What I Learned This Week: #151

Monday, June 29 – Sunday, July 5

The Week in Confinement Returns: This week felt very similar to how I felt during the height of the Confinement, but a little sadder. This time people are actually out socializing and I’m often not. I’m not hiding out, but I’m not taking every opportunity to mingle with the potential of Covid. I think it’s the right choice, but it doesn’t bring me a lot of joy.

As cases spiked across the country (and in zip codes near me) and accurate information and guidance remained sparse, it seemed (based on my highly subjective shift at TJ Maxx and my weekly Kroger outing) that more people got on the mask wearing band wagon. That’s good news because it slows down transmission. Also, the death rate is down, predictably, because more young people are contracting Covid and they are the ones it hits least hard. That’s good news. Still, we don’t know why some situations lead to higher transmissions or why some people are more susceptible than others. We don’t know a lot, and the unknowns are keeping me in as much as possible.

Businesses that opened a few weeks ago have closed back down, some because an employee tested positive, some because they don’t want to take a chance. Social outings are back but they are stressful. Besides the unnatural concentration of keeping distance, the logistics of bringing all my own stuff is too much. I live in a little apartment and don’t have the equipment (coolers/chairs/etc) to go sit in a park for two hours to drink beer and eat snacks with friends. Until this summer, I never needed that stuff. We used to be able to share. Now, there’s a risk in me putting my beer in someone else’s cooler because we are both touching the handle. Seems absurd…and it might be. But until we know, I can wait.

I had an easier time in the thick of confinement when nothing was open and everyone was home. Now, there are optional activities available if I so choose. What I’m choosing is how much risk I’m willing to take, not how much fun I could be having. Once this spike is over, I will rethink my social options. Right now, I’m essentially back to confinement mode.

The Week in Lazy Alcoholism: I haven’t been drinking nearly as much as I thought I would staying at home, but I do drink. The grocery has a liquor store, but the selection isn’t as great as a snob like me needs. I need choices! I very much enjoy and very much miss perusing the shelves of a large liquor store. With the help of my phone and Google and chatting with other drinkers I often discover new brands and concoctions to try. But, Covid. So, if I must, I can live with on line ordering and getting curbside service. I picked up an order on Friday and it made my heart beat double time to see the Party Source staff member emerge from the store and make a beeline directly to my car with my cocktail supplies…Brought tears of joy to my eyes!

The Week in Patience + Social Distancing: Since I’m keeping my visits to everywhere few and far between, my summer iced coffee habit from my neighborhood coffee shops was starting to suffer. It was time to DIY.

Iced coffee is more than drinking the rest of the morning coffee over ice sometime later in the day, although there is nothing wrong with that. But there is a proper way to make iced coffee and it really makes the end product much tastier than repurposed breakfast coffee.

The process starts with the freakily large amount of coffee (12 oz) and 7 oz. of water. Purists will have that be distilled/fancy water. I’m a tap water woman. The coffee soaks for 24 hours or so. After that, strain the grounds out (I do a couple passes through a coffee filter). What you have created is a very strong coffee concentrate. Mix 1/2 cup concentrate, 1/2 cup of water (again, purists = water from a crystal clear lake on an organic farm, gathered by virgins and strained through hand woven cheese cloth). Add a splash of milk and/or sugar to taste. Serve over ice. Enjoy the flavor, the savings, and the lack of a visit to the coffee shop.

What I Learned This Week: #150

Monday, June 22 – Sunday, June 28

The Week in Eating in the Street: The last time I sat down inside a restaurant was brunch on March 15, the afternoon of the day Ohio closed down. It already felt dangerous to be in a packed restaurant. Of course I had no idea what was coming.

Even before this week’s spike in Covid cases, I was not feeling comfortable about eating inside a restaurant. I don’t think it’s particularly dangerous if the spacing protocols are being followed and you don’t have a long, leisurely dinner. My thing about not wanting to eat out is that going out to eat is supposed to be a fun and social experience. In the Covid era eating out is chore.

Me and a friend got hungry during our socially distanced walk and, spontaneously (like in the old days), we decided to sit down at an outside table at Revolution Chicken for dinner.  Revolution is one of my go-to restaurants. The food is simple and good and the service is friendly. All of that was true this week, too, but it was soooo different and I didn’t love the experience. I mean, I loved it as much as I could, but I’m still comparing it to what it was.

