Husband Moves On (from Cincinnati Enquirer Subscription)

Dear Enquirer,

FullSizeRender copy 6There is no easy way to say this, so I will just say it: it’s time I moved on.

For over 25 years I have enjoyed our relationship.

I recall fondly stopping home from work after being on call in 1990 to buy the Sunday paper–because at the time it was what I could afford. My wife and I would grab a cup of coffee and read solid journalist pieces that helped me better understand my community.

As soon as we could, we got the full subscription, loving the way the ink rubbed off on the hand, and the smell of fresh news.

But let’s face it. You’ve changed. No longer do you encourage thoughtful insight into the news that directly and indirectly effects our great City. You’ve become petty, caustic, and to be honest, downright detrimental to the amazing transformations occurring.

There will be days that I miss parts of you, I suppose. I know I will still sneak around to find a good article by Doc or a funny Zits comic. But I won’t miss the you that you have become–that’s for sure.

One last thing, and this is a little awkward.

I’ve found someone else. Well, ok, actually two someones.

Sure, it isn’t a daily, and the ink doesn’t have the same smell.

But I’ve got to tell you, the Cincinnati Business Courier has really caught my eye, and to honest, my heart.

And City Beat makes me use my brain far more than you ever did.

So, after all these years, it’s over.
Maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s me.
Either way, wish it didn’t have to be.

Mark Manley, Over-the-Rhine

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“Look Mom, I finally made it to the West Side (of Mill Creek) – on my bike.”

FullSizeRenderI knew I was finally grown up, when Mom gave me permission to ride my bike to Pizza Hut. I was raised in a small town, next to a little bit bigger town, not too far from the big city of Cleveland. Before we could drive, biking was what we had. My older sister had been allowed to ride her bike down Route 58, all the way to Lakeview Park. I had been given permission to cross Route 58 and chow down at Pizza Hut with my friends.

Bicycling has always a means of freedom for me. When I tired of being the middle child in a family of boisterousness, when I wanted rebellion or to check out the boys playing baseball down the street, when I needed quiet, I rode my bike. First, it was up and down Butternut to Ridgeland Drive. Later, it was to “The Fields” (because there were only singular places in our town, “the theatre”, “the school”).

The word freedom comes to mind again, as I read about bicycling in headlines and blogs around Cincinnati. So, I recognized the need to categorize myself prior to writing the rest of this post.

I am not a bike commuter, but I am a huge proponent of the concept, having lived in other cities where they were commuting on bikes before Cincinnati had ever conceived of a Central Parkway Bike Lane. And reporter Chris Wetterich does a fine job of covering the highs and lows of bike commuting, as do many of my neighbors and friends (Schwartz and Karen Hughes).

Also, to be clear, I am not a cyclist. I do not find joy in heading out for long rides on Saturday mornings, drinking beer and eating BBQ at Eli’s then riding home to say, Madeira or Loveland. My friend, Susan Policastro, and her husband do this. A former work colleague and friend, Christine Hershe, is part of a cycling group. There are cycling groups all over the city that one can join or meet up, like the Urban Basin Bicycle Club, which will teach you where to ride in the city, or the Queen City bike or Cincy Bikes Programs with instructions on how to ride in the city. And even the Red Bike is available to anyone.

I have never taken a true bicycling vacation, like diehards who must bike to drink wine (I like my wine and my hands dry). However, I have rented a bike to explore the Lower Ninth in NOLA, following Hurricane Katrina and biked the San Juan Islands (Lopez is my favorite, because its flat). And I have poured sweat out in buckets to bike around the Mekong Delta.

Oh though I wish to be that prodigious bicycler who will ride to Yellow Springs,or along the winding, rising roads along the Oregon Coast.

But alas, I am not.

trampe3My idea of necessity in the cycling world is need for a bike lift (Trampe) so I don’t have to ride up Clifton Avenue or McMillan, no matter what the grade is on the way down.

Mostly, I am a stay-at-home bike rider. What’s the difference? I recall the days of Mom shooing us out of the house and telling us to go ride our bikes. That kind. The kind that likes to ride up hills, only so I can cruise down with legs splayed out. Or test my skills at the ripe age of 50 with riding no-handed. Or just flat out ride, because I want to get to know the city in way I cannot when on foot, to feel how the city is connected, except when its not.

