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.

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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.

Corona Confinement – Final Daily: #65

End of Confinement – May 20, 2020

The Day in the End of the Daily: This is my last daily post about Confinement. I’ll have plenty to say about the Covid world, but the timing will be different.

Beginning tomorrow I’m leaving 24/7 confinement, reentering the workforce and stepping out on a regular basis. As confinement comes to a close, I’m thinking that my first day back at work is totally going to kick my ass. After eight weeks of (essentially) sitting down, snacking, and napping, the concept of remaining upright and alert for eight hours seems exhausting.

Handling It: Daily reporting on my Covid Confinement began on March 17, technically the second day of the two month long Ohio government recommended shutdown. It took me a minute to figure out I just stumbled into a new way of life. It took me another month to take control of confinement. At the start I gave into some unhealthy impulses, and I’m glad I did. It was fun to eat all those Doritos and lounge around. Recently though, I  got back on track to eating better, exercising, and refocusing. Turns out, learning how to live in a healthy, relatively upbeat confinement took more effort than I expected. From that, I can assume the next stages of dealing with the Covid will take some effort, too. The situation isn’t ideal, but it is doable. This is my first pandemic and I think I’m handling it pretty well.

Uh Oh, Here’s a Mini-Rant: There were 75 U.S. deaths on the day I first blogged about confinement and today there are over 90,000. We’ve all learned a lot since then and some of what we’ve learned is true. Much of our information is false or disingenuous, and there is no clear, reliable plan on the best course of action we should be all be taking as a nation to protect each other and ourselves. I try to keep this blog apolitical, but history will surely show that our government has failed us, making the U.S. Covid experience more deadly, disturbing, confusing, and negative than it needed to be.

Maintaining a Positive Outlook: As confinement chugged along, I did not have many bad days, though there were, of course some down ones. Luckily, I was able to bounce back. My brain seems to be programmed to face and deal with stress. This blog was one of the tools I used to give my days structure and calm. It allowed me to put a mostly positive spin on this temporary upheaval and share every day “adventures” I’d otherwise would have taken for granted. Where I was in my life and my general attitude helped me adjust, as well. I had already been planning a summer of personal change and came into confinement demon-free and at peace with my existence (that’s how I roll). It seems that readers found something positive in the way I faced the Covid tumult and we all need something positive to hang onto right now.

Covid Life, the Thrill is (Temporarily) Gone: In the short term, I don’t expect to return to the life I had been living previous to being sheltered and plan to stay in more than normal. One of my favorite pre-Covid activities was to sit at a restaurant/bar, at the bar, and enjoy an adult beverage and/or a meal while reading a book. I could interact with the bartender and other patrons, sharing the experience and each other’s presence. Truly, I’ve met many neighbors who have become friends via the food and drink scene.  Due to the current restrictions I will not being able to sit at a bar. For now, this makes sense. Though I’m confident these restrictions will pass, I don’t want to sit at a table for for one. This does not seem fun to me. I will go out with friends for drinks and meals, but my “alone” time out (if that makes sense) has been put on hold. I’m looking forward to seeing what museums, movie theaters, and the library are going to look like. I’m very sure my desire to leave the house will still be strong.

World Health is Complicated, People: I had actually read about pandemics and world health previous to Covid. The Spanish Flu beckoned a whole new way to think about world health. In the modern era, I was blown away by how many people around the world dedicate their lives to studying and controlling world health. You don’t read about them because they are largely successful in identifying outbreaks and tamping down infections before things get out of hand. World health is super complex with a lot of moving parts. In the years to come we will surely see we overreacted and underreacted in ways we can’t see right now. We will laugh about some of our miscues and cry about others. One of the things most disturbing about an unknown virus barreling down on the world is how many people think they know all they need to know. People…I love them, but they are the worst.

But the blog… I don’t think I can pull off a daily blog post. I’m planning for the blog to go back to weekly posts on Sunday evenings, continuing to cover the minutiae of the entire week. I’m not ruling out special mid-week coverage if I have the time and feel the need. I do get the biggest kick writing all this stuff down!