The outside seating is a “bump-out” into the street  in front of the restaurant barricaded with water-filled traffic barriers. It’s enough space for three picnic tables. My friend and I had our own table. At first we were sitting as far away from the other guests and the from the sidewalk as possible, but we quickly found people at the stoplight with their windows down wanted to chat. That felt strange so we moved in a little and avoided eye contact with cars, a new eating-out skill!

Like a lot of places, Revolution is offering a limited menu and they are serving everything in disposable containers with disposable cups and utensils. I’m trying to be positive about eating out like this and I am so appreciative of the efforts being made by the hospitality people, but I don’t have to love it. I just have to hang with it until we call all do it the way we’re used to.

The Week in Messages: I pass this “Long Live T-Bone” graffiti on my morning walk and I always feel a pang in my heart for the artist who seems to be an emotional wreck. Starting low to the ground, like they are just standing there with some spray paint and no real plan, the spray the “l” in lowercase no less. It looks like they immediately try to erase it. Ooops! Too late. So they just kept going.

They painted around the official plaque of the wall’s official artwork (very polite) and sprayed a passable, but poorly formed heart (this is a nervous, conflicted artist after all). As the letters got closer to the City’s parking sign the sprayer realized space was short. Still, their conscience won’t let them paint onto the sign. So, they improvised. It ain’t pretty but T-bone must be a heck of a human to get this tribute.

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The Week in Lessons: I will jaywalk any chance I get, except one. When I am on the corner with a parent and child and the parent is teaching the kid about crossing the street, I will always wait for the light to change. It’s an unwritten duty and a small thing. Lots of smalls make a big difference.

By the way, I am really am quite the jaywalker. As a friend of mine says, jaywalking means reading the traffic like baseball legend Joe Morgan read the signs to see if he could steal second. It’s a skill.  Since I moved downtown, jaywalking has moved way up on the list of things I think could be a probable cause of my death. (It’s a fluid list. When I owned a house I was convinced my recycling bin would tip over on me.) But traffic lights and crosswalks be damned. I got places to go!

The Week in Keeping Time: I walk home for lunch everyday right around noon and have developed a habit of time checking the church bells. I literally count out all twelve “dongs” like it’s my job to make sure the church keeps accurate time. I don’t know what to do if I “catch” them messing up. Call the Pope? Maybe put in some prayers to St. Expeditus? Does Father Time have an email account? This is the stuff I have time to think about in the Covid era.

The Week in Books: I sensed signs of life from the Public Library via email. Up until now they’ve only been emailing news about capital improvements and internal projects. Blah, Blah, Blah. But what about the books? Last week they sent an email noting some branches would be offering limited services, like computer access and they announced that they would begin taking books back, something they have not allowed since mid-March. This was a great sign. Books are allowed back in. They are also allowing you to order books and pick them up. Some books are allowed out. However, I cannot (yet) browse the stacks which is one of my cherished, most favorite, nerdgasmic activities. It’s coming!

This week, just like normal, they sent me a lovely reminder that couple of books I had checked out in early March are finally due! And, because none of the titles are on a wait list they were all auto-renewed. Thanks library. What I really need is more time with these books.

I should note, I will be sad to see the Mediterranean cookbook go. That book was the perfect thickness to hold my computer during Zoom meeting so my best angle was featured. Oh well.

 

What I Learned This Week: #149

Monday, June 15 – Sunday, June 21

The Week in Street Weed: Finally, for the first time in the 6 1/2 years I’ve been living and walking around downtown, someone asked me if I wanted to buy some weed. We were walking past each other, and his “ask” was benign and friendly, not much different than a cashier at a retail store offering me the store’s frequent shopper program. I stopped in my tracks and thanked him for asking. He laughed.

There are a lot more serious discrimination issues in our country, but the barrier against asking old white ladies if they want week may be coming down.

Oh, I didn’t need his (ahem) service because the street has not been a successful supply chain for me.

The Week in Good Choices: June 19 would have been my 3-year anniversary at my previous job. Normally on my work anniversary I would bring baked goods to my co-workers as at “thank you” for putting up with me for another year! My anniversary date was on my calendar (now deleted) and the entry gave me a reflective chance too look back. In this year of out-of-my-control upheaval, it’s nice to remember that I made some good choices.

I knew by the end of 2019 that I had to leave that job. I didn’t know how, I just knew I would leave by the end of Spring, at the latest. I did not expect to be handed a cover story for leaving so soon, but I couldn’t let that early March moment pass. I may have left partially under duress, at a particularly awful time in world history, but I left to create a new positive and that is where I am.

