Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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This Weekend and Stuff and Junk

This weekend brought a bevy of things to blog about. My weekend started with skiing on Friday night. I went with Jon and his friend Breezy B. They snowboard. I cannot remain upright on a snowboard for more than 10 seconds at a time. As you could image this is a painful way to make one’s way down a hill.

Jon took Breezy B on his virgin trip boarding years ago.  In the mean years, Breezy B has surpassed Jon’s skills. Through out the night of boarding Jon endured lots of ribbing about Breezy passing him up in boarding skills. After hours of snowy adventure, Breezy speeds past Jon and I.  He had his hand down on the ground behind his board throwing up a trail of snow. While he was looking back at us, he hit the orange barrier fence. He went over the fence. His hand got caught on the fence but his body kept moving into the woods. This resulted in a torn rotator cuff. Breezy was down. I went to fetch ski patrol. My night ended in the ski patrol office with other injured folks and in the emergency room with even more injured folks. Neato.

Saturday I got a free ticket to an event at the CAC in Cincinnati. They had Shepard Fairey’s work on display. I don’t know what I was expecting in this exhibit. I know that it surpassed whatever those expectations were. Shepard had years of work on display. He started graphics work on the idea that public space can be reclaimed from the corporate interests that manage it now. It was amazing. I suggest his work if you are at all interested in all the corporate messages that we are surrounded with.

On Sunday, I attempted to make yellow cake with chocolate icing. The cake required some mixing that I just wasn’t accustomed to. I had to mix all the egg yolks, vanilla and milk separately. It was weird. The cake turned out great. The chocolate icing had semi-sweet chocolate in it as well as coco. It was excellent.

Finally, I have a word or two to say about Joseph Stack. How does one get to a point where one can afford to own and house a plane and still feel that the IRS has wronged you so to fly your plane into the IRS building. Really? The IRS was so bad that you feel compelled to burn the house that keeps your child and crash your plane into the IRS building? That is completely crazy. I know there are lots of libertarians who might identify with Joseph Stack. I am calling them out for the crazy nut-bags that they are. If you have the income to support your house and a plane, you need to shut the fuck up.

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Sandals in the Snow and Other Bad Combinations

I was headed out the door to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. Since this has been the winter of SNOW-MY-GOD in Cincinnati snowdrifts were hanging around. I noticed that I didn’t change out of my sandals a few paces from my car. My laziness dictated that I not head back to the house for more sensible shoes.

While I was attempting to avoid piles of blackened snow and grayish brown lakes of oily snow remainder, the foolishness of my choice came into sharp clarity. I also considered this. Why is snowmelt so utterly foul? When summer rain makes lakes out of parking lots the said lakes aren’t nearly as retch inducing.

Another wave of SNOW-MY-GOD made its way from the Midwest and rolled over the Northeast. I had the unfortunate experience of driving from Washington DC to Cincinnati during the festivities. I really like Jenn’s Fit. It’s a good little car. But on this particular trip it was bringing me no comfort. The trip was 11 hours of near death experiences.

The thing I found the most cringe worthy was the enormous semis speeding past us at fifty or sixty miles per hour. With no pavement visible, I simply don’t understand how those trucks would be able to stop should something unexpected occur. I had visions of being flattened into a little blue pancake while the semi driver might continue on unfazed by that large pothole that was my life being quashed.

Me managed the trip without incident. I have learned two things. First, it is best to avoid sandals when large quantities of snow are on the ground. Second, it is best to avoid cross-country trips when large winter storms are your constant companion.

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Viking Doughnut Holes and Friction Discs

I’m half way through changing my motorcycle’s oil, checking the screen and replacing the friction discs in the clutch. The discs need to be soaked in motor oil, so here you are.

I took a picture of the motor oil simply for my own reference. I will be looking at this blog entry again the next time I need a change.

My other activity this weekend was to attempt to make Viking doughnut holes. That’s not what they are called, but their official name requires characters that my keyboard simply doesn’t have. Umlauts are hard.