I started blogging 3 years ago as a way to make myself write every week. I keep the site purposely static (boring), and untagged so people can’t find it unless they are looking for it. Pre-covid, I was averaging 1-3 readers a week. Thank you to everyone who has found and embraced this mind-dump of mine. I hope reading my experiences helped you in yours. The two dozen or so of you who have read the daily confinement updates, including what I assume to be one loyal reader from China, have definitely made me improve my writing game. I’m glad to have shared confinement with you. We’ll be in touch down the road, I’m sure.

On to the next stage of Covid. Let’s own this Pandemic!

 

 

 

 

But the Jeans: On Day-One of Confinement I reached into the Goodwill box and pulled out a pair of ill-fitting jeans with a blown out crotch. I wanted to wear these old jeans so I wouldn’t have to “waste” wearing my real clothes. (That sentence is equally insane and pragmatic, wouldn’t you agree?)  I thought I’d gotten all the use I possible could from my Ann Taylor jeans, but I was wrong. They were the perfect pandemic uniform. I felt like I was getting dressed to stay at home even as I was dressing like a homeless person in cast off clothes. Fare thee well Jeans of mine. You have served me well.

 

Corona Confinement – The Big Q: #64

The Big Quarantine – Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Day in Modern Banking: I stepped inside a bank today to deposit my sweet, sweet $1,200 government check. [Thank you Uncle Sam for throwing us this mere morsel. It does not hide your incompetence.] Walking inside a bank wearing a mask, my brain kept playing old Westerns. I could picture Bonnie and Clyde, Butch and Sundance, or just some random two-bit robber named Ringo out robbin’ stagecoaches and banks. I am well-steeped in those movies! Let me tell you, one thing you do not want running inside your head when you step into a bank wearing a mask are the words, “This is a stick up.”

I did fine, though I almost called the teller “Pardner.”

The Day in More Rain: Blah. It’s gross and if the rain isn’t actually falling, the air is damp and yucky. There are mushroom growing where mushrooms should not be growing. As part of my effort toward conquering confinement, I refuse to clock less than 10,000 steps, rain or shine, daily. My rain walk, designed to keep me close to home, is literally the square block my apartment sits on. A lap is .4 of a mile. I just go around and around. Perhaps I should walk and perform Singin’ in Rain so my neighbors really have something to see. I’m not the greatest live performer. So far I just have the do-di-do-do-do-di-do-di-do-do-do part down.

The Day in Fish Soup…eh, Chowdah?: Living here in landlocked Ohio, I believe I am allowed to take some liberties with my fish dishes and last night I winged it and whipped up a small batch of what looked like fish soup, but dammit, I’m calling it Chowder. The broth has a splash of milk which makes it New England style. That’s where the similarities end. I didn’t quite get the broth texture the way I wanted it and I used cod instead of clams. Sue me! With some corn, diced potato and minced jalapeno I made Cincinnati Chowder. I liked it, but don’t tell the folks from Boston!

This is one of the recipes the NY Times food section calls a no-recipe recipe. The directions give an outline and you use what you have on hand and cook how you want. I’ve been cooking long enough that I don’t always have to use exact recipes. I have dozens of chicken dishes and stir frys and, especially, soups, that I create from culling the ingredients already on hand. A classic around here is Sunday “Garbage Soup” where leftovers and veges past their prime come together for one last hurrah.

 

The Day in (Who You Callin’ A) Hoe Cakes: This morning as I continued my odyssey to try to use my overstock of cornmeal, I settled on Johnny Cakes, sometimes known as Hoe Cakes because hookers love eating them. Okay, I just wanted to type that sentence. The cornmeal based pancakes were known as hoe cakes because that was the tool cooks used to cook them on. Hookers might enjoy eating hoe cakes, but they are not part of the story. (Boring!)

Anyway, I made a batch. Johnny Cakes are the precursor of pancakes, but the base is cornmeal, not flour. I read that cooks have pretty strong feelings on whether the meal is mixed with milk or water. I used water. Eggs are a common and less controversial addition. I’m trying my best to not eat the whole batch today.

