Thursday, February 28, 2008

looking for something to do?

If you have problems remembering what to buy at the store, check out Free Rice. Free Rice is a fun vocabulary game that also helps you improve your memory. For every answer you get right, grains of rice are donated to needy countries.

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Test your vocabulary and start improving your memory at Free Rice now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

information overload*

Between the celebrities in rehab, Young Hollywoodites in jail and the rest of it, lately, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by information. I don’t know how critical it is that I know exactly how Mr. Ledger passed away. Or that I hear every detail of the bubbly Kirsten Dunst’s alcohol treatment. While simultaneously trying to process a stock ticker of details about house fires, pipe bombs and end-of-days weather reports.

When it comes to stuff on TV, most of the time, I just feel like I’m on information overload.

I like to watch BBC news. At least they talk about something other than U.S. home foreclosures and celebs who abuse drugs and alcohol. They have a world view that I like a lot. Local and national news leaves me feeling uninformed, despite the many stories that they report. It’s like so much empty bubblegum for my brain. After a while, I need something with a little more substance.

But lately I’ve been thinking that in some ways, I’m the worst kind of purveyor of information. Many think that people who do PR, SEO and the rest of it are pretty much at the bottom of the barrel. Because we get paid to put information out there that influences what you read.

A big component of what I do has to do with changing public perception of companies or individuals who… may not have the best track record in the public eye. Whose reputations need a little polishing, to make them shiny again.

I take this kind of work on a case by case basis. Hearing the stories of the people involved, I can only hope they are telling the truth. That they are sorry for their past transgressions. That they were wrongly implicated in the first place. That they made a mistake a long time ago that they wouldn’t make today. That all speaks strongly to me. And if I don’t believe in the project, I won’t do the work. That’s the deal I made with myself when I became self employed.

But sometimes, I look at my body of work and wonder what kind of contribution I am making to a society already full up on information. What am I doing that makes the world a better place? Nothing, I guess. Maybe I’m just another one of the bubblegum-information providers, creating stories to fill up Web pages and press baskets. All for profit.

Rose City Journal: We’re not just whores. We’re pimps, too.

*post happy hour post

Monday, February 25, 2008

giving up the ghost


When you’re starting out in a new relationship, there can be a number of hurdles to overcome. You’re a night person; he’s up and at ‘em at 7 a.m. You like to go camping and hiking; he’d prefer the big boat expo.

But what do you when you discover that your new crush can’t stop talking about his ex?

Finding out that the person you’re dating still has feelings for their old lover is really hard. And if they’re talking about them in front of you (whether it’s good or bad), you have to ask yourself if that’s what’s really going on. I’ve been in this situation before. And I could tell, the guy really wanted to move on. Wanted to transfer those old feelings to me. But her name was brought up just once too often.

That is to say, he brought up her name more than once.

Because if your crush continues to brings up “her” name, or generally starts talking about his “ex” on more than one occasion, she’s definitely on his mind. In fact, attempts to depersonalize the ex by calling her “the ex” (or something even less flattering) are almost harder to bear; you both know who you are talking about, without saying her name. Because she’s a part of your relationship now.

It’s a relationship ghost that just won’t go away.

Trying to move forward in a relationship that’s haunted by old ghosts is hard. If not impossible. Especially if you suspect that your lover still has feelings for this person from their past.

I don’t mean that people shouldn’t be “allowed” to discuss their old relationships. They definitely should do that. It’s like a rite of passage before you can fall in love. But once you’ve had that discussion, it doesn’t need to come up again.

It’s not at all uncommon to find and fall in love with someone who has kids with someone else or who has been divorced. It’s almost inevitable and it shouldn’t be a problem in a new relationship. Complaints about when someone was supposed to pick someone up or how they were late with alimony payments are commonplace. In many ways, it’s almost like a business partnership that went awry.

But continuing to talk about someone, outside of “business,” may indicate that there are darker forces at work. A haunted lover, who ruminates endlessly about what their ex is thinking, or why they make certain life choices, is not something that you should have to take on.

An exorcism, or maybe a sexorcism, is definitely in order when you’re battling the ghost of relationships past. I think the best way to handle this situation is to face the ghosts head-on, and to ask outright if they still have feelings for their ex. The best time to ask this question is immediately following any sort of harangue about the ex. Because you don’t have to say much. They’ve already said it all. A conscientious lover, who wants to move on, will understand, to move on, they have to let go.

They have to give up the ghost.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Day Trips: 2008 Kentucky State Fair

The smells of the county fair bring it all back; it’s the oil burning in the air from the demolition derby and the grease puffing the elephant ears before they get puffed with sugar and the heat, the heat makes the animals less nervous about being there, on the block, ready to go to the highest bidder because who cares when every time you move sawdust sticks in your fur and the water has been sitting there all day you could boil an egg or at least coddle it in that water and so go ahead and stick your finger in the cage or buy me/hog-tie me and throw me in the back of the truck, mebbe there’s water where we’re goin’ and then again maybe you’ll just put me out of my misery and either way, I just don’t care.

The 2008 Kentucky State Fair will be held August 14-24. The fair is held in and around Louisville’s Kentucky Exposition Center and features exhibits, rides, food, animals, entertainment and more. The website has applications for state fair exhibitors and information for advertisers who want a spot in official state fair publications online.

On a side note, I can’t get over how cool the posters for this event are, year after year. If you love really smart work by talented graphic designers, check out more Kentucky State Fair posters from past years online.

First Annual Midwest Winter Beer Festival


The first annual Midwest Beer Festival begins tonight at 7 p.m. with a two-hour pub crawl. The bus will leave the Radisson Hotel at 668 West Fifth St., Covington and visit five breweries throughout Covington, Newport and Cincinnati. The pub crawl for the Midwest Beer Festival includes free bus transport, but the beers will be on you. You must reserve a seat to participate in the pub crawl. Seats are limited, so get your note to event organizer Craig Johnson pronto if you want to go.

Part II of the Midwest Beer Festival is tomorrow, February 23rd. Sample beers from 75 award-winning varieties at the Radisson tomorrow from 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m (or both!). Buy tickets online to save; the Midwest Beer Festival sampler costs $30 per session in advance and $35 at door. A VIP ticket for both sessions (!) is $50. All sessions promise to include "bountiful" munchies to go along with the beers. In addition to beer and food, the Midwest Beer Festival will have out other favorite thing, live music.

Park for free at the Radisson or in the public parking lot a little further along in the public parking lot on 5th street. Or better yet, have a nice friend drop you off, and pick you up after it’s over.

The proceeds of the Midwest Beer Festival benefit the Big Joe Duskin Music Education Foundation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

bloggers vs. journalists

I’ve come across a lot of blog posts that talk about bloggers and how to fit them into the writer’s spectrum. The posts vary but usually include a question like this: “Do bloggers think of themselves as journalists?”

I can’t speak for all bloggers. I can only speak for myself. But when I come across these blog posts, my response is always the same: No, I do not consider myself a journalist. Anymore than I think that journalists are bloggers. Even if they do have a blog, via a newspaper website.

Writing blogs is wholly different from journalism on a lot of levels. Bloggers don’t have to answer to a Style Guide (That isn’t always a plus). Bloggers also don’t have deadlines (except self-imposed ones). That is a plus.

Bloggers often write only when the spirit moves them, which can be good or bad. Some bloggers (like yours truly), will skip a few days if they don’t have anything to say, then post several times on the same day. Other bloggers throw up a shiny website, write a few posts and try to create a lot of blog hype... and then just disappear.

I’ve been reading other regional blogs lately and linked into something that looked like it was a Cincinnati blog, but wasn’t. I don’t even think it’s based out of Cincinnati. The “blog” is just a jumbled mess of RSS feeds and looks like it’s still under construction, though I gather it’s been around for several months now. It looks really junky.

Unfortunately, there are way too many of these “link farm” blogs online. They’re set up solely to earn money. Once Google finds them out, they refuse to index them with other blogs and websites in search engine results. But in the meantime, they turn a lot of people off of blogs, both personally and professionally. Boo.

Journalists who blog for newspapers' websites have to follow some guidelines. They have to meet certain blog posting goals. And journalists are often given topics to blog about, or told to write blogs in general that support their columns or articles in the newspaper. That’s a good SEO tactic, but it doesn’t necessarily provide interesting and original blog content.

