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!

The poor get poorer

Nick DiNardo is a fellow parent of Walnut Hills High School kids. Our sons played on the same junior high soccer team, and our daughter participated in the Ultimate Frisbee club that he leads/coaches.

(Photo: Jeff Dean/The Enquirer)

Nick’s day job is Managing Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio. He was featured in a Cincinnati Enquirer special section a couple of Sundays ago. The Enquirer is doing a four-part series on the lingering effects of the Great Recession, and it’s well worth the reading investment. You quickly realize how the economic collapse of a decade ago created an even greater divide between the haves and the have nots, and how the cards are stacked against the poor.

The article that featured Nick is about payday lenders. After reading it, the term usury comes to mind.

The article is a great example of how hard it is for the poor (including the working poor) to keep their heads above water. All it takes is a single, solitary, unexpected expense — an urgent care visit or car breakdown — to crush you.

Most payday loan customers are poor, earning about $30,000 a year. Most pay exorbitant fees and interest rates that have run as high as 590%. And most don’t read the fine print, which can be unforgiving.

Cincinnati Enquirer article

Read the article to find out how a working single mom wound up paying $3,878 for an $800 loan. And she’d still be on the hamster wheel if not for Nick’s intervention.

Payday lending may not be illegal, but it sure as heck is unethical.

DiNardo hopes the new Ohio law regulating the loans will mean fewer cases like hers in the future, but he’s not sure. While mortgage rates go for 3.5% and car loans hover around 5%, poor people without access to credit will still turn to payday lenders for help.


And when they do, even under the new law, they’ll pay interest rates and fees as high as 60%.


In DiNardo’s world, this is progress. 
 

Cincinnati Enquirer article

It’s not “just business”…. and it’s not anywhere close to being just.

The Marty Party ends today

Marty Brennaman, who has been the Cincinnati Reds play-by-play radio announcer for the past 46 seasons, will step away from the mic following this afternoon’s “titanic struggle” (that’s a Marty-ism) with the Milwaukee Brewers.

When I was 6, my family moved from New Jersey to Arkansas… sparing me the ignominy of being one of those obnoxious fans of the Yankees or Mets. With no geographic allegiance to a particular team, I was an MLB free agent fan.

In those pre-cable dark ages of the early 70s, all we had was the NBC Game of the Week (Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola) and the radio. I quickly latched onto the Cincinnati Reds, also known as The Big Red Machine. Rose, Bench, Morgan, Perez, Concepcion, Geronimo… they were my heroes.

The Reds flagship radio station was — and still is — 700 WLW-AM, a 50,000 clear channel station. The station’s signal covered dozens of states at night, including Arkansas. So I would tune in nearly every game. Marty joined in 1974 (replacing Al Michaels), teaming up with former teenage major league pitcher Joe Nuxhall.

Marty & Joe were the soundtrack to my baseball life. Marty’s signature victory cry of “… and this one belongs to the Reds!” has been the source of thousands of smiles over my lifetime.

Marty’s last call is today. They’re giving away transistor radios to kids who attend, which is certainly anachronistic in the streaming media/smartphone era, but it’s totally fitting for the generation that grew up with him.

Illustration: Clinton Reno (clintonreno.com) from this cool article from a fellow Reds fan

I can’t attend the game (don’t you hate it when work gets in the way of play?), but I’ll be sure to tune in for one last party with Marty.

Source: Cincinnati Reds

Will the (pizza) circle be unbroken

Our daughter Leah started her first real job Monday. She’s working at Ramundo’s Pizzeria. It’s a family-owned small business, but it looms large within the dubbatrubba family.

Our oldest, Gabriel (age 19) has been working there since the location in our neighborhood opened two and a half years ago. Son #2 Peter also started working there when he was 16. Now he’s away at college, but Leah (who turned 16 in June) slid right into his old slot, working the sandwich/salad bar. She didn’t even have to interview – her older brothers’ work ethic got her a free pass.

Gabriel has moved up the food chain (pizza chain?), starting as part of the pizza-making crew, then doing deliveries (which pays better), and now he’s the night manager a couple times a week, working around his class schedule at the University of Cincinnati.

The owner is super nice. The pay is good… the freedom it affords our kids is even better. Gas money for the car. Yet another guitar for Gabriel, some Doc Martens for Leah, and funding for a Robinhood investment account for Peter (dude doesn’t buy stuff… he still has every nickel he ever made).

The owner is named Tony Ramundo… but you probably could’ve guessed that. (Photo credit: Forrest Sellars, Community Press, in this article)

But it’s not about the cash, really. It’s learning to show up when you’re supposed to, working hard when you’re there, treating customers with courtesy and respect, getting along with your co-workers, earning promotions through your efforts. All the habits they’re forming now that will serve them well, well beyond when they’re serving pizzas.

Free shift meals too!

It’s said that small businesses are the lifeblood of a community, and the American economy. I’ll raise a toast to that! (Craft beer buckets available at Ramundo’s for the incredibly low price of five cans for $15…)

photo credit: Yelp

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