The Week in Re-Opening – Takin’ a Gamble: The region’s saddest gambling establishment reopened this week.

No name Casino
Branding gone wrong.

Hard Rock Casino was in the middle of rebranding  from Jack Casino when the pandemic closed its doors.  It may officially be called the Hard Rock now, but for their main entrance all they could come up with in the last 12 weeks is:  “____ Casino.” Of course, if they are as lax with their odds as they are with their signage, this may be a good week for a visit.

 

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You’re here to gamble, not read!

To add to the sadness, the “Welcome Back Rockers” sign was already falling down a day before the official launch.

From it’s days as the Horseshoe Casino, through the Jack Casino years, and now into the Hard Rock Casino era, this is one of the few casino’s in the world where I am attractive enough to be a cocktail waitress.

 

The Week in Insecurity: This week I read Beryl Markham’s 1942 memoir, West with the Night. Set in post-colonial Africa, Markham’s recounts growing up on an African farm, becoming a well-known racehorse trainer, and then becoming one of the era’s preeminent air pilots. It’s a breezy read with some excellent observations.

I read the Kindle edition, and for the first time ever, right after chapter one, this notification popped up:

Not Loving It?
Not Loving It???

I mean, c’mon Open Road Publishing. Have a little confidence in your product!

The Week in International Spice: Though not well-known in the U.S. (or at least in the Mid-West), TAJÍN® CLÁSICO is a Mexican chile-lime seasoning that is delicious on fruits and vegetables. On their website one of their taglines is “Take your corn to the next level.” Yes, I want to do that! Foodie websites will have you Tajin-ing your popcorn immediately.

Tajin is sold at my Kroger in the produce section near the nuts and salad toppings. It’s like the store doesn’t know where to put it. It clearly looks like spice, and the label tells you it’s not candy, so it seems like a no-brainer to put it in the spice aisle. But what do I know?

The Week In BLM and Moving Forward:  This week BLM painted Cincinnati’s own Black Lives Matter street mural, taking our cue from Washington, D.C. Multiple artists worked in groups on each letter to spell out the words of change on the street in front of City Hall. I walked by while they were painting it. A pop up storm had just blown through and most of the project was covered in tarp, but the energy was unmistakable.

I was glad to see how organized the event was, showing signs of becoming a movement that can take advantage of this moment to make change. The night of the unveiling of the mural, another well-organized event was held on Main Street. There, several tables and chairs were set up and neighbors were encouraged to sit and talk to one another. All together it was a hopeful day.

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This is the first full image I saw of the mural. It’s beautiful. And yes, I teared up.

The Week in Random Things that Amused Me:

Rapture
What if the rapture already came and only this guy made it?
Pedestrian
Why is this entrance dull? #You just walked into a Dad Joke

The Week in Father’s Day: My Dad was a huge fan of music from the Swing Era, especially Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. Miller’s tunes and arrangements were highly influential and defined the Big Band sound. It’s unusual to hear original recordings of Big Band music in the general soundtrack of our lives, but every now and then at a restaurant, or store, or once, at an airport, In the Mood, Miller’s iconic 1941 tune fills the air. I always think my Dad is near and I pay extra attention because I’m sure he’s trying to tell me something. He always was. Also, In the Mood is a JAM!

 

What I Learned This Week: #148

Monday June 8   – Sunday, June 14

The Week in Personal Growth:  I grocery shop with my Mom on Sundays and I usually buy Kroger Sushi for my Sunday dinner. (There is an elderly sushi master somewhere in Japan weeping over the phrase Kroger Sushi.) Every week Cookie mocks my food choice. This week though, after she was finished telling me about my horrible food choices, she decided that maybe she should try it.

We walked back to the sushi station and I handed her California Rolls (aka – sushi for beginners). I explained how to eat it and not to be afraid of it because all the sushi at Kroger was designed for American tastebuds. The sushi maker, behind her mask, was nodding vigorously and laughing.

I called Cookie midweek and the first thing she said was “Oh. My. God. The Sushi was excellent!” Well, score one of the adventurous eating daughter she spawned! And score one for Cookie for giving her arch nemesis food a try!

The Week in The Internet Thinks it Knows Everything, Maybe it Does: I found face masks in stock and ready to ship from an unusual source, Mother Bee Maternity. Then, unrelated, a friend directed my to look up baby names on a baby name website. I’m interested to see how the internet processes my new maternal interests. Will the collective algorithm think I’m about to be a new Mom or a new Grandma? And beyond the internet, given the way 2020 is going, I would not be surprised to immaculately conceive any time this fall. Stay tuned.

