Observations and Oddities


About Porkopolis

In the early 1800’s, the city of Cincinnati (previously known as Losantiville) became the meat processing capital of the world, thus earning the moniker “Porkopolis.” The qualification the title was based on was only temporary, lasting just a few decades, until Chicago claimed the title as meat packing capital later in the century. However, Cincinnati’s adoration of the pig and their related nickname remained.  You’ll find evidence of this in the aptly named Flying Pig Marathon held every spring as well as the popular Porkopolis Tavern and Grill, and varied statues, monuments and art displays dispersed throughout town.

No, this isn’t a lesson in the history of Cincinnati (at least not a formal one).  It’s simply one of the few random facts I have picked up about my current home since I moved here in 2006.  Being a lifelong Hoosier prior to my move to the Buckeye state, I had a lot to learn about my new town.  Today’s post covers some of the more interesting (at least to me) things I have picked up along the way.

A city of many names
In addition to Porkopolis, Cincinnati is known as “The Queen City” and “The City of Seven Hills”.  The royal name was earned in the years following the loss of the Porkopolis credentials, when Henry  Wadsworth Longfellow referred to the town as ‘the queen of the West” in his poem Catawba Wine (although credit for coining the term is actually given to a local newspaper writer, Ed B. Cooke).  The monarchy reigns strong to this day with references to the queen city found everywhere.  The most recent and high profile of these references being the addition of the new Great American Tower at Queen’s Square to the city Skyline. The building is even topped with a tiara to confirm its noble standing. The sparkling crown is modeled after Princess Diana’s famed topper. Why the “queen” of the city is topped with a princess’ crown rather than a queen’s I don’t know? Maybe the architect just doesn’t care for Queen Elizabeth.

The second name is much more literal.  The seven hills that made up the landscape of what was then considered Cincinnati were described in The West American Review in June, 1853.  They are: Mount Adams, Walnut Hills, Mount Auburn, Vine Street Hill, College Hill, Fairmount, and Mount Harrison. These rolling beauties, along with several other hills that are part of what is now considered Cincinnati are one of my favorite things about the “Nati (oops, there’s another one of those nicknames)  I highly recommend the views from both Mount Adams and Price Hill (one of the later incorprated hills) and will gladly show them to you if you should ever choose to visit me. The seven hills name is also still prevalent, gracing the front of schools, doctor’s offices, office buildings and more. (For those of you who are real history buffs, there’s a connection to the original City of Seven Hills too, as Cincinnati is named for the Roman general and dictator, Cincinnatus.  Look it up.)

Chili, Please?
Two things that really required some adjustment on my part were Cincinnatians’ use of the term “please” and their definition of chili.  I learned quickly, although not without some confusion, that locals use the word “please” in place of the phrases “excuse me” or “could you repeat that” when they have not heard something in its entirety and would like you to repeat it.  While I have not adopted the use of this phraseology, I at least no longer hesitate to process what is being asked of me when I hear the oddly placed “please.”

 I have also not adopted a taste for Cincinnati chili.  Chili is big business here and the source of many heated debates.  Cincinnati chili lovers fall into one of two camps: Skyline fans or Gold Star fans- there is no crossover. They are passionate about their preferred brand and about their serving style: 3-way, 4-way, 5-way or coneys, all topped with pounds upon pounds of shredded cheese.  While I can appreciate the cheese topping, the underlying chocolate and cinnamon flavored sludge is one queen city staple I will not become accustomed to, ever.

Where are you from?
My fair city offers a series of idiosyncrasies all related to determining where someone is from.  When moving to Cincinnati, the first thing you need to understand is West side versus East side.  The West side is the home of lifelong Cincinnatians, their parents, grandparents, great grandparents and the members of their families who originally boarded the Mayflower. The only way in is to be born there or married in (and even that route may be questionable). Individuals raised on the West side who choose to leave and move to the East side risk possible shunning.  The East side is reserved for transplants or those not lucky enough to be born on the West side.

