Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Unique Northern Kentucky Careers- So, what do they do for a living?

I have a tendency to get into involved conversations with complete strangers. Not by my doing. My friends are all used to this; it happens a lot. The result is that I come across a lot of interesting people who have interesting hobbies or unusual Northern Kentucky careers. To wit:

  • The produce manager at the Latonia Kroger is a ham radio operator. His father was amateur radio operator too and delivered messages to men at sea from loved ones, back when there was no other method of doing so. I didn’t know that ham radio operators still existed, but he assured me that it’s as popular as ever. His amateur radio equipment is roughly the size of a large dog house or small shed.

  • One of my neighbors, Tommy, crafts the most beautiful homemade beeswax candles I’ve ever seen. Tommy rolls the homemade beeswax candles at home and sells them to stores in the malls and through his Web site.

  • Donna Salyers is one of Northern Kentucky’s biggest success stories. Her fake fur catalog and store, Fabulous Furs, was followed by a “wedding mall,” partnering with Covington businesses and providing services from the dress to the hall. Salyers and her husband have purchased the best Northern Kentucky real estate available today, from Covington through Newport to Bellevue.

In a recent blog I poked holes in the “so what do you do?” conversation starter. Still, if you or someone you know lives in Northern Kentucky and has a creative career or hobby, let us know. Ann and I once met a guy in mainstrasse who claimed to be a movie director, but we couldn’t tell if he was telling the truth or making it up on the fly.

Things to do Today in Northern Kentucky:

Enter the Covington Fabulous Bridal "Fabulous $50,000 Wedding Giveaway" before the February 12, 2007 deadline.

The national association for amateur radio has information about clubs, events, licensing and news.

Big Hair Wednesday and the Return of Wendy Walker

As of Friday, Cincinnati DJ Wendy Walker announced that she’s back on WEBN Big Hair Wednesdays.

From the WEBN Big Hair Wednesdays myspace blog:

“Happy news, everyone! I have just accepted a job at Clear Channel Cincinnati! (Yes, the same company that just booted me last November.) Before you call me nutzo, I'll tell you that I will be doing a new job writing mostly commercial copy for all the CC stations here, in some cases, voicing them and producing them.

BUT part of the deal is that my former WEBN boss asked that my job description also includes me getting back on the air at WEBN part-time for weekends, fill-in and an hour on Wednesday (guess which hour)! So I'll be rockin' the Big Hair with my dear pal, Mr. K, this coming Wednesday from noon-1pm! Can't wait.”

It’s funny how things work out. WEBN was pummeled with bad press when they did cutbacks a few months ago, and no one was more missed than Wendy Walker.

There’s no mention of her return on-line, and the WEBN Big Hair Web site hasn’t been updated to reflect her return to the show, either. I’m glad Wendy’s back on WEBN Big Hair Wednesdays, but I wish someone at Clear Channel Cincinnati would go on record stating that they made a mistake firing her in the first place, and that they’re glad to have her back on the air.

I know I am.

This weekend I will be here and maybe here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mardi Gras No Party for Covington Police Chief Russo

Covington Police Chief Russo is embroiled in a bitter battle over one of the biggest events in Covington Mainstrasse- the 2007 Mardi Gras. Russo’s own Covington police force has decided to boycott the Covington Mardi Gras.

The protest, which means Covington police won’t work overtime at the Mainstrasse festival, arose from the still at-large Covington police contract dispute. The new contracts for Covington police have been on hold for more than a year. Kenton County union police and Covington firefighters have also refused to work Covington Mardi Gras.

In addition, 2007 Covington Mardi Gras attendees will enjoy a more widespread venue, as the festival has spread out to neighboring streets. This year the Covington Mainstrasse association will also allow open container drinking. A heck of a time to be without a police force, right? And many of us remember the 2000 Covington Mardi Gras, when 60,000 people showed up and the city, and Covington Police, was not prepared.

Before you rejoice at the prospect of a bacchanalian romp the size of which the city has never seen, understand that Police Chief Russo has dictated that Covington police will work the Mardi Gras festival- as part of their regular shift.

Meanwhile, putting the screws on the new Covington Police Chief so quickly after his arrival is causing some dissension. The Covington Mainstrasse association has gone on record to say “thanks a lot,” and Covington residents are worried about the state of the (Kenton County police) union, too.

Covington Mardi Gras will be held on Friday and Saturday February 16th and 17th beginning at 7 p.m.