The Week in Covid Era Excitement: Pre-Covid Thursdays  often walked down to Knockback Nat’s where I’d meet up with bunch of neighborhood folks and we’d drink and chat to give the weekend a rollicking start.

On this Covid Era Thursday…I cleaned my hairbrush.

Don’t worry. I held back a little for Friday.  After dinner,  I got to use a new face cleanser.

How about me?!?!

St. Ives
Fresh skin scrubbing qualifies for entertainment in the Covid Era

The Week in Covid Awakening – Part 1: Pony OTR reopened this week for carry out. It was the second to last restaurant/bar in my immediate area to reopen. The last holdout was Japp’s which opened two days later as you’ll see below.

Pony is mostly a neighborhood bar with well-prepared, basic bar food. Monday Meatloaf and Friday Fish Fry are their homey specials. Their thick cut and well-seasoned fries are among my favorites, as are their wings.

When I called to place my order on Saturday the bartender asked if I knew the menu was limited. I didn’t and my heart sank a little thinking maybe wings were out, but just as quickly, I remembered the sign outside the bar specifically said ‘Open for Wing Carry Out.’ Good thing. That sign is what started my powerful wing craving. The wings did not disappoint. I’m glad to have them back.

Side Note One: Standing at the bar to pick up my wings, I had that old pre-Covid craving for draft beer. I got a Bell’s to go. The bartender put it in a clear plastic cup. I sipped on that roadie all the way home. Nobody cares about open container enforcement anymore. Look, I really hate the pandemic, but we’ve known each other long enough that I’m starting to see some of its good qualities.

Side Note Two: To get the phone number to call in my order I googled “Pony O” and the rest auto filled. Immediately though I started getting ads for Pony-O Hair, a place that sells thingies to create pony-tails and buns. Me and my nape-length hair are amused.

The Week in Covid Awakening – Part 1: Saving the best of the no-food bars for last, Japps on Main re-opened Sunday to a wholly new Covid Era bar concept. Owner/Founder/Bar Historian Molly Wellman implemented Covid restrictions with a little flare. The new rules are fairly typical in the new era – you need a reservation, ordering and payment are contactless, and the seating is properly socially distanced. What’s different here is redesigned, garden look of the space. In front of the bar where there once were bar stools that held customers’ butts there are now pedestals holding plants; but the space is as warm and welcoming as possible. Plus, the same staff is still there making their same great cocktails. I’m reserving a seat for a Japp’s Manhattan very soon.

The Week in Being Sure: I went to an ATM with my new card and there were a few set-up questions. For every answer I keyed in, they prompted me with “are you sure?” Like, I chose proceed in English and PNC asked if I was sure. Si! They asked for confirmation for every question except the one I keyed in wrong. So now my instant “fast withdrawal” is set at $10 not $100. Dammit!!! On the plus side, I’m sure the people at PNC data think I’m super frugal which may help me in future loan requests, right?!?!?

The Week in Protest Art – An Update: Last week I posted a picture of an painting that listed kids killed by police officers. I thought the blank space was for a poignant reminder that more kids names would probably be added unless we address systemic issues with laws and law enforcement.

Actually, the painting wasn’t finished. The artist filled in the space with names of even more people killed by police and it is just as devastating.

 

What I Learned This Week: #147

Monday, June 1 – Sunday, June 7

The Week in Pandemic vs. Protests: In this week of protests, I found it difficult to keep our other national tragedy in my head, that is the pandemic. It’s still here, of course. We’d all just been tentatively coming out of our houses when the protests took hold and sent us right back inside. Businesses closed again. As the week went on though, and tensions decreased, we tried again.

On Saturday morning I walked to Findlay Market, which was quiet for a Saturday but not empty. On the way I poked my head into the used record store on Main to say “hi” to the owner, one of my people I used to see out and about a couple times a week but haven’t seen since March. Then, I interrupted an OTR Underground Tour (which I NEVER DO) to say “hi” to the tour guide, another friend of mine that I hadn’t seen since March. By Sunday I was able to sit at an outdoor table and have a beer with a subset of the regulars at Knockback Nats. Oh, last call was at 5:30. It’s like an Amish bar now. 😉

Not much about seeing these folks, or having a drink was normal, but it’ll get me there for now.

Knockbacks
Knockbacks –  A perfectly normal sign and that’s something!