The second key understanding is that when someone asks you where you went to school (specifically if the question is being posed by a Westsider), they are not expecting to hear where it is you attended college. They are referring to your high school. What’s more is, they are referring to your Catholic high school.  If your answer is not one of the schools affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, you can at least know that this conversation will be a short one, as the inquisitor will be at a loss for a follow-up question.

Then, there is the strange phenomenon that occurs due to Cincinnati’s tri-state location. With the corners of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky making up the greater Cincinnati area, you’ll run into residents of all three states in most local workplaces.  What I’ve found interesting about this is, when you ask an Ohio resident where they live, they will answer in great detail with the name of their city, town, village or neighborhood.  However, when the same question is posed to an Indiana or Kentucky resident the answer is more often than not a general reference to the state from which they hail.   I have yet to make a conclusion about the reason for this discrepancy. Do the Hoosiers and Kentuckians think their states are so far away that there is no way the Buckeyes would know the location of Lawrenceburg, Indiana or Covington, Kentucky? Or do they have the impression that their home states are so small that there is no need to clarify what part of the state they call home?  I’m determined to get to the bottom of this one.

Cincinnati in a the box
There are dozens of other quirks I could expand upon, but won’t right now.  Instead I’ll offer the following references for you to further expand your Cincinnati knowledge on your own time.  All are television references, so you can get your ‘Nati exposure straight from the “box”.

  1. WKRP in Cincinnati.  While Dr Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap were never really on the air in Porkopolis, the fountain that appears in the opening sequence is indeed a Cincinnati icon.  It stands proudly in the center of Fountain Square, serving as the hub of downtown’s activities and growth.
  2. Taking the Stage on MTV.com.  This reality show was set at the Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Produced by SCPA grad, Nick Lachey (who is the city’s golden child), it gives you a look at some of the talent in this fair city. Unfortunately the show was cancelled before the opening of the new SCPA last fall. The new facility is amazing and is the first public K-12 arts school in the U.S.   It’s also the alma mater of Sarah Jessica Parker, Drew Lachey, Rebecca Budig and a few other people you may have heard of.
  3. The 2009 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks follows the Cincinnati Bengals through training camp.  Camp for the Bungles is held here in Cincinnati, so the show will give you some exposure to the city. It will also help you feel sympathetic for the diehard fans that call this team their own.
  4. Policewomen of Cincinnati is currently airing on TLC on Thursday nights at 9/8c. While the show obviously focuses on some of the less desirable aspects of The Queen City, an observant viewer will also be able to see a city attempting to reclaim crime ridden areas and beautiful architecture from a variety of historical periods and well as some pretty phenomenal female police officers.

Hail to the Queen?
I have admittedly been slow to adopt Cincinnati as “my city”, harboring a love for my prior home (Indianapolis) instead.  However, in recent months I have turned a corner and have come to appreciate a lot more about what my current city has to offer. There is some incredible history here, the arts are widely supported, the geography is beautiful, it is a city of firsts and a city of great shopping (Saks, Tiffany’s, Nordstrom, IKEA and more).  The locals are willing to accept that I still wear a Colts jersey and not a Bengals version, and that I have an interest in auto racing, which is not often talked about here.  So, I’m planning on being more engaged in my surroundings and to make a real commitment to learning more about Porkopolis and I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about it too.


Anatomy of a small town

I grew up in a small town. (And I’m showing great restraint here, by not dictating the Mellencamp lyrics currently running through my head).  From birth to college graduation, I lived within the same 30 mile radius.  Since that time, I have spent my adult life living in two decent-sized Midwestern cities where I often spend time talking with people who have no concept of what growing up in a small town is like.

Some of these “city-folk” find my upbringing charming. Some are a bit more condescending. Others find my tales of small town life downright amusing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to clarify that “Boonville” is indeed the actual name of my home town and not some colloquialism rooted in the fact that we were living in the “boonies.”  This explanation is almost always met with an audible giggle and a repeating of “Boonville?” generally followed with a “really?”

I have to admit, the more time I spend away from my small town the more I fall in the amused category as well. Looking in from the outside it’s easy to see how some of the things I found so commonplace seem so odd when you’re not privy to how it all works.  The biggest example of this is generally when I’m talking about people I know from my childhood.    