Check Out the Sweet Love Cincinnati DJ Tread Well Benefit at the Covington Madison Theater on Monday, February 12th

Covington riverside district resident Mary Ellen Tanner will sing with the Blue Wisp Big Band as part of the Sweet Love Tribute, for beloved jazz DJ and jazz historian Oscar Treadwell.

DJ Tread Well was a Cincinnati DJ for more than 40 years. Well-known throughout the jazz world, everyone from Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker recorded songs for and about the Cincinnati DJ.

The Covington Madison theater date is the only public show where local jazz great Mary Ellen Tanner will sing in February- her gig at the Phoenix ended in December. Other performers include the Cohesion Jazz Ensemble and the Steve Schmidt Trio. Proceeds benefit the CCM Jazz Studies Department and Jazz Alive.

Monday, Feb 12th; doors open at the Covington Madison theater in the Covington arts district at 6:45 and show starts at 7:30. $20 ahead of time; $25 day of show.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kenton County Jail Finds Independence, but Independence Finds a Protest

If Independence can shake their stick loudly enough, Latonia is going to get an unexpected- and unwanted- valentine this year.

Things to do today in Northern Kentucky include attending the 2007 Home Products Expo at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. It runs from 11-9, with a $10 admission.

For no charge, from 1-2 you can also check out Independence residents protesting the move of the Covington jail to their little town. Kenton County has purchased the land and made the decision to move the jail, but Independence residents got wind of it and are up in arms. They'll demonstrate for an hour today in the form of well-behaved picket line at the Expo Center.

Curious choice of venue, since any and all Covington residents who attend the Home Products Expo today don't need another reminder that they don't care where the Kenton County Jail goes, as long it goes away. The Kenton County Jail won't stay in the Covington riverside district, and authorities have until February 14th to make their final decision.

South Covington, near the Ashland Oil property, continues to be a viable possibility. This is reasonably close to the city for Covington police prisoner transport and away from uncomfortable passers-by. Other bids mention property closer to 275, within a mile or two of this area.

New Music from Local and National Acts and Cincinnati Sound Images

Two bits of news from the Cincinnati Sound Images recording studio:

Jordana finished recording her CD at Sound Images last month. It has not yet been released,
but go check her out on-line. It's worth it.

Gnarls Barkley recently did a three-day recording stint at Sound Images. Crazy.

I've never reported on any cincinnati news but it was ineveitable, right? So might as well break out some gossip I've been sitting on for a while... More on that later.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Does anyone know that the Covington Mainstrasse Bluesfest is this weekend?

Once again, a major event is happening in Covington and the city gives it little to no press.

I stopped by the ad club happy hour at the cock & bull in mainstrasse last night and then went on to the pub with a board member and the only "sign" that the bluesfest is happening this weekend was a very small poster in the women's bathroom.

Covington Web sites that don't mention the Covington Mainstrasse Bluesfest include:

Boo! You can find some random sites on Google that give Covington Mainstrasse Bluesfest specifics, but there are no items at all in Google news.

Covington could use a simple public relations calendar. Some ideas Covington can use to promote future events:

  • Update all city-related web sites with current event information including dates, times, performers and prices.
  • Post an abundance of signs about upcoming events in Covington mainstrasse. The bars were packed Thursday night, like they are every night.
  • Send out a couple of press releases to local and on-line media outlets.

Covington should also submit feature articles about upcoming events to Web sites, trade pubs and to local news and radio. Trust me, everyone's looking for content. It's a "win-win," as they say in the corporate world.

For what it's worth, the Covington Mainstrasse Bluesfest is still going on Saturday, and there are plenty of great bands left to see.

Shop Bellevue! Friday February 2nd

Bellevue, Kentucky is experiencing a renaissance. The cleaned up “Avenue” sports fun shops and restaurants and friendly store proprietors eager to help you browse.

You can park and walk the Ave anytime, but Shop Bellevue! is a great way to experience this sparkling haven on the river. During Shop Bellevue! the stores on the Avenue (Route 8, for the un-initiated) stay open late and many offer crudités, petit fours and yes, champagne, so you can snack while you schmooze. Then head over to the B-list for an after-party drink and meet up with more local business owners as they unwind.

Galleries, gifts, clothes and food- what other reason do you need to go to Bellevue?

Shop Bellevue! Friday February 2nd for special promotions, receptions, music, shopping and of course, the people. It’s a fun night out or a great start to your weekend.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Unspoken Agreement: Covington Residents and the Covington Homeless

The Covington homeless have an unspoken agreement with their Covington neighbors. They don’t see us and we don’t see them. We respect their right to eat and sleep where they must and to hang out at the Covington library during the day. In turn, they let us walk unmolested to the library entrance, to our cars and generally let us go on about our business.