The first challenge was to separate the egg yolks and whites. The last time I attempted this I was in high school and had a nifty Tupperware tool to aid me. This morning I followed the Julie and Julia method of passing the yolk back and forth between my hands until the whites had fully dribbled into the bowl below.

This was easier and more disgusting that I was expecting it to be. The dough turned out to be similar to buttermilk pancake dough but lighter. I poured little bits of the dough into the depressions in the iron pan used to specifically cook this pastry. I put little dabs of applesauce on the dough and covered the dabs with more dough.

The tricky part about these little guys is flipping them. They are only the size of a doughnut hole. I got significantly better at it as I went along. In the first batch I put way too much dough in. The result was that the doughnuts overwhelmed their cups and I had one really big ping-pong ball pimpled pancake. By the third or fourth round I got a little better at it. Here’s the result of my last round.

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It’s that Time

I could not have been more wrong in that respect. For every green bean that I ate last year I spent a hundred dollars in tools and mulch. Don’t get me started on how many hours of effort that little green bean took. So, why am I so excited to do this again?

My family is Norwegian. I make jokes to friends that the hot, humid summers in Cincinnati aren’t made for Scandinavians. I sweat like a whore in church. Humidity makes me cranky. I feel like I’m on a crowded Tokyo train platform from late June to late September. I hate Cincinnati summers.

Growing things made me feel differently about summer. I still sweat like a beastie, but my aggravation was eclipsed by my delight at seeing my first teeny, tiny snow pea pods forming. I felt deep satisfaction when we got much needed rain, and my pepper plants perked up. Growing things bonded me to the earth in ways I have never before experienced. Waves of wonder and joy passed over me as I watched my seedlings sprout from the ground, reaching for the sun.

Why am I growing things again? I love it. I’m tallying up how much my raised beds and mulch and peat moss will cost me this year. I’m adding in costs for a grow lamp and a bench. This year that green bean might be a couple of hundred dollars. It will be worth every penny.

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These aren’t Granite and those aren’t Stainless Steel…

Upon my re-entry to the cable world, I have found that TV still sucks. I find the only channel that I can regularly find non-irritating programming on is HGTV. Show topics range from home improvement to home buying.

These seem like pretty benign topics. That was precisely my thought upon flicking on HGTV. After a few weeks of viewing, I have concluded that TV producers can make even the most benign topic obnoxious.

The first detail that put me off was the price range of the first-time homebuyers show. Who spends half a million dollars on their first home? There are only two correct answers to this question. 1. Rich people. 2. Idiots. Since I have noticed the pricing, I spend the whole show trying to determine which category the buyers fall into.

The second detail that put me off was the first words out of most potential buyers mouths upon entering kitchens. They comment on the existence of granite countertops, or lack there of. Then they comment on the stainless steel appliances, or lack there of.  While this will never happen because the properties on these shows are always a couple hundred thousand dollars or more, I dream of an episode in which the kitchen has granite appliances and stainless steel counters.

Ugh. Congressional hearings are on about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I need to wrap this up and prepare to feel enraged.

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One Thousand Channels and Nothing to Watch

This is night two with insomnia. Last night I managed to get through 15 percent of Julie and Julia. I was reading it on my Kindle lest you think I am obsessive enough to calculate the percentage. Due to the font options, page numbers are rendered useless. It’s a great book; I’m hoping that the context in which I am reading it won’t color my perception of it. Any experience that is gained while I would rather be asleep suffers an extra dash of malcontent.

Last night’s dose of ceiling watching went on for three hours. After a couple hours of reading, I turned to the trusty TV. We got cable a few weeks ago after more than a year without it. I didn’t miss having cable. I don’t like TV. If I had any doubts about the dubious value of hours spend in front of the TV, Jersey Shore banished my doubts to the hinterlands of my mind.

On a Saturday night, there is absolutely nothing of value to watch on TV from three AM to 6AM. The programming consists of thirty-minute advertisements for products that no one in the light of day would consider purchasing.  Who needs a belt that shocks your abdominal muscles in to contracting repetitively?