A lot of people still don’t understand what I mean when I talk about “my blog.” Blogs are still a relatively new concept. I know that seems strange if you been in the blogosphere for any length of time. But a basic principle of marketing is that the creators get sick of one concept, tag line or logo long, long, long before it sinks into the public consciousness.

Everyone knows what a newspaper is. So journalists are sometimes a step ahead of bloggers, as people who search newspaper websites will stumble across blogs while searching for articles online. That helps their blogs gain popularity. On the other hand, a lot of people refuse to read newspaper website blogs. This isn't because they're lacking in information. I think it’s because readers want the Wild West vibe they know they'll get from an independent blog.

When you don’t have to answer to anyone (when you don’t have to answer to anyone except for friends and family), that gives you license to say whatever the $#%^ you want about anyone and everyone on your blog. Though I feel like most regional Cincinnati bloggers are fairly responsible with their choice of content (with me as a glaring exception, ha), there’s still some attitude in their posts that you just won’t see on a newspaper blog.

Personal bloggers get paid through click-through ads or by selling ad space on their blog. Journalists are salaried. In the long run, this can work out better for bloggers. In the interim, you’ve got to have some faith.

I like the freedom that the blogosphere gives me. I stopped focusing on trying to find other outlets for my style of writing some time ago. And I couldn’t be happier.

I’m proud to call myself a blogger. I kept my blogspot address for this long because I don’t want to be confused with anything else.

Not that there’s much chance of that happening.

CVG Airport Introduces New Wi-Fi Service

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) airport is offering Wi-Fi now. Which is great. I didn’t realize that they didn’t have Wi-Fi, I suppose because I’m not prone to hanging around our local airport. Usually I’m just in and out.

Before you settle down in a waiting area to pay your bills online, check out some wireless security tips from the US-CERT (Computer Emergency Readiness Team). The steps they outline will help decrease the chances of getting broadsided by some skanky identity thief.

The new Wi-Fi service at the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati airport will be available in Concourse C and the ticketing and baggage claim areas for Terminals 2 and 3.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the last pack of candy cigarettes


Kings. Cools. Lucky Lights. The packs looked so similar to the real thing, even seeing them stuck between the slim jims and the abba zabas, I had to pick them up to double check.

We had stopped at a gas station (one more place where it’s impossible to buy anything organic) in North Carolina and went inside to look over the selection of junk food. Inside I found what might have been the last store on earth selling my favorite childhood candy: cigarettes.

When I was little, and smoking was still acceptable, I’d walk to the dairy mart down the street with my dollar’s worth of change and pick out candy with Katie, my best friend and neighbor. I always went straight to the candy cigarettes.

I wanted to smoke. Candy cigarettes gave me an opportunity to practice. Tips died with red food coloring looked like they were already lit. Faux tax stamps on the outside of the packs helped with the authenticity, too. And if you dug through the packs and found the really fresh ones, they had powdered sugar inside that you could blow out to simulate exhalation.

We’d tramp home, sit cross-legged on the wall in Katie's backyard, and gracefully smoke our candy cigarettes. Waving them around, punching the air for emphasis, the cigarettes were one of many secrets we wanted to learn about growing up. We fashioned cigarette holders out of straws, and with elbow length gloves and trilling laughs that came out like little girl giggles, we were Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, drinking martinis poolside.

When I was 12, and smoking was still acceptable, I’d go downtown and buy cigarettes from the cigarette machine in the atrium. Though it displayed a small sign stating minors were prohibited from purchasing cigarettes, the cigarette machine sat in a lonely, dark hallway near the restrooms and the payphone. It was as easy to buy cigarettes as it was to sneak into the unrated art house films.

When I was 14, and smoking was still acceptable, I’d hang out in the smoking section at my Oregon high school smoking clove cigarettes. The official rule was that only 18 year-olds could smoke in the quad; the unofficial rule was everybody and anybody smoked and I only got in trouble when I smoked in a non-smoking area. (A kind of funny, kind of uncomfortable story that maybe I’ll write about one day.)

I smoked a pack of Jakartas a day, seduced by the scent (sickly-sweet and still instantly recognizable today) and the unabashed sex appeal of smoking an unfiltered cigarette. Jakartas complimented everything I wore, and when I saw myself standing, cigarette in hand, I thought of Marilyn and Jane and felt I did them justice with my limping smoke rings. A friend at a local convenience store willingly sold us Marlboros, Players and Kools and I loved the heady buzz from the menthol almost as much as I loved the smell of an unlit cigarette, the feeling of smoke in my throat and the deep release it gave me.

When I was 15, and smoking was still acceptable, I moved to the Midwest and found cloves were unavailable, so I switched to Winstons. The school smoking section had just shut down, so we smoked in between classes in the bathroom, with a pre-arranged signal to thwart hall monitors: Do you have any lipstick? *Flush* emerge from stall: No, sorry, all out. When I went home to Oregon for the next summer (sitting in the plane’s smoking section, swilling beers), my friends had moved on to Marlboro Lights 100’s, and when I went back to Ohio, that’s what I smoked too.

When I was 16, and smoking was still acceptable, I laid out on sunny days to work on my tan, cigarettes by my side. My dad had quit smoking at this point but still looked at me enviously when he saw me on the back deck oiling my legs, cigarette clamped between my teeth. He excitedly told me about the ups and ups of his RJ Reynolds stock night after night at dinner, smiling at me like I was personally responsible.

When I was 19, and smoking was still acceptable, I’d pick up my little nephew and take him places between classes and work. I smoked in the car, with the sunroof and windows open, so the smoke wouldn’t bother him. I laughed when he smoked imaginary cigarettes, pursed lips inhaling and dramatically exhaling, to keep me company.

When I was 23, and smoking was no longer acceptable, I got the patch and quit for a year. My ex-boyfriend quit with me but after a year started smoking again. I soon followed.

Little has changed in the rural Ohio town were I went to high school. I went to a baby shower there recently and though pregnant women and babies were present, several women smoked. Seeing men and women smoke in the Midwest is as natural as seeing cowboy boots, plaid shirts and trucks- it’s still acceptable, even if not allowed in some of the bars. Feeling overwhelmed about being right back where I started, I think, I went upstairs and sat outside to quietly smoke by myself.

There’s a lot of information available about the physical and psychological addiction of smoking. I think it’s sociological too; at a party, drift outside for a smoke and you’ll soon be joined by a large group of people looking for the smoking section. Conversations with strangers are easy, when you’re bitching about standing out in the cold. A common bond forms quickly as we huddle together and remember the good old days, when you could smoke anywhere, even in hospital waiting rooms.

Kentucky, one of the last bastions for smokers, has been a hold-out for inside smoking, and it probably won’t go away anytime soon. It’s still acceptable here. It’s still acceptable in most of the southern tobacco-producing states, too.

I know a lot more about smoking now (and tanning, too, which I gave up several years ago). I know you can’t smoke around children. I know it’s bad for me and bad for others around me. I know I should quit, too. But I never wanted to pretend that I was trying to quit or that I wanted to quit smoking. Truthfully, I like it too much. And the one time I did quit, I missed it every day.

The only smoker’s guilt I really have is when I hear that my nieces and nephews were caught sneaking cigarettes. I wonder what they think about when they smoke. I hope they aren’t imagining a laughing, confident blonde auntie who made smoking seem natural… or glamorous.

My Midwestern doctors, who are “cool” about my smoking (“Eh. You’ll quit when you’re ready.”), have been giving me flack about moving my habit west. “They’ll string you up in the town square and throw stones at you,” laughed my ENT. Even my laid-back brother told me, smoke in Portland, and people will give you dirty looks.

And I think I’m ready now. Recent health problems forced me to gain weight last year, but I can tell I’m on the path to better health already. Maybe not smoking should be a part of that. I'm getting stronger and stronger, and trying to do what’s best for me and for my well-being.

I know my family hates it. They put up with it because they love me. But just barely. And I’m tired of looking at old photos, in beautiful places like Tahoe and Maui, marred by the ever-present cigarette in my right hand (and a beer in the left, but that’s another blog).

For the first time ever I’m starting to think, it’s just not acceptable anymore.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

cautionary signs


I know this problem exists in Cincinnati, but it’s really, really prevalent south of the river in Northern Kentucky. Drive through Covington and chances are that you’ll get stopped at a light. When the light changes, you still can’t go.

Because the guy standing on the corner chose to cross the street the second the light turned green.