Covington was granted almost $700,000 in federal money a couple of years ago to help shelters and homeless self-help services. Two years before that, camping along the river was outlawed. If you walk over the suspension bridge early enough in the morning, you can see the outlawed camps.

I have no problem with the Covington homeless. In fact, some of them are quite well-known in my neighborhood.

Some of the most well-known Covington homeless residents include:

  • Bugman sits outside the Covington library in good weather with an assortment of huge insects that he apparently raises at home. I say this because they are roughly the size of a tennis ball and like nothing I have ever seen. Unique among the Covington homeless, he is completely harmless and actually quite nice.
  • The Vet, or Hogan’s Hobo, is easily recognizable as one of the favorite Covington homeless by the camo pants and dogtags. The Vet lives down by the river and receives a monthly pension check. I don’t know if you can call him homeless. I think this is more like camping.
  • Eccentric Professor lives in Newport but spends a great deal of his time riding his bicycle over here so we’ll still call him one of the Covington homeless. You’ll know him by the dramatic hat, long coat and friendly demeanor.
Covington Alien Hive expert Wayne has several web sites. Once a promising engineer, he now drifts back and forth between Covington homeless shelters, Cincinnati, Dayton and New York. The Alien Hive Web sites talk about going to jail during the weekend that effectively ended his career. The charges are murky but it seems clear that this is when he went off his meds. The Web sites have pages and pages of well-articulated arguments. The arguments explain in great detail how the Cincinnati and Covington Alien Hive residents operate. Supermodels are alien clone hotbeds and also to be avoided.

Avoid these Covington homeless residents: Eyepatch, The Screamer and the Skinny Youth. I don’t know them except by sight but the constant singing, yelling and the glittery eyes have convinced me that these three are crack-whacks.

Skinny Youth was harassing a Sunoco customer on 4th while Taylor the Brit still worked there. He tried to get on or in her car (Skinny Youth, not the Brit) and the customer wigged out. “Run over his foot!” yelled the Brit. She did. Skinny Youth, perhaps seeing the deck was stacked against him, just limped away. What kind of drugs do you have to be on to walk away when someone ran over your foot?

These are just a few of the spare-changers who hang at the Sunoco and the gas stations by the 75 on-ramp and they are among the Very Aggressive Covington homeless. Very Aggressive means if you don’t give them money, they will continue to wheedle, start getting insulting quickly and in the case of the Screamer, will follow you down Madison or Bakewell yelling “I just wanted to say hi! What’s wrong with saying hi!” I said hi. So I don’t know what’s wrong with it.

Things to do today in Northern Kentucky:

  1. Shop at the Fairhaven thrift store in Covington. The proceeds benefit the Fairhaven Rescue Mission and they have excellent men’s vintage ties.
  2. Go to the Kenton County Library. Say hi to the people lining the walkway. They won’t hurt you. They’re just friendly.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Questions from the U.S. Naturalization test- How do you stack up?

I have a theory that once you leave school, you start to lose some of your cognitive reasoning skills. The rest of your life creeps in and crowds out a chunk of intellect when you’re no longer immersed in the day-to-day learning, assigned reading and writing essays.

The theory I have is that if I go back and get my doctorate then I’ll get smart again. That’s the theory, anyway.

Test your intellect with some questions adapted from the "Could you be a US citizen test?"

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Can we save the Northern Kentucky horse park?

Going to the track in Northern Kentucky is a time-honored tradition in my family. Harrumph if you must, but my parents started taking me along to the local Kentucky horse park when I was a teenager.

And in the very recent past, it wasn't unusual for employers and vendors in the tri-state area to offer Northern Kentucky race track junkets for employees and clients. These days, I don’t know of anyone doing this, unless it’s a once-a-year trek to the Kentucky Derby.

With the advent of the
Indiana riverboat casinos and the raging arguments against horse racing from PETA, are we losing sight of the honorable Kentucky race track tradition?

No surprise, because in recent years when I've attended live racing at Turfway Park, the stands have been empty. Turfway Park quit reporting on their biggest event, the spring Lane's End stakes several years ago. Back then the stakes’ attendance hovered around 22,000, or about 10% of their total annual attendance.

