Love in the Time of Cholera. Art in the Time of COVID.

(My work) is not an answer, it’s a question. I think the world is coming to a place that raises a lot of questions: technology that can dehumanize us, the constant stimulation of information, of news, of everything. We have never been exposed to so much. That brings us to a place where the pace of things is so fast we don’t have time to step back and slow down and see what’s happening. I try to make it a very personalized experience. It has a meaning for me and it’s the reason I do it. But for you or someone who sees it, it’s what the art is saying to you. That’s the real meaning of the artwork, which I don’t own. The viewer owns it.

Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, known as Vhils, in this Cincinnati Business Courier article.

Vhils first large-scale solo exhibition in the U.S. was supposed to be happening right now at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, but the center is closed due to the pandemic.

“You have to work on it every day or else you start to lose it pretty quickly.”

18-year-old Cincinnati artist Owen Gunderman, known as Tenzing.

Owen Gunderman (a.k.a. Tenzing) was supposed to have his first solo exhibition this weekend at a Cincinnati gallery. His upcoming high school graduation won’t be as festive either. And his dad (a friend of mine) has been working countless hours during the pandemic, as a senior director of emergency services (and interventional cardiac and radiologic services too!) at an area hospital.

Please check out the Cincinnati Magazine profile of Owen and his vlog below.

So close, and yet so-cially distant.

In case you missed it (and there’s a 99.9% chance you did miss it), the podcast that I co-host is yesterday’s news! Er, I mean, it was in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer. What do you mean you don’t subscribe to a newspaper? What do you mean you don’t even know what a ‘newspaper’ is?

“Daddy, this iPad is broken…”

Luann Gibbs wrote a “Top 10 ways to practice social distancing” article, and there we were, right at the top of the list. OK, eight spots away from the top of the list. But still, we got some ink!

Full disclosure: Luann Gibbs used to work at 97X, the station that is the focus of our podcast. But neither Dave nor I knew that she was going to mention us.

“Extra, extra… two old guys talk about a radio station that died a decade ago!”

It was our “the new phone book’s here” moment.

Actually, Dave and I don’t harbor any delusions of grandeur. (Occasionally, we do have delusions of adequacy, but we lie down until those go away.) Our podcast is extremely niche. Some podcasts have thousands of regular listeners, some have hundreds… we have “tens” of listeners. As I often say, “we’ve made about 50 people very happy” by bringing back fond memories of a small-but-mighty and much-beloved indie rock radio station. But it’s always nice to get a bit of recognition for the hard work you’ve done.

And now that we’re all under house arrest, there’s never been a better time to check out some new podcasts.

Mom-trepreneur

Here’s a very cool article from a very cool website (Women of Cincinnati) about a very cool person (Jackie Roberto) who runs a very cool business (Madison Design Group).

photo from the Madison Design Group website

The article is about how Jackie balances work and family. We’re good friends with Jackie and her husband Phil (he’s the organizer of the “Fool Moon” late night bike rides that I occasionally attend… and he helped clean up this messy WordPress site of mine, too). Our kids went to grade school together, and now are in high school together, so we’ve witnessed their balancing act firsthand, with a ton of admiration.

The interview was conducted by our mutual friend, Judy Zitnik, yet another parent from the grade school gang. The profile is part of a series on Women of Cincinnati:

There is no single definition of an entrepreneur or the obstacles they face. As part of our year-long series sponsored by Main Street Ventures, our community chose 12 of the biggest obstacles female-identifying entrepreneurs face, and we found 12 women who spend their days conquering them. Explore the whole series here.

That’s Jackie on the right (and our mutual friend Judy Zitnik Finn on the left).
Photo by Chelsie Walter

The entire interview is great – please read it. In the interim, here are some money quotes:

Because to be a good creative, you have to have a life. You have to be immersed in life to know how to communicate or to write or to design. You have to be informed in that way to be better at what you do. So we try to make sure that we work really hard, and then we leave. And then you do whatever you want. It’s not work hard; play hard. It’s work hard, and then have your life in whatever way you define it.

As a fellow creative, I wholeheartedly agree with this. Time spent disengaged from work is part of “filling the well” so that you have creative energy when you reengage.

The moment you have the baby, you’re like, “Stay home with the baby or work?” Well, staying home looks a lot easier until you realize it’s actually harder. It’s way harder. You know, I’ve always joked, “Well, clients never wipe their nose on my legs. They never cry. (Or if they do, they never cry in front of me.)” 

Honestly, though, it is way harder to stay at home. I think it is the unsung amazing work for our society. And it has almost always been on women. It’s changing slowly. It’s a noble and important job. But it is still a thankless job. And you know, we know some stay-at-home dads, and I’m sure they feel the same way.

Well said, Jackie!

For me, it’s not really about money or all the outward signs of success. It’s not that I’m immune to all that, but it’s just about living modestly so that I have enough money to have interesting experiences.

Jackie and her husband Phil are all about the interesting experiences. Just salt-of-the-earth, kind, caring human beings raising two wonderful daughters… while also carving out meaningful careers. I’m tempted to say “we should all be so lucky” but really it’s more like “we should all follow their example.”

Step it up. And down.