The Week in Supporting: Over the course of the week I spoke to several neighbors about what it was like for us to live in the neighborhood where many of the protests and clashes have taken place. This is the densely populated area within a few blocks radius from the Court House and the Justice Center.

Neighbors are weary of the sirens, the level of uncertain activity, and, especially the presence of the police helicopter. But, by and large, we are so supportive of the cause that we believe our minor inconveniences are nothing. We believe that BLM is important for our entire community and to achieve that goal, some of us need to suck it up and let the people most effected and those with the most energy take the lead.

The Week in the Art of Protest: Many businesses boarded their windows last weekend in anticipation of violence that, thankfully, did not materialize. The boarded up storefronts gave the streets a desperate look reminiscent of the days when the city was in economic decline. By mid-week though, the artists of the community began using the plywood as large easels filling the streets with beautiful and poignant art and messages.

One of my favorites, because of its simplicity and intimacy, can be found on a building opposite St. Mary’s Church. I saw but cannot find the video on Facebook of one of the young nun’s from the Church on a ladder spray painting her simple, raw messages of hope. On the video she is alone, moving the ladder from window to window. I don’t know if she had church permission to spray paint “God is Love,” and and so on,  but her and her conscience were most definitely answering to a higher power.  Also, I would watch a movie about a rogue nun who goes on an inspirational tagging spree.

Here are some other messages and art:

 

 

The Week in a Change is Gonna Come: Last weekend Cincinnati was a tinder box of emotion in the wake of the murders by police officers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Even on Monday as protesters once again marched through the city during business hours the situation on the ground was crackling. Part of this tension can absolutely be traced to the incompetence of the White House and the inflammatory messages and authoritative actions taken by the President on Monday.

On Tuesday, all four of the officers in the George Floyd’s murder were finally charged. The criminal charge against man who crushed Mr. Floyd’s neck while Mr. Floyd screamed “I Can’t Breathe” was upped to second degree manslaughter.  The protests were working and the tide seemed to be turning. Here in Cincinnati, the curfew was moved from 8 pm to 11 pm. There were smallish events during the day and early evening. Protesters came out every day and then went home. On Saturday and Sunday, large, very peaceful protests were held downtown and across the Tristate. Even our whitest, most conservative suburbs held some form of protest.

The pictures below are from the Sunday afternoon rally downtown. Unlike many previous events, this one was well organized. It attracted a diverse group of people who vented their anger at the system in the most democratic way possible.

Personally, I was honored to support this cause and to see so many of my neighbors turn out in the name of justice and change. The sheer number of people allowed voices to be heard that have been suppressed or silenced. Showing up in force could pave the way for this energetic, smart, and compassionate generation to make some positive change.

 

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The Week in the Community: I wanted to post this picture separately. I’ve been taking heat all week for daring to give the Cincinnati Police Department (Not the Sheriff’s department) praise for their part in this week’s civil discord. I am fully aware they made mistakes, but as a resident and supporter of the protesters and their message, I am generally pleased with the CPD. At today’s rally officers were handing out masks. I saw a lot of positive interaction between citizens and officers. In the hood, we are familiar with our beat cops, and they are not our enemy. The structure of policing in America is fundamentally flawed and needs a complete overall. The idea all cops are bad is as ludicrous as all cops are good.

Officers handing out masks
Officers handing out masks

 

The Week in Anthems: A few months ago, out of the blue, I started thinking about Sam Cooke’s amazingly haunting Civil Rights anthem, A Change is Gonna Come.  Recorded in 1963, Cooke wrote the song after he and his band were turned away from Whites Only hotel in Shreveport, LA. Heavily influenced by another Civil Rights anthem, Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, Cooke felt he wanted to personally address the racism he experienced.

He had the song fully orchestrated, more than a typical pop song, and the music of the three verses sounds like a small symphony. He only performed the song live once because of the complexity of the arrangement and the dark message he felt the song carried. A Change is Gonna Come seems like the perfect song for our still very imperfect world.

What I Learned This Week: #146

Monday, May 26 – Sunday, May 31, 2020

Note: I work on this blog periodically through the week. This week there is a noticeable tone change as I worked through my regular nonsensical musings and came up to May 25 when a white police officer murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis and protesting/rioting broke out around the country and here, 700 miles away, in my neighborhood. How can I reconcile the nonsense and the horrific in one short post? 

Well…I believe the joy of life and the horrors of life (and all the other emotions) live side by side all the time. I can’t control what comes at me. So, here is an emotional melange. My week changed drastically. 

Let’s start with the nonsense.