I used to think that these people were color blind. Now, I think they’re just obstinate. Not impressed by the German cars, hulking SUVs or sleek convertibles cruising through town on their way to the Levee. They’re showing you, they’re unafraid. That even without a car they control the streets of Covington.

In Oregon, if someone steps out on a crosswalk, you have to stop. That’s the law. It’s something I have to remind myself of whenever I am visiting. Typically, my instinct is to just aim my car for any color-blind pedestrian.

I’ve never actually hit a person who crosses against a light. I just fantasize about it. Actually, unlike a lot of people, I will wait until they safely cross the street. I worry that if I accelerate, it would be the one time that they’d trip and fall in their slow trek to the other side.

Before you say I sound like a grouch, and that jaywalking exists in all cities, consider this: there’s little to no congestion on the sidewalks of Covington. Except for late-night in MainStrasse, when every able-bodied kid living at home and going to NKU shows up to suck down a boot of beer, the streets are relatively empty. It’s just not a walking town. At least, not to the extent where jaywalking might provide some relief to any sort of sidewalk congestion.

So I just don’t buy any argument for jaywalking in Northern Kentucky. And sure, I get impatient with the traffic around here. Roll my eyes when the guy with the Butler County license plate slams his brakes at every corner he passes. But then I think, eh, who cares. I’m often stopped while I’m out walking and asked for directions to various destinations in Northern Kentucky. It doesn’t upset me. I’m glad to help and will usually throw in my two cents about what’s good at the restaurant… who my favorite server is… the cheapest place to park that’s still reasonably close.

Ask some of the other locals where something is located and they’ll claim they have no idea. They’re stubborn. Threatened by outsiders.

And despite the brazen way they amble out into the road when the light turns green, I think they’re frightened too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

a door that doesn't go anywhere?

Charles, our handyman, has a remodeling business and does quite well for himself. He’s a swell guy and a real sweetheart. And he can fix anything!

Sometimes, though, I get the feeling that he’s laughing at me. There are a variety of reasons why I think this could be true:

My “toolbox” consists of a pair of pliers, a hammer and about 300 tiny parts leftover from various projects. The first time he asked to borrow a tool and I opened up the Tupperware bin to show him what I had, he just looked at it silently. Looked at me. Look at the box. Me: “What?!”

I often have to call him for dumb things, like “I need a ladder to dust the ceiling fans” or “I am locked in the bathroom.”

And one day, something happened that might have made a lesser man burst out laughing right in front of me:

I have a leak in my bedroom closet. This is apparently caused by a drainpipe outside. Charles is working on it and he asks me how the hall closet outside of the bedroom fared during the mini-flood.

“That isn’t a hall closet, Charles. That’s just a door that doesn’t go anywhere.”

“Lisa,” he asks, smiling and biting his lip, “a door that doesn’t go anywhere?”

“Yes,” I responded, feeling a little huffy. “When I first looked at this place the broker explained it was just a door with a brick wall behind it. It doesn’t. Go. Anywhere.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. I have a bunch of skeleton keys and I’ll bring them back tomorrow. I’m telling you, that’s a closet. The door was probably accidentally locked without a key to open it, and the broker was just lazy.”

I’m thinking, well! I’ll show him, but I don’t say anything. Later that night, I walked by the so-called closet and just for the heck of it, grabbed the doorknob.

It opened. To a roomy, hall-sized closet. Pristine, because it hadn’t been used in all the time I’d lived there, without enough room for my many vintage coats.

Hadn’t been opened until it was only a matter of months before I move away.

Hadn’t been opened in more than five years.

The next day I told Charles what happened. He nodded gravely and turned his back to keep working. But I swear, as I walked out of the room, I heard muffled laughter.

He never said a word. ~

Sunday, February 17, 2008

following suit: east or west (side), home is best


Euchre is a popular card game in Northern Kentucky and greater Cincinnati (and gee, I think they like it in Indiana, too). Euchre is like Hearts or any of those card games where you have trump, tricks and play with partners. I love playing Euchre. I am a competitive player, high-fiving my partner, throwing down trump with a flourish and getting red-faced and upset when I think people are "table talking." What a dork.

I was recently talking to some friends about getting a few tables set up here to start a tourney night. So many people like to play that I have started collecting phone numbers of random people (cab drivers, bartenders, etc.) who all told me they’d like to get in on the game. Euchre is fun, it’s competitive and it’s something to do in the Midwest besides going to a bar on a Saturday night.

Here’s a euchre story:

My friend Katie’s husband (Jay) plays softball on summer Fridays in Sayler Park, a little town on the river on the Ohio side about 15 minutes away from where I live. Sayler Park is pretty, with beautiful old homes, but, from back in the days when the river was a means of industry transport, their beautiful river views are somewhat quashed by the big, hulking factories and river barges that line the river. It’s a bedroom community, whatever you call it, just a really hard working group of people. Sometimes I will go over and watch them play ball.

One night the summer before last I was there and Katie’s father in law (another funny former ladies man who always manages to brush my ass when he hugs me hello) gave me some of his homemade wine. My dad and some of my brothers have always made homemade wine so you think I would know better- but no, I just keep drinking and drinking what is essentially moonshine.

At some point Katie asked me to play euchre with her, Jay's visiting cousin and his friend, both of whom I’d never met. By midnight, Katie, who’s not much of a drinker anyway, has her head on the table- that damn homemade wine. She and Jay head home. I continue playing euchre with the cousin (my partner), his friend and another guy that I can’t stand who plays softball and always sleazes all over me.

We are drinking and talking and playing cards and it’s so funny… I am used to my friends and the conversations that we have. This was markedly different. They discussed politics heatedly, at the city, state and national levels. I have never done that outside of my closest friends, whom I know have similar viewpoints. Earlier in the evening, I had a similar experience when Katie, several of her friends from high school and I had dinner at the Cabana. It was just non-stop talk about politics, from the perspective of several ballsy west-side women. Whew.

So to be playing cards with strangers and to listen while they talk about why they like this guy, that one’s an ass… It was really surreal. My partner was a union guy (whew!) but we were the only two at the table… I love rapping about unions with union guys. It was an excellent conversation, and also really eye-opening.

Meanwhile, we are still drinking the homemade wine and have now started getting into a keg left in the shelter, too (again, it’s a small town, no one’s gonna steal it).

So we’re still talking, and drinking, and playing cards, and then it was 1:30 and everyone else is gone and I’m looking around the ballpark, thinking, what am I doing in this deserted shelter with these three men that I don’t even know? I get up to take my leave and they all looked up at me and in unison said, “You’re really going, Lisa?” “Really?” “Can’t you stay a little longer?” I looked down at them and it was like looking at a table full of fourth graders, who were just told that they can’t get ice cream on the way home.

I stayed until 4 in the morning. My partner and I had been winning all night and that’s hard to walk away from anyway… And it wasn’t like I had anything better to do. ~

Saturday, February 16, 2008

2008 Lane's End Stakes + 2008 Turfway Park Live Racing Schedule


The 2008 Lane's End Stakes (also known as the Spiral Stakes, also known as the Jim Beam Stakes) will be held on March 22, 2008 at Turfway Park. This horse race for three-year olds traditionally helps to kick off the race to determine Derby horse picks later in the year.

Get information about tickets for the Lane's End Stakes online. A number of options for attending the Turfway Park event have already sold out, an excellent sign of a possible turning point for the Kentucky horse park's recent woes.

Turfway Park has live racing right now, every Wednesday through Sunday through April 3rd. It's a great way to spend an afternoon blowing off work, ha.

Turfway Park 2008 Live Racing Schedule:

2008 Winter/Spring Meet January 1--April 3
Post time Wednesday-Thursday: 1:10 p.m.
Post time Friday: 5:30 p.m.Post time
Saturday-Sunday: 1:10 p.m.
Lane's End Stakes: Saturday, March 22.

2008 Fall Meet September 3--October 2
Post time Wednesday-Friday: 7:00 p.m.
Post time Saturday-Sunday: 1:10 p.m.
Kentucky Cup Day of Champions: Saturday, September 27.2008

Holiday Meet November 30--December 31

Post time Wednesday-Friday: 5:30 p.m.
Post time Saturday-Sunday: 1:10 p.m.
Closed most major holidays.

Directions to Turfway Park:
From the north: I-71/75 south to Exit 182 (Turfway Road). At the end of the ramp, go straight. The ramp becomes Thoroughbred Boulevard, which leads directly to Turfway Park's main entrance.

