A rude awakening. Repeat daily.

Well, my summer vacation was fun while it lasted… but today was back-to-school Day #1 in our house, so my leisurely mornings came to a screeching halt around 5:28 a.m. E.D.T.

Three teenagers (and one or two adults) trying to get ready every weekday and catch a bus.

Compounded by the fact that we have only one functioning shower at the moment. Packing lunches (my wife does most of that), signing permission slips, finding lost sneakers… every morning is an adventure.

This too shall pass. Our oldest will be heading to the dorms in a week, with the others soon to follow. Five years from now, I’ll be wistful about our early morning reveille.

But right now I’m just a wee bit tired. One down, 179 to go…

 

And now, in honor of my morning alarm, a new song from The Alarm

Carping about the diem… and other random thoughts

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

— Wu Men

Great poem, wonderful sentiment. But it mentions nothing at all about 110% humidity. Therefore, I reserve my right to carp about the diem rather than carpe diem.

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My friend Robin had a birthday not too long ago. She’s an Elvis fanatic, so I sent her this text:

Here was her reply:

Yes, that’s Robin’s face superimposed on the woman.

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On a recent trip to an antiques mall, I found a cheesy 70s rock album by a band called Starz. Check out the great hairstyles on the back cover of their 1976 debut:

If you look more closely, it seems some smart aleck has “tagged” the dude at the top right:

“I’m Wm. Shakespeare’s Reincarnation”

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Here’s hoping your Monday isn’t crappy… but if it is, play to win!

 

In a festive mood

Cincinnati loves its festivals. Every weekend during the summer, a Catholic church in the area has a fundraising festival. They all follow the same script: raffles galore, a silent auction, games of chance (lollipop pull and fish pond for the younger set, poker and blackjack for the adults), food and beverages (including alcohol). Some of the larger parishes will also throw in some carnival rides and local bands as the evening entertainment.

With the proliferation of casinos, bingo isn’t the fundraising juggernaut it used to be, but the summer festivals still draw a decent crowd.

I made it to two festivals in Cincinnati this weekend, but they were quite different in style. On Friday night my wife and I went to a church festival to see Cereal Killers, a local band featuring two friends of ours. They were stellar as always (see this blog post for more about them), which is especially noteworthy when you consider the fact that they really only play gigs a handful of times each year. But they do practice quite a bit. The lead guitarist Matt and his wife Amy are neighbors of ours, and in Amy’s eyes, “band practice” is just a convenient cover story for a guy’s night out every week. (If that’s the case, I may have to join Cereal Killers as their lead cowbell player.)

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early and rolled down to the Ohio River to participate in Paddlefest. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds… it’s just 2000+ folks in canoes and kayaks (and on paddleboards) taking a leisurely paddle down the mighty Ohio.

I’ve posted about Paddlefest before, so I won’t wax rhapsodic here. But suffice it to say it’s always a great time.

The only festival in Cincinnati that I didn’t attend this weekend was Goettafest. Yes, we have an entire weekend festival dedicated to a pork-and-oatmeal food that was popular with Cincinnati’s horde of German immigrants back in the late 1800s, and remains a Cincinnati staple to this day.

They even have a vending machine where you can purchase rolls of goetta.

Nein, danke.

Location, location, location… or just plain loco!

The first house that my wife and I ever owned is up for sale.

It was built in 1919, yet when we bought it in 1997, we were only the second owners. (More on that below.) The price tag was $80,000, but we took out a loan for an extra $25K to make some long overdue upgrades (HVAC, roof, windows, upgrading the wiring, remediating termite damage… the unsexy stuff you never see on HGTV).

In 2001, with Baby #1 being quite ambulatory and Baby #2 on the way, we knew we needed more space on a street with less traffic. We sold our house for $115,000 and felt lucky to do so, seeing as was right off a busy four-lane throughfare, right across the street from a used car lot and right next door to a 24-hour chili restaurant that didn’t attract the most desirable clientele, especially in the wee hours of the night.

The current owners (the folks to whom we sold) have made some cosmetic upgrades, but nothing elaborate. The layout is still choppy, two of the three bedrooms are small by today’s standards, the kitchen is still tiny (and still features the tile floor that my college roommate Art helped me install… and by “helped me install” I mean he did the work while I watched.)

Nice job, Art!

I’ll grant you that the neighborhood has improved dramatically since we departed. In fact, my wife and I always joke that the powers-that-be waited until we moved out and then said “OK, now that they’re gone, we can finally turn this area into a hipster hotbed.” The 24-hour restaurant is now a fitness studio. The Hardees a block away has transformed into an Indian restaurant. The old Red Wing shoe store site has become one of the hottest brunch spots in town. The big-box home improvement store a block east (R.I.P, HQ) is now a megachurch where 30,000 attend services each weekend. The old cardboard factory across the main drag from the church is a local brewery’s gleaming new HQ, complete with a ginormous taproom that’s constantly packed. (You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting five bearded millennials.)

But the view from the master bedroom windows is still a used car lot.

And the house is still on a lot the size of a postage stamp (remember postage stamps?).