 

Speaking of making up things as you go, the recipe I picked this morning was from an old fashioned cookbook  that I use when I’m looking for basic, home cooking. This looked like the batter I’d seen in internet recipes. Welp, I made the rookie mistake of not reading and RE-reading the recipe. As I worked through it, I’d added just one cup of milk and I knew not to add any more. If I had, the batter would have made a crepe like pancake. Sorry Ms. Fishburne, your recipe disappoints. I hope your traditional marriage made it through the Corn Pancake crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corona Confinement – The Big Q: #63

The Big Quarantine – May 18, 2020

The Day in Looking for Stuff To Do: A rainy gloomy day and I used the morning portion of it to do some kitchen organizing.

I go through my pantry some rainy day in May every year, Covid or not. I picked May because that was the month I moved into my own house. Around my first year anniversary, I pulled something from the pantry that I didn’t remember buying. Of course I don’t remember the exact moment, but I bet it was one of those things where I stared at it in my hand, maybe giving it a slight toss as if I could divine how the beans or coconut milk or whathaveyou, made it to my pantry. Racking my brain to discern Why did I buy this? or When did I buy this? and then just throwing it away.

I hate to waste money like that and I tried to buy smarter. To control what was on hand, I would have pantry weeks where I wasn’t allowed to buy anything new for my meals, relying exclusively use what was on hand. Unintentionally, I trained myself for pandemic cooking.

balsamic
I like how European the Balsamic packaging is. And yes, one of the bottles is vermouth and, sadly,  I don’t remember why I bought it.

 

The one thing I couldn’t stop buying for years was bottled salad dressing.  Using expert level couponing and watching for sales, the dressing was super cheap. I don’t know why I thought I needed so much salad dressing. I certainly wasn’t buying that much salad. I guess I liked buying salad dressing. I mean, I like buying socks and have too many of those, but at least they don’t expire.

The year I threw away 6 bottles of unopened, expired dressing was the year I completely stopped buying bottled salad dressing. Now I make my own and it turns out, every May is a good time to pitch the unused portions of last year’s salad dressing ingredients like vinegar so I can freshen the collection for summer. I’ll pretend I planned it like that!

 

The Day in Mask Organizing: [Oh, hey, look at me finding a clever new thing to say about masks! ] I keep leaving the house without a mask. Some days remembering to grab money/id/phone/keys/ is asking a lot. Now I gotta add a mask? Yes, I do. My masks are now hanging on individual hooks near the door. If you didn’t know they were for disease prevention, it’s a rather festive collection.

The Day in Truth in Advertising: Planters Mixed Nuts were on sale at Kroger this week. If you’ve been grocery shopping lately, you know sales are sparse. I took the deal even though I know Planters Mixed Nuts is almost all peanuts…well, no, I’m mistaken. The can says LESS THAN 50% PEANUTS (by weight). I wanted to see for myself. So I ate all the peanuts first. It looks like Planter’s is not lying. I allow the statement.

Two things: First, I’m kind of a purist and don’t think peanuts even belong in a true mix of Mixed Nuts. Mixed Nuts (sans peanuts) are refined, something the Bridge Club snacks on. Peanuts are declasse, for ballgames and beer. Technically peanuts aren’t even nuts: They are legumes. For my money I like my peanuts separate from the real nuts and Kroger brand’s Simple Truth bag of (peanut-less) mixed nuts is very classy.

Second, I’m a fan of eating through a single component of a snack mix. I might even eat all the almonds next. (I understand this makes me a monster to some of you. Sorry.) This is a childhood habit. On the rare occasions we got M&M’s growing up I always ate the brown ones first because it made the candy jar more festive. Perhaps, more importantly, it would drive my brother crazy…and of course, that made me do it every time.

 

The Day in the Weaves of OTR: I’ve long wanted to take pictures documenting hair weaves that have fallen off the hair-dos of (probably) young women and onto the sidewalks of OTR. My thought is to make a picture book combining the sights of the city and the fake hair of its dwellers: The Lost Weaves of OTR – A Collection. There are always plenty of examples to consider. I see extensions and weaves on the ground a lot, especially on the weekends. Today’s sighting was a rare complete braid.

Weaves of OTR
Lost weave of OTR

 

Corona Confinement – The Big Q: #62

The Big Quarantine – Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Day in Cool Cats and Kittens:  A couple times a week during confinement I’ve been getting the greatest postcards from a friend who lives in town. I haven’t seen her since maybe early March and I look forward to her brief notes about how she’s spending her days. She has been sending a variety of postcards she had around her house, including some that she bought on past vacations. No time like the present to get some use from those cards, right?

