29 April, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expedition): Louisville, KY

On The Bus. Smiling. Be afraid.
The Louisville, Kentucky Greyhound Station is located downtown on Muhammad Ali and Seventh Streets. For those of you who may not remember, or don't know, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was born in Louisville.  Other than the Derby... which is debauched and insane... and the other aforementioned people and things... being the birthplace of one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport... counts pretty high among the highlights for which the city ought to be more proud.

Not that the bus station isn't nice. I have seen worse. No. Really. Mobile, Alabama's Greyhound Depot, Amarillo, Texas at 1 in the morning. Oh, there are worse. When I arrived in Louisville, I was sure I'd been there before. Just not sure when. On that Homeric journey from Cincinnati to Phoenix in 2006? Maybe. But I was horribly drunk on that trip and don't remember much until I woke up in St. Louis having lost my voice.

Let's back track a little.

My plan for getting from Morehead to Lexington was simple. Mor'Trans, the Morehead "city bus" has two shuttle runs each each to Lexington and Ashland on Saturdays. A one way trip costs you $10... which is still a really good deal, considering the price of gas and the ordeal of trying to park in Lexington.  It's a brilliant, idea, actually, given that Morehead State University still is -- thanks to the various forms of discouragement by the Board of Regents, the area churches, and Morehead City Council  -- a suitcase college*, having a shuttle that will take you to The Bluegrass International Airport, the city bus terminal, and the Greyhound Station on West New Circle Road is pretty convenient. And though the Eklunds would have been willing to drive me to the bus station direct, I didn't want to push them into a two and half hour round trip for no good reason.

When I left Morehead, it was cold and overcast; but by the time I got to the Greyhound Station... which is conveniently located next to a Sir Pizza and a strip club... the sun had come out and the weather was warmer. I arrived with a few hours before my 4pm bus.  I have several friends who live in and around Lexington, and I was hoping to get to see one of them. Last trip through I saw my good friend Stephanie Stobaugh. This time, I was able to see Bobby Harris...musician, poet, friend, and former housemate from the 122 W. Second Street days.

Of course, I was a little tired and a bit strung from the grand time the previous night... among friends, sharing good energy, good company, and a respectable amount of beer and gin... and hadn't yet had any coffee. By the time Bobby was able to get there, I was also on the hungry side, since I hadn't eaten much and my overall condition would have been dramatically improved by putting something in my stomach to soak of the remains of the previous night's exuberances.

Ok. Fine. So I was a little hung over. I'm allowed, and besides... the ol' liver doesn't bounce back the way it used. to. 

Bobby showed up in good time, however, and drove me to Lynagh's on Woodland Avenue. One of the things that really excited me, though, was a sign posted next to the front door informing me that Fall City Beer was on tap.

A word on Fall City Beer. It's not great beer. But it is beer made in Louisville. I used to be friend with a guy -- who I met because he was dating my friend Amanda (nee' Hay) Connor at the time -- who was obsessed with it.And I really do understand a local boy's need to attach to all things local... I am, after all, both a Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals fan for more or less that reason.

I also thought it would be symbolic to say that, before arriving in Louisville for the first time in over a decade, that I commemorated the event with a local beer before I even got on the bus... good luck and hair of the dog and that sort of thing. Bobby, being the good friend I knew him to be, kindly offered to buy me a burger and a beer, which I happily accepted... especially since I am running a bit low on day to day funds.

The burger was good. The beer was... well... it was.  

It was also proof that putting skunk beer in a keg doesn't change the fact that it's skunk beer.

Bobby had me back in plenty of time to catch my bus, and I made it to Louisville a little ahead of schedule, actually, which almost never happens. The bus ride itself was pretty nice, too, because the bus only had five passengers, which gave me plenty of room to stretch out.

Amanda and her husband Shawn both had to work that evening, so I was being met by someone I didn't know who would drive me to their house... where I would be met by Amanda and Shawn's housemate, Heather, who lives the basement.

I waited around outside, sitting on a cement ledge at the edge of the off street parking lot. There were a few cabs and cars parked on Muhammad Ali. One guy in a 1990's blue Honda tried to entice a woman sitting on  the same ledge I was but was facing the street instead of the parking lot into getting in his car with what was clearly a fake gold-plated necklace. She gave him the finger and he drove off. The same girl... who had probably just gotten off a bus herself... was approached by a grandfatherly looking Spanish man who asked what her rates were. She told him off, quite loudly. He apologized and shuffled on his way to whatever streetwalker would most remind him of his granddaughter, and the girl, probably sick of being taken for a hooker, went back inside.

I had time to smoke a bit of Half and Half before Amanda's friend Adam arrived, and he shuffled me, quite politely, over to to Amanda and Shawn's, where I met Heather and their big black dog, Merlot.

Merlot: Hound of the Baskervilles or giant softy?


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*suitcase college: all the kids leave on weekends. Boring as shit.  Waste of an entire experience on the part of students.

27 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Bluegrass Slingshot: 2 Short Poems

104 E. Main Revisit

The pet mouse in the cupboard we lacked the heart to kill is long gone.
So is the ageless onion skin wallpaper, with it's hint of a print
and stain from old glue, mold, years of cigarette smoke,
and what was probably several lard-based kitchen fires.
Gone are the buckling boards, the crumbling dry wall, the scent of soup beans, books.

                                There is no more cheap wine.

Gone is the couch no sheet could redeem that we searched through for loose change
to walk across town to buy cheap cigarettes with the hope the free beer girl was working.
No more the door of revolving women who cooked and cleaned for us
who looked to domesticate and mother us, love us and smother us.
No more nights sitting up sharing the community jug and talking about poetry, art, and life.
Gone is the small plaque of the torah on the door frame that bid us,
whenever we left, to remember there is a vengeful god.

All Too

O, hills with clouds rolling over like a drunken lover,
this rain will not wash away the stigma
brought on from years of profane neglect
at the hands of cosmic middle managers.

Each and every Sunday, self-proclaimed preachers
spew sloppily prepared fire and brimstone sonatas 
to pious congregations of empty pews,
cursing comfortable beds, mini shirts, the NFL.

There is no dogma that will combat this American ennui,
born out of forgotten troglodyte urges:
latent lizard brain impulses like the one that insists
the sun and the storms clouds have nothing in common.

26 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expedition): Willow Drive, KY

Drink all of your passion,
and be a disgrace. - Rumi, "A Community of the Spirit"

Some may never live. But the crazy never die. -HST

I'm heading to Lexington, KY on Saturday so that I can catch a Greyhound to Louisville, where I'll be visiting with college chum Amanda (nee Hay) Connor and her husband... who I haven't met, and is, as far as I can tell totally unaffiliated with Morehead State University in anyway. I have  decided that rather than hold this against him, however, that I will embrace the ever changing universe and give the ol' boy a chance.

