Four on the (flour-covered) floor

Our youngest kid started his first real job this week. (I don’t count the weekly community newpaper route he had for a couple of years, because a parent had to drive him around for that.) He’s 15 and a half now, and he’s working at a restaurant. The same restaurant where his 17-year-old sister works. Oh, and his 19-year-old brother… and his 20-year-old brother as well.

Yes, we’ve got a real pizza parlor pipeline going on. (Uh, not like the hoax one in D.C.) Our oldest even serves as the shift manager a couple of nights a week.

My kids are all gainfully employed. I love it! (So does my wallet!)

Ramundo’s is about five blocks from our house — easy walking distance (although our kids rarely walk it). The business is still doing well during the pandemic (more deliveries, less dine-in), the owners are great folks and they treat their employees well. (“They’re making tons of dough!” #DadJoke)

Photo source: New York Times… that means it’s New York style pizza

There’s only one problem with this pizza payroll situation: some of the pizza slices that are left over at the end of the shift make their way into our house… and into my belly.

I suppose packing on a few extra pizza pounds is a small price to pay for having someone else pay my kids.

Music that mattered. People who cared.

Matt Berninger is a singer and songwriter, best known as the frontman for The National, a group he formed with two pairs of brothers (Bryan and Scott Devendorf, plus identical twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner). All five of them hail from Cincinnati. Matt has a new solo album coming out this Friday. You can read more about that here and here. (Sidebar of note: the album artwork was done by my friend Dale Doyle – you may remember him from this post, when he was “downsized” by the ad agency where he worked for 23 years. What a difference a couple of years makes!)

Artwork by Dale Doyle

Growing up in Cincinnati, Matt tuned in to a tiny station with an even tinier transmitter, broadcasting from 35 miles northwest of the city, in Oxford, Ohio. 97X (WOXY-FM).

From the November issue of Uncut magazine

Nearly four decades ago, Brian Eno made a now-famous statement about The Velvet Underground in particular, and gratification in general:

“I was talking to Lou Reed the other day, and he said that the first Velvet Underground record sold only 30,000 copies in its first five years. Yet, that was an enormously important record for so many people. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band! So I console myself in thinking that some things generate their rewards in second-hand ways.”

Brian Eno in the Los Angeles Times, 1982. Source.

I’d like to think a similar concept holds true for 97X, where I worked for a few years in the late 80s and early 90s. The station only had about 3,000 listeners, but everyone who tuned in was a true music lover. Not all of them started a band (although Matt did), but to a person, they were folks who cared deeply, profoundly, sometimes rabidly, about the music. It wasn’t just about the artists, it was about the community that formed around that music… the “tribe” in Seth Godin parlance. Many listeners grew up misfits and outcasts in “normal” society. At 97X, they found a home, a place where they truly felt like they belonged.

You hear a lot about diversity and inclusion these days – it was baked right into the station’s programming. 97X ran the gamut of “modern rock” – jangle pop, punk, goth, singer-songwriters, grunge, you name it… with specialty shows for blues, reggae, dance, industrial, metal, and local music. If it was new, if it was different, it probably got played. We’d always err on the side of the listeners’ ears – play it and let them decide, not us. To be a 97X fan was to be open-minded, tolerant, adventurous, liberal in the broadest definition of that word.

All of this helps explain why, more than 16 years after the terrestrial station went off the air, and a decade after the internet version died, 97X still holds a special place in a lot of people’s hearts. There’s a FB group called WOXY Forever. There’s a monthly playlist of new music on Spotify, compiled by dedicated listeners who never lost the joy of discovery that was inculcated by 97X.

There are college professors who give speeches about it. There are listeners who have painstakingly recreated countless hours of playlists, and archived each year’s “best of” and the “Modern Rock 500” (a Memorial Day countdown of the top 500 songs). It’s why Dave Tellmann (who worked at 97X for a decade) and I do a podcast about 97X (shameless self-promotion: it’s available on Podbean, Spotify and Apple podcasts).

The fact that Matt Berninger developed his musical tastes listening to 97X is super-cool. But I’m just as thrilled about all the other listeners who made 97X their station. We were all part of a small but mighty band… and we’re still focused on “the future of rock and roll.”

My moment in the sun

A few years ago, we installed 23 solar panels on the roof of our house. Actually, “we” didn’t install them – Third Sun Solar, an Ohio-based company, was our partner in the project. (And by “partner” I mean they did all the work, and we wrote a check.)

I’m not climbing on that roof… these days, I’m afraid of stepladder-level heights

Third Sun likes to write brief articles/case studies about current solar users, to help them promote the concept to other potential customers. I was more than happy to be a pawn in their marketing game. I mean, check out the hyperbolic headline:

I’ve never, ever been a champion of anything… I did finish 2nd in the Clarksville, Arkansas locale of the Punt, Pass & Kick competition back in 1972.

Facemasks are for wimps!

(I suppose I should mention that because 1972 was the first year for the national Punt, Pass & Kick competition, and because Clarksville was (and is) a podunk town, there were only two contestants in my age bracket. So in this case, “second place” was just another name for “last place.” More on that in another blog post… I love reliving humiliating events.)

Hmm, where was I before I started my sports stardom reverie? Oh, yeah, solar panels. The full Third Sun puff piece is here. It won’t win any writing awards — but at least they spelled my name correctly, so I won’t be confused with the evil kid in the Omen movies.

