Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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Oops I Missed Some

I missed a couple of days. I didn’t intentionally do so, I just forgot. This tells me that I need to develop a set time of day that I write. I don’t like hemming myself in like that, but it’s be best way to develop a habit.

Missed days aside, just making myself write has shown me that I do have things to say, they just don’t develop until I am looking at the blank page. So, regardless of my failure, I’ve learned what I set out to. Which is that waiting for inspiration is a recipe for not writing. I will call this exercise a success, and I am only 5 days in.

In line with creative topics, I wonder when we will see live performances in-person. Large gatherings might not happen until some level of immunity has been achieved, and that looks to be a very long way off. If I had to guess these events won’t come back until late 2021 at earliest. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

I keep thinking about performers, theaters, and music venues, and how they might survive until events can proceed safely. Those folks will likely find other jobs. Maybe they will deliver food. Maybe they will take up a customer service job. When they have the opportunity to, will they go back to their pre-COVID-19 work? Will their skills atrophy without exercise?

And what about kids thinking about pursuing the arts now? All the teens who would have tried out for the school play? Are they as motivated when they won’t feel thrill of being on stage in front of a packed room of people? Are they missing critical early experiences that will fuel their resolve to soldier through the very difficult career path in the arts?

Five years from now, will there be a proliferation in Instagram influencers and YouTube stars, but a lack of young people moving to New York to make it on Broadway? Are local music scenes dying a slow death right now, as venues slowly and quietly have turned out the lights for the last time? Are local kids without places to play gathering their virtual following, a following that will remain so after we can be with each other?

I worry that a certain amount of virtualization that’s been necessary in the time of COVID-19 will continue long after the fact. And in a moment where we are hating each other politically, we desperately need other things to bring us together. We need to stand next to each other and cheer for sport ball. We need to cry shoulder to shoulder when “Do You Hear The People Sing” starts in the finale of Les Mis. We need to sing and dance together to our favorite songs. And I’m worried that some of these things will be lost to us long after COVID-19 is gone, and no comment section on YouTube can replace them.

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Citizen vs Consumer

Elections have been on my mind for the last several days, and more specifically how our immediate social and cultural environment might influence how we feel about them. There’s two features of our consumer culture that have grown more pervasive in the last decade: instant gratification and customization.

Streaming services put thousands of entertainment options a click away, and they keep track of what we’ve liked so that they tailor what subset they display to us first based precisely on our preferences. The days of driving to the video store and having to slog through everyone else’s pedestrian tastes are over.

Spotify puts thousands of songs at my fingertips. At any given moment I can take a small device out of my pocket and play any song no matter how obscure. It’s hard to even think of the time when I had one alternative radio station to listen to. I had to listen through whatever was the annoying alt hit of the day-god Fastball I still hate you for “The Way”-multiple times to get to a song I might enjoy. Might being the key word there.

Not only does Spotify give me access to an unfathomable catalog, but it makes playlists based entirely on what I have listened to it the past. It lets me almost entirely check out of music I don’t enjoy in ways I wouldn’t have imagined fifteen years ago. Oh how I wish I could know as little about Brittany Spears as I do Halsey, the latter I only encountered when she was a guest on Saturday Night Live.

Amazon gives me access to thousands of products all of which I can order from my couch saving me from a trip to Lowes, Target, or Kroger. It remembers what I have ordered in the past better than I do, and shows me products that are most likely to please me. Amazon never shows me Funions, because it knows I am a Cheetos fan. Unlike an actual trip to Kroger, where I am confronted with a aisle end cap with a Funion display reminding me that other people like other things. And although that in itself isn’t offensive having to go looking for the Cheetos is.

Voting doesn’t have any of these features. It doesn’t provide unlimited choices. It isn’t instant, as political change is by nature slow and often requires compromise. It is in no way tailored to our individual tastes.

If Starbucks worked like voting, they would put up a mocha frapuccino against a white chocolate mocha for a vote. And then they would just serve the one winning beverage all day. Imagine the rage if they moved to this business model. And god help you if you’re a red-eye drinker. No one likes those, except you folks who secretly hate yourselves. Those will never be one of the choices, and even if by some chance it is one of the two up for a vote there’s no way it’s winning. And it’s because they taste like licking an ashtray that was filled with hate.

Voting feels so frustrating because it’s one of the few ways we must confront sharing with others. Many others. And some of those others think Bill Gates is trying to insert a chip into us under the premise of healthcare. And we have to make decisions with those people.

A fundamental American value has betrayed us. Individualism. I am the captain of my own ship. Until another ship cuts me off in traffic. Or until a neighboring ship fails to trim a dead tree in their yard and it falls on my ship. Or until we have to go into a voting booth and we are looking at two candidates that we do not enjoy and wonder how our ship ended up in this cul de sac.