After all, Louisville DID manage to birth some pretty interesting stuff:

Hunter S. Thompson.

To say Hunter S. Thompson has been an influence on my life might sound crazy, but his writing -- all of it, including his non-literary w stuff -- have provided me with more How To moments -- particularly as a freelance journalist -- than any journalism class... for the possible exception of Ken Sexton's Intro to Photojournalism class, during which he pointed out that there's absolutely nothing abnormal about a bottle of whiskey in your bottom desk drawer.

RIP Hunter. Hope the next ride's a good one.

Johnny Depp

I provide a picture of Johnny Depp for my one or two readers who might actually be women. Not sure of the attraction. And while I could've gone with any number of images, including one of him dressed as a Disney ride pirate, I didn't. Thought I'd give one to the the Emo Kids... poor, misguided bastards.

The Louisville Slugger
A favorite for bar brawlers and leg breakers everywhere, the all-wood construction of The Louisville Slugger makes even a kid who couldn't hit a slow pitch to save his life feel like spitting in the dirt.

The Kentucky Derby Chicken Run
Then there's The Kentucky Derby. It is of this last one that I intend to write.

Let me begin by saying that if you believe it's only a horse race, you are mistaken. If you think it's simply an excuse for women to wear ridiculously large drag queen style hats without being accused of taping up a third leg, and for men to drag out those ties they got for Christmas, you're DEAD wrong.  I'm saying this not only because I KNOW BETTER (Accept this now. It's just easier that way.)

Believe it or not, I tried to find a pic without a blonde. No.  Really.

Sadly, I won't be able to afford to actually get into the Derby. Nosebleed, standing room only spots on the green start at around $40 a pop. At this point, I don't think I'll be able afford to even put some money on any of the races... which, if you know me at all, you know is absolutely tragic.

And no, it's not that I'm particularly good at gambling on horses. It's just that I like it. A lot. No really. The Daily Racing Form is pure poetry to me. Pure. Poetry.

Let's move on. I'm salivating.

But since most of you out there reading this... and yes, I believe you're there... haven't had the experience of hanging with me at the OTB, just let me say that there's something primal about the experience. Spending time at an OTB... not to mention a track... gives you a kind of pristine perspective of the true heart of America. Think vivisection. Every folly of man plays out between the first bell and the final run, from the brave to the downright stupid. Every kind of gambler, from the mathematician (If I weigh carefully all variables I can't lose!) to the mystics (Never bet on a gray horse!) and non-gamblers (What's a Superfecta? Is it like getting crabs?) are there. Some even bring their kids. The daring and the desperate, the lucky and the leg-breakers all come out to the OTB. And they're from all walks of life:  the shiftless, the unemployed, business professionals, retirees, teachers, preachers, hookers, construction workers, government employee, hopers, dreamers, misguided snake charmers. And I'm leaving some out. And I won't tell which one I am, either.

Have to leave something for the imagination. (A stripper taught me that.)

(Can I just point out that auto-correct wanted to change "hopers" to "hoers"? I love technology.)

And I will write more when I'm there. I'm actually pretty excited about the prospect of seeing an old friend, about visiting Louisville while it's in the throws of total debauchery, and about my westward expanse.

Oh yes, dear readers. It's coming. 

25 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography: Snapshot Not Yet Developed (a poem)

The aging poet by the seaside a bottle of vino on hand
Red like blood, like ink, like the sun
On certain days over the southern hillside.
Shoes and civilized senses abandoned
Scribbling poems on napkins, the back of playbills,
And recently devalued and worthless currencies
In between games dominoes with retired fishermen
And meals of tomato bisque, fresh shell fish and strong coffee.
He speaks only to his wife and a few words to the waiter
When the bottle is empty. Eyes colorless
Like the ocean staring out, recalling some winter
Once, when his children were very small
And still knew how to laugh without bitterness:
Like only the innocent will laugh, not yet knowing
There is never any reason not to laugh.

His poems are pithy epitaphs on the changing world,
Written sometimes in the voice of a young man
And sometimes as a wise old woman.
He searches for a child's voice -- one that will echo
Like a daughter's laughter.

(He refuses to accept it may be impossible to find without moving.)

Fresh young women on the arms of jealous boys
Find him curious. The women push their breasts out,
Hoping bare skin will entice. Meanwhile,
The boys plot his destruction, hiding vicious cowardice
Behind smiles and quick sidelong glances.
Four more bottles before the mid-day meal
Of fresh baked bread and raw oysters on the halfshell, shucked that morning
By three lovely virgins whose dark eyes remind him of Kentucky.

Soon it will be time for a walk down the sand
Hand in hand with his wife
Who has spent the day painting worlds
and inventing new creatures for him to give names to in poems.
Dominoes will keep. The napkins are saved by the waiter
Who sells them to tourists that love them, love is work,
Even though they have lost the art of reading cursive.
They pay for his oysters, his soup, his wine,
And a quiet table facing the sea -

To which he will eventually return and drink wine
Watching the precise spot where the water meets the sky
Searching for the arrival of a quiet, anonymous Death.

23 April, 2012

Brief Introduction to The Atlas of Deep Time

Roads cut into mountain rock like long memories,
though the names and dates and reasons
have all been forgotten. One fresh grave
among the long lauded and appropriated dead
give us something to tell stories about,
each with a hint of mysticism and rebirth.
What is this place? Known and unknown,
traveled and unconquered, mapped and mysterious?

There are stories to be told, wood nymphs to chase,
crones filing ageless knowledge away in dusty bone husks.
Worries about the garden. Beware the killer mosquitoes
and the wrath of left turns.

If he is not careful, a man can come to this place
filled to his gills with the knowledge of good and evil
and leave feeling new born. Conspirators and coal barons
and tornadoes come and go, the sound of them
simply become rhythms to the songs
that have been sung for generations
and will be sung for generations more.

If he is not careful, a man can come to this place
broken and find his messiah
sitting beneath a tree in a lone cemetery
blessing the fresh grave of an infant
lucky enough to avoid the curse of naming
knowing love and turning back into dust.