The Day in Covid Era Normal – Part One: I definitely had mixed emotions heading out for my first Covid era haircut. To be that close to another human for that long is exactly what we’re not supposed to do during a pandemic. I went because it was important to me to support my guy Kyle.  I have to have faith that the salon was doing everything to protect themselves and me. Masks for both of us were required. Diligence was required. Caution was required. I’m sure a lot of the precautions we are taking now will surely go away and we will surely laugh at some of the things we are doing. At this stage in the pandemic though, I’d rather play it safe, and, honestly, I’d rather stay home.

The saddest part was not being able to give Kyle a big hello and goodbye hug but we sneaked in a highly controversial fist bump.

P.S. Are there other service industry members who routinely get hugs like hair stylists do? Can you imagine grabbing the guy who does your oil change or a random cashier or waiter and be all like, “Bring it in here Big Guy! Love you!”

The Day in Covid Era Normal – Part Two: Because I was already out and because the shop was on my way home, I decided to stop into Joseph Beth to pick up a dictionary. It was my first extraneous shopping trip of the Covid Era.

In all my life, I have never spent such a short time in bookstore. I had to hold back my tendency to browse. Right now, I’m just not ready to be inside longer than I need to. I had to concentrate on my simple purchase. With the library being closed and me finally being in a room with so many books I just wanted to take my clothes off and roll around on the New Release table.

The Day in a Simple Blast From the Past: I saw a dude walking up 14th street carrying a red solo cup. Suddenly I couldn’t remember the last time I saw someone walking up the street carrying a red solo cup, a simple, ubiquitous sign of summer. I got a little emotional.  I couldn’t help myself and called out to the guy how happy I was to see him with the cup ’cause I hadn’t seen one in so long and because it reminded me of normal. I’m sure he thought I was a crazy person, as he kept walking he said, “I’m glad I could give you some good vibes.” Thank you random dude for playing along!

The Day in Switching to Post-Confinement: During the entire Covid Confinement I kept a white board in my apartment that I used to track time and daily tasks. I used it to motivate my own self into getting things done and to help keep me aware. Everyday I would wake up and write the day of the week and the date (like nurses do for hospital patients!) and any special things I may have had planned for the day (often blank). I completely erased the board today. I can go back to a calendar and to-do lists.

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The final Q daily. Going back to a real calendar with real appointments and such.

The Day in Pronunciation and Fine Dining: Nicola’s Italian restaurant is one of Cincinnati’s fine dining restaurants and I treated myself to take out on Thursday. Take out from a fine dining restaurant is counter intuitive as sometimes I’m just embarrassed to ask for a doggy bag, but I do. And at fine dining, the staff packages it, which is so fancy!

Anyway, I ordered Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, meat sauce and pasta which I pronounce Bowl-ahn-ayz, ending on the hard Z sound. That works for a good midwesterner like me, but the guy who read back my order pronounced it Bowl-ahn-ayz-uh, adding a very continental extra syllable. I liked it, but I’m sticking to my acceptable way of prouncing it. I’m still scarred from ordering Gnocchi at an Italian dive bar. I asked for Noh-kee, the waiter pointedly said Nyawk-ee. The next time at another restaurant I asked for Nyawk-ee and the waiter pointedly said Noh-kee. Come on!!


So that would have been my post for the week. But the brutal death of George Floyd coming on the heals of the death of Breonna Taylor (in Louisville) at the hands of reckless police officers led first to protests in those cities. By Thursday L.A. joined in. Friday night nearly every urban area in the country was holding protests.

I don’t have anything new to say. Militarized police forces have been running roughshod over local communities in urban areas for years. Forces are infiltrated with white supremacists. Black and poor communities have been mistreated and marginalized for so long most white people accept the narrative that they are to blame for all their social ills. Look, I could talk about how bad the system is and how it needs to change, but this blog isn’t about me solving anything. It’s about sharing what happened to me this week.

And what happened to me this week was my community tried to hold it together while agitators of unknown origins tried to escalate and stir things up. I’ve pulled and edited some posts I made on Facebook. I haven’t had time to reflect, so these raw words will have to do for now.

Protests Friday as I reflected Saturday afternoon:

The emotional tinderbox of race relations caught on fire in urban areas all over the country, including my Cincinnati neighborhood OTR.

I was woken up by a helicopter circling above the area at about 2 am and immediately knew something was wrong. The sound of sirens and honking horns far exceeded a normal weekend night. I watched crowds of people being ushered out of downtown on local TV until 3 am (the main violence was over) and could hear the city settle down by 3:30.