How is it possible to have one thousand channels and still have nothing to watch? I finally settled on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, a station that we had without paying a dime. I like the show, but it’s not exactly fluff to fall asleep to. I was hoping for a rerun of the Supernanny or Family Guy.

Prior to getting cable, the only time I missed having it was when I was awake at night. I didn’t consider that cable would only broaden the pool of bad options.  I decided to try this blog out, but it keeps me too engaged to get sleepy. I’m sure you will excuse me while I flip through my thousand channels several times before I settle on one of the many bad options.

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2010 Gym Rant

January is an aggravating month to be a gym bunny. I go to the gym five days a week all year round. My typical routine is interrupted each January by droves of people with well-intended resolutions. They peter out in February, and I can return to visiting the gym at the 6:00 crowded sweat-hour and still get access to my machines with relative ease.

In last year’s gym rant, I discussed the coughing/gagging man on the treadmill next to me. In addition to the strain of running 3 miles, I spent the time in high alert to spring away should my neighbor projectile vomit my way. This January put last January to shame.

Gyms are stinky places. People are sweating. My expectations for hygiene are slightly relaxed. There is a patron who frequents my gym that shatters my lowered expectations. This guy goes year round and seems to turn up five days a week. His existence isn’t unique to January, but in less-congested times of the year I can steer clear of his green cloud of noxious fumes.

On a good day, the fumes only extend within three feet of his wake and the stench is not pungent enough to draw tears to my eyes. On a bad day the gag-range can reach ten feet. Yesterday afternoon, after and extensive search for alternatives, I realized that the only machine available to me was submerged in stinky’s ten-foot cloud.

Aside for the obvious struggle to remain on the Stairmaster while blinking away tears, living in stinky’s cloud comes with another down side.  While I am aware of stinky’s situation, the people around me might mistake me for the source of the great stench. The only upside is watching people’s faces as they approach stinky. Men tend to be unresponsive. Women look like they’ve been slapped in the face upon approaching the green cloud.

That sums up the first part of my work out. I moved to the treadmill after doing my 30 minutes in the cloud. I need to say just a bit about what I was wearing. I’m working on a study of gym clothes for work. So, all week I have been wearing performance clothing all week. I exhausted all the shirts that I like. That particular day I pulled out a shirt at the bottom of my drawer. After two minutes on the treadmill, I was reminded of why it lives in the bottom of my drawer. It likes to ride up to just below my sports bra.

I was in the movie room at the gym, so I just accepted a bare midriff for those three miles. Then I noticed my treadmill neighbor. The fifty-year-old, pudgy, balding man to my left was looking at me. I thought, ok, I’ll just give him a minute. He fell into a pattern of staring at me for thirty seconds and then looking a head for two seconds. I let this go on for eight minutes.

I mustered a wicked glare and stared him down. The lecherous old turd ‘s eyes widened and he looked forward. I stared a little longer just to make sure he got the message. He must have, because mere moments later he got of the treadmill and left.

February, I am waiting for you. Please bring back the gym that I know and love.

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Michael Jackson Broke my Heart

I don’t consider myself I a big Michael Jackson fan. As a teen, I listened to grunge, indie rock, punk and metal. Most of my forays into pop were before I turned 15. For most of my adult life I have listened to indie rock.

When I heard Michael Jackson died I was shocked. I thought it was sad, as I thought about David Carradine’s and Farrah Fawcett’s passing. But Michael’s death has weighed heavy on my heart for days. The day he passed, half of the radio stations were playing his songs in tribute, and I found myself choking back tears without knowing why. On a nostalgic impulse, I went to see the New Kids on the Block last night. They played an instrumental portion of “Man in the Mirror” and then covered “I’ll Be There”. Again, I found myself choking back tears.

