The Paris of the Midwest (according to a Mighty Duck)

Emilio Estevez is living in Cincinnati… and loving it!

THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Emilio Estevez, 1985, (c) Universal Pictures

In a recent interview in Vanity Fair, here’s what he had to say about my adopted hometown:

That’s mighty high praise from Mr. Mighty Ducks. We’ll take it. We’ll also take the #11 slot in the Travel + Leisure list of The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2021. Here’s what they have to say about Cincy:

The first clues that the Queen City — a Rust Belt capital that was hard hit by the decline of American manufacturing — was poised for a comeback started a few years ago, when tech startups and small businesses moved into disused Over-the-Rhine warehouses, filmmakers flocked in to take advantage of tax breaks and early-20th-century architecture, and historic spaces like the city’s Music Hall got a much-needed polish. Now, the urban revival is official — but sneak in a 2021 visit and you can still claim to be a trendsetter. Check into the Kinley, which opened its doors in downtown Cincy in October with a much-buzzed-about restaurant from chefs Kevin Ashworth and Edward Lee. While you’re in town, dine at restaurant standouts Please and Goose & Elder, explore new outdoor installations at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and pay a visit the lauded Cincinnati Zoo, whose animal dispatches on social media are the only reasonable justification for keeping your Twitter account. —Lila Battis

#1 in the Estevez Index, and #11 for Travel… not too shabby. Better watch your back, real Paris!

Step into my office

I’m know I’m one of the lucky ones – I managed to remain gainfully employed during the pandemic (much to the astonishment of my co-workers). And I’m luckier still to be able to work from home. But after a full year of toiling away in my basement, it was time for a change of scenery.

Yes, Peter Brady taught all of us that when it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange. And I went for a major change of venue. Now that Spring has sprung and the weather is warmer, I’ve set up camp on an outdoor, second floor deck at our house. It’s covered, so rain isn’t an issue.

Far left: watchdog. Left screen: a picture of my blog on my blog (it’s very Escher). Right screen: trying to add to my collection of George “Goober” Lindsey memorabilia.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes being surrounded by nature. Watching the peach tree blossoms come in. Checking out the birds as they chow down on the bird seed that my wife puts in the feeders… and watching those sneaky squirrels always manage to get into the feeders, so matter how “squirrel-proof” they claim to be.

I even enjoy listening to my neighbors chickens. (Yep, she’s got about 12 hens… makes me feel like I’m back in rural Arkansas.)

According to the eyeball experts, one of the best ways to prevent digital eyestrain is the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. That was really tough to do when I was stuck starting a a basement wall. It’s super-easy to do now. And the fresh air is working wonders for my brain. I’m no longer a half-wit, I’m now easily a 55% wit.

Even when I’m in, I’m out.

Now if only I could get the solar panels on our roof to power my laptop…

Finding the Beauty

It’s easier to feel positive, to feel optimistic, now that Spring has arrived.

But even in our darkest hours, the beauty of the world has always been there, as these two short audio clips from recording artists remind us.

Here’s Valerie June from the Broken Record podcast:

“Just being here on earth and the magic of us being here… this stuff is really a gift.”

And here’s Kelli Scarr on NPR’s All Songs Considered talking about the inspiration for her new song “Eve of Spring”

“In this historic period of loss and reflection, Spring arrives as a reminder that renewal is always available to us.”

Here’s Kelli Scarr’s song:

And here’s the entire Broken Record podcast episode featuring Valerie June talking about her new album The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers:

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width="100%"></iframe>

Don’t Peel Back The Onion

March Madness begins in earnest today. I took the day off from work to turn on (multiple TVs), tune in (CBS, TNT, TruTV and TBS) and drop out (of the Bracket Challenge).

It’s always fun to watch the games. But try not to think about how the players – who are the “content” for the $900 million that the NCAA will rake in during the tourney – aren’t getting a nickel.

According to the reports coming out of the Indianapolis area this week, players are being fed fast food, given free deodorant as a perk, provided with puzzles in the rooms they must isolate, and, on occasion, being given warm breakfast foods that have long since gone cold and no utensils to eat that with. In essence, college age kids are being shut in a hotel and given conditions that would make the average middle aged traveler lodge an endless series of complaints and demands to talk to the manager.