This morning on my way to work, the neighborhood was still asleep. When I returned this afternoon it was bustling. I passed the end of a peaceful protest in Washington Park and block after block of businesses boarding up in anticipation of tonight’s activities, which honestly and sadly we expect to turn to full on, very dangerous rioting.

People here are frazzled, but the kindness in neighbor’s faces (faces of all races) was apparent as I walked down Main Street to grab some takeout food. The second night of protests are always worse than the first. Kids from the suburbs want a piece of the action and they don’t care at all about OTR or downtown. Also, we know non-local agitators from who knows where or what side will be infiltrating and inflaming the already high tensions.

This is going to be a long night and a long couple of days and weeks for downtown, but people are invested in this community and we will find a way past this. The riots hurt. We live in a country that allows this shit to happen on a pretty regular basis and here we go again.

Love to my downtown peeps. Stay safe. Stay indoors. And if you need to go out, make it count for humanity and for our town. This sucks, but we got this.

Protests Saturday as I woke up Sunday Morning:

Waking up to a beautiful morning in OTR. Scrolling through news sites reporting on the violence and unrest in other cities, I am counting my blessings that I live here.

You can read how police and protesters behaved elsewhere, but our community held it together last night in a difficult and tense situation. Our @Cincinnati Police Department deserve great praise for last night. Was every second perfect? Of course not. But they did a decent job. (Note: I wrote ‘great’ in my FB post, but I think decent is more accurate.) The majority of protesters were out to be seen and heard. The people who were out last night are the ones who can bring change. We need them, their ideas, and their energy. We need change.

I got some flack from my liberal minded friends for praising the police. I’m of the mind that saying all cops are bad (the ubiquitous protester ACAB sign) is as naive as all cops are good. Neither viewpoint helps us move toward justice. And police, we can easily forget as they stand behind all that expensive, state-funded gear, are human beings.

My basic point is that there were two opposing forces Saturday night, the same opponents facing off against each other in cities across the nation. Cincinnati did not look like the other cities and the responsibility for that belongs to all the players. We can sort out the sordid details later.

Protests Sunday as I post this just before the 9 pm curfew:

4:25 pm – The peaceful and large protest in Mt. Auburn in walking down Vine St. into OTR. Don’t know where they are headed. D1 is my guess. There were problems there last night. Two helicopters are flying flow around the northern part of downtown (one is police, not sure what the other is). That sound is very unnerving. A large group of people is unnerving. Police on the edge is unnerving. I hope I community can hold it together one more night. And then we can worry about tomorrow.

8:38 pm – Protesters are peacefully standing at the Courthouse four blocks from my house. I’m watching a live Facebook feed to keep abreast of the situation. It seems more tense than yesterday. I am safe inside my apartment. I hope for the best tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned This Week: #145

Monday, May 18 – Sunday, May 24

The Week in Reopening – Food and Drink: By and large, most restaurants in the downtown/OTR area are open, at least for carry-out. Dining in is still spotty, but many places have created new outdoor street dining. Bar bars (that is, bars that don’t serve food) are taking longer to figure out how to reopen. Some places, especially those with outdoor patios tend to be open with limited seating capacity. Others are doing whatever they can do. A few bars, even some with small food menus, are still totally shuttered. Liberty on Main is only open Friday and Saturday afternoon for package liquor sales. The Drinkery on Main, normally a very busy dance bar on the weekends, is open but they placed picnic tables on their dance floor. I’m willing to bet dancing will take place ON the tables at some point! (The Fireball shots are no match for social distancing!) I took a walk around town on Saturday night around 6. It was way too early for the bar crowd and a little early for the normal dinner crowd but people were out. The vibe was low key and hesitant, but upbeat.

The Week in Reopening – Retail: I work part time at TJ Maxx and my store reopened this week to Christmas levels of business. People were willing to wait 45 minutes in line to get the deals. Though not required, a little over half of the customers were wearing masks during the shifts I worked. Associates are required to wear masks and get temperature readings before clocking in. There is a lot of wiping. Customers are as safe as they can be given the mask situation. The associates though are on shakier ground. The space behind the cash registers is not designed for distancing. All the registers are not being used, but there is still limited space and associates can’t help but encroach on each other. Same with the break room. Precautions are in place, but it is a smallish area where people need to take off their masks to get a drink or eat. Everyone knows to stay 6 ft apart, but human nature and the nature of the work that needs to be done closes that gap often.