From the south: I-71/75 to Exit 182 (Turfway Road). At the end of the ramp, turn left onto Turfway Road. Turfway Park is on the right about half a mile from the exit.

Northern Kentucky Storytelling Festival

The Northern Kentucky Storytelling Festival begins early this year at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County library.

This year the Library and Fischer Homes are spreading the fun over three months with nationally-known comic storytellers. The series includes performances for families and kids of all ages and special performances on Friday nights just for adults. That's new; I believe in the past it's all been "family friendly," so the Kenton County Library is taking it up a notch this year.

Northern Kentucky Storytelling Festival

February brings comic musician Andy Offutt Irwin. Andy is a veteran of storytelling festivals from Oregon to Alabama. Andy’s family show will be on Thursday and the adults-only show is Friday. The Adult performances are appropriate for ages 18 and up.

Family Show: Thursday, February 21 at 7 p.m.
Adult Show: Friday, February 22 at 7 p.m.

March brings Bil Lepp to the Northern Kentucky Storytelling Festival. Lepp is known as the "five-time biggest liar in West Virginia."

Family Show: Thursday, March 20 at 7 p.m.
Adult Show: Friday, March 21 at 7 p.m.

Grammy-winner Bill Harley performs at the Kenton County Library as part of the Storytellers Festival in April. After a Friday night adults-only show, four regional storytellers will perform on Saturday, with Harley wrapping up the afternoon with a show at 3 p.m.

Adult Show: Friday, April 18 at 7 p.m.
Family Show at the Festival: Saturday, April 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Directions to the Northern Kentucky Storytelling Festival:

From the South, North or West• Take I-71/75 to 275 East• Take Exit 83 and turn right onto Dixie Highway heading south. Proceed .8 mile and turn right on Kenton Lands Road. Library is on the left.

From the East• Take I-471 to 275 West• Take Exit 83 South and turn right on to Dixie Highway heading south. Follow directions above.

Free Wedding Planning Tips Seminar



The Kenton County Library is offering some free wedding planning tips from a professional wedding planner on February 20 at 7 p.m. at the Erlanger, Kentucky library branch.

Brigid Horne-Nestor of I-do Weddings & Events will provide information for people planning weddings, including how to save money, choose vendors and more.

Register online for the free wedding planning tips seminar.


my favorite spot.
















WSJ has a nice write up of the Seaside/Cannon Beach, Oregon area this week.

I wrote about Seaside a while ago. Not that anyone (!) commented, but I was trying to get some input on small-town living. Or what it's like to live in a resort area. Feel free to comment now if you're feeling a little more motivated, ha.

And if you're just tuning in, I'm from Oregon. Planning a move back. Thus the reason you're finding this post on the Northern Kentucky blog.

I thought the WSJ article was a nice break from all of the "news" I usually post here. Ha.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Friday, February 15, 2008

making the case for cannabis


I was out with friends recently who are a bit older than me and I couldn’t resist asking them to share their opinion on legalizing marijuana. One of them works in the medical field, and I was particularly interested in her answer. Not surprisingly, they told me that they thought it should be legalized. Raising her drink, my friend gave me the same answer that I hear from most people when I ask them the same question: “Well, if alcohol is legal, I can’t understand why pot can’t be legalized, too.”

Right on.

And the question that I have to ask is who the heck is against legalizing dope? Because unless they’re fronting, I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years, representing a lot of different demographics and economic situations, and they all support legalizing marijuana. So where’s the disconnect?

When it comes time to vote, it’s clear, less than fifty percent of American voters support legalizing marijuana. Now. I know and you know, that no matter how much everyone talks a good game about this candidate and that candidate, rocking the vote and the rest of it, that when it comes time to go to the polls, historically, the only people that really make a showing are over 50. So that may be part of why the numbers are skewed. Yet, from everything I read, and everyone I talk to, the over-50 crowd doesn’t seem to have a problem with decriminalization. Just the opposite, in fact.

In recent years, more and more states have accepted medical use of marijuana. Pot reformists hoped this would quickly snowball, and open the door to decriminalization for personal use. Not so much. Only a dozen states have decriminalized dope, and even those laws provide limited protection for smokers. Twelve states have also accepted marijuana for medical use. But they’re not the same twelve states. A disconnect? Maybe. We’re led to believe that the same people who can see the benefits of medical marijuana just can’t abide the legalization of limited personal use of the drug. Yet time and time again, surveys show, Americans on the whole support legalizing marijuana for personal use. More disconnects, perhaps.

Or maybe it’s for a far simpler reason: the American public at large supports decriminalization, but politicians remain ambivalent about legalizing dope. And if special interests, lobbyists and politicians don’t get on board with backing cannabis reform laws, it just won’t happen. Local law enforcement, even where statewide reform laws have been passed, continue to battle soft decriminalization and to resist capitulating in various cities, towns and counties. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to keep moving forward with reformist efforts.

Another kvetch that I often hear from soft supporters is that if marijuana was legalized, it would help take it out of kids’ hands. Right now, it’s pretty easy for anyone to buy dope. Legalizing it, and setting age restrictions, might just help make it less accessible to children. That’s a strong argument, but so far it hasn’t seemed to impact voters’ decisions.

And the chance of addiction, overdose, or permanent physical damage caused by withdrawals from dope is miniscule when compared to alcohol. My friend in the medical field reiterated that to me, rather emphatically. But when it comes to really talking about legalization, a lot of people worry that decriminalizing marijuana means opening the door to greater dangers than we already face- legally, by drinking alcohol. Yet regulation could make it easier for law enforcement to test inebriated drivers- and to help make the roads a lot safer for everyone.

I’m not getting into hemp laws today. Except to say, that’s an even slower-moving system filled with pratfalls and counterproductive laws and regulations.

A humble blogger makes an even more humble suggestion to readers: if you don’t have a problem with legalizing dope, speak up. Step up at the voter’s booth, and show the courage of your convictions by letting politicians know how you feel. And learn more about smoking the vote and where the candidates stand on medical marijuana access at NORML, the nonprofit that’s been supporting marijuana reform laws for over 30 years.

Because nothing will ever change if you don’t make it happen.

jazz singer jessica stern-enzi

Last night I had the opportunity to catch jazz singer Jessica Stern-Enzi when she gave a special Valentine’s Day performance at the Terrace Bar in Chez Nora’s in Covington.

Stern-Enzi's singing has a sweetness that’s engaging- and really fresh. Her voice has a lovely, lilting quality with a distinct, sexy rasp that sets her apart from a lot of the more traditional jazz offerings in greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Jessica Stern-Enzi plays Sundays at the Reserve Restaurant and Piano Lounge at Newport on the Levee and has various gigs here and there around town. You can learn more about Stern-Enzi and check on upcoming shows in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati at her website.

Stern-Enzi’s former instructor at CCM and local jazz legend, Mary Ellen Tanner, continues to play at Chez Nora’s on Sundays.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

a memorial for midnight


One of the best things about living in Northern Kentucky is the people. Neighbors aren’t just people who live next door. They bring you dinner, stop by with dogs in tow to chat and always welcome a little splash of bourbon and some good conversation on the porch. I’ll never, ever forget the friends that I’ve made here.

This story is from when I lived in Mansion Hill in Newport, on the street where all the flight attendants live. I was really, really (still am) close with my neighbors- most nights we’d visit on one of our porches and we even went up north to the big lake together one fine summer. Things like this happened all the time:

I was out late one night, drank way too much and somehow didn’t make it all the way up the stairs, but slept on the couch instead. I wake up early in the morning to a repeated knocking on the door. I still have traces of make-up on and my head hurts but I grab an old t shirt and shorts off the floor and run down to answer the door. It’s my neighbor Alan’s kids from across the street, looking somber.

“Midnight died last night. We’re going to have a funeral today,” they told me sadly.

Let me explain about Midnight. Midnight was a big black tomcat officially bunking down at Ella’s, a southern belle who lived across the street and on the corner. A flight attendant, Ella is often out of town, so other neighbors would feed the tom and sometimes take him in for a night or two. I am not really a cat person per se but I liked him; he’d often disappear for a couple of days and then come home with a gash in his ear, evidence of fighting, and reeking like kitty, too. I knew Ella and the kids loved Midnight, so I felt really bad for them. Still not really awake, I said sure, I’ll be there, and then I went upstairs and promptly fell back asleep. Ten minutes later, someone is pounding on my front door again. I go back downstairs.

