two hours of reading before the opening band started to play, I had two soon-to-be-bald gay men with pot bellies and one attractive yet butch lesbian separately walk right up to me to strike up a conversation about the book.
Probably the only way I can have straight women come up to me to talk about a book I'm reading is to pick an Oprah book. Knowing my luck, those women would all be happily married.
The Green, Green Grass of Home
In uncertain times, home provides comfort and security. Home is where the heart is and where it wants to be. Maybe only in our minds can we reach back to memories when we're far from the place that holds our hearts, but it calms and cheers almost always.
I study the topography of the greater Cincinnati landscape as I fly into Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport every time I come back from a trip. I'm always filled with a sense of ownership when I can recognize the flight pattern. I love the quilt pattern of the lawns and the farms as we get closer and closer to our landing strip. It's the hills and valleys that lure me back, particularly this week as the color of green is evident after a barren winter.
Spring in the Midwest is in the air, as I witnessed from the sky and even more on the land as daffodils and crocus greeted me when I exited the parking garage and headed home.
While Chicago midweek was a quick getaway for a birthday celebration, I vowed to soak up the warmth in my own city this weekend as I sped down the cut in the hill to catch my first glimpse of the Cincinnati skyline.
Saturday dawned clear and promising as I headed out for the last speed training session with Bob Roncker's Mini-Marathon group. I hardly knew how to dress in shorts and a tee instead of leggings and mittens, but I gladly shed the layers on the way to Withrow's cinder track.
The group in attendance was large and eager to sprint the laps, but Bob cautioned us to do 60 percent of last week since the race is next Sunday. Tapering is in order to rest the body. I'm still working on preparing the mind for those long nine miles on Columbia Parkway but took his advice and followed instructions. Plus I love the idea of tapering any workout any time.
Feeling strong and loving the birds singing along the way, I left my fellow runners and headed out to grab lunch at Zip's with Cate and her daughter Sloan. A perfect spot for a quick burger that won't break the bank, Zip's was a popular spot with others as well. The wait wasn't too bad and worth every minute as the juicy burger fulfilled my post-run hunger quite nicely.
They headed out for a nail appointment, and I went off to grab my pal Mike to head to Turfway. As we hit the 471 bridge and headed into Kentucky, we agreed that we feel lucky to be in the safety and security of our familiar haunts with so many fellow Americans stationed abroad and fighting in the desert. It's our wish and our prayer that everyone returns home quickly and safely.
Turfway was bustling with the anticipation of the big race at the end of the day when the thunder of hoofs could lead right to the Kentucky Derby for the winner. We grabbed a program and found a spot in the sunshine, where the temperatures were the warmest.
I put $2 bets on the names that had freedom or peace references and found myself drawn to the red and blue silks. Truthfully, win or lose, it's the beauty of the horses against the green grass lining the track that makes me feel lucky and alive.
Having missed the open house at the new Great American Ball Park on Saturday, I couldn't believe my good luck when Sunday dawned bright and clear and I had another opportunity to see the stadium the Reds will call home. Opening Day tickets having escaped me thus far, I figured I better tour it just in case the tickets don't come around.
Reminded that the open house doesn't get started until afternoon, I agreed there was time for a short run. My friend Macy and I pulled on the necessary running shoes and headed to Ault Park, where a few fellow training members mentioned they were meeting at noon. They told me we were running the Reggae Run route with its killer hills. I wished for the Reggae band, as only music could have made this less painful -- though the birds were singing, dogs were playing and the sun was brilliant.
Macy and I opted for one run of the three-mile course instead of two as a couple of runners were attempting. It was lunchtime, so we head to Hooter's on the river, figuring the ballpark was walking distance and the wings sounded greasy but good. Serious runners treat their bodies like temples, while I subscribe to the theory of "you burn 'em, you replace 'em" caloric watch.
Lucky for us, we were informed it was happy hour prices and 10 wings were $2.50, so we promptly ordered 20 wings, blue cheese and celery with fries as well. We drank plenty of water and caught some of the NCAA Tournament games before heading past Newport on the Levee and across the river to see the new stadium. We even checked our watches and vowed to be home in time to cheer on Xavier in their quest for the Sweet 16.
There were tons of people doing the same, and Hamilton County was feeling proud as we all poured through the gates to view a beautiful spectacle of green grass with home plate facing the river. The views were sweeping, and the mood was festive. The seats were red, and Reds hats and jerseys adorned the faithful fans. The flag waved in the breeze off the Ohio River, and I was reminded again why it's good to be home.
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