In times past I think we culturally had a more balanced view of weighing the individual vs collective. I wonder if it’s possible to retake that balance when so much of our consumer lives obliterates having to acknowledge others? One of the fundamental requirements for building community is having a shared reality. It seems we don’t have that now, and I cannot foresee us having it in the future.

So what then? I haven’t the slightest idea. I guess we just have to feel grateful that Starbucks offers more variety than just the winning frapuccino of the day, and sit here without healthcare.

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Crosswords And Covid

I have been doing the New York Times Mini crossword puzzle everyday since we went on lock down. I didn’t start this ritual with intention. It just happened. And now having a coffee and spending a few minutes on the crossword puzzle is consistently a satisfying part of my day.

There’s little I can do about almost every problem I see on social media and in the news. I am at the beginning of a 2 year project at work. I am 5 years into playing drums, and although I can feel myself getting more skills every week I will never “finish” learning this instrument. Yet, for five minutes every morning I can hear the little jingle telling me I’ve completed the crossword puzzle.

Unlike the fight I ended up in the middle of between two Facebook friends in the comments section, the crossword will most certainly have a conclusion rather than the fractured emotions that will just hang over that last Facebook war. The crossword won’t leave me agonizing over what issues are worth fighting over in both my work project and my social media activities. It will give me little bursts of happiness each time I know a clue and wrap up in a most tidy fashion.

I wasn’t fond of social media prior to the pandemic. But now that it has taken up even more of my social minutes, I resent it even more. It’s like low calorie ice cream: with every bite it reminds me of what I am pining for but cannot have.

I don’t know when we might be able to be with each other again. I don’t know when live performances will happen. I don’t know when I will feel comfortable meeting friends for dinner. Until then I will be doing the crossword.

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Get Back On The Horse

I miss creating. I create all the time in terms of creative problem-solving both at work and at home. I am working on a bribery scheme right now to dissude the squirrels from eating our precious squashes. But I miss creating things that are more artistic and open to interpretation.

I haven’t been doing photography. I havne’t been writing. I have been drumming, but a massive part of my practice is around establishing muscle memory. And those exercises are fixed and do not require creativity. They require diligence and determination to push through the boredom that enevitably comes with 5 minutes of exactly the same beats. But they aren’t creative.

In truth, I just haven’t felt inspired. It’s an odd thing, to feel the itch to create while also having zero indication as to which direction that needs to be let loose. So, I am going to blog every day from now until Sept 13th. I figure if creativity is a muscle, perhaps I just need to work it, and see what happens.



The Hawks have been hovering on the edges of my awareness lately. I have felt their grit and their determination that’s been passed to me. It’s as though I feel them walking with me, holding me up when I am tired.

My dad’s mom was born in 1894, she was 100 years old when she died. She raised 9 kids, of which my dad was the youngest. My grandparents were poor. They were tenant farmers, never having enough money to own land of their own. Neither of them were educated beyond middle school.

My dad remembered the cycle of farms they rented. When they would arrive at a new place, they would find the land farmed out and exhausted. They would invest years in bringing the land back to productivity. And then the land would become too expensive for them to continue renting. Repeat cycle.

They never had much. My dad recalled that his Christmas gifts were always hand-sewn clothing that he would need for the following year. The only frivolous gift he received was an orange.

It brings a smile to my face thinking of how he would eat an orange. He would eat them as his after-dinner treat. He would sit at the table with a paring knife and remove the skin, then every scrap of pith, then separating each segment methodically picking off any bit of tasteless fiber. Only after each section has been thoroughly inspected for unnecessary pith and fiber, would he savor each and every segment. I remember countless times climbing into his lap while he worked, and we would eat a segment for me a segment for him. Even as a surly teenager, when I would encounter him in the kitchen eating an orange he would set aside half of his segments for me.

Growing up The Hawks where just as they were. I didn’t see all the ways poverty marked all of them. I’ve only just realized the ways it manifested in my dad. The elaborate way he enjoyed an orange. Why he wouldn’t eat peanut butter. Why he would never wear jeans. I cannot know now, but in retrospect I suspect his dungarees were his uniform, the only pants he had until he started earning his own money as a grown man. They were a symbol of what he had broken free from.

The whole family over-achieved. My grandmother kept her garden up until she was 90 years old. It was a massive plot of 20 feet by 40 feet. My earliest memory of her is of her teaching me how to hoe. My dad accidentally slammed the car trunk on my grandmother’s hand, and she wrapped a handkerchief around it and went and picked strawberries without a single complaint. My dad’s older brother retired at 80 from his second job as the head doctor for a nursing home, and went into day trading. The way in which they were never idle betrays how hard they were trying to make sure the past stayed the past.