“We are starting the funeral in five minutes so get up and come over,” says Alan. “You need to be there.” OK, OK, I wake up for real, decide to wash my make up off later and manage to brush my teeth. Still in the ratty t-shirt and shorts, I walk over to the field at the end of our street where everyone is gathered.

As far as cat funerals go, it wasn’t bad. Ella, crying, had us each write down a memory we had of Midnight, and then we read them aloud and Alan placed them in the shoebox with the cat. Then, he started digging the grave.

It’s early, but it’s one of those hot, sweaty days in the Midwest in May when you can tell it’s going to thunderstorm all day long. Really hot already, and it’s only 10 in the morning. Alan is digging and digging into what turned out to be shale, and not dirt. For some reason (I guess because of the grave digging), my fancy-schmancy attorney neighbor is wearing overalls and a wife beater. Ella, too, is wearing an old t-shirt and shorts. It is hot, it is sad, the field smells and now there is a mist of red clay in the air, in our throats, in our hair and all over our clothes. Alan dug down as far he could go, buried the cat, and we all stood there silently. Then Alan looks at me and says, “Well, we had a funeral. Now we need to have a wake.”

Dirty, sheeny with sweat and red clay and still wearing streaked eyeliner, I followed the procession back to Alan’s house. Alan’s wife, Caitlin, is in the kitchen already making bloody marys. I walk in and watch her drop three shots into the first one. “That one’s yours, Lisa.” Mmm-hmm. We trooped out to the front porch. Eight hours later, we were still there. Still drinking. Still dirty. Still wearing our grubby clothes and covered in red clay (and last night’s make-up).

We kept drinking and talking, talking and drinking, clearing out all of Alan and Caitlin’s booze, all of mine (half gallons) and all of the booze at Vanessa (another flight attendant who lived next door to me) and Ella’s houses too. And as the storm rolled in, so did a number of guests… Alan’s family is rather well-known so visitors included a would-be mayoral candidate, a higher-up in the local parochial school system and a number of other neighbors and friends. By early evening I am speaking in tongues, practically, leaning all over the mayor and telling him about some city-related grievance.

At some point, I go inside, where Caitlin finds me in the kitchen, hands gripping the counter and staring up at the ceiling (she related all of this to me at a later date).

“Honey, do you think it’s time to go home?”

“I don’t know, Caitlin. What do you think?”

“Let’s go home, honey.”

Caitlin, mother to us all, walked me home and dropped me on the couch. I “take a nap” that lasts until morning.

The next day I wake up, and find a big bowl of water on the floor. I puzzled over that briefly (whatever was I doing?) and then went on about my business. Two days later, I am at Vanessa’s house telling her about the bowl of water.

“Oh Alan and Ella put that there.” Alan and Ella? Did I wake up and have them over?

“No, they came over to see if you had any more to drink and to get something to eat. They brought over young guy and some of his friends to look through your kitchen (young guy lived next door and was always amazed at how much drinking we all do). They wanted to see if you would wet the bed if they put your hand in water.”

Bastards! I immediately stomp over to Ella’s house with a what-is-the-meaning-of-this speech.

“Oh honey, it was so funny,” drawls Ella. “But when we put your hand in the bowl of water nothing happened except that you kicked off your blanket.”

Who was in my house?”

“Just me, Alan, young guy and about six of his friends. I can’t believe…”

“You can’t believe what?”

“I can’t believe the only thing you wear to sleep are those littttle tiiiiiny underpants.”

For as long as I lived over there, ever after when I ran into young guy he would wave excitedly, I would slink away and Alan would laugh himself sick.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

diving in to the tri-state’s best dives


Some of the tri-state’s best restaurants are (ahem) locally owned, (ahem, ahem) run by family members and what they lack in style, grace and elegant preezahntayshun, they make up for in honest good food- at a very affordable price.

There are many good dive restaurants in the tri-state. You won’t find any cutesy curlicue garnishes, sexy desserts smothered in mole sauce or before-dinner cosmos at the unpretentious restaurants on this list. Think open-faced turkey, real mashed potatoes and homemade apple pie. Strong coffee and even stronger mixed drinks. Served up by ambivalent, overworked waitresses whose little kindnesses are somehow more authentic than phony overtures from some cheerleading barista. They’re as likely to scold you as they are to serve you, and somehow, it’s comforting. Many of these restaurants accept cash only.

They’re the finest dive restaurants in the tri-state area. And for good reason:

The Chinese Lantern at 965 Main in Hamilton has really good, really cheap, really fresh Chinese food and does mostly a lunch business, so it’s easy to get a table at dinner. Five star service and a fairly decent mai tai.

There are two Hyde’s restaurants in Hamilton. One is a (seasonal) 50’s-style drive-in and one is a hole in wall restaurant with incredibly difficult parking. Both are excellent. The drive-in is located at 2030 Fairgrove and the restaurant is at 130 S. Erie (both are one of fifteen or so names for “route 4”). The drive-in has “fast” food and the restaurant has too many dinner specials to list. Two people can easily eat for $25, including generous tip. Worth the trip.

Richard’s, with multiple locations in Hamilton and Fairfield and I think, Trenton, has to be experienced to be believed. My parents haven’t lived here for over a decade and they still talk about Richard’s. The house specialty is a steak sandwich. The steak’s pedigree is pretty questionable, and it will make your car smell for three days if you get one to go, but man, it’s totally worth it. I have to go up to Fairfield on the 29th and I am totally planning to go there for lunch. Which probably means I’ll have to take three showers when I get home.

Wolpert’s in Hamilton has great sandwiches and full-scale dinners including rib-eye steak. It’s hard to find if you don’t know where to look. It’s at 1005 Eaton Avenue, just over the RR tracks and behind Flub’s.

The Port Union Café’s really random menu includes chicken and dumplings and metts. A lunch-time tradition for people who work in the greater tri-county area. 8953 Princeton Glendale Road in West Chester.

Win, Place or Show (formerly Tommy’s) at 9933 Cincinnati-Columbus Road, Cincinnati (also known as route 42) has great burgers. It’s a favorite of Sharonville and West Chester residents.

The Houston Inn at 4026 S US Route 42 in Lebanon is not an inn like the Golden Lamb is an inn. It’s more like an inn the way HoJo’s might be called an inn. Any Saturday evening that we’d stop by, we’d always find Mr. Houston in his red sport jacket and his lovely daughter-hostesses joking and laughing with customers. I tend to think salad bars are pretty bourgeois, but man, theirs is unbelievable. I guess because it’s all good homemade stuff. And they make a kick-ass, oversized tanqueray and tonic. Big old red booths that you can sink down into and a very casual atmosphere make it a perfect stop after yes, ka-brewing in Lebanon. In all seriousness, this is my favorite restaurant in greater Cincinnati.

I found Maury’s Tiny Cove at 3908 Harrison in Cincinnati by accident, swept off to a last minute dinner with some friends. They have a great Lenten offering in the form of the Panther sandwich (cod on rye), and their dirty martinis are no joke. I drank one and the whole room was spinning. They also have the big old booths that you can sink down into while you dribble olive juice into your glass.

Walt’s at 6040 Colerain Avenue has the best. barbecue. in town. It’s often packed, even during the week and you may have to share your table. It’s in an old taco bell.

Whether Quatman’s in Norwood (2434 Quatman Avenue) or the E in Hyde Park (2900 Wasson Road) are really “dives” is questionable. Especially when compared to some of the other restaurants on this list. But they both have good food at really reasonable prices.

The Loyal Café at 402 Foote Avenue in Bellevue is a local favorite. Don’t be fooled by the tacky paneling on the walls. This restaurant has really good, really cheap sandwiches. They go well with Budweiser in a can. A noted special is their year-round jack salmon sandwich and take-out business is brisk on Fridays during Lent. I think jack salmon might actually be perch. But it’s a darn good sandwich if you don’t ask too many questions.

And I can’t remember the name of this dive (doh!), so hopefully someone will help me- we always call it the White Oak café, and it’s just off of Reagan in Colerain. Whatever they’re called, they have what my friend calls “out of this world” pie. Let me know and I’ll update the post.

The Anchor Grill in Covington had its own post a while back on Northern Kentucky News. The 24-hour café is a late-night favorite for Mainstrasse revelers.

Newport’s Monmouth Street, the antidote to the Levee mall, is literally lined with dives. I’ve never had lunch or dinner at any of them but I’ve had the $3 breakfast special at several and they’re all good.