From this post on Banners on the Parkway

“It’s become clear to even the biggest NCAA apologist that we are playing this tournament primarily to deliver content to media rights partners,” said ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a former Duke player. “That’s what this season was about.“

Source: Indianapolis Star article

Enjoy the “redemption” story of Rick Pitino, who has taken his fifth team to the tournament. Pay no attention to the facts about why he left his previous coaching gig at the University of Louisville.

In June 2017, the NCAA suspended Pitino for five games of the 2017–18 season for his lack of oversight in an escort sex scandal at the University of Louisville involving recruits. Louisville’s national championship from 2013 was eventually vacated as well. In September, Pitino was implicated in a federal investigation involving bribes to recruits, which resulted in Louisville firing him for cause.

Wikipedia

Watch #8 seed LSU take to the court tomorrow afternoon, led by guard Ja’Vonte Smart. Don’t think about how LSU Head Coach Will Wade was recorded on a wiretap, talking about making payments to Smart.

I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just [expletive] sick of dealing with the [expletive]. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.”

ESPN had reported Dawkins had at least three calls with a number belong to Wade between June 19, 2017, and June 30, 2017. Smart announced his commitment on June 30.

“Dude. I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong,” he said. “The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit. It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”

Source

Enjoy the games. But don’t peel back too many layers of the NCAA onion, because it’ll make you cry.

Lost & Found

On March 13th, 2020, I was in a large crowd. Working in an office with 800+ other people, and attending the monthly all-company meeting – 200+ people in the same large room. Then everything changed.

On March 13th, 2021, I was in a large crowd. Lined up with dozens of other folks at Cincinnati’s downtown Convention Center. We were six feet apart, and wearing masks, as we waited to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot. Things are changing again, but this time for the better.

photo credit: WLWT-TV

We lost a lot during our “lost year”: family members, friends, neighbors. In-person events went by the wayside too: church services, concerts, sporting events. Everyday tasks like grocery shopping became fraught with potential peril. The unseen monster was always lurking… around every corner, inside every stranger.

We lost a lot, but I hope we’ve also gained a bit of perspective during our long lockdown. The old saw that “if you have your health, you have everything” has more impact now. We’ve rediscovered the simple joy of a walk outdoors. We’ve found new ways of staying connected despite social distancing. And perhaps most important of all, we’ve realized that what happens half a world a way can have a huge impact on our daily lives. We’re all connected on this big blue marble that we share. Maybe we should start acting like it.

Royal Flush

I’ve never understood the fascination with the British royal family. The only Queen from England that I’ve ever been even mildly interested in was the one that played “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

I take great pride in NOT knowing the names of the babies that have been born into “The Firm.” Honestly, I still get William and Harry mixed up, because I really could not care less.

Part of it is my lifelong aversion to pomp. And the Royal Family is all about that pomp. They have different giant, garish hats for every day of the year.

Whereas I’m more in this hat camp:

But I just don’t get why one family that inherited a bunch of real estate gets to rule the entire country… then again, I suppose we just went through four years of that in the U.S. of A. too, with King Donald.

Whereas I’m more in this King Don camp:

Mmm, rich chocolate and creamy filling… where was I? Oh, yeah, bitching about the British folks with the wacky hats. This article from the Irish Times really hits the nail on the head. I love the lede:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic?

Funny… and true. But these two sentences cut to the heart of my issues with the entire concept of a “royal family”:

The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British nonconstitution. 

That’s it – enshrining classism. Sorry, if you’re trying to sell me a fairytale that says you’re better than me, and you get to reign over me because your great-great-grandpappy was a bigwig back in the day, I ain’t buying it. And I’m sure as heck not bowing down in front of you, or forking over my hard-earned cash to pay for your Disney-fied wedding. Go find a sorcerer to transform a pumpkin like everyone else does!

The Royal Family is a concept that’s played out. Time to shut down the circus and send the clowns away.

