Physicist or Farmer

I took a personality test this week and suddenly every personal decision I’ve made in my adult life started playing on a loop in my head. I don’t necessarily want to relive the events of my life, but for the sake of success on a personality test, I might go back and make some minor adjustments. Just this week I cut someone off in traffic…accidentally…I thought she saw my turn signal if not my determination to merge. She started screaming and honking her horn. Yes, I would like a redo. Would the test even be able to know there were lots of mini-redo’s in my past?  I didn’t think so, but maybe, just maybe, it would inadvertently unearth some personality pattern I’d missed.

Had I missed something? Before I knew I had to take a test, I thought I was a pretty okay person. As soon as I found out someone was going to actually measure my personality I suddenly thought I may have been just kidding my myself about how “good” I thought I was. And what is good anyway? Like, I tip well. Shouldn’t that count for something? If there was a section on tipping on the test I would pass for sure. (Note: There was not a section on tipping. Oh well.)

Discussing personality tests with my friends, I found the feeling of mild anxiety is surprisingly common. (Common in my unscientific sampling of a ½ dozen friends, that is.) The last thing most of us want is forced self-awareness. The only warts we want to see on ourselves are actual warts we can treat with medicine, not a psychological wart stemming from our sacred personality.

My test was for work purposes and there were a series of questions asking me to rank a list of four job titles/professions from most wanted to least wanted. I was to assume I had the skills and the pay was equal to do every job (I wish!). Throughout this section, similar job titles recurred. For example, I kept ranking librarian higher than accountant and reporter kept beating clerk. Although an accountant at the library in the periodical section would be a great job for me.

One grouping of job titles included physicist and farmer. I don’t remember the other two choices. All I know is suddenly, literally out of the blue, I entertained the idea of being a physicist. I wanted to unlock the secrets of the universe, and I most certainly did not want to run a farm. As I mused over the question, I thought I could really pull this off. If you had just met me and I said I was a physicist, I’d like to imagine you’d be impressed and not surprised. On the other hand, if you just met me and I said I was a farmer, I’d imagine you’d be upset that I was flat out lying to you.

After daydreaming my way through that question, the anxiety of what the test was trying to uncover returned. I hope the results aren’t terrifying. I hope they don’t find that I have the psychological makeup of a serial killer. And that if I do, they stop before I get moving on that trait

Put a Ring on It

For the first time ever, I needed to go to a place that would buy a gold ring. This is something I’ve read about in books or seen in movies. It didn’t seem like the kind of behavior that I would aspire to. Still, I had a ring that I needed to dispose of.

Gold isn’t something I have hanging around the house on a regular basis. But at my part-time retail gig in 2015, I found a gold wedding-type band on the sales floor. Company policy says that associates are to turn found valuables over to management, and if the item isn’t claimed in a year, the associate gets the property.

Well, I guess someone was at the end of a bitter relationship, because the ring went unclaimed and in 2016 I became the owner of the symbol of their love. I totally wept…with joy. I don’t know anything about the value of gold but was expecting the metallurgic value would yield enough money to pay my cell phone bill or buy me a cheap lunch. Love is so beautiful.

But first, I had to find a place to buy my wares. A jewelry shop would buy back a ring, but the internet said a pawn shop or buy-sell-trade shop would give me a better return. I opted for the “better return” and I quickly thought about super-sizing my lunch.

The place I found “American Trading Company: The Original” did not inspire confidence. Were there really non-original American Trading Company’s out there? Color me skeptical.

ATC (See, I just made them seem cool) sits in a grim building just a block behind the shiny CVS behind a sign made from self stick letters that were pealing. That’s pealing, not appealing. Except that the guy behind the counter wasn’t a kooky-eccentric, like in the movies, the place seemed instantly recognizable and regrettable. Probably part of the guidebook for setting up a buy-sell-trade store is to make it look sketchy. I saw right through what they were doing. They wanted to look like they couldn’t afford to pay me top dollar. One look at the sign and the building was supposed to be a clue that these folks were barely making it themselves. They were psychologically preparing me not to angrily demand higher pay outs.

That in the shop full of new and used guns allowed me to immediately think, “I’ll just take what they offer and get the hell out of here.”

The guy said the wall of automatic weapons were mostly new items, as were the handguns in the display case. The wall of shotguns were mostly pawned. Guns made up the bulk of merchandise in the small, dirty shop. While he weighed and processed my precious find, I fantasized about buying a handgun, as one does when in a handgun-based establishment. I picked out the only one that would possible fit in my hand, a gun so small that if I shot someone, it would be an inconvenience more than a life threatening event. Still, a girl can have Clint Eastwood sized dreams

Mr. Pawn/Buy-Sell-Trade offered me $38 for my ring. I’m sure I couldn’t buy a wedding band for $38 but I sure as hell can buy a decent meal.