Disappearing Geography, Cont. (Bluegrass Slingshot, Ashland, KY)

and it is possible a great energy / is moving near me. - Rainer Maria Rilke 

The wind that blows /  Is all that any body knows. - Henry David Thoreau

Bunker School, Beartown, Elliot County, KY
Kentucky is a state best understood in terms of gradients and degrees. From east to west, ignoring the more or less arbitrary lines drawn on a map, it's possible to separate Kentucky into several parts, each with a unique sense of culture and self. The eastern range -- part of the Appalachia (that also includes the far eastern part of Ohio, some of Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and all of West Virginia) -- is in many ways as culturally isolated from the far western part of the state as Spain is from the Ukraine.

And when I think about Kentucky -- in reality or in the abstract -- I always think about the mountains. No doubt this is because I spent some formative years going to school at Morehead State University. (I have spend many years since working to undo the damage done to me in the halls of academia, without destroying the little bit of important work that actually went on.)  I think about living in the cabin in Menifee County. I think about climbing Lockegee Rock. I think about the many friends I have here, and about how much I've lived and learned (and unlearned) here. There's so much here that informs the internal geography; but it always comes back to the mountains and the life that hides within and around them.

The life that people rarely see and rarely pay attention to.

And when I get the chance to return, I always take it. Not because it's my home, or because this clay earth is the same clay earth in my bones... but because of the mountains and because of the life and death and history and myth etched into the dust, cut into the hollers, into the back roads, and into the long memory --

the memory of everything, and of everyone of no one.

The Zen Master Bodhidharma is reported to have said in The Bloodstream Sermon that "Life and Death are important. Do not suffer them in vain."  My week back in Ashland with Mike and Liz bring this idea into sharp focus.

When I first arrived, Mike -- greeted me in the parking lot next to their apartment with the news that he and Liz were going to have a kid. Even though I have expressed opinions about whether I ought to have more children -- that opinion being that I ought not -- I think it's a good thing when another life is going to be brought into the world.  Each new life is a potential for something good; and while chances are better than average that the fetus --  if it is carried to term, is born, lives, and grows up -- will become one more cog in an ever growing and self-digesting and excreting machina mori, I choose to hold on to some hope.
Though the machinations that seem to control our lives have, in the process, engineered their own sense of inevitability... that lingering concept of Manifest Destiny*, that all this muckity muck was foreordained and therefore unconquerable... what faith I have left is in the possibility that people will choose, at some point, to ignore the myths they've let themselves believe in.

And as is common with the news of pregnancy -- especially first pregnancies -- the talk focused around baby names. Mostly rejections of names that would mostly serve to amuse adults and torture the child.

One of the best came from friend and fellow writer Misty Skaggs, who suggested -- and then proclaimed that she would never call Baby Frazier anything else but -- Festus.

It became quickly obvious, though, that something was wrong. When Mike and Liz woke up early that Tuesday morning to go to the hospital, it wasn't hard to figure. Mike called me with an update later that day, after the doctor decided to admit her for the night for observation, telling me Liz had miscarriage. He came home eventually --  long enough to shower, change clothes, and have a few stiff drinks -- and then went back to spend the night at the hospital with his wife.

The doctor later informed them that she suffered from pseudocyesis -- a false or what is sometimes referred to as a hysterical pregnancy. According to the doctor... who was too busy trying to get to surgery to explain it well, or to even fake a kind bedside manner... Liz's body lied and TOLD her she was pregnant... which was confirmed by two at home tests and the self same doctor who had no advice for her or Mike other than to use condoms.

If you ever need a reason why I DESPISE the medical profession... count this as one more. 

She went home the day after, and both her and Mike slept for a solid 15 hours. The day after, we ended up spending some quality time in Elliot County with friend, poet, and awesome homemade strawberry pie maker, Misty Skaggs.

Driving out to visit Misty is is like driving into some primordial free space that has existed since the beginning of deep time. The road narrows quickly and it doesn't take long before the cement breaks up altogether and your tires are rolling over gravel. The roads take on familial names. Houses and trailers sprout out of the overgrown foliage. There are small family graveyards where Misty can recount the generations.

This dust is her dust, and she has it in her bones.

Our other option was to sit around Mike and Liz's place, where Liz would have deservedly and rightfully moped. Instead we ended up taking a 12 pack to a quiet cemetery, spreading out a blanket, sitting under tall shade tree, and talking. Not necessarily about what happened, but that came up some too. Mostly we sat, enjoyed simple conversation, and waited as the rain rolled in. When the rain clouds DID roll in, we knew, because the scent in the air changed.

There are those that might not appreciate the peace of mind that comes from sitting on some secluded hill in a forgotten hollar where WiFi and cell service are next to non-existent. It's one of those deep pockets of the world that, as the world moves on, moves on its own time, its own rhythm, and with it's own purpose. The marks of the modern world are still there, of course. And the evidence of poverty, survival, and economic disparity are there too. It's the sort of place you can go and leave a memory and pick up something that will help you down the road on your travels.

It's the sort of place you envy because it's not your home. Because it's not your dust.

It's the sort of place that has healing powers which, in the wrong hands, would cease to exist.

16 April, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot, Ashland, KY: Disappearing Geography

 Brutal! Savage! Beyond Perversion!  - Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections. -Daniel Boone

Kentucky is one of those places I have a deep and abiding affection for in spite of  not having any real roots here. As I've mentioned before, my daughter, who was born here and hasn't lived here since she was 5 has more of a claim on the place than I do according to conventional wisdom. Stella could return to Morehead, Kentucky at any point in her life and call herself a local because she was born there. On the other hand, I've actually lived in Kentucky and spent more time here than she has; but because I was born on the OTHER side of the Ohio River I will never be counted among the Kentucky's sons.

But, as I've also noted in the past, people from Kentucky -- particularly Eastern Kentucky -- have such a strong connection to the geography that even if I tried to claim Kentucky as a home, I lack a fundamental oneness with the dirt... the mountains, the clay, the rocks.

My dirt, apparently, is elsewhere.

But even the dirt that I can claim is not dirt that I feel any connection to. That, maybe more than the change in my living situation, may explain more why I'm compulsed to go go go. How did Kerouac say it? 

"I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion."

Not that my traveling has much in common with Kerouac, though people have made mention of On The Road more than several times. I can only assume that because I'm a writer, that I claim the Beats as a literary influence, and that I'm traveling, that they assume I got the idea from reading the book. (In case anyone's wondering, I didn't. And actually, I think Desolation Angels is a better book.)

You can't be a writer at this time and NOT claim the Beats... even if you're writing against the influence of writers like dear Jean-Louis, Ginsberg, Corso, and di Prima. I can't stand anything written by Dreiser. But to say he hasn't had in impact on what I do would be naive and short-sighted. As a matter of fact, I wonder sometimes if writers aren't more influenced by the writing they hate rather than the writing they love.