Just don’t look at the carpet too closely.


Update:
I've had a couple of people email me about Tina's, located downtown at 350 W. Fourth Street. I put Tina's in with Quatman's and the E; it's an upscale dive. They have a good fish sandwich for Lent and it's just an all-around great place for lunch any day of the week. Also, it's a great place to scope really cute guys (if that's your thing).

And, I completely forgot to include the Green Derby, located at 846 York Street in Newport. The Derby has been a mainstay for cheap, well-made homestyle dinners for more than 50 years. And they have several options for Lent. Go on Monday, sit in the bar, and you might get lucky enough to sit next to the funny, sweet couple in their 80's who have been eating there every Monday night since the Green Derby opened. ~ed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

the dreamer

They say that dreams foretell the future. Or at least, that they reflect your daily struggles, wants and needs in a way that’s a firm caricature of what it is that you. really. want. out of life.

I keep a dream journal. Big surprise, right? Actually, over the years, I’ve filled several. But it wasn’t until the advent of the internet that I had quick and easy access to dream dictionaries. Instead of paying $1.29 at the grocery store for a tiny 15-page pamphlet that scoped out my dreams in just a line or two, now, I have access to words on top of words that tell me what my dreams mean.

I take it all with a grain of salt. I don’t think a book, a website or really, any other person can tell me too much about myself. I like to read the dream interpretation websites because they’re fun. And oddly specific. I had a friend who had recurring dreams about fighting elephants and sure enough, we found them in the dream dictionary, wreaking havoc and representing confusion.

Sometimes I think my real life begins and ends when I am sleeping. I have such vivid dreams when I sleep. I lead blind manatees to water. I care for a baby that’s only a head, with a grinding motor whizzing and beeping behind its brain. I grasp slippery, stinging scorpions and work hard to stop them from reaching ‘round and hurting me.

My dreams, inevitably, are beyond classification. But there are some classic dream symbols there. Death and rebirth. Self destructive and self defeating. And triumph.

And most of all, I dream about my mother:

And earlier that night I dreamed of a bedroom filled with butterflies that were enormous, pulsating in brilliant liquid colors. I was fascinated by them and frightened too. My mother entered the room and picked one up and took it outside.

My mom figures prominently in a lot of my dreams. In my dreams, she doesn’t have MS. She walks quickly, bounding up stairs and laughing at me over her shoulder, leaving me to try to catch up.

We walk everywhere when I am sleeping.

Sometimes I have the presence of mind to ask her how she can walk. She laughs me off and I wake up upset, bereft, crying and confused.

I don’t need a therapist, a book or a dream interpretation website to tell me why I dream about my mom. I love her, she loves me, and like most mothers and daughters, we have a complicated relationship where our lives are distinctly intertwined, convoluted and of course, overly emotional. I think about her a lot. So inevitably, I dream about her too.

And I don’t know if my dreams can tell me my future. For now, I’m happy just to sleep, knowing that the dreams will come, when I need them the most.

best of cincinnati 2008

A friend and I were just complaining about the lack of local contests, etc. based on votes by peers, and voila! CityBeat's 2008 Best of Cincinnati survey appears.

The survey is a whopping six pages long, but you only need to answer 30 questions for your ballot to qualify. Entries range from "favorite casino" to "best restaurant with a view."

Take a moment to vote for your favorite everything online now, and feel free to tell us about your favorite places to shop, dine or get news in the tri-state on the blog. The deadline for voting is March 1 and the results of the 2008 Best of Cincinnati survey will appear in CityBeat's Best of Cincinnati issue on March 26.

George Stanford and Babyface Play the Madison Theater in Covington February 17th

Singer-songwriter George Stanford will be opening for Babyface at Madison Theater in Covington on February 17th. Stanford's debut album drops in spring, but you can check him out on his website now.

Stanford's music promises to deliver the kind of homegrown, roots rock that's so popular right now. Backed by history-making producers and performing a number of instruments (everything except drums!) on his debut, Stanford's future looks bright.

The George Stanford / Babyface show starts at 8 pm and is for all ages. Buy tickets for the show at the madison theater online ahead of time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

candy’s fine, thanks

Thanks for the emails. For the record, if I see you out anywhere, I will not be giving you a gift, you do not need to give me a gift, and after yesterday I will probably never even use the word gift again, ever.

let it snow: Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati Sledding Hills

I love sledding. When I was a kid we always went sledding on a toboggan, truly the most frightening of all snow-related activities. Picture neighborhood kids stacked on top of each other with the last one pushing off and jumping on. Mittens flew, noses ran and everyone screamed, waiting for that moment of impact. Broken bones, early signs of frostbite and soaking wet clothes were the order of the day. And it was so, so worth it.

With another winter storm on the way, it’s a good time to recap our favorite Northern Kentucky and greater Cincinnati sledding hills. Feel free to comment and share your own:

Devou, Devou, Devou. Beautiful views on any day and a fine sledding hill in our own Covington at Devou Park, located at 1600 Montague Drive in Covington.

The Catholic Children’s Home in Fort Mitchell allows sledding. 75 Orphanage Road in Fort Mitchell.

Under the 4th street bridge in Covington. A steep sledding hill with the added excitement of possibly falling into the Licking River.

The Newport stadium is a hot spot for sledding. Though it usually looks more like a traffic jam… If you can get there early enough, I think it would be worth it.

Big Bone Lick State Park is located 22 miles southwest of Covington on KY 338, off US 42 - 127 and I-71 / I-75 and allows sledding. The park has several miles of trails so can also be a haven for cross-country skiers.

Both Alms Park and Ault Park in Columbia Tusculum and Mount Lookout have sledding hills. Alms Park is located at 710 Tusculum Avenue and Ault Park is located at 3600 Observatory Ave in Mount Lookout.

Harbin Park in Fairfield has one of the best sledding hills, ever. If you’re not careful you can end up in the woods. Harbin Park is located at 1300 Hunter Road in Fairfield.

Voice of America is Butler County’s other stand-out, with a 65-foot sledding hill. The Voice of Freedom Park is located at 7850 VOA Park Dive in West Chester (off of Cox Road).

Note that sledding hills that are not in a park are not official sledding hills. That ups the risk factor and increases the chance of injury- and the potential that someone will come along and tell you to go home.

Oh, and the old Thriftway location in Newport, at the corner of 6th and York, is the best lot for spinning donuts, if you can get your SUV over there before they plow. I highly recommend it… it’s a great stress reliever. Though probably also terribly illegal.

p.s. Why are all the schools closed today, or on delay? Did I miss something?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

the gift

Over the years, I’ve found that men seem to fall into a couple of categories when it comes to, um, “gift-giving.” Most of them love to receive gifts, but not all of them are willing to give certain types of gifts.

Are you with me so far?

I like to give gifts. Giving gifts is a wonderful way to get closer to someone and to show them how much you care. It can even be somewhat empowering. And I don’t think that giving a gift always necessitates a gift in return. Not at all. Depending upon when and where the gift is given, a return gift might not always be practical. I get that.

But sometimes, when I’m not getting any gifts in return, I start to feel a little… upset. Even worse than the men who refuse to give a gift are the ones who will give a gift but obviously don’t like giving gifts. Seriously. Just don’t bother.

I can give myself a (slightly different) gift and save us both the trouble.

The reasons for not giving a gift can vary widely. For one thing, if you don’t know someone that well, or don’t feel that close to them, you may not feel so inspired to give them anything. For others, the reasoning can be more complicated. Some people could have had a bad experience gift-giving in the past. Some men grew up thinking it was wrong to give gifts. Some folks are worried about their gift-giving abilities, or they really don’t know how to give a gift. For that last one, please. Just ask. I can’t think of any woman who wouldn’t be willing to offer some fast, easy to understand, gift-giving tips.

Though I’ve noticed, none of these men ever seem to have a problem accepting a gift. So when I’m in a relationship, and not receiving any gifts in return, it really starts to vex me after a while.

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, and gift-giving ideas all over the blogosphere, may a humble blogger make a suggestion? Forget about the Coach handbag and instead, give your girl a gift she’ll be thinking about- until spring.

And don’t forget the card. ~

mrs. southern kentucky using craigslist to find sponsors


A contender for the 2008 Mrs. Kentucky beauty pageant is looking for sponsors. I came across this one totally by accident while trolling one of the southern Kentucky craigslist classified listings. I have to say, her many accomplishments are pretty impressive.