The Week in Reopening – We’re all Trying:

Example One – Wiping: At the grocery store, there are times when a team member stands at the door wiping down cart handles as customers enter. At other times, customers have access to paper towels and a spray bottle of what we would assume is an approved virus killing cleaner. (I mean, I can’t question every single thing!) Customers pick up the bottle to wipe down the cart, cleaning off the last person’s germs. Perfect. Except…No one wipes the spray bottle that every customer picks up with their dirty (potentially) Covid hands. See? We try to to the right thing, but it’s damn tricky.

Example Two – Weather: A sudden rainstorm swept in moments after I stepped back into my apartment on Saturday evening. I could only guess how restaurants and diners handled it. Naturally those diners already seated outside had to rush inside for weather protection but that move hampered the social distancing efforts set in place for Covid protection. I’m sure a bunch of people looked at each other and asked, “Now what?” Now what, indeed.

100,000 Dead…A Second Wave in the Future?: My big point is that I can’t make heads or tales out of the torrents of information available about Covid. I am reasonably sure there aren’t definitive answers on how it spreads, who is susceptible, how it lives inside and outside our bodies, and many more basic questions. It is my hope that all the people who went out without masks and without concern for social distancing not to mention all the people who just went out and tried to do their best don’t cause a huge second wave. Seeing people in action firsthand and seeing news reports from around the country, I fear for the next few months of the pandemic.

The Week in Moving Past Confinement:  As the pandemic situation gained momentum in March, I knew I had to take some preventative action. Just a couple days before the Governor of Ohio announced the statewide shutdown, I got my ass to the store and created a Pandemic stockpile of supplies and food. I shopped just ahead of the masses. 

The grocery store that morning was busy and starting to run out of what we now know as Pandemic basics – toilet paper, pasta, dried beans, flour and yeast, etc. But I got what I needed, including (and especially) Original Flavor Doritos. Filling my freezer and buying long lasting pantry items, I loaded up. I have never had that much food in my house at one time. I had to create a space for it, so I cleared off a shelf of my book shelves in the living room. My stockpile became part of my decor during confinement.

Here at the 9-ish week mark, I disassembled what was left of my Pandemic pantry. There wasn’t much – a box of pasta, one bag of rice, two bags of dried beans, and a loaf of bread I forgot about and pushed to the back of the fridge. I did not foresee the neighborhood bakery remaining open, nor that the quality of my toast would be such a mood booster in the early days of confinement. 

I did, however, keep my “sick” supplies at Pandemic levels. I’m still flush on Gatorade, generic Advil, crackers, and chicken noodle soup. When we leave the house, our chances of getting any sickness increase, of course. I’m not terribly worried about getting Covid because survival rates are high and I’m prepared to ride it out if my symptoms allow it. I’m worried about getting it with more complex symptoms at the peak of a second wave (should that happen) and not being able to access appropriate care. Again, I don’t know shit, but I am thinking ahead as best I can.

The Week in Can We Just Talk About Something Else?: The last of my freezer stock up for the thing I’m not talking about in this paragraph, was a beautiful Rump Roast from Eckerlin’s in Findlay Market. Buying a cut like this from the butcher, they tend to leave the layer of fat as is. Cooking the roast fat side up, allows some of the fat to melt into the roast, a natural flavor additive. I cooked the meat with a collection of odd root vegetables, the ones that don’t get enough love – parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga – plus I added a couple potatoes for familiarity. I’ll eat roast and veges together for a couple meals until all that’s left is a small hunk of meat. I’ll slice that down for sandwiches. #Frugal

Cooking the roast I got to use my new 2020 technique of salting meat early and profusely. I learned this from Samin Nosrat’s immensely popular cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat. In the salt chapter she talks about salting big cuts of meat hours or even a day before cooking it. By doing this, the salt works its way into the meat, enhancing the flavor through and through. (It’s science, so I get some of you won’t believe it.) Early salting is by far the best technique I’ve learned in a long time, and for something so easy (if you can remember to do it), the results are noticeable.

The Week in Kitchen Matches: How mundane is this? But, this is where I am today. Let me ask you this…Where in a grocery store would you expect to find kitchen matches? Near charcoal? Next to toothpicks? In the household tool aisle? I’m asking because I still don’t know. I checked those places, asked two staff members and still came up empty handed. At some point in the Covid era, you have to get out of the grocery store. If my Mom burns her house down because she was trying to light a candle using a secondary method (flint? magnifier and sunlight?), I will have words with the Kroger stockers.