In spite my lack of connectedness with the geography here, though, it's always nice to be back. And it's always nice to revisit friends. I stayed with Mike and Elizabeth on my last trip through a few months back, and it's always a kick to see them. I was also able to spend some time with friend and fellow writer Misty Skaggs, whose blog is here, and who's worth checking out.

Got in around 5pm Friday after a 9 hour drive from the coast... the idea being that My Dear Sweet Ma would drop me off in Ashland on the way back to Porkopolis. I suspect, however, that we would have gotten to my end destination much more quickly without the help of the on-board GPS giving me directions in an oh so polite slightly British woman's vernacular.

It was actually worse on the trip out to Virginia Beach... tried to take us as far out of the way as possible, but somehow still had no idea where we were when we were on Highway 35 in Eastern Ohio.

When I had a car I always kept a road atlas somewhere handy.  I may not be able to stand in a wide open field on a cloudy day and tell you what direction I'm facing, but I know how to read a map... which is one of those things that I suspect is being lost in the age of digital travel and permanent GPS tracking. One of the things I noticed -- especially on the way out to Virginia Beach -- is that even when you program your travel preferences in... longest route, shortest route, avoid toll roads, etc.. it still sticks primarily to interstate routes whenever possible. If, while driving, you ignore the dumb bitch (because computers are DUMB. They don't KNOW things. They're programmed. You know. Like members of the Tea Party) the voice will either harangue you into making a u-turn or... if you wait it out... it will eventually "recalculate." Even then, though, there are large pockets of the country that are being lost. And since people rarely travel for its own sake, and have lost a lot of that natural curiosity Daniel Boone seems to have credited us with (maybe it's The Travel Channel's fault?) in addition to not being able to read a map, people are learning to live their lives  corralled by the interstate system,  hyperbarically and hermetically sealed within electronically connected bubbles of their own design.

I have learned, however, that when it comes to travel, I would rather get lost on my own terms than depend on some umbilical connection to a global positioning satellite.

12 April, 2012

The Traveler's Tourist Plight, Virginia Beach, Intermezzo: The Norwegian Lady

Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful. - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

I won't leave you drifting down, but it makes me wild,
With thirty years upon my head to have you call me child. - The Grateful Dead, Ship of Fools

This respite, this visit back to Virginia, is an out of sequence slingshot back into territory I've been to recently. But given that I didn't get to spend much time with her when I was here before, and that My Dear Sweet Ma was going to drive out here anyway, and given that other than making sure I catch the right bus, I'm on my own time anyway

I decided, what the hell. 

And, I told myself, Virginia Beach isn't Norfolk.

More importantly, however, I wanted to spend a bit more time with The Kid before I spend some time out west. Now, this slingshot has been on the touristy side... trying to find things to do that keep us all entertained is more challenging than you might think. I'm an aficionado of dive bars, the Kid likes Kid-like stuff and fine food (she wants to be a chef) and My Dear Sweet Ma does what Dear Sweet Ma wants to do... whether it's pedaling a surrey up and down the boardwalk, mini-golfing like  Senior Tour Pro, or sitting around doing nothing. The good news is that I'm fairly reasonable as long as dancing isn't involved, and Stella will do most anything that's legal / moral / ethical to avoid being bored.

She's young. But she is my daughter. It's probably just a matter of time. Or she's become an accomplished liar. I'm opting for the former, since I've seen her try and lie. Let's just say she'll never be a professional gambler

Which is a good thing.

Among the usual touristy bric-a-brac around here to occupy people when the water's too cold and the clubs are too crowded, there are some random statues. One of them is The Norwegian Lady, located at 25th and Oceanfront. The statue stands, facing the ocean, fist held to mouth in mourning ... or defiance.

There's actually two of them... one here at Virginia Beach (pictured above with The Kid standing next to it) an one in Moss, Norway... in honor of the lives lost on Good Friday 1891, when the Norwegian ship Dictator sunk in Chesapeake Bay. The Captain was washed ashore, semi-conscious. His pregnant wife, their four year old son, and seven of the 15 crew members died. The statues were made after the Dictator's female figurehead. The plaque reads:

"I am the Norwegian Lady. I stand here, as my sister before me, to wish all men of the sea safe return home."

It's all very solemn, the statue, the thought behind it. Much of these little tragedies, often forgotten in the larger waves and breakers of history.

When people think about the latter years of the 19th century and sinking ships, they MAY think about the U.S.S Maine and The Spanish-American War. I add the small qualification because the Spanish-American War, it's causes -- the real ones --, as well as it's long term effects are rarely discussed except as a footnote in the myth of American Manifest Destiny.

That image of the waiting lady is one that haunts nautical cities. Another one is the Fisherman's Wives Memorial at Cape Ann in  Gloucester Maine.

There's a haunting romance to the image... that idea that mothers, wives, and daughters will wait on us to return. There's some inherent misogyny too... as if a woman's entire being will evaporate if the man she loves disappears. With respect to both the romantics and the feminists, though, the truth is probably closer to a little of both. What was it Hemingway said? The world breaks everybody?

Well, it does.

And To be fair, though, America didn't invent the trope of the waiting woman. Here's one in Vietnam, called Hòn Vọng Phu (Statue of Husband Waiting). No one knows exactly how the statue got there, but it was often used by locals to tell stories and teach moral lessons to their children.

The haunting romanticism, the lessons in endurance, the example of dedication, however, falls apart at some point. Life moves on. Daughters grow up. Wives learn to live in the absence of their beloved. Some of them get remarried. Mothers learn to let go of their children. Daughters grow up and leave. Sons sometimes don't come back.

And there are always reasons. And there are also good reasons.

When I had the chance to come back and visit Stella, even for a little bit, even though being a tourist drives me a little crazy, it was because I know she's not waiting. Time is moving forward and she's growing up and I'm getting older. A year from now she'll be preparing to graduate from high school. She's already thinking about her future.

For most of Stella's life, I've been haunted by a vision I had of the future when she was around 4 years old. Her mother was living in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. I was living in Lexington. At the time, I was seeing her one night a week and every other weekend... one of those standard divorce decree visitation schedules that screws the non-custodial parent out of real and meaningful time... as if the marriage not working out was somehow a mark against the whole of me instead of just against one role that I have apparently never played very well.

I picked her up, like I always did. We went to Burger King, where she was allowed to get as many ketchup cups as years she was old. The weather was nice that evening, so I took her to the of the parks, her favorite, near the hospital. There was a giant wooden jungle gym there that looked like a castle. She loved it. I had to park on the street, a little bit down from the jungle gym. I got her out of her car seat and set her down on the grass. There was a slight hill that ran down into the park, towards a merry-go-round... the kind that are difficult to find now because the safety fanatics decided they weren't safe.