Tax Man

A few years ago I started using a tax guy. I’m not going to mention that this decision capped off my entire working life of saying that I don’t need to use a tax guy.

I’ve had a change of heart. I now figure using the expertise of a tax professional is not much different than using the expertise of a dentist. Sure, I can clean my own teeth, but perhaps a third party’s skills might be welcome. Plus, it’s not weak to admit there are things I can do, but maybe cannot do well.

For example, my friends and I could put together a very respectable pick-up baseball game. We might drink more beer, move slower, and miss some of the finer points of the game compared to the pros. In fact we will do all of those things. But, an alien checking in on earth would still recognize what we were doing as a baseball game.

This is exactly how I do my taxes: lot’s of alcohol, confidence without skill, and a near complete blackout of the finer details of tax code. The IRS recognizes what I give them as a complete tax form, but it’s anyone’s guess what I’ve really done.

The decision to use a professional tax preparer wasn’t easy. For starters, the typical tax office looks nothing like the ones on TV. You know, where a nice couple sits in conversation with a professional-looking tax person in a well lit office and they get a nice fat surprise refund check. In real life, tax prep is not glamorous especially for the not-well-off. The real process has more to do with remembering where you put your stuff all year which does not make for interesting TV viewing.

Often the tax office is pen of desks where, like in the line at the ATM, you pretend not to notice what the other person is doing. It’s usually a dimly lit but highly functioning office where people, for whatever their reasons, are having a professional “do” their taxes. Compared to TV taxes, real life taxes are gloomy.

Plus, paying taxes is kind of a ho-hum expression of being an American. There isn’t the exuberance of voting for your candidate, or holding your hand over your heart at the game to sing the National Anthem. Yet it is your duty as a citizen to have your year (your life, essentially) reduced to a few pages for the government to peruse. I learned that’s not a task I want to tackle alone.

The benefit of hiring someone who knows what he is doing hit me the first year I had Matt do my taxes. He seemed to be able to get more information out of the end-of-year statements than I was getting. I would see a page of numbers and instinctively go to the number in the box (there’s always a number in the box for us amateur tax preparers). Matt, on the other hand, entered several numbers from the forms onto my tax documents, even numbers that weren’t in boxes. That made me see the whole system was rigged toward professional tax prep. And that’s why I have a tax guy.

Decadent Behavior on Tuesday

Yesterday I treated myself to a mid-week, lunch time Bloody Mary. That right there screams decadence, doesn’t it? Bloody Mary’s are of course associated with brunch and associated with curing hangovers. Or, in my case, the drink signifies me showing off in front of the folks in the restaurant on their lunch hour.

My lunch was at Maplewood, a new-ish spot downtown where they’ve upscaled the order-at-the-counter concept.* I sat at the bar where I had two choices for my Bloody Mary, red and green. Just the option of a green “Bloody Mary” seemed wrong. More in one paragraph.

I ordered the traditional red Bloody Mary. The drink’s spice is horseradish and the garnish is a piece of celery in the glass, and a pick with a cornichon, an olive, a chunk of salami, and a small sweet pepper stuffed with blue cheese and a bit of spinach (I think) on top of the glass. That’s one of the better garnishes you’ll ever see on a Bloody Mary. Once, I got a piece of cocktail shrimp as a garnish which is still my favorite. But any time I get more than just one olive on a toothpick, I feel like the drink becomes a healthy snack.

I did not get the green “Bloody Mary”because my brain knows bloody = red, not green. Intellectually, the drink doesn’t cut it. The bartender let me taste the tomatillo-based drink which tasted like it came from their juice bar. If they called it Cleanse Bloody Mary, I would start drinking it after workouts. I assume it’s garnished with a skewer of kale.

My favorite Bloody Mary downtown is at Nicholson’s. It has a nice spicy flavor and doesn’t feel soupy. The garnish is simple and it comes with a snit. The snit is the beer chaser that comes with Bloody Mary’s commonly in the upper Midwest (Wisconsin’s contribution to a better brunch) and occasionally in Cincinnati. The beer chaser is usually a 3 oz glass of beer meant to counteract the heaviness of the Bloody Mary. Most bars give you the cheapest on draft beer they have, but at Nicholson’s, if you ask, you can chase with a Guinness.

All I know is when I order one drink, and a second glass of additional alcohol comes with it, I feel like I’ve reached a level of bar participation mastery.


*The bulk of the Maplewood is set up so you grab a menu at the door, order at the counter, take your number to your table where your food will be delivered. A fleet of servers pay attention to your needs so you still have a dining experience (of delicious food) without a dedicated waitperson. Prices are the same as a “good” restaurant because you get real food on real plate. Ordering is the same as a sandwich shop.