So lately, I have been intrigued by making it to the West Side on my bike along less-populated streets. This was akin to finally being able to ride my bike to the pool on my own.
IMG_0093
I began at the obvious place, along the river, following Mehring Way from the end of Smale Park near PBS. But I found that road dead-ended into a stretch of highway. No surprise. So, I backpedaled, and took the previous turn, Carr Road, thinking this too would lead me to the promised land. Another dead-end. However, I did discover a highway entrance and a wrong way sign.

Yes, I could have looked on a map, or better yet, asked so many in the know, but what good is being a discoverer, if I had to ask someone else.

I tried Dalton to Budd. No chance.

Then I proceeded to follow UNDER (not along, too busy) W. Eighth Street. There is a series of archways beneath the elevated W. 8th that at first glance appear to allow access through to the other side. Until one is stopped by a neighboring trucking company with signs about cameras, and semis parked in my way. Since when did property beneath a public street become private property?

IMG_0092I kept turning back after encountering one obstacle then another, including a husband that said, “You’re going to get us killed.” (He of the electric boost bike variety).

Still, I persisted. As I rode back along Freeman, I spotted Gest Street. Like the explorers of old, I could see no obstacles, at least down the middle of the road. I could potentially get to the other side of Mill Creek, which would technically enable me to brag about making it to the west side.
I persevered, bike riding past the Metropolitan Sewer District and the stink that permeated the summer air, until I stopped atop a bridge overlooking a creek, where a signed warned about contagions. I had made it to the Mill Creek.

But at what cost?

IMG_0091Not to me. But at what cost to a community. To a group of communities whose links to each other have been lost over the years due to highways, trucks, cars and money. Riding in and out of the maze of concrete structures I began to piece together how the grand plans of the government squashed many good ideas, the small ideas that glued citizens to one another.

I suspect the hard-core bike commuters learned this lesson many seasons ago, as they attempted to ride into or out of the city, and up to Price Hill or the West Side.

I pushed on to State Street, and decided to turn around, a blog post swirling in my head, a head that was also faint from the mid-day sun.

As I turned, I spotted River Road in the distance, and decided I’ll ride to Sedamsville next, but may finally dig out that map.

I rode back home through the mid-section of the West End, the backside of Liberty that no one sees unless it’s in the news. Residents were seated outside to enjoy the rare cool of the summer day, along Livingston and Poplar. Plenty of them stopped to let me pass or just to say, “Hi.” I noted a few Second Empire-style architecture on a few homes with pitched roofs, interspersed with the Italianates, so many buildings of times gone by, when the West End too was flourishing.

During my seven or eight mile ride, I had encountered plenty of other bike riders, traversing dangerous roads because the sidewalk abruptly ended or there were no bike lanes or it wasn’t feasible for a bike to travel alongside a semi. We smiled as we passed each other, that knowing smile. That we were free in that moment from many strictures of the road.

What the bicycling environment offers in any form – whether cyclist, commuter, bike-rider, bike-lift-rider (my next goal) – is freedom. Freedom from the financial obligations of a car, insurance, upkeep and gas. Freedom from bus schedules which are convoluted at best. Freedom from the stale air one breathes inside a car. Freedom from traffic updates. Freedom from anyone reaching into one’s life without permission.

Freedom of the mind to roam, imagine and connect in ways the cars will never offer the opportunity to do so.

Delhi, here I come.

I Won’t Miss the White Tents

I don’t like to share. I grew up in the middle of a large Italian family – I do not like to share. For my first ten years, I shared a bedroom with two sisters. For many years, I shared a bathroom with three sisters and occasionally a, brother. We shared similar physical traits such that was difficult to not compare oneself to the other, usually in a more negative light. Yeah, but she got the better hair. I do not like to share.

And so, I find myself this morning, thankful the white tents of Washington Park are plummeting after a week’s worth of Lumenocity events so I don’t have to share my view of Music Hall, nor hFullSizeRender-1ave it obscured for the sake of someone else (even if that included me).

When we first moved to Over-the-Rhine, I lost (and gained) social media followers through my relentless posting of photos of Music Hall and Washington Park. I was even chastised by my son (he of the overly-obsessed with Oregon type). I had gone over the top.