I think I can finally articulate why this upset me this much. Michael Jackson and Madonna were the first artists that rose on the horizon of my awareness to music. Like many people my age, the Moonwalk was the first dance move I attempted. I still smile when I hear “Thriller” and “Beat It”. These songs remind me of a time when I was blissfully unaware of hanging chads, the price of gas, office politics and the outrageous cost of health care. My biggest worry was if I could find a white glittery glove.

Watching Michael do his swan dive into celebrity crazy land was painful. For Elvis, the dive came in the form of paunchy, drugged-up Elvis. For Michael it came in the form of excessive surgery and strange behavior in regard to children.

I’ve realized that Michael’s careening decline followed the same trajectory of my declining sense of wonder and imagination as I became an adult. It’s the transition that we all make between an uncomplicated sense of wonder for all the beautiful things this world has to offer to a mature cynicism with a blind eye to the simple beauty in our lives.

For years, I’ve quietly hoped that Michael would return to the stage. I hoped that he would redeem all these years of strange behavior. I was hoping that prior to leaving this existence he would give us a reminder of why he was the King of Pop.

Sadly, that was not to be. Perhaps Michael was simply a child at heart. If he didn’t behave inappropriately to those children, I can’t help but wonder if we didn’t kill a mocking bird. Everyone was more than happy to cheer him on when he was successful. But just as many people were also more than happy to pile the insults on his failures.

In interviews, he seemed truly hurt by the tabloid coverage. It breaks my heart to think of what Michael must have experienced at all that negative coverage in the tabloids. It breaks my heart to think of what this says about our culture; are we people who love to see people succeed and love seeing their inevitable failures? Finally, it breaks my heart to think about the loss we all suffer becoming adults. We lose our sense of adventure for the ordinary. We lose our open hearts.

RIP Michael.


Warning: Technology Rant Enclosed

I just need to vent for a moment. I left my iPod in my car this morning. Not only is it a must for surviving my work day, but I left it on the dash board in full view of any sticky fingered folk passing through the parking lot.

I drive a Jeep Wrangler with a soft top. After years of living in Over the Rhine, (for non-Cincinnati natives, this is a bad area of town. Its existence is the sole reason I like to call Cincinnati Little Detroit.) I am in the habit of not locking my doors. Locked doors on a soft top Jeep is an invitation to cut through the 1000 dollar soft top.

I hoofed it back to my car and rescued my iPod. On my return, I noticed the parking lot fee had gone up by 50 cents. The lot I park in has one of those lock boxes that patrons are expected to drop appropriate amounts of money in. I approached the lock box to deposit my additional change. There was a woman depositing her change. She was muttering, mostly in Spanish. She had a Blue Tooth headset in her hear.

I thought at first that she must be talking to someone on the phone. But then she kept turning around and making eye-contact with me. I understand quite a bit of Spanish, so I knew that she was complaining about the weather. I had no idea if she was expecting a response from me. I found myself growing more and more irritated with her for putting me in a socially awkward situation.

I decided to just stare at her blankly. She finished with her change. I put in my extra 50 cents and headed back to the building. She was headed to the same building that I was. We basically repeated the same sequence. Only this time she was fumbling around with her id badge to open the office building door.

I think the worst unintended consequence of our increased mobile communication is that as a culture we have sacrificed those in our immediate presence to whomever may call or text us. I can think of four recent examples with almost no effort. The woman in line at Starbucks yammering on her cell phone, trying to slip in her order to the cashier while she maintained her conversation on the phone. At a concert last night, the guys who didn’t say a word to each other for 30 minutes because they were faffing about with their phones. As a server, I’ve waited on countless patrons who would take calls ignoring both me and their dinner companion. At a family event, my cousin spoke nary a word to anyone there because she was too busy texting.

I am an annoyance to most of my friends because I am not timely in responding to texts and calls. There is a palpable pressure to respond to the pinging devices in our pockets. I resist that pressure. Recently, I’ve been thinking about making the most of every moment. I’m sure I won’t be wishing that I texted more on my death bed. I’m sure I will wish for more time with the people I care about; I’m also sure I will wish for time in their presence, not more time typing in 140 character messages with my thumbs.