Winter walks help you chill

From “Winter Woods,” an essay in the book Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

Better hurry, your time for a winter walk in the woods is coming to an end…

But Spring woods are nice too!

Give 3 and Get 3 Free!

“There is a wonderful, almost mystical, law of nature that says three of the things we want most—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained when we give them to others. Give it away to get it back.”

John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach

I got this pearl of wisdom from this week’s “3-2-1 Thursday” newsletter from author James Clear. Each week, he offers up 3 ideas, 2 quotes from others, and 1 question to ponder. If you’re not already on the email list, you can sign up here.

Band of Brothers

Yesterday I attended a happy hour with my old (both in age and tenure) buddies from Xavier. These gatherings actually are billed as “Hoppy Hour” because we meet at a different local brewery each month… and the person who picks the pub (we take turns) also picks up the tab.

A decade ago, we couldn’t have pulled off these monthly gatherings. But we’re off Little League duty now. Our kids can fend for themselves, so there’s a bit more free time in the ol’ schedule. Heck, we’ve got a few empty nesters in the gang already… and even a few grandparents!

Attendance has been great. Some of that’s due to our newfound leisure time, but I think part of it also has to do with Father Time. That ever-ticking clock reminds us we’re all going to shuffle off this mortal coil, and while we may be shufflin’, we’re still picking up speed on the downward slope. As the Buffalo Tom song says:

“Now my time behind is greater than my time ahead.”

Back in college, we were thought we were invincible. Now we know better. We’ve all come face to face with mortality. Knees and hips and sometimes hearts are wearing out. Parents, in-laws, even peers from our college days have passed on. It’s sobering… and a “Hoppy Hour” won’t bring our dearly departed back, but spending time with friends is a soothing salve for the soul, and the laughs are an over-the-counter heart remedy.

The “old guys” from the Muppets are now our peers.

Yes, we still talk about sports and bring up ill-advised-yet-somehow-we-survived stories of the beer-and-testosterone-fueled antics of our youth. That’s what guys do. But the gift of time has helped us realize that basketball games aren’t life and death. That empathy trumps ego. Caring matters more than career. We’ve all taken different paths over the past 35 years, but now it’s nice to reconnect with our fellow travelers.

If we have our health and a few close friends, we are truly blessed. If we can meet them for a beer or two every once in a while, our cup overflows. (Sorry about that… hand us a bar towel and we’ll clean it up.)

Cheers to you, my brothers from other mothers!

Monkey + Darts + Time

Warren Buffett is an investing legend, of the “buy and hold” variety. His annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders is full of his folksy wit and wisdom. Here’s my favorite part of this year’s letter, which came out Saturday

The tens of millions of other investors and speculators in the United States and elsewhere have a wide variety of equity choices to fit their tastes. They will find CEOs and market gurus with enticing ideas. If they want price targets, managed earnings and “stories,” they will not lack suitors. “Technicians” will confidently instruct them as to what some wiggles on a chart portend for a stock’s next move. The calls for action will never stop.

Many of those investors, I should add, will do quite well. After all, ownership of stocks is very much a “positive-sum” game. Indeed, a patient and level-headed monkey, who constructs a portfolio by throwing 50 darts at a board listing all of the S&P 500, will – over time – enjoy dividends and capital gains, just as long as it never gets tempted to make changes in its original “selections.”

Productive assets such as farms, real estate and, yes, business ownership produce wealth – lots of it. Most owners of such properties will be rewarded. All that’s required is the passage of time, an inner calm, ample diversification and a minimization of transactions and fees. Still, investors must never forget that their expenses are Wall Street’s income. And, unlike my monkey, Wall Streeters do not work for peanuts.

It’s easy to focus on the monkey and the darts… but cagey ol’ Warren also baked in some key principles of his billionaire success: patience, level-headedness, inner calm, diversification and minimizing fees.

As Buffett notes, “the calls for action will never stop”… but many times the best move is no action at all. Your patience will be rewarded.

36 years ago, you could buy a share of Berkshire Hathaway for $1,860. Now that same share is worth $377,835.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find 50 darts and a monkey.

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