KEEP, the Kentucky Equine Education Project, claims the Kentucky horse park has a $4 billion economic impact and provide 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. KEEP's mission is to educate and inform Kentuckians about the economic benefits of the Kentucky race track while promoting new opportunities for jobs and economic growth.

Programs like KEEP give me hope that Turfway Park will manage to stay open. Turfway could also benefit from some corporate partnerships, encouraging local companies to use them for parties and banquets.
Some effective viral marketing and PR wouldn’t hurt Turfway Park, either. There’s next to no press at all preceding their biggest events.

I don’t know if the Kentucky race tracks will make it to the next generation. I would hate to see the end of Kentucky horse racing. Whether in a suite at Churchill Downs’ Jockey Club or sprawled out in the stands at Turfway, it’s always fun. And it’s something I would miss terribly.

Things to do today in Northern Kentucky:

  1. Visit the Kentucky Equine Education Project site and support your local Kentucky horse park by becoming a KEEP member for $10 a year.
  2. Go to the used book sale at the Newport library.
  3. Get ready for summer by checking out the RV and Camper Expo at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An Open Letter to Covington Police Chief Lee Russo

Dear Police Chief Russo:

Congratulations on your new job. Covington is a beautiful city that keeps growing and changing to the delight of all who live here or just stop over to attend the many festivals, the Covington arts district and Mainstrasse.

A few things we’d like you to consider:

The Suspension Bridge

  • Pre-construction, when we walked over the suspension bridge, we were amazed at how many people congregated behind the concrete abutments (read: the area not seen when you’re driving over the bridge) and at the aggressive panhandling activity.
  • One fed-up blogger actually e-mailed the Covington police department and explained that she didn’t feel safe crossing the suspension bridge. For a couple of halcyon days, a Covington police officer rode up and down the sidewalks of the suspension bridge on his bicycle. That was enough to scatter the hangers-on and was one of a few days where everyone crossing the bridge seemed cheery. It didn’t last.
  • Last week a Covington riverside district neighbor was mugged while walking over the suspension bridge. The mugger was pretty nice about it. He walked up behind her, tapped her on the arm and requested her purse. Mugger etiquette aside, she still could have done without being robbed.

Chief Russo, we’ve heard over and over again on the news that the Covington police are going to clean up the suspension bridge, figuratively and literally (it’s a disgusting mess). As one Covington police officer told aforementioned blogger, “I don’t want visitors who walk to our hotels after a Reds game to have this be their first impression of our city.”

The Covington Riverside District

  • The late night revelry gets old when it’s 4:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. Last week it was a drunken homeless man and a well-dressed man (we don’t ask and we don’t tell) reeling around the Garrard Church parking lot.

the girlie bars

  • If they weren’t so close to the library and the middle school maybe the folks seen stumbling out into the light on 5th street at any hour of the day wouldn’t seem quite so bothersome.

The Jail

  • So in someone’s infinite wisdom, they planted the jail right smack in the middle of the growth area, just off the river. Maybe both the jail and the girlie bars could move to the Ashland oil property in south Covington.

As you already know, in 2005, Covington ranked 4th overall for highest crime rate in Kentucky, comprising almost half of the crimes committed in Kenton County.

We have high hopes for you, Chief Russo. Your references are touted as “impeccable,” and you ran a large force back in Baltimore. We’re glad to see that you bucked the good old boy system and found the outsiders way in. We hope you’ll jump right into the community and become a visible, recognizable force to be reckoned with.


The Citizens of Covington

Saturday, January 6, 2007

So, what do you do for a living?

I once wrote a paper on Rousseau’s idea outlined in The Social Contract; that we are in constant competition with each other, ultimately falling into an interdependent cycle. To illustrate a point, I wrote about a personal pet peeve, one that I still see almost daily.

Meet someone new? They’ll ask your name… Then, they’ll ask what you do for a living.

That’s annoying. Do you really need to know that I’m a writer before you, what? Decide if you’re going to keep talking to me? Ask to borrow money? As soon as you hear what someone does for a living, you put them in a box. That person is creative. That person is dull. That person is strong. That person is smart. That person is boring. You may not even realize that you do this. But you do.

Over the last couple of years I’ve wondered why, when I explained to someone that I’m a freelance writer/business owner, some people then ask “what else do you do?” Or “so you do that all the time?” I finally realized that there are a lot of people out there that when queried, explain that they are a writer/artist/model/etc., instead of stating where it is that they actually work and derive their income. This is a curious phenomenon.