I think I have been feeling the energy of his family because of the current uncertainty. I feel lucky, because I have an in demand skillset. And although I don’t know exactly what comes next, I have good reason to believe Jeannine and I will weather this ok. But I know that many other Americans will not be so lucky. And I am afraid that in this hard moment we, in aggregate, will not be capable of making good choices.

I have been thinking about this quote from LOTR.

“Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me, I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide, All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

The Hawks made incredible use of the time that was given them. It was their grit that set my early path on far easier ground than what they had to walk. I am so thankful to them. I am thankful for they work they did to make my path easier, and I am thankful that I carry their legacy. I can only hope to live up to their example.

Aside: There are stories that didn’t make it into this blog post. I think I should set those down, but they didn’t belong here. My dad had dreams that came true. My grandmother saved the family car from being stolen by hopping on the running board and punching the get-away-driver until he gave-up and fled. My uncle got impaled on a pitchfork, the remedy for which was to pull it out and hope for the best (he lived). But those are for another day.


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My My My Corona

The Coronavirus shelter in place order has been so for Ohio for a couple weeks now, and while I am certainly an introvert this almost complete lack of social contact is hard even for me. In addition, I have been a 5-day-a-week gym visitor since college, and I really miss the routine, the social aspect of it, and the much needed sweat therapy to manage anxiety and depression.

And yet I have plenty of food and resources. I have a secure income. And I have an amazing wife to share evenings with. And I feel a little frustrated with myself, that these things alone aren’t enough to manage my unruly brain chemistry. Because I know so many others don’t have these things. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve never successfully talked myself out of depression. All I can do is cultivate a habit of counting the things I can be thankful for, and accept my mind is going to do what it does.

Oddly enough I am not terribly worried about getting sick. I think part of if is that I am fortunate enough to not have any additional conditions that make me more vulnerable to it. The other part of it is that I suspect I’ve already had it.

Jeannine got sick in mid January, and she seemed to pass whatever it was on to me. We assumed it was Flu B at the time. I got sicker than she did with it, but the broad brush-strokes of the illness were the same. It started with fever and body fatigue and aches. It’s that feeling that often comes with the flu, where you’ve been hit by a truck and simply cannot get off the couch. That lasted a few days.

Then the coughing started. It sounded as though there was funk in my chest when I was coughing, but nothing really ever came out. The coughing fits happened easily 20 to 30 times every 24 hours day and night. I remember thinking the physical exhaustion could have simply been due to the amount of effort the coughing took. The only thing that held me back from the fits ending in gagging was drinking water. The coughing went on for about 7 to 8 days.

Then I started to feel better. After a few days I tried getting back to the gym. That proved a big mistake. Once I got home I had to spend the rest of the day on the couch. That easily exhausted state lasted for about another 6 days.

The whole illness lasted about 3 weeks. I was never so sick I would have contemplated going to a hospital. But I was certainly uncomfortable enough that holding to my normal routine was out of the question.

I know this time will pass. But I definitely have some worries about what comes next. First, I cannot imagine there won’t be more waves of the illness spiking, and what’s that going to look like? And I am pretty sure lots of small businesses won’t survive this current period of zero revenue while still paying all their fixed expenses like rent and utilities. And I cannot imagine the economic impact of that won’t last years.

To me the clear lesson here is that our society is very brittle. After decades of telling Americans that only the individual matters, the reality that we are only as well as our most vulnerable people becomes apparent. That we have no flexibility in our supply for face masks and gloves is a glittering success of capitalism, or failure depending on how you want to look at it. Those supply chains became so narrow because it was the most profitable. Redundancy is waste, says capitalism.

To me this whole thing reveals massive cracks in the system that need to be addressed. I’m afraid that won’t be the outcome. I’m afraid the outcome will be much like the financial crisis of 2008, yet another massive transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top.

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I saw the new Star Wars movie. I am overwhelmed with conflicted feelings. I suspect that if the nostalgia was stripped away, my opinion would be quite clear not at all mixed. It was a bad movie. It jam-packed a whole load of stuff in there, and none if it without the nostalgia was very good. And really, my expectations should have been tempered by the fact that my 8 year-old taste and my 43 year-old taste is quite different. That’s all I have to say about that.

I think I have finally found a technique for sharpening my knives on water stones that works. I am not going to bore you with details, but just know I have been fumbling in the dark with these damn stones for two years getting mixed results. I finally tried a different approach by putting the blade to the stones at a 45 degree angle, and that seems to unlock slice-off-a-finger sharpness. It makes my heart sing when my chef’s knife sails through a whole pineapple as though it’s an overripe pear.


I just finished this book. If you want to feel really dark about Google, Facebook, and Amazon taking over the world, this book will deliver. I was already sympathetic to the ideas the author puts forward in this book when I picked it up. The book has left me even more sure Elizabeth Warren is right to start enforcing antitrust laws, although personally I wouldn’t stop with big tech. I would look at media companies and internet service providers too.