And, well, he was right. But he didn’t see what I saw. Up close and personal with the Grand Dame of Music Hall, I scrutinized and found old windows now bricked over, or features some forebear thought to include, in hopes that he or she too would be immortalized and not just the building.

Early, early mornings, I rise to be the only one tracing my steps in the park. It is a time of peace, before dog walkers, homeless, local workers and parks employees. I notice when flowers have been swapped out. When a light bulb is burned out. When the grass needs mowing. When the IMG_0039tiniest of detail needs tending to, and it usually is.

Since the advent of Lumenocity, early August has come to symbolize an attribute of mine for which I am not proud – my selfishness. My husband, son and I attended Lumenocity on Thursday night. Despite the forecast of rain, we stayed relatively dry. I had placed our chairs out early enough and scoped out what I though to be a strategic viewing position. In the back, near the aisle. But, one could never be too sure.

Before the concert began, two patrons took their seats in front of us. At first, the young couple had asked to take a photo of them using a digital camera, with Music Hall in the background, which I was more than happy to do. Then, I saw them inspecting the photo, so I asked if I could take another. This time I would ensure more of Music Hall as the backdrop. Of course, any digital virgin would know gray skies do not make for great backdrops, but I took another shot.

When the Pops started up, the wife retrieved the camera from her bag and the husband retrieved his Iphone. My line of vision was directly between their two chairs and persons. And suddenly their movements became more clocklike than the glockenspeil. The wife lifted up her camera, took a photo then lowered the camera to view the picture. While she was busy looking at her photo, and not the actual show, the husband raised his phone and took the next shot. This went on, on occasion, throughout the playing of the Pops.

I chalked it up to first timers, and reminded myself to be polite. Not everyone gets to live here, Annette. Be nice.

Intermission came and went. The couple returned to their seats, after the first light sequence had already begun. Then, their routine commenced. Up camera, down Iphone. Down camera, up Iphone. And sometimes, horrors, they used the flash.

Now, I could hardly contain my ire. I wanted to tell the couple, just be in the present moment with this grand city experiment, with the backdrop of a building that has endured 150 years, with two world-class music organizations raising up the dead that were once buried beneath the park.

Just take it all in.

IMG_0037And then, I remembered.

I was the newbie once (last year), snapping an ungodly amount of photos of a place I welcomed into my day. Like edelweiss, every morning Music Hall greeted me.

I couldn’t tell the couple those photos wouldn’t pan out, even though I could clearly see they wouldn’t. I couldn’t tell them to absorb the energy of the night, and the city, and the people, many who traveled long distances and logged onto the Internet hundreds of times in an effort to secure tickets. I couldn’t tell them they missed so many sequences of light because they were studying the ones caught in a photograph and not the mind’s eye.

IMG_0041Why? First, my husband would have hushed me. And second, to be honest, they were never going to see the Music Hall I love, surrounded, held in embrace by the Washington Park I embrace. They would only see the white-tented version of these once and again venerable icons.


I sat back to relish in that thought because, well, I don’t like to share.

Where the Women Last Sat

Where the Women Last Sat

(In Memoriam of The Anna Louise Inn)

They once paced
across a long veranda
saying a longer goodbye
to the life one John, then another,photo 1 copy 2
said would improve.

The underbelly
of the carriage porch
had once been their escape
from the glower of the public’s eye
and the glow off a little boy’s game –
games women never played.

Instead they were re-moved
from a cracked city curb
on the last matriarchal corner
of a patriarchal block.

Where they last sat
is now overgrown –
their chairs like wildflowers
tangled in weeds –
deeds of their past eclipsed
by cardboard sopped in rain.

Maybe it’s better
their plight in the open
women inhaling freshly-scrubbed air
no longer submitting
to staleness from centuries past.

A monument would be fitting
after bulldozers are done digging
the wishes women had sown
in the uncluttered fields as they overlooked
the land of their overlord.

A woman in repose.
A bench and cigarette, a molded footrest
surrounded by greens of dreams.

Rest for the body, a puff of silence
off their soles, off the streets.

AJW 7/8/2015 – In Memory of the Anna Louise Inn, as it housed the Off the Streets Program. Now the occupants have moved to a new center, but there were chairs left behind with the mark of the women who finally sat down, to get off their feet and off the streets.