I was recently trying to describe to a co-worker how it is I knew a certain person.  My description went something like this:  “Well, she’s kind of family in a way, as she is my step-father’s cousin.  But I’ve known her much longer than that. When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time with one of my dad’s best friends’ families.  Not only did we spend time with him, his wife and his kids, but sometimes we would spend time with their extended family as well-specifically the best friend’s wife’s sister’s family.  This is how I really first knew the person in question, but now I’m more likely to see her at step-family related events.” 

I must note that I am being purposely vague here in an attempt to avoid identifying the person in question, but realizing that the majority of people who will read this post are also from Boonville, It’s entirely likely several of you have already made the connection of who I’m talking about without a single mention of anyone’s name  (something else the city slickers would find humorous).

Having been away from my small town for a while I can now see how someone not so familiar with the inner workings of a place where everyone knows everyone at some level would find this description to be comical.  I’m certain some are even picturing a back-woods, inbred, hillbilly family complete with bare feet and overalls (OK, overalls may have been a possibility). I mean really, how many redneck jokes have you heard that could easily be edited to include the phrase: “my daddy’s best friends’ wife’s niece”?

But when you are the one who lived this life, and who understands that these types of community relationships are what allowed me to live a carefree childhood where, at 10 years old, I could leave my house alone on a bike and be on my own for hours without a cell phone connection to my mother. When you get that this village mentality gave me the security of knowing that if I ran out of gas on a side road, that the next person by would willingly stop and help me (and that I could safely accept their help). Then you can see how it made me feel known, protected, connected and secure. 

So, while I can appreciate the quirkyness of my small-town origins and find plenty of opportunity to laugh at it myself; I can’t help but hope that I can deliver some of the sense of belonging that comes from that experience  to my daughters as they make their way here in the “big” city.  It’s a big world out there and it’s nice to be able to refer back to the comfort of “home” every once and awhile.


In search of a new love.

It will be a year in March since I had to move on. She had been my love, providing for both my emotional needs and challenging my intellect. But, as it does in so many relationships, it reached a point where I needed more than she could give me. It wasn’t her fault. She did, and continues to do, more than anyone should expect.  I have the greatest respect for her. 

 Word on the street is she’ll be coming around again this spring. I can’t wait to reconnect with her, although I know our reunion will be fleeting.

 For awhile now, I’ve been trying to find someone to fill the space she left behind. Friends have introduced me to their acquaintances. I’ve visited a few clubs, tried searching for a match online. There have been many interesting finds along the way. I shared several dates with one girl who was a great deal of fun, but carried a lot of emotional baggage; took a wild ride with a provocative woman from New York, spent some time with an old flame, and admittedly experienced a couple of one night stands.

 Then, a couple of weeks ago, I met Emily. 

It was pure happenstance.  I had some time to kill while my oldest was at dance class, so I headed to the nearby discount store. I saw her in a center aisle, cloaked in one of my favorite shades of green.  I decided to see what she was all about. Her introduction captured me. We were at such a similar place in life, that I couldn’t help by feel a connection with her.  I took her home with me that night.

 She was different than my lost love- younger, not as intellectually captivating- but she was light, friendly and honest.  I found myself so enamored with her that time just flew when we were together. Since then, I’ve shared many more visits with Emily. She has grown on me and I can tell that she will forever have a place in my heart. However, I can also see that our time together is nearing an end.  She is just a bit too immature for me- I need someone who has been around a bit longer and has a bit more experience to offer.

 So I again find myself in the search for someone new. I met a girl named Wendy today who could have some promise, but only time will tell.  Who knew finding a new favorite author would be so hard?


Addiction

I thought about it for hours yesterday, planning when I would go, what the location would be, how I would go about getting what I was after.  The desire intensified throughout my workday today, as I began to anticipate the high- the feeling of jubilation I knew would accompany my trip. I went through the day’s actions as I needed to, but in the back of mind it was there, calling to me, begging me to come soon.