When technology comes to into an industry it promises efficiency and low prices. And on those fronts it usually delivers. But there are costs that are often not obvious at the outset. When tech came to the food industry we got time saving tv dinners, fast food, sugar-filled breakfast cereal, and enriched white bread. There’s no question these things saved time, but looking back on it 40 years out, it seems quite clear that the hidden costs for these items were our health and fitness, the extreme suffering of farmed animals, and the tons and tons of chemicals that make farming monocultures possible. The thing big food figured out is that we don’t have enough self-control to pick the broccoli over the Cheeto.

When the internet came for newspapers it promised increased access to information and to liberate information to the masses. It promised to democratize the voices that could be heard. And it did both of those things. But I would argue that second promise, democratizing who can have a voice, was always a doubtful of that “benefit.” I know a lot of people who think crazy shit. And. After years of being a bartender and working in the service industry, I never had some romantic notion that all Americans are geniuses just waiting for a platform. Lots of Americans are idiots, but almost all of us believe we are geniuses just waiting for a platform. Some days I think I am in the idiot camp, some days not.

It’s now pretty clear the internet swallowed advertising funding, and left only crumbs for journalism. The cost has been the closure of newspapers. We went from having about 1200 newspapers in the 1940’s to having 400 in 2014. It turns out giving away your stuff for free only works if you have a ton of venture capitalists propping you up. Side eye to Silicon Valley.

Adding in the social media companies just hung boatloads of data around the basic fact that we lack the self-control to pick broccoli over Cheetos. Mark Zuckerberg is more than happy to wash his hands of the matter and say that’s it’s our own fault if we cannot pick the broccoli. See. There’s whole charts to display why Mark Zuckerberg can abdicate the morality of what he chooses to elevate in people’s news feeds. We’re clicking it like little rats in a cage, so therefore his hands are clean.

Tech has played the same game through history. It “disrupts” an industry by substituting a lower value product for a higher value one with a side of more efficiency and then pockets the difference. In food, we traded home-baked bread for frankenfood wonder bread. In music, we traded making music with others, a social and creative act, for sitting passively around a radio. In media we traded a proliferation of local news sources for a handful of national ones. And in social media we traded face to face interaction, rich with information and connection, for banging out insults at someone else online who might be a bot. And still we are stuffing our faces full of Mark Zuckerberg’s Cheetos.

I am on a Facebook break. It’s given me more time to read and do Spanish lessons. That’s not a surprise. What’s a surprise is how it’s also given me space in my mind. I didn’t realize how much of my headspace was consumed with looking at my life as an outside observer generating content for my facebook posts. I’ve come to a conclusion that whatever I was projecting in those posts was more an avatar of myself than not. And to what purpose am I performing my life? I don’t connect with people so I can play a role. I connect with people hoping to reveal my degrees my authentic self. So what exactly am I doing on facebook?

I don’t know that I will delete my account. I do know that my interaction with it will be diminished significantly at the very least. I have until to January 1st to think on it.

A few final things. I am almost finished with book 3 of the Game Of Thrones books. Catelyn Stark did not deserve all the shit she got. Even so, I am really enjoying the books. The bathroom is coming along. Subflooring has been put in. All the electrical and plumbing has been moved and set. We’re getting close to tile time.

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Crazy Cat Lady Ho!

I had my first shift volunteering for the Ohio Alleycat Rescue this morning, and it was super. First off, everyone there are crazy cat people. In other words, I was surrounded by my people. Secondly, there were cats everywhere. Which delights me on its own.

I cleaned litter boxes, floors, and surfaces. And after an hour and a half of that, I got to spend the last half hour in the kitten room. And I got to fulfill a dream of being in a kitten puddle. I had a ginger licking and purring at my ear while one of the six black kittens flopped down in my lap to ravage my hoodie strings. It was basically 30 minutes of pure joy.

I’ve avoided doing this sort volunteer work. I thought it would make me either adopt far too many cats, or make me sad. But I wasn’t pulled in either of those directions today. I am sure it helps that this rescue is not only no kill, but also one of the main reasons Hamilton County has a no-kill status. It left me thinking that I should have done this sooner.

I would be lying though if I didn’t admit that the little ginger was trying very hard to make me his human. He and a sweet tabby just put themselves as close to me as they could the entire time I was in there. But I have been without a black cat for entirely too long, so my resolve is pretty strong.

One of the adorable black kittens.

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Bathroom Reno: Be Gone Tub

Here’s a thing I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting there to be hex tile under the tub. I thought the tub was original, but now that I am seeing a different flooring under it, I am not so sure. It seems more likely the tub was put in later. But then that also seems to indicate the floor in the square pattern also isn’t original.