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 Enquirershortly after we moved into the house:
Thursday, December 11, 1997 Miss Koehl’s million-dollar
BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati EnquirerRuth 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.
11 years and two days ago, the world lost a great teacher. He also happened to be a heck of a college basketball coach. No doubt he would want them listed in that order: teacher first, coach second.
His name was George Edward Prosser, but everyone called him Skip. He joined Xavier as an assistant coach under Pete Gillen way back when I was in school there, and later went on to become head coach at Loyola of Maryland, Xavier, and Wake Forest. He took all three teams to the NCAA tournament, and had a top five recruiting class coming in when he died of a heart attack on July 26, 2007, after jogging around the Wake Forest campus.
An avid reader and lifelong student, Skip was just as likely to wax rhapsodic about Thoreau or James Joyce as he was to talk about a full-court press. He was always humble, but he did pride himself on passing along life lessons to his student-athletes. His favorite quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Our chief want in life is someone who shall make us do what we can.”
As Skip said, “I thought that was a powerful statement that we need to be around people who challenge us to be as good as we can be.”
On the day Skip returned to Cincinnati to take over as head coach at Xavier, I was dropping off a friend at the airport and saw Skip in the terminal. I went up to him, introduced myself as a Xavier alum, and said “welcome back to Cincinnati.” He replied, “thanks, it’s good to be back.”
This is what he said about returning to Xavier in 1994 to replace Gillen after serving as head coach for one year at Loyola (Md.): “I felt like I was coming home. Xavier wasn’t just a job for me. It was my first opportunity to coach at a collegiate level. I loved the city. Bellarmine was my parish. It was my church, my school. It was a town I considered my home. The minute I left Loyola, I felt great about being back at X.” (Source: this Cincinnati Enquirer article)
A year later, I started working at the ad agency that handled the Xavier b-ball account, and went to a kickoff meeting with Xavier’s associate AD and Skip. He was kind, gracious, humble, funny, totally unassuming and completely engaged. His AD at Loyola, Joe Boylan, said Prosser was “a renaissance man coaching basketball” and that’s a great description.
Skip left this world too soon, but his lessons are still with us.
On July 26, 2007, George Edward “Skip” Prosser, head basketball coach of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, passed away. Only 56 years old, Prosser’s death shook college basketball and the sports world in general. Widely revered in coaching circles, he was one of those individuals about whom you never heard a bad word spoken.
Fully living up to the reputation of a teacher on and away from the court, Prosser was beloved by the players he coached. During an interview with The Seth Davis Show, Chris Paul, who played for Prosser from 2003-05, discussed the immense impact his college coach had on his daily life.
“For me, it’s funny. You think about some people that you’ve known your whole life and they don’t necessarily make an imprint on your life,” Paul told Davis. “I knew coach for all of four years, and I think about the imprint that he had on my life.”
Diving deeper, Paul offered up a couple maxims that he learned from his late coach.
“The words that he said. He used to say, ‘Never delay gratitude.’ That was one of his favorite sayings. ‘If you can’t be on time, be early.’ Aside from what he taught me about the game of basketball, he taught me about life and about being a man.”
“Someone asked me as I was leaving, what do I want people to remember?” Prosser said. “It would make me happy if they thought I stood for what Xavier stands for. That was my challenge and my charge all the time, to stand for what Xavier stands for.”
“Coaching isn’t wins and losses,” Prosser said. “It’s teaching. That’s the reason I got into coaching and the reason I’ve stayed in coaching. I hope that I remain in the business of education.”
[Radiohead is playing a concert in Cincinnati tonight, so I’m reposting a blog entry from May of 2016 below – I’m 53 now, but the sentiment still holds.]
I’m an old man, but I have young ears. I like to listen to cutting edge indie rock/alternative/never-heard-of-them-before artists. I go to way more concerts by up-and-coming bands than a 51-year-old should. Pitchfork would give me a 7.9. But I’ll go ahead and risk losing all my street cred with a single, solitary statement: I don’t really care for Radiohead.
I know that’s considered blasphemy among the music snobs, but I don’t care.
95% of the Radiohead songs that I’ve heard put me to sleep, including the ones from their brand new album. Sure, there are a few that I like… the usual suspects like “Creep” and “Karma Police”. But by and large, I find them to be supremely soporific. We have satellite radio in one of our cars (not the 2003 Honda minivan) and I listen to Sirius XMU, the hipster station. Sometimes when I’m driving and listening (in that order), if I hear a song that’s boring to me, I’ll reach to change the station and realize that I’m changing from a Radiohead tune. Same goes for Thom Yorke solo stuff… actually I find that even more bland.
Music cognoscenti, including many of my music-head friends, will wax rhapsodic about how amazing, brilliant, mind-blowing and genius Radiohead is, but I’m not hearing it. And I’m certainly not feeling it.
If you can sing, I’m jealous of you. I can’t carry a tune, even if you give me a five-gallon bucket.
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!