What I Learned This Week: #184

Monday, February 22- Sunday, February 28

The Week in First/Fake Spring: The cold snap and snowy weather broke this week with a couple a very temperate days and a good dose of sunshine. Some of the best days of winter are when, suddenly, it doesn’t feel like winter. Everyone knows it is a temporary respite, but it a good chance to blow the winter stink off ya. Winter is still here for 6 more weeks, and in Cincinnati last freeze is May 7. My coats and gloves are still at the ready, but the windows are open.

Of course, spring weather meant a lot of people who hadn’t been out in a while made an appearance into the public sector. Findlay Market was extremely busy. The bars and street traffic downtown were very busy. The pandemic may not be done with us, but it appears a plurality is done with the pandemic. Still no dancing or live music, but mingling and mushing together is back for an awful lot of people. Luckily, an awful lot of people are still waiting it out. We’ll see.

The Week in Filled Dough – Spring Pastry Edition: While I wait for Easter’s hot cross buns, this week I bought Purim’s pastry, Hamantaschen. Purim is a spring Jewish holiday that I’m not even in the mood to look up, but I know it takes place in the town of Haman. The pinched corner triangle cookies are traditionally filled with apricot, plum, prune, or poppy seed jam. I was pleased that the young baker at Allez, making her first ever batch of Hamantaschen used Nutella as a filling. I gotta say, the gentile version is winner.

Spring dough! (Raspberry is pictured.)

The Week in Filled Dough – The Empanada Edition: On Saturday I was invited to a friend’s house to join her family for dinner. That is a rare treat in the Covid Era. I was in charge of an appetizer and was super pleased to see the Empanda Guy at Findlay Market because I knew the savory turnovers would be a great appetizer. The owner has been working with Findlay Kitchens for a year or so with the dream of getting his own restaurant. Since the empanada are delicious but the name of company is the not catchy Empanadas Box, I think he could use some marketing savvy.

I don’t mind standing in line waiting to purchase them because I love watching the owner’s heartfelt sales pitch. He explains what empanadas are, where you can find them around the world, and that his are Argentinian, where his family is from…though he is quick to point out that he’s from Miami.

I bought the sampler box and it was a big hit. Heck, I might even get invited back.

Oh, the Empanadas you will eta!

The Week in Going Big: I do not go out to eat or drink very often in the Covid Era, but on quiet weekday nights, every couple weeks or so I’ll meet someone for a drink or a quick meal. This week I went to Horse and Barrel because my friend wanted to try some different bourbons. They had several interesting ones on the menu, and a couple off menu selections that were lined up on a special shelf behind the bar. I picked the one I wanted. It was $25 for a 1 oz. pour. In non-Covid life I may have switched to something less expensive. In Covid life, with my entertainment budget severely in the black, I went for it. Rhetoric Bourbon Orphan Barrel turned out to be a treat. Very smooth, with oak and clove notes. Bottle of it are reselling for $400. This is not something I’m likely to have again.

Hit me with your best shot.

The Week in Feelin’ It: Walking around downtown I get asked for money all the time. Sometimes a person just asks for money simply by asking if I have some. Often, there’s a small backstory, as in can you spare some change for the homeless/a veteran or they want to buy bus fare, or a cup of coffee, or even a beer. Sometimes the stories go on for a couple minutes. Either way, for the most part, I don’t think anyone wants to be out on the street begging for change. I tend not to care if their stories are true or false. If I have a buck or two to spare, I’ll help out.

This week a woman and her dog stopped me with a long story of losing her job in Dayton because of Covid. Now she was back in Cincinnati but she was homeless and she needed 40 bucks to stay in a room for the night. She offered up a pair of cheap sunglasses and a cheap looking bracelet to barter. The story , though sad, didn’t quite ring true, though what do I know. I know this. People’s lives can get really messy and I would have given her a buck or two but I didn’t have any money at hand. For my own safety, I was not going to dig into my bag and open my wallet. For whatever reason though, I did feel bad about not giving her some money and I was surprised about the regret I felt. I only give money to a small percentage of people who ask but I hardly ever feel bad about it.

Several years ago I was a bar late, just before closing time. My friends and I were in the pool room at Arlin’s and the place was busy and raucous. A young woman walked in, close to tears, and started working her way through the room telling quite a story of her boyfriend leaving her in Clifton and how she thought she would need $60 to get back to her home in Indiana. She probably told about 10 people, none of who believed her, and none of whom gave her money. She got more and more desperate in the telling. Then Tony opened up his wallet and handed her the money. We were all stunned and wary even as she tearfully hugged him. She left the bar and we watched through the window as she got into a waiting car.

As you can imagine, the crowd went nuts calling Tony a sucker. He turned on the whole bar and said forcefully, “I did the right thing. She did the wrong thing.” We all shut up. And that’s what I was thinking about when I didn’t open my wallet for the (maybe) homeless lady with the dog.

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