The minute her feet hit the grass, she started running towards the merry-go-round, laughing. I was scared that she'd get her feet twisted and fall and started going after her. She made it down the hill and to the merry-go-round without falling, wanting me to hurry up so I could spin the merry-go-round for her.

She was still laughing.

Sometimes that image her at four years old flashes through my mind and I get a taste of that old fear... that she will run too fast and fall and that I won't be there in time to catch her. That she will run too fast and I will chase after and not be able to catch her.

But if life has taught me anything --  it's that parents always wait. Always. Whether it makes sense or not. Whether the kids know it or not. Whether it does any good or not. Waiting is the at the core of what defines parenthood. You start out waiting for them to be born. Then you wait for them to crawl, talk, walk. We mark off the inches they grow and we mark the mental checklist of things they need to learn. We wait. We wait for them to learn how to drive. Then we wait for them to come home. We wait to meet their boyfriends or girlfriends. We wait. And wait.

Then at some point, we may notice that we've been waiting so long that they're gone. And the only thing we can do is wait.

A Traveler's Tourist Plight: Virginia Beach, Day 3

The future belongs to crowds. --Don DeLillo

Youth doesn't need friends - it only needs crowds. -- 
Zelda Fitzgerald

So I woke up to what was, weather-wise, the most beautiful part of the day today: about a half hour just past sunrise. While yesterday's weather was sunny and warmish, but windy, a cooler weather system blew in over night... making today, according to my daughter, a "hoodie day."

My Dear Sweet Ma just said it was cold.  To be fair, though, anything under 70 degrees is cooler than she'd like the temperature to be.

After all of us were awake, we went out to breakfast and discussed our plans for the day. We were close to both the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. The Kid expressed a lack of interest in Contemporary Art, and said that she hadn't been to the Aquarium in long time. And so we decided on the Aquarium.

Aquariums and zoos have long struck me as odd. In the best of of them, you go and see critters in unnatural environments meant to enhance the experience of the humans poking fingers into the cages rather than improve the life of the fish and animals -- some of which were captured, some of which were born in captivity. In the worst of them, it's a dominionist's dream, designed to show the pre-ordained ascendancy of Mankind above all other critters. That most zoos and aquariums have embraced a more educational identity -- or that some try and save endangered species -- doesn't change the fact that it's always very clear which monkey is on the inside of the of the cage and which is on the outside.

Getting there took some doing. Even though between us we had three different GPS driven directional devices, a far more gravitational power held sway. Two people (My Dear Sweet Ma and me) who

  1. Suffer from a tragic lack of any sense of direction, and
  2. Don't really know their way around to begin with
can counteract the best GPS in the world by a degree of 1000 to the 10th power. It's as sure as a drought in the desert. As predictable as Tiger Woods nailing a bombshell blonde. As real as the fact that the city of Norfolk, Virginia was originally built on a swamp that itself must have been cursed. (Sorry. Curse-ed.)

We used the map function on my phone to find directions. It seemed easy enough. The directions took us back onto I-264, which I figured was just a way to circumvent stoplight traffic on Virginia Beach Blvd. Not to mention the fact that Virginia Beach Blvd is a long and windy street, much like Vine Street in Cincinnati. It made sense. And we had unshakable geographical certainties on our side. The Atlantic was to the east. We couldn't go too far without driving into the ocean. At some point if we drove to far west, we'd have to go through a tunnel and drive into Norfolk. 

That and turn by turn directions should have been enough; which means, of course they weren't.

We ended up doing a big circle and coming back around to the hotel... at which point we decided to go back upstairs and figure out just where in the hell we were going... during which time the Kid decided to take a nap.

Later, when we finally made ti to the aquarium -- it was only 2 MILES away from the hotel -- it became obvious very quickly that we were not the only ones to think of going to there. Vultures* were preying on potentially soon to be empty parking spots. There was a line just to get in. And once inside, there was an even longer line to get to one of the 5 or 6 overworked and over-stressed Admissions workers. There were people everywhere.

Once we had our tickets, though, we decided to go through and see the exhibits. And I was still reasonable optimistic. Maybe I'd get to see some cool fish.

All I managed to see was the Exhibit of People. It was beyond capacity crowded, mostly with people troweling in groups, mostly with small children, at least half of whom had no interest in anything at the Aquarium. But people stood in front of the displays and tanks, pointing and snapping pictures -- of the critter(s) in question and making the kids sit, stand, or kneel in front of the display or tank to take the prerequisite family vacation photo that will be posted on Facebook to prove to everyone that a good time really was had by all. 

I don't like crowds. I do like people watching... but that's not the same thing. Crowds make it hard for me to breathe and to move. I come by this honestly. My Dear Sweet Ma is exactly the same way... and while my daughter isn't really that way -- she generally can find better things to than have to listen to the inevitably present cadre of crying babies.

It was all we could do to get through the crowd and back out again. I still couldn't tell you anything I saw because I didn't really see anything. Once out, we had to go wait in line for an IMAX movie... which, had we seen it, would have been as close to anything fish related I had seen that didn't include my previous night's dinner. But it became abundantly clear very quickly that none of the three of us had any interest in waiting in another crowded line.

So we left and drove straight for Murphy's Irish Pub -- a not too bad looking place, though priced for the tourist trade. They did have Guinness on tap, though. And Maker's Mark on the shelf.

The day became instantly much improved.

*vultures: those drivers in crowded parking lots that sit and wait for you to pull out of a spot rather than driving around and seeing if there's one not being used. These are the same sort of people who go to funerals in order to make sure the guest of honor is dead and not simply trying to get out of paying taxes.

10 April, 2012

A Traveler's Tourist Plight: Virginia Beach, Day 2

I've got a bike 
You can ride it if you like 
It's got a basket 
A bell that rings 
And things to make it look good 
I'd give it to you if I could 
But I borrowed it 
                               -Pink Floyd

Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry 
When I take you out in the surrey,
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!

                             - Rodgers and Hammerstein 

The day ended on the early side with a wonderful meal and an awesome cocktail -- the one I was denied last night. 

In order to get there, however, one of the things I did first was to ride up and down the boardwalk in a surrey.

Unlike the surrey in the song lyrics above, (from a horrible musical by the bane of my past theater existence, Rodgers and Hammerstein... don't get me started, but my ire is rooted in an extreme over-exposure to The Sound of Music. Those bastards could kill happiness. I think they probably did... with saccharine sweetness, too.) THIS surrey was not pulled by horses, white or any other color.  It was essentially a four-seated bicycle.