Her ad doesn't specify, but I believe sponsors of the 2008 Mrs. Kentucky winner will receive a certain amount of promotion in exchange for their money or donations. It's one of the odder craigslist postings I've come across lately in Kentucky. But more power to her. I hope she finds the sponsorship she needs for the beauty pageant.

If you've ever wanted to sponsor a beauty queen, here's your chance:

In need of sponsors


Date: 2008-01-14, 5:43PM EST

Hello, My name is Jillian Thomas. By winning the Mrs. Southern Kentucky preliminary, I have the honor of competing in the 2008 Mrs. Kentucky America pageant that will be held in Louisville in June. I have received paid entry to the state competition, although I am still responsible for many expenses. These include ad sales, ticket sales, travel, wardrobe, etc.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Mrs. Kentucky America pageant, it gives married women all over Kentucky the opportunity to showcase their lives as married women as well as promotes community involvement.

If you require additional information about the Mrs. Kentucky organization, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. You may also visit the official Mrs. Kentucky America website, http://www.mrskentucky.net/.

I thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship with your company.

Thank you,

Jillian Rochelle Thomas

Mrs. Southern Kentucky 2007

Mrs. Kentucky America Contestant 2008 606-872-3510 ________________________________

Name: Jillian Thomas

Title: Mrs. Southern Kentucky

Education: Eastern Kentucky University- Sophomore

Major: Nursing Minor: Communications GPA: 3.8 Pulaski County High School Graduate 2003

Platform Issue: The National Anthem Project, and Breast Cancer Awareness

Scholastic Ambition: To obtain a Masters in the Science of Nursing

Career Ambition: To become an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

Scholastic Honors: Dean’s list 2007: Eastern Kentucky University. Only high school student in Kentucky to obtain certification in both, Retail, and Fashion merchandising- 2003

Leadership Roles: Region II DECA President: 2002-03, Region II DECA Vice President; Region II DECA Reporter; PCHS DECA Chapter President; PCHS DECA Chapter Vice President; PCHS DECA Chapter Historian. Past member of: Fellowship of Christian Athletes, DECA, BETA. Captain of the volleyball, and tennis teams. Current honorary member of DECA.

Accomplishments: Top 20 of my graduating class, I host Health and Wellness Television, Former Miss Madison County 2004, First runner up: Mrs. Nelson County, Mrs. Pendleton County, Mrs. Bardstown; Second runner up: Mrs. My Old Kentucky home, Miss Pulaski County High School; Top ten finalist: Miss Lincoln County, Miss Jessamine County, Miss Caldwell County, and Miss Clinton County; Owner and CEO Of: Jewelry By Jillian; Recipient of the Honesty award, the Integrity award and Perseverance, DECA’s Outstanding Volunteer Of the year, Rookie of the year, 110% Award, Athlete of the week; featured in Health and Wellness Magazine.

Interesting Facts: I design my own jewelry and clothes; love to explore in Vintage stores; I can bake anything but especially chocolate chip cookies; I want to travel the world.

Employment: Health and Wellness Television: Host, Part time receptionist; As well as home maker.

What three words best describe you? Dedicated, Energetic, Spontaneous!

the quorum

Getting together with a group of bloggers is a strange thing. Most of the time, we’re relegated to our notebooks. Huddled behind computer screens, freely writing about other people. So to be faced with meeting a group of my Cincinnati-area blogger peers was kind of a daunting prospect.

Recently, I received an invite to tour the new Q, along with a group of other regional bloggers. The Q is the new Gateway Quarter residential and commercial property and condo development in downtown Cincinnati’s OTR. It’s an urban renewal project that’s getting a lot of attention- and for good reason. We were asked to tour new, still under construction areas of the downtown loft condo development portion of the project before anyone else, including Cincinnati mainstream media. Cool. Kevin LeMaster, over at Building Cincinnati, was, of course, the one who masterminded the insider’s tour.

The homes in Cincinnati’s Gateway Quarter are astonishing. They’re charming, old vintage buildings in downtown Cincinnati’s OTR that were refurbished and turned into condos. Lovely, loft-style condo homes have plenty of exposed brick, and lots of stand-out features like refurbished wood moldings and floors. The sun-filled homes showcase the vintage characteristics of the buildings that city dwellers (like moi) crave. Some of the lofts had awesome rooftop decks, and all of them had huge, oversized windows, secured parking and a great deal of charm.

And in a time when the condo market is taking a beating, the Gateway Quarter homes in downtown Cincinnati are selling like crazy. Even during our tour of the Cincinnati Q neighborhood, prospective homeowners kept popping up to join in and to take a peek at the new vintage loft condos.

Clearly, Cincinnati has been waiting for the Gateway Quarter. Everywhere we walked, people in the downtown OTR neighborhood waved and smiled, happy to see a new influx of potential buyers visiting the vintage condos. And other updates are happening too- from the addition of the Art Academy to old lotto and liquor carry-out stores leaving and a downtown park receiving an overhaul, the face of the neighborhood is changing. The Gateway Quarter has unlimited built-in PR opportunities, resting square in the middle of the Cincinnati arts district.

Inevitably, I was faced with a number of worries when it came time to go to the Cincinnati blogger meet-up. For one thing, when I’m downtown, I tend to get turned around a lot. Like a big black hole in space, I can never find free parking and I always find myself driving up and down, up and down, refusing to pay for a lot, looking for broken meters on the street and chanting my mantra for the street names and their placement- Big Strong Men Will Very Rarely Eat Purple Cherries (Broadway, Sycamore, Main, Walnut, Vine, Race, Elm, Plum and Central).

But most of all, it was being confronted with people who may have read this blog that unnerved me. That almost never happens. See, I know a couple of people in my family read the blog. And a few friends will stop by once in a while to check things out. But for the most part, I’m writing for people who don’t know me at all. And whom I’ve never met. So in meeting other Cincinnati-area bloggers for the first time, I was understandably a little... twitchy.

I held my own pretty well. One of the developers gave an introductory speech explaining “I know Lisa doesn’t know anything about it” (hey!) and I did get separated from my group… a couple of times (lo, the easily distracted). Also, as one of only two female Cincinnati bloggers in attendance, people kept mixing me up with Jackie Danicki, whose lovely glamour rubbed off on me a bit (“So, how do you like living in this country?”), ha.

The blogs of the elite group of Cincinnati-area bloggers who attended include:

Building Cincinnati

Buy Cincy

Cincy Images

CityKin

ekalb

GetCincy

Jackie Danicki

Joe Wessels

RRD Photo

Queen City Survey

The 'Nati Life

UrbanCincy

Many of them have posted or will be posting blogs about the tour and many, many more photos of the new Gateway Quarter in Cincinnati. Check ‘em out.

Friday, February 8, 2008

the boys club


When I was in college, I had a sweetheart that I dated for more than two years, and with few exceptions, we got along really well. But one problem I always had trouble with was his choice of roommates.

My dearheart’s roommates regularly, and without fail, cheated on their girlfriends. I knew this both from what my boyfriend told me, and also from what I witnessed on occasion. Because oddly, those two didn’t seem to have a problem with doing this right in front of me. One particularly bad boy would have women over when his girlfriend was at her parent’s house- with their child. Nice, right?

And what I could never understand, what I just couldn’t fathom or comprehend, was how my boyfriend could be friends with boys like that.

“Don’t you realize,” I huffed at him repeatedly, “if they lie to and cheat on the one person in the world who they supposedly love more than anyone that ultimately, they won’t be a good friend to you, either? Can’t you see that they aren’t trustworthy?”

No, he said time and time again. It’s different. They wouldn’t lie to me. We’re friends.

To which I always responded, How do you know?

I call it the Boy’s Club. And membership is open for any guy, no matter how he behaves, as long as he’s a good bud to his pals.

And maybe it’s hard for me to understand, because women don’t cheat as much as men. Well, maybe they do, but they certainly don’t tell me about it. So considering it as a friendship factor is not something I’ve ever had to contend with. Over the years, I’ve known a number of men whose friends treated their significant others poorly, and the guys I knew just didn’t seem to care. Like great politicians who cheat on their wives, it wasn’t part of their voting decision- it was just an aside, that didn’t affect their friendship.

The one time that I’m aware of that someone cheated on me, a couple of people in my inner circle knew, but chose not to tell me. I found this out after the fact and of course, demanded to know why. “I didn’t want to get involved,” said one friend. And that hurt. It hurt a lot. Because if you can’t “get involved” with your friends, what’s the point?