A couple of Saturdays ago, Mrs. Dubbatrubba and I went on a two hour urban hike. We started just north of downtown, went to Washington Park, then north to Findlay Market… then up (and later down) several sets of steps that took us to Mt. Auburn, Pendleton and Liberty Hill.

During our 11,000 steps, I saw streets I never would’ve found otherwise, many of them with homes from the 1800s. I’ve lived in Cincinnati for 30+ years, yet on that Saturday hike, I walked through parks I never knew existed, and enjoyed views of the city that I’d never experienced previously.

View from Jackson Park in Mt. Auburn

We went past old breweries, down original cobblestone streets, through an alley filled with street art… and up really long sets of steps.

Photo: Scott Beseler

Cincinnati lays claim to being a “City of Seven Hills” (although no one can agree on which seven are the official ones). Back in the day, these steps were part of the daily commute for the folks working in the breweries and meat-packing plants of “Porkopolis.”

Liberty Steps. Photo: Scott Beseler

This Soapbox Media article from 2016 has great information about the steps that help connect the city, and its residents. Here’s an excerpt:

At the height of their use in the 19th Century, over 30 miles of hillside steps once connected the neighborhoods of Cincinnati to each other. The first were installed by Mt. Auburn residents in the 1830s in order to gain easier access to Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. These days, some are more travelled than others and many have been closed; some are in decent condition, but others are trashed and overgrown.

As a reward for the climb, the ascending pedestrian is greeted at the top with scenic vistas of downtown, the Ohio River and beyond. Not just for recreation, however, the hillside steps are also an integral part of our city’s transportation system and provide a pedestrian-friendly connection to some remote areas of the city.

“What separates Cincinnati from other major cities are the steps, and they are essential.  San Francisco has beautiful hills, but most access points are on private property. You never get a really good perspective of the hills, valleys and views unless you are in an expensive hotel or restaurant.”

Carl B. Westmoreland Jr., as quoted in John Clubbe’s exhaustive and learned Cincinnati Observed guide to the city – from the Soapbox article linked above

Kudos to Derek Scacchetti for organizing and leading these walks, through his Urban Rangers group.

“As Urban Rangers, we bring people together to make a habit of purposeful walking, to explore the urban environment, and to be advocates for pedestrianism and our city’s public spaces.”

(Check out the Urban Rangers Instagram for some great tour shots.)

And a shout-out to Spring in Our Steps for helping to clean up, preserve and mark many long-neglected public alleys and stairways. An interactive map of more than 300 sets of steps in Cincinnati is here.

From the Community Walk website.

There’s a lot to be said for being a tourist in your own town. You don’t always have to go across the country or around the world to enjoy new sights and make new friends. Sometimes adventure awaits a lot closer to home.

Not all heroes wear capes. Not all champions get trophies.

Morgan Hentz is an all-universe volleyball player. Two-time All-American, and two-time NCAA champion with Stanford.

I worked with Morgan’s dad Mike at an ad agency eons ago. We still get together for the occasional happy hour, but those are few and far between, for reasons that will become patently obvious when you read this wonderful article about Morgan and the Hentz family on the Stanford Athletics website.

Morgan’s younger brother Louie had a cancerous brain tumor at age one. Louie and his mom, Kerin, spent a year at St. Jude’s in Memphis… yes, a full year… while Mike mostly stayed home with Morgan and her sister. Wrap your head around that for a moment: a mom separated from her young daughters, a father 500 miles away while his infant son was fighting for his life.

Then the other shoe dropped: at age 3, Louie was diagnosed with autism.

Louie does not interact through spoken language – other than simple wants and needs. He’s 16 and weighs 300 pounds because of his meds, and can be difficult to control physically. His life has been one of appointments and therapists. His development has been slow — hopeful on a good day. He is repeating some lines from familiar movies and videos, creating some optimism about brain development. But there’s no way to know.

Morgan is a superstar, but so is the rest of her family.

photo from GoStanford.com article. ISIPhotos

Long ago, Kerin and Mike learned to sacrifice things that other couples take for granted – nights and weekends away, dinners out, and even time with their other children. Instead, they’ve learned to roll with whatever happens and be prepared for whatever comes next.

Every day is a new challenge. Mike and Kerin have been playing at the highest level for 16 years. They’re world champs in the game that matters most.

“I feel like I would never wish what Louie had on anyone, but I think that because of my family and being able to make the most of the situation, I’ve learned a lot from him and my parents. They are the biggest role models in my life — the sacrifices they have made for our family. They have always put us kids first.”

photo from GoStanford.com article

Please read the article by David Kiefer. It’s a beautiful profile of a beautiful family.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

I’m not talking about the “holiday season” (I’m a USDA Certified, Grade A Grinch about that nonsense).

I’m talkin’ ’bout the college basketball season. And in particular Xavier University basketball. As an alum, as a 25+ year season ticket holder, I love it — it gives me something to look forward to during the dreary days of winter. Even the cheesy hype videos give me goose bumps.

I used to just have a single season ticket, sitting with a few friends. But last year, I added another season ticket, so each game is also a chance to spend some quality time with one of my kids, or my wife, or a friend. The games have created some fantastic memories over the years…

Here’s to many more magical moments. Let’s go X!

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