Theoretically, each passenger pedals. The two riders in front steer, and -- because it's an American surrey -- the left-side steering wheel has the brake. 

Now, I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time. At least, that was what my dear sweet Ma said on Monday evening when we were walking back from dinner at the curse-ed seafood buffet where the carnival float drink from yesterday's post came from. She saw some other tourists pedal by on the boardwalk... and that was that. She even found a coupon that would give us the SECOND HOUR FREE if we payed for the first hour.

On a break: My Dear Sweet Ma and the Demon Contraption

I was able to drop to sleep last night around 1:30 or 2, and I woke up this morning about 8:30. By the time I futzed around with the coffee pot, took a shower, and got dressed, Mom and Stella were well past ready for breakfast.

We wandered off the boardwalk for breakfast, and when we got back, decided to go a-riding to work off the meal we'd just eaten. Several of the hotels rent bicycles and surreys. Ours isn't one of them. But we found one close, walked down, rented the contraption -- for only an hour, which we would later be grateful for. 

The boardwalk is wide and flat and covers a lot of territory. The problem was, according to the signage... and the signage was prominent -- we weren't supposed to take the hobby horse onto the boardwalk. We were, instead, restricted to the bike path that runs parallel to the boardwalk. And unlike the boardwalk, the bike path is NOT wide and flat. It is windy and narrow, with slight curves and even slighter hills that you don't really notice until you're one of three people pedaling a four person surrey.

You also don't notice that just because it's just like riding a bike that riding a bike requires a certain level of physical fitness. The kid, who participates in some competitive cheer-leading thing, and who actually still has leg muscles, decided to wear a skirt... which limited her movement. Mom is a retired school teacher with an occasionally hinky lower back, but to her credit won't let it slow her down too much.

And then there's me. The out of shape pudgy Irish-German Mug. But I'm still smiling through my pain.

Neptune, God of the Sea. And  a turtle.

No, really. I am.

Actually, it wasn't painful, and against my best inclinations, I had fun.

This trip back out to visit Stella is a great end to a nice break before I go back out on the road.  The meal I ate tonight is one I'll be able to think about for the next few months... especially during those times when a solid meal may be itself a distant dream. 

While I'm not entirely comfortable with being a tourist -- because that's more or less what I am at the moment -- I would be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying the respite. The ocean sound is soothing, even with the sounds of the kids on Spring break discovering the wonder of words like areola.

That's right. Walking up and down the beach chanting "Areola!" like a protest of mass virgins.

And where are the parents?  Probably touring around on surreys.

09 April, 2012

Virginia Beach, VA: A Traveler's Tourist Plight

Why is this thus? What is the reason for this thusness? -Artemus Ward

Self-consciousness kills communication. 
-Rick Steves

Yes.  Man points were lost.

Is it possible to get a massive brain freeze from a cocktail?

Yes. Sadly, yes.

All I wanted, once we picked up the kid and her 185 pounds of luggage -- this is a 3 day visit, mind you -- was to check in, dump the luggage, find food, and a semi-strong cocktail.

The drive wasn't really all that stressful. We left from the eastern burbs of metro Cincinnati and hit SR (State Route) 32, eastbound.  A few miles up the I-275 loop, headed towards SR 32, Hamilton County gives way to Clermont County, which leads to Brown, then Adams, then Scioto. There was a time in my life -- a time when I would have sent back this froo-froo mess of a drink (Yes, that's a cherry on top) and ordered a beer instead...

Because that's what any self-respecting man would do, right?

-- when I spent a lot of time driving eastbound on SR 32. Driving into Eastern Ohio. Clermont and Brown county are rural counties that used to be part of the corn and steel belt; over the years the family farms were sold and cut up into 1/4 acre house lots, and the steel mills closed. Adams County and east is geographically the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It's coal country. Or, at least it used to be. Since there aren't any talk mountains to flatten in Ohio, the coal companies aren't as prevalent as they used to be. And of course, they blame the EPA and Obama....

never mind that when Bush was in office, they DIDN'T blame him. They just blamed the EPA... which GW didn't defund or tear down bit by bit.

From 32 we turned onto SR 35, which took us even deeper into eastern Ohio. At one point, in a wide spot in the road called Unincorporated South Bend, we drove by an abandoned building I SWEAR I've dreamed about... but that's for another time.

And I didn't even mind driving through By Gawd West Virginia... though the toll on the West Virginia Turnpike has increased the last time I had to drive it.

But I do have to admit that intestate driving makes me nervous.

Sure, it's the open road. Sure, when you drive it's easier to stop and go at your own pace.  And yes, there's a definite relationship between Americans and their cars and BLAH BLAH BLAH.

I hate interstate driving. People are insane and cars are 3 ton crazy makers. You take someone who's mostly socially well-adjusted, swaddle him (or her) in steel, fiberglass, and aluminum, and you run the risk of letting a raving raging dumbass out on the road.

You know I'm right.

But by the time I was sitting down for dinner at a strategically located seafood buffet that advertised cocktails,, all I really wanted was a gin and tonic. But I didn't see any indication that they even KEPT gin, let alone knew how to mix it right. I scanned one of the menu inserts covering the type of drinks they could prepare and I found one that that didn't make me noxious. It's touristy, I told myself.

08 April, 2012

Porkopolis Outbound: East By West Slingshot

Drink wine, my darling, and stop chattering. - The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If you don't like my peaches
Don't you shake my tree.  -- Sitting on Top of the World, Doc Watson

Morning will come early in suburbia. Mi Madre and I  are loading up and heading east on Ohio State  Route 32, winding through Eastern Ohio to the West Virginia border. Somewhere around Charleston, we'll pick up I-64, which will take us all most of the way through Virginia and back to Norfolk... still top of my list as the single most unpleasant, unfriendly and curse-ed place I have ever been to.

The sheer shittiness of Norfolk is salvaged by the presence my one and only lovely daughter, Stella.

Not my old car. This actually looks much nicer.
Add to that the fact that we won't be staying IN Norfolk proper. Rather, we'll be staying at Virginia Beach... a place I have positive memories of. The last time I was in Virginia beach was the summer of 2001, when I spent a month or so camping around Chesapeake Bay and visiting the kid.

I drove there in my primer orange Subaru. It leaked oil and almost overheated driving through West Virginia. The two back quarter panels were in the process of rusting off. The exhaust pope and muffler were gone and it sounded like a tank. There was no radio. The back two doors were fused shut and one of the back windows was permanently rolled down. The heat didn't work unless I kicked the blower motor, and sometimes I had to hit the alternator with a hammer in order to get it to start. I loved that car. I loved camping along the south side of Chesapeake Bay. I loved that Stella got to camp with me on the weekends and that I got to see her most everyday when I was there.