Old Enough

Tomorrow I’m getting my new driver’s license and it’s a big deal because it’s the quadrennial picture year. (In Ohio we can renew our license without a new picture for four years.) As the time for my picture nears, I start thinking mostly about early March weather. Since March comes in like a lion, most of my id pictures have featured me with some incredibly wind-blown hair. If you have to look at one photograph of yourself repeatedly for four years, “in from the storm” isn’t the preferred look.

For my first driver’s license pictures (age 16 and 20), my concern wasn’t the wind but THE COPS. For a law-abiding suburban white girl, I had an over-sized fear of being pulled over by THE COPS and somehow the quality of my id picture would be the difference between jail and freedom. Trouble, by the way, usually meant drinking low alcohol beer and not a lot of it because fear of the law and my parents kept me pretty much in line. Still, my friends and I spent hours debating if we should look our best or our worst for our id picture. The logic was, if we did get pulled over, it would probably be late at night, and probably after we had been misbehaving in some way. If THE COP saw a great picture on our ids, he would be able to tell “how bad off we were” but if THE COP saw a bad picture, he would never know anything was out of the ordinary. We had the whole scenario figured out. We were that smart.

I must say, I’ve aged out of both of drinking and driving and thinking that I can out smart police officers.

So, in getting this year’s picture id/driver’s license, I ask myself who is going to be looking at this official id for the next 4 years.

Sure, poll workers will ask to see my id to make sure I’m at the right precinct and that I’m am a citizen with voting privileges. Which is cool, but at two votes per year, hardly enough to get worked up over my picture.

The bulk of the time I hand my id over it’s to get into a bar or get a stamp/bracelet/state permission to buy alcohol. As far as I’m concerned the state could call my card the Right To Drink Bourbon Card. The keepers of the alcohol are supposed to look at my date of birth and then at my picture and determine if I’m old enough to spend my money. And it is my goal to make them say, “you look great for your age” before I go off and have my celebratory adult beverage.

Only slightly less often than my party enablers, I hand my id to the bank tellers. It’s weird that when I hand it over to the bank teller it’s nearly the same as handing it to a bartender. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture a teller’s window as a private space on a bar. In fact, I would bank more if I got a shot of bourbon for my id-handing-over-efforts. Just sayin’.

Four years ago, I took a nice picture, with calm hair and I also remembered to adjust my shirt collar so I didn’t look like the BMV agent grabbed my by it and threw me in the chair to get my picture. It’s been a nice four years. Maybe I’ve got the hang of it. I want my picture to show an adult me who is citizen enough to vote, old enough to drink, and able to withdrawal money

Cheese and Egg Sandwich Sweat

Nothing makes me feel I’ve got my shit together more than making an egg sandwich on my way to work in the morning. Cooking breakfast, meaning actually heating up a pan…on the stove (!), channels both 50’s housewives and the “you can do it all” woman of the 21st century and  it’s simple.

It just takes a tiny bit of organization. The trick is knowing the night before that tomorrow morning is going to be a breakfast sandwich morning. That isn’t hard. I just stand at any random place in my abode and say, “I think I’d like a breakfast sandwich tomorrow” and, if a quick check of my three main ingredients proves positive, step one is complete.

I set out the kitchen tools the night before and I wake up rarin’ to go. The process starts when I grab and fork-split an English muffin. (Sounds a little naughty, but this is a family friendly post.)

Fork-splitting an English muffin is a fine, if often forgotten endeavor. English muffin makers really used to push the idea that you had to fork-split their product, but they finally backed down because modern people use knives to cut things in half and do not have the time to fork-split. Well, I make the the time because it makes a difference. Fork-splitting leaves crevices (or as Thomas’s English Muffins use to call them “nooks and crannies”). I grab that muffin in my left hand and work that fork in and out of the muffin all the way around. When it comes apart it is a very satisfying feeling …the first accomplishment of the day.

That muffin goes in the toaster while I get my egg broken and seasoned, my cheese sliced (I’m a block cheese woman, of course), and the pan heated to medium heat.

When the toaster dings, I take the bottom of the muffin and put it on a plate right next to the stove, because things are about to speed up.

Egg goes in pan
Put egg mixing bowl in sink (quick..the egg needs me)
Back to stove to start stirring egg
Stir egg till it’s just-just-just done and still a little wet in places
Egg goes on bottom muffin
Cheese goes on egg
Top of muffin goes on cheese
A small bowl covers everything

A small bowl then covers everything…this is my personal technique for the best egg sandwiches ever because the sandwich “sweat” seals in the flavor and texture.