Turns out my postcard pal visited Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, made famous in the Netflix docu-series Tiger King that was the big hit of the early confinement. Big Cat Rescue is the home of (“That Bitch”) Carole Baskin and I feel like I’m holding a little bit of pandemic history.

Big Cat Rescue.jpg
Murder suspect, Hoover Tiger

The Day in Bird Watching: On my walk today a very large black bird swooped down on the side walk a wee bit ahead of me. Given the emotional stress of Covid, you can forgive me for briefly thinking the angel of death had made a dramatic appearance.

As I got closer, it took off and landed on the highway sign above the street. I’m intimidating like that!  Another of the same bird was already waiting up there. I don’t know much about birds, but I’m going to say these were turkey vultures. If I was home-schooling myself, this is just the kind of chance encounter that would necessitate an essay. Here’s what I would say:

“Downtown Turkey Vultures travel in pairs. Despite their tough reputation they  mate for life. They like to scare the bejesus out of city dwellers who can be dumb as rocks when it comes to nature. Downtown buzzards feed on rodents and pizza crusts.”

You can see my lack of research would not bode well for a passing grade in Earth Science. Only the second sentence is true.

I look forward to my senile years where I tell the story this way: “I remember the strangest thing about birds during the pandemic of 2020. I saw two bald eagles hitching a ride to Kentucky.” I have to photo to prove it.

By the way, in addition to being a bird, a vulture is A contemptible person who preys on or exploits others. I’ve known a few vultures. A turkey vulture hacking away at a carcass is a great metaphor for predatory human behavior.

The Day in Writing, Words, and Poetry: My apartment is full of pens and paper and notebooks with pages of the best ideas for stories and poems. I write all the time. I delete all the time too. I just need to get the excess words out of my system. I do this thing where I write out what I want to say to someone as a way to get my thoughts in order. It’s pretty rare when my preconceived thoughts match the reality of the conversation, but it is a helpful exercise. I also journal every day making a note of three things that day that made me happy plus other life events I find notable at the time. Basically, I’m well-documented.

I do have a poetic streak and consider myself a desk drawer poet. I distill life events into poetic thoughts all the time. But I don’t always take the time to work on the poem until it is finished, meaning someone else can read it.

This is a long winded way of saying one of my pandemic goals was to submit a chapbook, a small collection of poetry, and today I checked that off my list. The submission is for a contest that pays cash money and digital publication to the winner. I doubt very highly that my collection is a contest winner, but that isn’t the point. I don’t care if I win or get published. I do care that I finished 22 poems. Because there is a reading fee, I supported a small literary press publication, Frontier Poetry. The collection is called Sidewalks and Bricks: Life in the Urban Core. That title practically begs the folks at Frontier to take it seriously!  I’m pretty happy to have sent it out into the world.

Due to the contest rules, I can’t post the poems here, but I can post one from the collection that was previously published online at the Vincent Brothers Review. I know most people aren’t into poetry. That’s cool. But if you are, I hope you like this one.

A Night at the Symphony –Music Hall 

 

The establishment 
The old crowd 

Chatter bounces off the lobby marble 
Auditorium seats built for a smaller generation 

Hey, they still have the same concert master 
He always seems humbled by the attention 

The orchestra tunes up
A quintessential sound 

The conductor turns his back 
Tap Tap Tap 

The music starts with the low trill of bassoon 
We settle in 

 The oboe player really wants to scratch his nose 
…I need to focus 

 The cellist has quite a leg hold on his instrument 
…Focus 

 I need to buy tomato paste 
…Dammit 

Okay, 3rd and final movement 
I think I recognize this part 

The flutes and violins start to go at it 
The horn section joins the crescendo 

The percussion players move into position 
I expect a big, loud finish 

Boom…Everyone on stage is banging and blowing 
The conductor is flailing 

The timpani bursts 
Furious tinging from the triangle 

Da-da-dum
Outstanding 

A split second of silence 
Rapturous applause 

 

Originally published online @ Vincent Brothers Review, May 2016