This trip will be nice because the kid's on Spring Break, and will actually have time to hang out. The only real downer about this trip is that I will, once again, not be able to meet The Boyfriend. This, I must admit, I'm really quite disappointed about. Because although I am the genitor and pater primo, I don't get to meet the boyfriends.... since I am the non-parentis pater, she doesn't live with me and hasn't since her mother and I split up. This means I don't get to meet (scare) the boyfriends -- which, as far as I'm concerned, is a parental right.

Unless, of course, we extend out stay there by a day... and then... and then... maybe... I might get to meet some kid who I know, without even meeting, isn't anywhere near good enough.

Hey... at least I'm honest about it.

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07 April, 2012

Super Nova Cheese Cloth (A Poem)

No wonder we create gods to venerate,
only to eventually knock them down.
If I thought it would help,
I'd call for lamb's blood too.
Children leer and throw fruit loops like palm leaves
while their parents piss in the gas tanks
of unredeemed foreign cars;
addicts curled in the fetal position
on back patios offer prayers
and promises of penance to angels
dripping wet from the latest bloodbath,
and absent mothers shed martini tears
as their daughters lie in hospital beds
unable to walk and bawling.

They are all conspiring against us.

I have thrown the old gypsy woman's dice
and divined the lines in my face to discover
whether the planets are truly aligned against us.
Solar flares and tsunamis are false signs
of the end of things; which means
we will endure another 100 million cycles
around the sun without ever knowing
what it means when two pieces
of the same cosmic soul are joined
and go super nova.
This is the day we bury our expectations
wrapped in cheese cloth
swaddled in the guilt of our inequities:
proof positive that it's entirely too easy to kill god
when we make the mistake of giving him
a human face.

06 April, 2012

Porkopolis Unbound: Opening Day 2012

O'er all things but thyself I gave thee power, /And my own will....  - Percy Bysshe Shelley Prometheus Unbound

I want to play music when I want, write a song if I want or watch a baseball game if I want.
-- John Lee Hooker

Although I have lived in and around Cincinnati off and on for years I have never before been downtown for Opening Day. I'd heard there was always a parade and that it had long been something of an unofficial holiday for the city; so naturally, this intrigued me.  The last time I'd been near downtown when the city was actually letting it's tightly curled hair down was the last time I went to RiverFest (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Proctor and Gamble) ... which was probably the last year they sold beer. The year after, the city went "family friendly" and restricted the sale and consumption of booze... which of course, meant all the people who drink and who also have kids stayed home, watched the fireworks on television, and drank for a lot less money. Keep in mind, however, that Cincinnati has a history of hammering down on anything that isn't WASPY enough to pass... unless they figure they can make a buck off it.*

Baseball has long been thought of as America's game... though to some people it does look an awful lot like the English sport Cricket.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings/

Early Cricket Batter. I sort of like the hats.

And in spite of its history of problems -- from racism in the early days to the more recent steroid abuse problems and everything in between... not to mention the evil wrought on the game by the New York Yankees (Curse their Name!) --  people -- baseball fans, at any rate -- still think of it that way.

I remember when my Dad stopped watching baseball. He never forgave them for the 1985 strike. It lasted 7 weeks, between June and August; the 25 games that weren't played ended up being made up later in the season.  From his perspective, professional athletes had no excuse to squawk about how much money they made. (The strike actually had more to do with the sixteenth player problem tied to free agency and the reserve clause.**)

I suspect that the disruption pissed him off more than anything, though, and like a lot of kids who grew up playing baseball, he couldn't understand why people bitched when they got paid to do something a lot people dream about doing.

As for myself, I was never particularly good at baseball. I was never particularly good at any sport, really... which I suspect was something of a disappointment for the old man, who, of his two sons, ended up with not a one who exhibited more than a glancing interest in playing a sport.

But over the years I've grown into a sports fan. And while the sun rises and sets on football season for me, the love of baseball has grown on me. And in Cincinnati, home to one of the oldest teams in baseball, Opening Day is more than the first day of the season. It's a celebration for a city that would rather do anything but celebrate.

My plan was to check out the parade. Affording a ticket to the game was out of the question; and while I still had friends in the city, the ones who might possibly have tickets wouldn't have any spares, and the ones who didn't couldn't afford them anyway. But I figured I could go downtown, take in the insanity, and then retreat back to the burbs where I'm crashing in relative obscurity at my Madre's condominium home.

It was a plan. 

I took the 24 bus downtown, which, because the burbs is considered Zone 2, cost me $2.65 instead of the Zone 1 fare of $1.70. (Both had gone up since I last lived here in 03-05. Consequently, the buses themselves have not improved all that much.) The bus started out relatively empty... just me and three other people, all of whom were going down to see the parade, and one of whom was actually going to stay for the game. The closer it got to downtown, though, the more packed the bus became until I was a wash in a sea of red and white.

I was not decked out in team colors. I had no particular reason for not, other than the fact that I didn't put anything with those colors on when I rolled out of bed.

When I disembarked at Government Square, people were already milling about. Some had come early to lay claim to the best seats along 5th Street for the parade and were sitting at the gutters in lawn chairs and on blankets. On any other day, someone doing that would be taken for a vagrant and summarily punished-- if not by the cops... who continue in a long tradition of harassment, rudeness, and a general apathy towards anyone who doesn't "look" right ... then by the amorally indignant downtown business elite... most of whom flee to the burbs at quitting time; on Opening Day, however, such social rules are overlooked, as in the carnival days of medieval Europe. 

At that time, Carnival was an even when, among other things, lepers and retards, and the mentally ill were elected Kings of the Carnival (which is one of the early roots of our semi-Democratic process and with amazingly similar results) and people could be found copulating in the streets like pagans before the interference of Catholic missionaries.  

Alas, it was too cold downtown for public fucking. And since it was a brisk 55 degrees, there would be next to no chance in the forecast for a storm of drunken topless women. 

Not downtown. And if it was, I'd never point out which is me.
On the upside, the cops seemed to ignore the open container law as long as people put their beer in a brown paper bag -- yet another action that would normally be a sign that you are homeless, shiftless, unemployed, or all three, and therefore not worth being treated with human dignity. 

I tried going to the beer and food bins set up along the edge of Fountain Square, but the lines were never less than 20 or 30 people long and I had no intention of waiting that long in line for warm $5 beer in a plastic cup. Also, I had no desire to be any closer than I had to be to the live band playing; they were OK for a bar cover band. But the mixture of Beach Boys and Soundgarden covers made me slightly nauseous. So I wandered around, bought a hot dog with kraut and mustard from a street vendor, and thought about where might be a good place to stand and see the parade.