Surely, when someone asks “what do you do?” they don’t mean “what is your hobby?” or “what are your interests?” I haven’t been out of school long enough for the question’s meaning to have changed that drastically. So what happened?

  • More and more people are dissatisfied with their career path. Let’s face facts- life passes like a blink, and many people never thought they’d be doing what they do. For. The. Rest. Of. My. Life. Not only do many people feel like they don’t have time to pursue what they’d really like to be doing, that dream seems farther and farther away each year. In fact, you probably won’t be doing the same thing forever. Most people change careers a half dozen times in their lifetime. But in the meantime, is it right to lay claim to a diversion as a profession?
  • People don’t take pride in their work like they used to. My parents were raised in the shadow of the depression and the Irish Catholic work ethic flag always waved at our house. By God, even if you didn’t like your job, you darn sure showed up on time and you darn sure worked hard. When I worked at a series of part-time jobs in college, it never occurred to me to lie about what I did for a living or to try to avoid that inevitable question about the nature of my work. It was what I did, working as a video jockey/frozen yogurt queen/motorcycle parts store clerk. That was my job. I knew I wouldn’t do it forever, but I took the jobs seriously and I worked hard.
  • Work has taken over our lives. No longer something you do five days a week, companies want your blood, sweat and tears to keep the cogs moving and the dollars rolling in. Most people spend more time with the people they work with than with their loved ones. And that’s gonna shape you, no matter how you slice it. It’s going to influence the influence-able into thinking that they have to behave a certain way from 8-5. And inevitably, those attitudes spill over into your leisure time, too, affecting your decision-making process and your lifestyle.

Jobs in the service industry are on a huge upswing, and manufacturing jobs are down. We’re moving to a world where we don’t produce anything, but we can serve your drinks and style your hair- and we definitely want to look good while we’re sitting in a nightclub. Dissatisfaction breeds contempt, and it’s this pressure that threatens our survival.

As Rousseau said, we are in constant competition with each other. Yet we rely upon each other… even if we don’t like it very much. In a country where a recession continues to loom, gas prices “might” stabilize this month at $2.10 and houses continue to sit on the market after a year or more, you would think we’d have something else to talk about. Especially since so many people prefer not to be defined by what they do for a living. But no. Knowing how we measure up to the guy sitting next to us or the woman on the elevator reigns supreme.

The next time you meet someone, try to see how long it takes before you ask them- or they ask you- this question. I find it’s almost always the second of third question asked, and inevitably asked within the first five minutes of the meeting. You might even try an experiment, to see how many other bases you can cover before you run out of conversation.

So, what do you do?

Things To Do Today in Northern Kentucky:

#1 Eat at a locally-owned restaurant.
#2 Go see a band who plays original music.
#3 Support Northern Kentucky bars and go have a drink.

Monday, January 1, 2007

2006 top news stories from Kentucky, the country, the world and the universe

  1. Throw out your astronomy books, because Pluto is not a planet. Pluto gets reclassified as a “dwarf planet” during a “contentious” meeting of the International Astronomical Union. Contentious?
  2. Castro falls ill and the world holds its collective breath, waiting to hear how his brother would change the totalitarian Cuban regime. “Not so much,” said the brother.
  3. Homeland Security decides to build a border wall. That should show terrorist intelligence who’s the boss.
  4. Grigori Perelman turns down the Fields Medal, the top honor in his field, stating he didn’t deserve the publicity. Now that’s hot, Paris!
  5. Steve Fossett flies around the world without landing. Everyone else thinks they could have done that too in the time it takes to navigate airport security.
  6. Vice President Cheney accidentally shoots a friend during a hunting trip and his daughter purposely gets pregnant. And they say Republicans don’t know how to party.
  7. Noah’s ark found in Iran; unable to find two species of Britney and K-Fed, religious leaders settle on Travis Barker and Shanna Moakler.
  8. KY’s in a bowl game- and wins. It’s about time!
  9. Just don’t eat the spinach. A nasty strain of e-coli is spread through bagged salads. Owners of migrant farms from allover California ask “why?”
  10. The first female African and Chilean presidents are elected. Yes!

And the top news story of the year? The war continues in Iraq. The death toll stands at 818 U.S. service members killed in 2006 as of December 30th, with the total U.S. service people killed since the war started to 2,998. Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths vary from 50,000 to 600,000. This week, President Bush attended the 60th annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association and shared a video of self looking under Oval office carpets for weapons of mass destruction, cheerfully joking “nope, no weapons here!” Where’s the joke?