In all seriousness (OK, semi-seriousness), if you’ve never considered a solar installation before, do some quick research on the ol’ interwebs. (Use DuckDuckGo!) And if you’ve considered solar previously, take the next step and get a free evaluation. Third Sun was great – very helpful at every step of the process. I’d highly recommend them. And I’m not the only one:

From this site, which has a very handy and easy-to-use solar calculator

The price of panels has dropped significantly over the past few years, and you still get a decent tax credit (26% in 2020, 22% in 2021). We also got an EcoLink loan from the State of Ohio that knocked 3% off the loan rate (taking it down to 1.34% back in 2017).

Maybe you, too, can bask in the glorious glow of being a solar champion.

The Old Man Olympics

Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve done a kayak/bike ride combo. I lock up my bike near my kayak destination (#1 below), then drive upriver, launch my kayak (#2), paddle down the river about 4 miles, lock up my kayak and pedal back to get my car. (Actually, it’s my son’s SUV, because his has a roof rack and plenty of room to stow the bike.)

The fact that the starting and ending points are near breweries is merely coincidental.

The launch point and the destination are both along the same bike path, so I don’t have to dodge cars on my bike ride. And the bike path extends far beyond the kayak launch point, so I can tack on more bike miles if I want. It’s a nice way to spend a weekend morning.

I also bought a $20 waterproof speaker, so the past couple of kayak rides, I’ve been able to listen to music as I paddle along.

If you count the steps I take hauling the kayak to/from the river, it’s basically the same as the Ironman Triathlon. Or the old man equivalent.

Beer. Here.

The Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati, just north of downtown, has a rich tradition of brewing beer. The neighborhood got its name from the heavy influx of hard-working German immigrants who started arriving in the mid-1800s. And Germans like their beer.

The neighborhood’s distinctive name comes from the predominantly German mid-19th century immigrants who developed the area and became its early residents. Many walked to work across bridges over the Miami and Erie Canal, which separated the area from downtown Cincinnati. The canal was nicknamed “the Rhine” in reference to the river Rhine in Germany, and the newly settled area north of the canal as “Over the Rhine”.[3][4] In German, the district was called über den Rhein.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over-the-Rhine

Prohibition killed off dozens of breweries in the area. But a few survived. And one of those old breweries is getting a major expansion, thanks to a Cincinnati kid who made his mark selling Boston Lager.

Here’s info from the press release a couple of weeks ago:

The Boston Beer Company and Samuel Adams Cincinnati Brewery announced plans for a significant expansion of the brewery located on Cincinnati’s Central Parkway. The project will be the largest brewery investment in the long and storied history of brewing in Cincinnati.

The substantial brewery enhancement will support the growing demand for products across the Boston Beer portfolio, bringing additional production capabilities to the site, including two highly anticipated canning lines and innovative packing equipment to support brands like Samuel Adams, Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea and Truly Hard Seltzer. Once completed, the brewery will be able to quadruple production in Cincinnati. The project will also add more than one hundred new jobs.

Jim Koch, the founder of The Boston Beer Company, grew up in Cincinnati. His father worked at the Schoenling Brewing Co. building that now houses part of Boston Beer’s local operations. The recipe for Samuel Adams Boston Lager came from Jim’s great-great-grandfather. Now his business is adding more than 100 local jobs.

He (Koch) said the 107 jobs created by the expansion will be the kind of well-paying blue-collar jobs that made up the backbone of Cincinnati’s economy in the days when manufacturing was king.

“When I grew up there were a lot of blue-collar craftsman jobs in Cincinnati, like tool and die at Cincinnati Milacron or General Motors in Norwood,” Koch said. “There were once well-paying union craftsman jobs in Cincinnati, and a lot of them have gone away.”

Koch said he worked with the Teamsters union and the median income of the new jobs being created will be $70,000 a year. The contract covering those jobs is being extended to the 130 existing brewery workers as well.

Text in italics above from this Cincinnati Business Courier article

We need all the positive economic news we can get these days, and this Sam Adams expansion is great news. The supply chain challenges of the pandemic (turns out most PPE is made in China – who knew?) have also made more people realize that we need to make more stuff right here in America. And we as consumers need to “shop local” and spend our cash on those products. Including beer. Cheers to that!

This four-minute TV news feature from 2011 gives a nice overview of Jim Koch’s back story.

Entering the same river twice

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

I totally understand what he’s saying… especially when I go kayaking on the Little Miami River, as I did yesterday morning. I’ve paddled it many times, going upriver for as long as my arms can stand it, and then floating back to my launch point at Otto Armleder Park. Each time, the river IS different – rain (or lack thereof), fallen trees and the constant current reshape it, creating new pools and riffles (they’re way too tame to be called rapids).

And if I’m not a different dude each time I first step into the river, I’m definitely a changed man within seconds. Somehow the current manages to wash away my worries, and I’m more attuned to the sights and sounds around me. I can always count on seeing a grey heron or three, but yesterday there was an entire flock of Canada Geese along the shoreline. I passed three middle-aged couples paddling ~7 miles down to the Ohio River. I saw someone fly fishing – he and his travel companion (still sleeping in his/her tree hammock) had paddled downriver and camped overnight. And I had plenty of alone time to ponder the mysteries of life.

The river is different. I’m different. But the positive feeling I get? That’s the same as it ever was.

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