[And by the way... and this goes out to all hot dog vendors in downtown Cincy... if you're going to offer sour kraut as a free condiment, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY will you please be more liberal with your dashing of kraut? Pretty please? A few strands of cooked cabbage on top of  a hot dog does not make for a true dog with kraut. Just a suggestion...]

Since I was downtown, though, and I had some time to kill, I decided to visit Strauss and Company Tobacconist, on Walnut about a third of a block away from 5th Street. Strauss's  was one of those places I used to frequent when I lived in the Nati, and it was a place I missed after I moved. You don't really appreciate what it means to have access to an honest to jeebus tobacconist^ until you don't have it. And YES, I managed to find one in AZ.... but it required me driving to Scottsdale once a week instead of hopping a bus. 

Plus, I just liked Strauss's store blends better.

While I was there I bought an ounce of their Losantiville^^ blend and splurged on some cigarillos^^^ from Holland. After I lit one up, I stepped back out onto the sidewalk and took note of the crowd. It had grown significantly, and there was still 45 minutes until the start of the parade. People were walking up from the river, probably having parked at the Great American Ball Park+. All of the gutter spots were full, and in some places people were standing two or three deep. The cops were beginning to block off the street, and the buses were already being diverted. There was no getting out until after 3:30pm, just in time for the commuter express bus that I planned on taking back to the burbs.

I stood around on the corner of 5th and Walnut, allowing the growing tide of baseball fans and families of fans engulf me. People gathered and crowds on all sides went from 2 or 3 people deep to sometimes 5 or 6 people deep; the crowd eventually seeped out into the intersection. Children sat down in the middle of the street like they were sitting under a tree in the park. I had to keep moving around because I was technically standing at the cross walk. Pretty soon the sidewalks themselves became impassable; the few homeless who were out got pushed into the doorways to make way for out of town fans and people who probably rarely spent more time downtown than it took to drive off of I-75 or 471, take an off ramp, and park at the stadium. 20 minutes until the parade procession was supposed to leave Findaly Market at 1 pm, and people were walking down the middle of 5th Street just to get from one place to another. I could tell from the ebb and flow of red and white around Fountain Square that people were getting set for the parade. 

Then I thought about how long it might take the parade to make the 1.2 mile stretch (that number doesn't take into account any turns or stops in the parade route. And then I decided that I might have a better chance seeing the parade from the television at bar than having to look through the people standing in front of me, nearly all of whom were somehow magically taller than I am.

At that, I broke through, crossed 5th Street, broke through the blockage of people standing there, and made my way up Walnut. At 7th Street I turned right, and then left at Main. When I reached 8th Street, I crossed the street, walked a third of the way down the block to Arnold's... a bar that I used to spend a lot time at when I lived here before.

It was crowded, but not too much. People were milling around, and I figured the back patio was full. I managed to find a seat at the bar. After waiting what seemed like entirely too much time, I was finally served. They changed the taps since I was last there and were now serving 3 brews from the newly re-opened Christian Moerlein Brewery. I tried two of the three: The Northern Liberties IPA and the The OTR Pale Ale. I passed on the Friend of the Irishman Stout for pragmatic purposes -- stout beer isn't something you switch back and forth from. I did, however, try the Roebling Porter, brewed by the Rivertown Brewery, a new (to me) microbrewery and the lager from Listermann Brewing Company -- also a local brewery (and also the Brewmasters Store where I used to go, along with my friend Bret, to buy home brew supplies.)

I also had a shot of Maker's Mark... couldn't be helped.

And though I did watch some of the parade on the very small television in the corner, mostly I thought about how different the crowd at Arnold's was and how I didn't know anyone who worked there and how no one knew me anymore. 

On the upside, the beers were all amazing. Those German roots serve you well, Cincinnati.++

[Thanks for reading. And remember, if you like it,
  1. Pass the link on. Copy and Paste. Go ahead. 
  2. Click the donate button and help keep me traveling. 
  3. Thanks to the generous support of readers and other sympathetic folk, I was able to purchase a Greyhound Discovery Pass, which will allow me to bump around out west unfettered. And thanks (again) to all those whose continued support makes my travel and writing possible.
  4. Also: A brief note on Operation Europe: This plan entails me making it across the pond for an indeterminate amount of time. My plan is to continue traveling around here, growing the blog and including more individual stories along with my travelog and general observations. I plan on doing more of the same in Europe... but it's nice to have an excuse... the gods know I rarely need one, but sometimes customs officials of foreign countries do... I've signed up for an online course that will certify me to teach English as a foreign language. Given my background in education, this should come as a no-brainer.  The next steps include a) obtaining a passport, and b)the cost of a one way ticket. But I have a year or so to work on those things. More on this as it happens and as it approaches.

Thanks again for reading and for your generous support.


*WASP = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Around the time of WW1, the city fathers decided, as point of blind patriotism and out of fear that people would assume all Cincinnatians were German sympathizers, to erase any hint of the deeply ingrained German Heritage that defines so much of the city's past. Names were changed. Festivals cancelled. Around the late 1980's, it occurred to some that immigrant heritage might be a selling point and that money might be made off remembering the Germanic roots of the city. 

**Reserve Clause: Contractual slavery. Read about it here

^Tobacconist: a purveyor of fine tobaccos, cigars, and accessories. Not to be confused with the corner gas station.

^^Losantiville was the name originally given to the settle that later became Cincinnati. The term is a mash of four terms from four different languages that translates roughly to "the city opposite the mouth of the Licking River."

^^^cigarillos: literally tiny cigars... which means they're hand rolled, the way cigars were meant to be smoked. No filter, no tobacco paper (the shit they make regular cigarettes and mislabeled "little cigars" out of.)

+The Great American Ballpark: After Riverfront Stadium was demolished the new ballpark was named after it's corporate sponsor, The Great American Insurance Company. Not that the Capitalist overthrow of baseball is anything new... because nothing in this country could become "America's Game" unless some fat bastard was making a greasy buck off of it... but something still strikes me ill when I think about it. The new stadium has better seats and makes for a better game experience... though it also meant the city is stuck with Paul Brown Stadium, a wholesale rip off of tax payers by Bengals owner Mike Brown.

++Cincinnati: Comes from Cincinnatus, the name of a Roman Dictator who, surrendered his power back to the people when he felt it was time and returned to be a simple farmer. This is something that no one with political or corporate power in Cincinnati has ever thought to do. Nor will they. Ever.