Immediately following dinner tonight I saw the opportunity to escape and head out to my rendezvous. All I needed to do was grab my coat and purse; my other required supplies had been carefully packed in the car this morning just in case I saw an opportunity to make a stop on the way home from work. As I headed out the excitement grew. I fully expected this to be the most extreme high I had experienced so far.

The trip did not disappoint.  My plan played out just as I had imagined it would.  I arrived and immediately sought out the elements that had captivated my imagination for over 24 hours. My movements were swift, graceful even, as I neared my goal. As the moment arrived, it was just the two of us. I handed over my carefully selected materials and prepared myself. It was time. This was it.   The sound was sweet, the smell fresh as I felt the goose bumps rise. In minutes I was there, at the height of the experience, I took a deep breath and waiting for it to hit…….

$102.23 in savings….nearly a 70% savings off regular price…my highest single trip CVS savings  to date….the satisfaction of knowing I won’t have to buy household cleaners again for six months…the high was as good as I had hoped.  It’s a sickness, I know, but it’s the price you pay to be a coupon queen.


Are we there yet?

Once upon a time, I believed that being “grown up” was a simple rite of passage that took place the moment I turned 18 and became a legal adult. Shortly thereafter, my definition evolved to include the ability to purchase alcohol legally, then college graduation, then marriage…….the list goes on and on.  Now, at the ripe old age of 36, I often wonder if I’ll ever feel like a certified grown up.

I’ve completed all of the obligatory tasks.  I can vote, enjoy a martini at my favorite bar, display my college diploma, introduce you to my spouse, show you pictures of my children, present you with my business card and refinance my mortgage.   I possess grey hair, wrinkles, cracking knees and deteriorating vision. Despite all of these credentials, there are often times when I don’t feel so “grown-up.” 

I often look at my fellow “grown-ups” and wonder how it is they do the things that they do.  How do they afford this, manage that, sound so certain, keep it all together?  Regardless of whether these individuals are any older than I am, I regularly think- “wow, they are much more grown up than I am. I wish I could do that.” It’s another one of those things that leads to my frequent introspection.

During one of my recent moments of self-reflection, it became very clear to me that my original definition of being grown up was completely inaccurate, at least in my view of things. Growing up is a lifelong journey, one that is not complete until we have acquired decades of life experiences. There is always going to be a new task ahead of us to mark our progression through life, adding to the ranks of our knowledge and emotional intelligence.  There will always be new firsts that we’ll have to learn how to navigate: becoming the boss, watching a child leave the nest, welcoming a grandchild, preparing for the death of a parent, accepting your own mortality.

This realization doesn’t change much, but it does help me put things in perspective. When I’m feeling immature, unprepared, incapable or self-conscious about my ability to handle any given situation, I can now look at it and understand that I’m not failing as an adult.  I’m just in the process of growing up.


Mellowcremes

I love mellowcremes.  If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, think of the solid sugar, honey flavored pumpkins you see at Halloween.  However, I’m a bit of a mellowcreme snob, preferring the favorites of my youth: Brach’s holiday bells, mellowcreme pets and harvest mix.  Growing up, these seasonal goodies were always my favorites.

Over the last few years, these childhood favorites have become more and more difficult to find. So much so, that during the Spring of 2009 I found myself obsessed with getting my hands on a bag of mellowcreme pets (the Easter variety with strawberry, orange, vanilla and chocolate bunnies, chicks, baskets and other shapes).  I searched grocery stores and pharmacies everywhere. I enlisted the help of friends and family in other states (and conducted my own multi-state searches during trips to Alabama and New Jersey). I contacted local stores that specialized in “old-fashioned” candy and searched the web for online suppliers. No luck.

This is when I crossed the line from being a fan of mellowcremes to becoming a mellowcreme expert.  I researched the fate of my beloved sweets and learned that the Brach’s brand was purchased by Farley’s & Sather’s Candy Company and found mention of the elusive pets on their web page. I immediately contacted them for direction on how to obtain my orange and chocolate sugar bunnies. Their response was swift and saddening- they had discontinued the production of my childhood love (even though they to this day still tease me with a picture of the product on their site ).  I responded with an additional query-bracing myself for the expected outcome and learned that the holiday bells, my favorite of them all, had met the same fate as my delectable bunnies.