And maybe I’m just as bad. I’ve had plenty of married guys hit on me (and yes, I know the difference between a flirt and a hit), and I never once told their wives. I never told the girlfriends of my ex’s roommates, either. Why?

Well… If you’re a regular blog reader, then you know how I feel about karma. What comes around goes around. When things fall apart, as they inevitably will, I don’t want to be responsible for the fall-out. And maybe that makes me a bad person. Someone who doesn’t want to get involved. A charter member of the boy’s club.

And my personal experiences haven’t been situations where I am well acquainted with both parts of the couple. These have often been more work-related situations. I would feel really random going to some woman I don’t really know and explaining to her who her husband really is. I guess I’m just assuming that they’ll figure it out on their own, eventually. Because of karma. And I know for a fact, some women just don’t want to know. They’re happy living in la-la land, and who am I to mess that up?

I suppose if one of the wives approached me and asked me straight out, I would tell them what happened. I think in that instance they’re just looking for confirmation. But it’s never happened, so I don’t really know what I would do. Maybe I would just wimp out.

In the meantime, I think I’ll just let karma take its course.

2008 fine arts fund sampler weekend


This weekend is the annual Fine Arts Fund sampler weekend. It's a great weekend to finally check out that obscure little theater you've been wanting to visit, the specialty museum that you just never seem to get to or to get free dance lessons, visit an art gallery and more. There are dozens of free programs and fun things to do during the Fine Arts Fund sampler weekend. It's a great way to get to know more about the local arts scene.

The full calendar of Fine Arts Fund sampler weekend events is split up by county and city to make it easier to find events to attend this weekend. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

the post-post industrial revolution


I’m from a small town. A couple of small towns, actually. Inevitably, of the people who chose to stay in those towns rather than venturing out in the big wide world, well, some of them ended up doing whatever they could do to survive. The available jobs in a small town usually include F&B, sales, education and retail. And some jobs for women that might pay fairly well, but are some steps below working in a bar or working as a substitute teacher.

I was an unfortunate, accidental witness to what a friend from high school had told me was a “modeling” job. It was a sad, sad farce that actually meant wandering around in a bar wearing a see-through teddy and trying to entice male patrons to buy the cheap lingerie for their wives. Those women moved on to having photos taken for hardcore calendars and later, to websites. And stripping.

I am fairly sympathetic to strippers. I really am. I know I’ve written a few things on the blog about the men’s clubs in town, but that’s just because of the spillover outside Covington’s strip clubs- you’ll often see staggering patrons wandering in and out of the clubs, and the bars are close to the library. And a school. I don’t think that’s appropriate.

But on the whole, I don’t have a problem with strippers. I have empathy for them, and for women who work in the porn industry. If you’ve ever watched or listened to Howard Stern, almost the first question he asks every woman in the sex industry is “who abused you?” Referring, of course, to the sad sexual abuse stories so many of these women have to tell. That’s more common than you might imagine.

Inevitably, with small towns, these women will cross paths with their more successful counterparts. On one occasion, a group of fellows that I know well went into a strip club and ran into a friend of mine, who was working- and topless. She was terribly embarrassed, and immediately tried to cover herself. Why? Well, I think it was because it was two worlds colliding. Because I’ve talked to her and her friends and they definitely live in two worlds. And never the twain shall meet.

When the story was related to me by one of the guys, it was definitely in a “how could you be friends with someone like that?” tone. And I was subjected to more dialog, along the lines of how disgusting the whole thing was. “It’s you and your friends that make her what she is,” I firmly replied. Because without their male customers, where would these women be?

I’d like to go to a strip club some time. A statement that usually results in my beau of the moment sitting straight up and volunteering to go with me “tonight, if you want.”

I don’t think I can adequately judge what goes on inside a strip club, nor write about it, without experiencing it firsthand. I tried to take a couple of my guy friends into one of Northern Kentucky’s strip clubs one time. It was dark, smoky, and kind of scary, but I was game. They weren’t. Practically peeing their pants, they begged me to leave, so I didn’t get to see anything.

My understanding is that I should skip the local clubs anyway, and either go to Indy (I hear that one a lot; the women there must be striking), or go when I’m out of town sometime, in Chicago or Florida, perhaps.

My other struggle with the sex industry hits home on a more personal level. Hanging out in Hilton Head with friends, a man who’d been asking me about my SEO work suddenly asked me a surprisingly insightful question: “You must get a lot of offers for work that you don’t want to do, huh?” Yeah, I do, actually.

I’ve been approached a few times by people to help optimize their porn websites. Because most of their advertising is internet-based, they pay very well. Very, very well. So far I have said no. I like porn websites as much as the next gal. But I have my limits. I think my threshold is about 15 minutes of online porn. Then I start to feel kind of queasy.

I don’t think porn is the root of all evil. I think that if you look at porn like a mathematical equation, there are some factors that make it undesirable.

For example: Let’s say I take on a job for a new adult-themed website. I write a cluster of explicit Meta tags, some more content that explains why the porn website is hot!-hot!-hot! Get my (really big) check in the mail, and move on.

6 months later, the website is shut down because there are minors in some of the videos. I don’t think I could live with that.

So, does porn = minors? No. But what about this: Without the porn website factor, no minors would have been involved. The equation ends up being: porn + videos = minors (sometimes). Or maybe it’s this: porn + women being treated badly = website (often). Because whether or not you’re a porn enthusiast, it doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that most of those women look pretty unhappy. Bored. Soulless.

And for my high school alumnus who ended up in or on the fringes of the porn industry, well. I don’t think they’re really happy. They seem to struggle with their interpersonal relationships. When you only think of men in terms of money, and you witness everything from cheating husbands to secret drug addictions firsthand, you’re going to become more than a little jaded.

I once read a behind-the-porn-scene book by a former “actress” that talked about a number of degradations forced upon women in the industry. Women told after arriving on-set that the script changed, placing these nervous young women in the awkward position of saying “no” and shutting down the entire movie… or taking one for the team. From the team. Women forced to wear the same (unwashed) lingerie for shoots right after it was worn by someone else. And someone else before them. The churning out of straight to vid doesn’t leave time for laundry, apparently.

So for now, the answer remains no. I told the fellow in Hilton Head that this is just not where I want to hang my hat as a writer or as a small businessperson. As we left, he told me that there’s “nothing wrong with taking the high road, you know.”

I agree.

Friday, February 1, 2008

2008 Covington Mainstrasse Mardi Gras


The Covington, Kentucky 2008 Mardi Gras is February 1 & 2 in Covington's MainStrasse Village.

This year tickets are $10 in advance each night and $15 each night at the gate. You can buy tickets for Covington's Mardi Gras online before you go.

Entertainment tent and Cajun food booths open at 8 p.m. this evening. The Grande Parade starts at 8:00 p.m. Saturday at 9th & Willow Run in Covington and will end up in MainStrasse proper.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Gridiron Greats Help Raise Money, Awareness

I get so upset when I read about retired football players who don’t have healthcare coverage. Remember the stories about Ickey Woods selling meat door to door? And most of these guys are so banged up that no insurance company will take them on, post-retirement.

Nowadays, your street-smart, fast-talking Jerry McGuire-style sports agent will hook a playah up, with proper, long-term healthcare as part of their team contract. But back in the day, in addition to (comparatively) low salaries, those football legends that we admire so much didn’t get anything. And for many, what money they had went to pay for costly, out of pocket medical expenses.

The Gridiron Greats is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and funds for retired football players without pensions or healthcare. The group, which includes greats like Steve Largent, Jerry Kramer and the much beloved Anthony Munoz, has been campaigning tirelessly with the Super Bowl as their backdrop. The group is calling for flat pensions, and asking players to donate one game check this season to the funds for retired football players on disability.

I don't know if it's responsible to say that former football players should receive monies based on salaries today. That's an argument that comes up again and again, especially with healthcare for retired football players in the news. But I do think it's important that the NFL and team owners take care of their own. In fairness, the NFL set aside several million last year to help retired players with joint replacement surgery. They also promised to try to speed up disability claims. But, there are still a lot of retired football players who don't have healthcare at all. That can't be right.

The Gridiron Greats are holding an auction of memorabilia, trips, even a dinner with Mike Ditka (!) to help retired football players pay for medical expenses on their website.