Here’s the new price tag:

$309,000? Are you crazy? This isn’t San Francisco or Seattle.

The Cincinnati housing market is hot, but it ain’t that hot.

More power to them if they can get that much for our old house. I just hope they take a page from the book of the original owner and manage their money wisely, as explained in this column that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer shortly after we moved into the house:

Thursday, December 11, 1997 
Miss Koehl’s million-dollar
finance lesson


BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Ruth Koehl left almost $4 million to strangers. No strings. Except that the money must be used to help people in Cincinnati. What a nice string.

And what an exceptional woman. Described by a friend as ”an astute businesswoman who could dominate a corporation, well before it was fashionable to do so,” she walked to her neighborhood hardware store to use the copying machine for her Wall Street Journal clippings.

It cost her only a nickel there. Copies are 10 cents most everywhere else.

Miss Ruth Caroline Koehl (pronounced Kale) was born in 1903 in the family home on Reading Road near Florence Avenue in Walnut Hills. When she was 16, her father, Harry, built a house on Appleton Street in Oakley for his wife, Emma, and Ruth and her sister, Elmira.

Miss Koehl lived in that house until June 1996, when she died at age 93 of a stroke. A nice brick house, small with some pretty stained glass, it sold recently for $80,000. She drove a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan, immaculately maintained, just like her little house.

This money, $3.8 million in an unrestricted endowment to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, belonged to her. She earned it as a business executive and tended it as a shrewd investor. A 1921 graduate of Hughes High School, she attended the University of Cincinnati Evening College while working during the day.

Her last job, her favorite, was as comptroller of a Bellevue, Ky., company that made hardware, medicine cabinets and light fixtures. She retired while only in her 80s, so she had a lot of energy left to complain about, for instance, zoning.

”We had our differences,” says Jack Staudt. Miss Koehl opposed the zoning change that let his restaurant move next door to her. ”She was very well spoken and very professional. But she could be a pain.”

I feel confident that Miss Koehl would revel in that last bit of information.

She was not a helpless, lonely little old lady. She was a strong and confident woman who lived a long time. Long enough to outlive most of her family, except for a few second cousins. Elmira died in 1987. But she had people. People who chose her.

She spent holidays with Bonnie Powell and her family. ”She was terribly intelligent, could think rings around almost anybody else,” says Mrs. Powell, who knew Miss Koehl for 50 years. ”She was brilliant. And fun.”

Jane Greene, daughter of the family that owned the Delta Queen, remembers her as a frequent passenger, ”very popular and a great dancer.” Jane’s brother, Tom, says she looked like Fay Wray, King Kong’s beautiful blond co-star.

”She liked the idea of educating women in business,” Mrs. Powell says. ”I always thought maybe she’d fund some kind of scholarship. She never got to it.”

Well, let’s see. What has Miss Koehl taught us?

You can do a lot worse in life than live in a nice house in a real neighborhood, where you could pick the occasional fight and still get the polite respect of your opponents. And you can’t buy or rent the friendship of somebody like Bonnie Powell. Or the admiration of a boy who thinks you look like a movie star.

Her money will go to whatever we need around here. The arts, health, human services, the environment and education. No strings. Whatever we need.

Or she could have built a mansion with a gazillion bedrooms and hot and cold running servants. And she could have driven a car that cost more than the house on Appleton.

She could have.

But, of course, Ruth Caroline Koehl knew the value of a dollar.

 

 

Writing is editing

This coffee mug pretty much sums up my work life over the past couple of decades:

“This tastes bitter…”

HT to my old ad agency pal BJ Hicks for sending the photo my way.

Rock and Soul

If you can sing, I’m jealous of you. I can’t carry a tune, even if you give me a five-gallon bucket.

Let’s don’t.

If you can really belt it out, with a voice that sounds like a gift from the heavens, I admire you. This past weekend, I saw several singers with “killer pipes”… Thursday night, it was local performer Krystal Peterson, a jazz/soul/funk dynamo.

Friday night, it was Fleet Foxes. Their lead singer’s voice is not of this earth, and the vocal harmonies are jaw-droppingly good.

Last night, it was a triple bill. I went mostly to see the middle act, Drive-By Truckers, and they were great, as always. But I was also blown away by the opener, Marcus King, who sounds (and plays guitar) like the love child of Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

And the headliners were Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Susan Tedeschi has one of those rafter-rattling blues voices that sounds timeless.

All those great singers were so inspiring that maybe I’ll start to sing more…

… or maybe I’ll just go to more concerts. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

 

 

 

Getting to the non-meat of the matter

Over the weekend, my older sister sent me a link to this article in Time. WeWork is taking meat off the menu, and won’t pay for meals that include meat:

The startup has told its 6,000 global staff that they will no longer be able to expense meals including meat, and that it won’t pay for any red meat, poultry or pork at WeWork events. In an email to employees this week outlining the new policy, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said the firm’s upcoming internal “Summer Camp” retreat would offer no meat options for attendees.

“New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact,” said McKelvey in the memo, “even more than switching to a hybrid car.”

This is bad news for Arby’s.