They tried to console me, ensuring me that the harvest mix would still remain available, although in a slightly adapted form. I accepted their apologies for my heartbreak and began to process the loss. At first I was in a bit of denial continuing to look for other potential sources of a suitable replacement (I even considered making my own). Then came the anger. Next, I considered bargaining with Farley’s and Sather’s- negotiating a major purchase if they would return my love to me, but soon settled into the depression that stemmed from the idea that I would never taste them again. Finally, I accepted that it was time to move on and tried to put the bunnies, chicks, baskets and bells out of my mind.

Time began to heal my wounds and I learned to live in a world without my favorite mellowcremes-until this last Halloween.

One of my close girlfriends had been by my side during my time of loss and was always in search of a replacement to fill the hole Farley’s and Sather’s product consolidation had left in my heart.  She would periodically bring me mellowcremes she found at random locations-valentine hearts from Whole Foods, Christmas shapes from a local gift shop. The thought was sweet, but the candy disappointing.  Then came October.

Knowing that I had always found mellowcreme pumpkins an acceptable second to my flavored favorites, she picked up a bag of pumpkins at a local ice cream and candy store (Graeter’s for all of my Cincinnati friends) and presented them to me as a “just because” gift. I graciously accepted and placed them in my desk drawer to access the next time I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth. A few days passed before I sampled these new confections, but when I did it was magic!  They were a perfect orange flavor, the texture was ideal, they melted in my mouth.  My love had returned!!!! 

I immediately shared my excitement with my friend (and everyone within earshot) and took a break from the office to walk over to the source of this culinary delight. And what to my wondering eyes should appear?  Pumpkins AND Christmas mellowcremes!! It was heaven on earth.  I quickly stocked up and headed back to the office to sample my new finds and was ecstatic to learn that the Christmas variety was just as pleasing as the citrus!  Happiness ensued!

Thus began a new obsession ensuring I could get my hand on these regularly. This led to the discovery that my new loves were the product of Jelly Belly and that they could only be ordered by distributors, like Graeters or in bulk. Fearing their presence was fleeting, I ordered my own bulk order of Christmas mellowcremes immediately: a five-pound bag.

With my massive supply now safely in my desk drawer, I’ve come to a new conclusion: familiarity breeds contempt. Now that I have mellowcremes readily available (and with my bulk order, they’ll be available for quite a while), they’ve lost their intrigue. They are no longer a special treat.

Moral of the story? First, you never know what kind of nonsense you’ll find on this blog. Secondly, and more importantly, sometimes things are special just because they are rare, or occasional. Making them part of your everyday life takes away some of the intrigue and enjoyment. Be thankful for those occasional joys, not greedy in search of more.


Have fun. Do good.

Not too long ago, in the midst of a random chat with a dear friend, I was asked what I would do if I ever won the lottery.  To clarify, not just won the lottery, but won millions and millions- more than I could ever spend. My answer to this question began in a way that likely resembles the answer of many others: I’d purchase a litany of “toys,” homes and cars, travel the world, take care of family and friends, give to my church, then start my own philanthropic organization- serving underprivileged children (the idea for this organization is a blog post of its own which I’ll likely discuss in the future, but not today).  After rattling of my list of would do’s, I chose to sum it up in a simple statement that captured it all: “Have fun. Do good.”

Often a fan of my own wit, I decided that I really liked this summary statement and that it should be my life motto. After all, if my goal in life when I have all of the financial resources imaginable is that simple, shouldn’t I apply that same ambition to my life today? 

Don’t worry- this discussion of a life motto isn’t going to turn into a Jerry Maguire-like mission statement, nor am I going to start chanting “have fun, do good, have fun, do good” as a daily mantra.  I’m just one to overanalyze things and, in this case, I felt the need to let this phrase permeate my thoughts for awhile. What I found is: this is a pretty fair description of how I try to live my life and that maybe reminding myself of this goal every once and awhile might me a worthwhile thing.