I leave my egg and cheese sandwich to sweat while I take a shower and get dressed. On my way out, I wrap up the sandwich and eat it when I get to work. Coworkers are impressed and occasionally intimidated. That is a great way to start the day

My Cincinnati Orchestra

This weekend I saw Sutton Foster perform with the Cincinnati Pops, or as conductor John Morris Russell always says to the Cincinnati audience, “YOUR Cincinnati Pops!”

It was a great show. Foster is an engaging and personable performer. The Orchestra sounded great and the musicians were clearly enjoying themselves. Russell is an effusive conductor who brings energy to the theater, and had an easy rapport with both Foster and her musical director/piano player Michael Rafter.

I haven’t been to a Pops concert in years even though I subscribe to the Symphony. Technically, a subscription to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra includes support of both the Symphony and the Pops. They both use the same musicians and it is the same organization, but there is a totally different vibe at the performances.

Which got me thinking about the Pops Orchestra vs. the Symphony Orchestra.

Notice how both of them have Orchestra in the title? That doesn’t help differentiate them. That just adds to the confusion.

That bit about Russell’s effusiveness, though, begins to tell the story. There is a low level of raucousness at Pops concerts. Russell is an excitable figure on the stage inviting the audience to “give it up” for our supporting sponsors. He really can whip up applause for the Otto M. Budig Foundation.

The Symphony crowd is a bit more buttoned up. The conductor, Louis Langrée, is pleasantly humorous without being showy. He doesn’t invite the audience to cheer, he asks them so show their appreciation, wherein polite applause ensues.

The stage set-ups are totally different. The Pops stage features a brightly lit “Pops” sign (in script writing with stars above it) with running lights. The musicians all wear red blazers. Red = fun!

The Symphony works on a plain stage and they are all dressed in black. Black = serious.

The Pops always tries to be your classical music friend while the Symphony is your classical music mentor. Which is funny, because they do play some of the same music. You will hear the 1812 Overture every summer at the Pops Fourth of July concert, but you’ll hear it every couple years at the Symphony, too. Same with music from composers like Bernstein, Gershwin, Copeland, and even film composer John Williams.

So what’s the difference?

The Pops, in my head, provides an intro to classical music, which isn’t totally accurate. I just think it would be easier to move from the Pops to the Symphony rather than the reverse. The Pops offers music that is always easy to listen to. That means they mostly play popular music (hence “Pops”) arranged for a classical ear. They pander, sometimes, in smaltz, playing songs they know will grab you emotionally. I don’t mean that in a negative way. Mostly though, Pops concerts are always laid back. Families come to see the Pops. Sometimes the audience sings along. The Pops do the Christmas concert and summer concerts in County parks, for example. There’s nothing challenging happening. It’s comfort food, musically speaking.

The Symphony is a different level. They still have to play from the canon of classical music to appease the standard bearers and traditional supporters (i.e. The Money) and that’s some of the overlap to the Pops. The difference is the other works that they play. The Symphony doesn’t just play the parts of classical music everyone knows, they play the entire symphony. The pieces are generally longer. The pace of shows is different, not always going for exuberance and often sounding quite stoic. Some of the music is new and experimental. Some of it is challenging. The audience is expected to know when to applaud.

Okay, when to applaud during a multi-movement piece isn’t strictly a rule, but it is an audience convention, a culturally learned behavior. Knowing when to clap at a Symphony concert is no more complicated than knowing to scream wildly at any concert when the stage performer screams, “Hello Cincinnati.” Still, the Symphony audience abides by the convention.

There’s another difference between the Pops and the Symphony, at least in Cincinnati, and that’s the way they “use” guest performers.

With the Pops, the performer tends to be around for the entire show. When you see the show advertised as “Sutton Foster with the Cincinnati Pops,” you can expect her to be on stage for most of the show. The music the Orchestra plays when the featured performed isn’t on stage is meant to compliment the performance, or set the mood.

The Symphony doesn’t work like that. You should not expect the featured performer to be on stage for the bulk of the performance. Apparently this is a contentious point with some Symphony audience members. If you come to the Symphony to see a performer, and find out he or she is only on stage for less than 25% of the time, you can see why you might feel duped. And I’m sorry to put it that way, because the Symphony is not pulling a fast one, this is just the way classical music evenings are put together. The music the guest performs is meant to spotlight their virtuosity and, if the piece is right, it gets to the essence of a performer’s talent. Anyway, if you come to see the featured performed and stay for the rest of the show, you still come out all right.

Most important, from my hometown perspective, Pops or Symphony, Cincinnati is lucky to have both. Whether you wear your classical music wrapped up in a comfy blanket or buttoned up in a fancy jacket, it’s all still YOUR Cincinnati Pops/Symphony Orchestra.