But it’s good news for a planet that desperately needs it. WeWork’s new policy is a bold move – one that’s sure to get some backlash, yet one I applaud with my wimpy vegetarian hands.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go full Morrissey on you.

I gave up meat 27 years ago for health, environmental and economic reasons, and it’s worked for me, but I try to avoid prosthelytizing… usually. To each their own.

But “going veg” doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Perhaps there’s a less-meaty middle ground. Even a “meatless Monday” every week would be a big boon in reducing greenhouse gases, improving health and saving the planet.

Livestock alone account for more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and by 2050 the food sector could account for half if cuts are implemented in other sectors along the lines that countries have committed to doing. A vegan or vegetarian diet could cut those emissions by 70% and 63%, respectively.

Changing dietary patterns could save $1 trillion annually by preventing health care costs and lost productivity. That figure balloons to as much as $30 trillion annually when also considering the economic value of lost life. And that doesn’t even include the economic benefits of avoiding devastating extreme weather events that could result from climate change.

(from the Time article… and below are a couple  more fun facts from a CNN article about going vegan)

 

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to give peas (and pea proteins) a chance. Veggie options have come a long way in the past couple of decades.

Take a page from the WeWork workbook and ban the beef, chuck the chicken and pull pork from the menu, at least every once in a while.

C’mon, give it a try. The planet needs you.

 

 

Sunday morning coming down

A trifecta of odds and ends for your morning perusal.

  1. It’s the finals of the World Cup, with… that one team… playing… some other team. (Sorry, I know fútbol is the most popular sport in the world, but I just can’t get into it.)

I’m with Michael Cera

 

2. It’s hard to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor in a backyard garden when your garden looks like an illustration from a Beatrix Potter book:

Sorry for the fuzzy shot… my flip phone is only 3 megapixels, and I didn’t want to bother the bunnies while they were having dinner.

Those little buggers ate all of my cherry tomatoes. But they don’t like basil, apparently. Pesto, anyone?

 

3. I may not be into soccer, but it’s been fun watching the Reds lately. After an abysmal start, they’re actually playing decent ball. And they have the best defensive centerfield in the game:

It’s not the first time Billy’s stolen a homer from Matt Carpenter:

 

Enjoy your Sunday!

 

 

 

 

Odds and ends

A few leftovers on a Monday morning:

Heartbreak for the Hogs

It’s been a couple of weeks since this happened, but I was on vacation at the time (also, still smarting from it). The Arkansas Razorbacks were one strike away from clinching their first national title in baseball at the College World Series. One pop foul away, actually. Then this happened:

Great Bill Buckner’s ghost! You know what happens next… Oregon State ties it, then wins that game and the next one. What a way to lose. But the Razorbacks will be back.

The Great Pretender

I saw The Pretenders in concert on Friday night, and now have firsthand evidence that Chrissie Hynde is the coolest chick in rock and roll. (I’m using the term “chick” because I’m pretty sure Chrissie would use that term also.) While the set list was a bit short on classics (I’d be happy if they played their first album in its entirety), it was still a darn fine show, and Chrissie is still going strong at 66. (Must be that vegan lifestyle.) Props to original drummer Martin Chambers, too, working overtime keeping time on the kit.

I didn’t take this photo… Chrissie doesn’t allow audience members to take them, and our seats were much farther away.

Good news/Bad news

Good news: Superchunk is finally playing a show within 100 miles of Cincinnati. It’s been eons since that happened.

Bad news: The show sold out in 13 hours… before I could snag a ticket.

  

Ending on a happier note

 

 

Dad fail

I have four kids, yet the only one who occasionally reads my blog is my daughter Leah. We were on vacation last week, so I took a vacation from posting. Big mistake. Because Leah’s birthday was last week. And she pointed out to me that I blogged about Peter’s birthday, and Andrew’s birthday, and Gabriel’s birthday, but not hers.

So, better late than never…

Leah turned 15. She’s 6 months away from getting her driving temps, which just boggles my mind. I still picture her as just a few years removed from this shot:

Don’t worry, she got braces.

In addition to being my only blog reader, she’s also the only kid who, when we’re in the car, puts up with my weird bands with weird names who play weird music (the other kids immediately switch the station to hippin’ and hoppin’). She actually likes Car Seat Headrest, and thought it was cool that Craig Finn of The Hold Steady played a house concert at our place. On the drive down to Florida last weekend, we took two cars (wife and kids are staying two weeks, I’m back at work) and the AC went out on one of them. So I got up early last Saturday morning and drove it from our hotel stopping point in Troy, Alabama (so scenic!) to a dealership that was on the way to our final destination, while my wife and kids headed straight to the beach. Here’s a text exchange with Leah:

I didn’t text and drive, I used speech-to-text.

I love her empathy and her sense of humor. And she also crushed it at school this year, coming up just shy of straight A’s (darn you, Latin III). I pointed out that her birthday was her quinceañera and she immediately broke into this song:

Apparently this song clip has become a meme with the teen set. So I’m learning from Leah.

So sorry I let you down, my darling daughter. Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being you.