Have fun.
I’ve never been the class clown. I’m no Pollyanna. I’ve sometimes been the life of the party (editorial comments on this statement should be sent to my private email only). I’m often the one with a sarcastic comment, hoping to bring some humor to any situation.  That said, I think it’s fair to say that, in general, I do approach life with a “have fun” mentality. However, as adulthood, parenthood, mortgages, deadlines, taxes, responsibilities and many of the other stressors of life have become commonplace it’s easy to see that I often lose track of that positive outlook.

I’m not suggesting that I should take this month’s mortgage payment and reallocate it to a weekend trip to the Bahamas (however tempting that idea may be). But there is definite room for improvement in how I react to and look at everyday situations.  A daily reminder to have a little fun along the way could definitely not hurt.

Do good.
I’m no Mother Theresa.  I have been accused of having a bleeding heart.  I find service to others rewarding. I am, at heart, a do-gooder.  When it comes to the doing good part of my life motto, the largest obstacle I face is likely my own need to overdo everything. Refocusing on the fact that doing good is represented just as well by small random acts of kindness as it is by weeklong mission trips to distant places, will serve me well here.  Doing a little good in the world each day will surely result in a lot of good in my life.

 So, rather than setting resolutions this new year, I’m choosing to instead refocus on four simple words that stemmed from a random conversation:  Have Fun. Do Good.  If I make this my goal, how can I go wrong?


Auld Lang Syne

As I’m sure it is for many, the holiday season is a time of reminiscing for me.  Whether it’s a simple look back at the trials and tribulations/achievements and enjoyments of the last twelve months or a deeper look back over the years, I enjoy the retrospection invited by the closing of a calendar year.

This year’s  recollection has been an especially sentimental one for me, for a lot of reasons and no specific reason at the same time. Maybe it’s due to my increasing proximity to middle age or, it could be my daughter’s entrance to teenagedom that triggered my trek down memory lane.  Or maybe it’s just the simple amalgamation of a collection of life events, experiences and my stage in life that have made me a bit sappier than usual this time around. Whatever the reason, I’ve been especially mindful of the value of relationships in recent weeks and months. 

Every New Year’s Eve, as the clock strikes midnight, millions sing (or attempt to sing) the song Auld Lang Syne.  I’d venture to say that a large percentage of these folks have no idea what words they are even saying when they belt out the lyrics to this ballad, let alone the sentiment behind them.  (Luckily for these individuals, I’m here to provide my incredible insight into the meaning of this traditional tune).  The opening line, depending on your chosen translation (I’ll use the English here), states: “should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  This query is a bit of a rhetorical question- meant to challenge you to think about the value of long-standing relationships.

I’m truly blessed in the friend department and this year has offered a variety of reminders of this gift in my life.  Not only have I been lucky enough to have some of the best “reason” and “season” friends any girl could ever ask for, but I am privileged to have a collection of “lifetime” friends that mean the world to me. These are the friends that no matter how many days, weeks, months or even years may have passed since you last spoke or visited,  you can count on to be there in a time of need. They are the ones who can pick up a conversation with you like no time has passed at all. These cherished few know me at such a fundamental level that explanations are rarely needed and sometimes even words are unnecessary for them to know exactly what is on my mind and in my heart.  

So to these friends, I wish you the happiest of new years. 2011 promises to offer us some great blessings that I look forward to enjoying and celebrating with you.  I’m sure it will also hold some trials, challenges and heart wrenching moments as well, but whatever it brings I rest confident in knowing that we’ll make it through it, together.  Take a few minutes to read this excerpt from the  1711 ballad which inspired our traditional New Year’s Eve chorus and know that “my heart is ravisht with delight,when thee I think upon.”

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne.

CHORUS:

On Old long syne my Jo,
in Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this, Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne.

CHORUS

Since thoughts of thee doth banish grief,
when from thee I am gone;
will not thy presence yield relief,
to this sad Heart of mine:
Why doth thy presence me defeat,
with excellence divine?
Especially when I reflect
on Old long syne

CHORUS

Auld Lang Syne, James Watson, 1711.